In order to gain size you have to eat. Period. We can all agree with that, I guess.
You won't be able to add a significant amount of muscle mass unless you're consuming enough calories and nutrients to support muscle growth.
If you're not eating enough, your body won't be in an optimal muscle-building state. In fact, if you don't eat enough, chances are you might even lose muscle mass despite training hard (well, unless you eat lots of Trenbologna sandwiches and use more Growth Hormone than Snow White's Seven Dwarfs would need).
So it looks like the good ol' advice about following the ''see food diet'' to grow bigger seems logical afterall. The more you eat the more you grow, right?
Not so fast, Gringo. If you aren't consuming enough, muscle growth will stall, but that does NOT necessarily mean the more you eat the more muscle you'll pack on.
It's one of the worst mistakes you can ever make when training to build an aesthetic and muscular physique: eating too much (and too much junk) and achieving a high body fat percentage in hopes of stimulating more muscle growth.
Your body has a limited capacity to build muscle, no matter your AAS/HGH/Slin dose. The amount of muscle you can build is dependent on your body's capacity to synthesize new muscle tissue from the ingested protein.
Your body's protein synthesis capacities depend on your androgens and GH levels; your androgens to cortisol ratio; your insulin sensitivity; your muscle fiber makeup, and your genetics.
You can eat any amount of food you want, but you can't get past a certain protein synthesis limit, even if heavily "enhanced" (It will obviously be higher, but it's not an endless rise). Eating excess will only lead to a fatter body.
Imagine that your muscles are like a house you're trying to build. The bricks used to build the house represent the amino acids – coming from the ingestion of protein – while the money you're paying the workers – so that they'll do the work – represents the energy from carbs and fat you eat.
Then,the workers represent the factors involved in the protein synthesis process (all the anabolic hormones) and the truck bringing the bricks to the workers represent insulin, which plays a capital role in transporting the nutrients to the muscle cells.
If you don't give the workers enough bricks (protein) they won't be able to build the house as fast as they could.
If you don't pay your workers enough they won't be as motivated to work hard. As a result, the house won't be built quickly. And if you really cut the workers' pay, they might even get mad, go on strike, and start demolishing the house (muscle catabolism). If you increase your workers' salary (increase caloric intake) chances are their motivation will rise, and as a result they'll build the house faster.
What would happen if you started to send more bricks (increase protein intake) to the workers? They'll be able to build the house more rapidly because they aren't lacking in raw material. But at some point, sending more and more bricks won't lead to a faster rate of construction. The workers can only perform so much work in any given amount of time regardless of their salary. If they can add 1,000 bricks per day to the walls, giving them 2,000 bricks per day will be useless: it exceeds their work capacity. So the excess bricks will go to waste.
Just like with bricks, there comes a point where increasing the workers' salary won't have any effect on the house-building rate: the workers will reach their physical limit. Once they do, you can increase their salary all you want, but they won't be able to add bricks to the house any faster.
Taking the best possible circumstances for granted – perfect nutrition, training, supplementation, and recovery strategies – the average male body can build between 0.25 and 0.5 pounds of DRY MUSCLE TISSUE per week. That is the amount your natural body chemistry will allow you to build. Adding anabolics to the equation pushes this limit of course, but don't fool yourself. Two pounds of DRY MUSCLE TISSUE a week just ain't going to happen, sorry.
So, we're talking maybe two pounds a month. May not sound like much, but that can add up to twenty pounds over one year of training. Again, we're talking about real dry muscle, and 20 pounds is freakin' marvellous.
While building muscle, it's possible to gain more weight without adding fat. When you increase your muscle size you also increase glycogen and water storage in those muscles. More muscle equals more glycogen.
A trained individual can store up to 40g of glycogen per 100g of muscle tissue. So if you're gaining ten pounds of new muscle (4,545g) you'll also increase glycogen storage by around four pounds (1.8kg).
Because of water storage and glycogen, if you gain ten pounds of muscle, your scale gain will actually be closer to fourteen pounds (if you didn't gain any fat).
"But I gained fifteen pounds in 90 days and I didn't gain fat!!!111!
This is something we hear all the time. If it's not possible to gain more than a few pounds of muscle per month then how come you see so many people routinely claiming to have gained heaps of muscle without getting fatter? They have some secret über-juice?
Nope. This is what we can call the ''lean threshold.''
There's a certain body fat percentage at which you start to look lean. It's around 10% for most men. There's also a point where you start to look fat. That's around 18-20% for most men. Then in-between those you have a zone where you basically look the same...
At that point, even if you gain a few pounds of fat, you won't visually see the difference, and you aren't lean enough to look defined, so you don't really have any muscle separation to be your guide. Most men won't be able to see a visual difference in muscularity between 13 and 16%.
But if you're 200 pounds, going from 13 to 16% body fat means a six pound gain in fat!
One could very well have gained six pounds of muscle, six to seven pounds of fat, and two pounds of glycogen over said 90 days period, and he'll actually believe that he gained fifteen pounds total of solid muscle because he looks to be about the same body fat percentage!
Repeat that over a few "bulking" phases and you end up with a gain of fifteen to twenty pounds in body fat. Sweet!
There are two big problems with bulking and cutting – aside from what I explained with the construction-worker analogy.
Fat loss methods don't support muscle growth. It's virtually impossible for a natural lifter to lose lots of fat while gaining muscle.
If you bulk for six months and cut for three, those three months won't be muscle-growth months. You'll have more muscle-growth months by "building without bulking" as I like to say.
You can add size ti a tissue either by making the existing components bigger (hypertrophy) or by increasing the number of components (hyperplasia).
Fat cells are like little bags. The more fat you put in the bags, the bigger they get. But the bags can only hold so much fat, and our body is a perfect storage machine built for survival. As a result, it can also increase fat storage by adding more fat cells.
When overeating for a significant period of time, your body increases its number of fat cells. While you can make existing fat cells smaller by emptying them via fat loss, it's impossible to remove fat cells (besides surgery). So by adding new fat cells to your body you're actually making it better at gaining body fat and you make it worse at losing it.
By doing a dirty bulk, you can stimulate adipocyte hyperplasia, which will make it harder to lose fat and easier to gain it over time. Nice deal!
Which scenario you think is Better?
Go on an all-out bulking phase.
Gain a whopping 25 pounds in six months.
Around 5-10 of these pounds will be muscle (12 at the most) and the rest will be from glycogen storage (2-4 pounds) and fat (10-15 pounds).
To shed the excess fat, you have to go on a severe deficit. If you never cheat and are super strict, you can hope for one or two pounds of fat loss per week without losing muscle.
Best case scenario, it'll take you from 6 to 12 weeks to lose the new fat accrured.
Plus fat loss isn't linear. The body adapts to caloric restriction and fat loss stalls. Realistically losing the gained fat – if you don't want to lose muscle – will actually require 12 to 20 weeks of dieting. Cutting will be harder and harder after every bulk because of fat cell hyperplasia as mentioned above. Let's do the math then.
Over a 9 to 11 month period you gained around seven pounds of muscle (if you didn't lose anything while dieting). That's average of 0.6 to 0.75 pounds of muscle per month. Reported over a year, it's to a total of seven to nine pounds if you did EVERYTHING right.
You increase your calories, but just enough to give your body the required nutrition for optimal muscle growth.
You gain 1.5 pounds of muscle per month, with less to no fat.
After the first six months, you gain 5-10 pounds but only 1-2 pounds of fat.
That means, you only need to diet for around a month or less (and definitely not starving to death) to lose the fat you gained, if any.
You gain around one LEAN pound per month. You end up with 12 pounds of muscle after a year as opposed to seven with a dirty bulk followed by a cut to get rid of all the lard.
So why in the hell most of us still "bulk" in 2022???
Tradition, mostly. Since the 60s, bodybuilders included bulking and cutting phases. However, even while bulking they wouldn't gain that much fat because the amount of junk food available was much lower than today.
Bodybuilders from the 60s and 70s relied on huge steaks, whole milk, and plenty of eggs when bulking up. Maybe a piece of home made apple pie once in a blue moon. They ate a lot, but it was still good, nutrient-dense food. Nowadays, bodybuilders focus on fast food, pizza, donuts, pastries, etc. when bulking up. In both cases the volume of food is large, but the quality was night and day.
Also, high level competitive bodybuilders who do best with the bulking-cutting approach tend to heavily -abuse- performance-enhancing drugs. They can bypass, by far, the normal muscle growth rate limit. Eating a ton of food, NOT all clean, works for these athletes.
An athlete using just conservative doses of AAS only (Say the classic 500-600mg Test a week) is very limited in the amount of nutrients he can use to build muscle compared to a polydrug-abusing bodybuilder. Anabolic substances such as the strongest steroids stacks, insulin, IGF-1, and hGH can bypass the body's usual limits by a long shot.
Other substances can also enormously accelerate the fat loss process. Thyroid hormones, clenbuterol, DNP, hGH, etc. make your body lose fat at a MUCH faster rate. So some bodybuilders can afford to gain 20-30 pounds of fat in the off-season because the fat-loss drugs will allow them to quickly lose it.
Plus, steroids prevent muscle loss on a severe deficit, so it's possible to restrict calories even more (thus losing fat faster) without risking losing muscle mass.
Without sugarcoating it, many use the bulking excuse to feel better about eating crappy food. Most don't have the discipline to make the lifestyle changes necessary to build an aesthetic, lean, and muscular physique.
The absurd body fat % PARADOX
When someone carries a significant amount of muscle mass, adding a layer of fat will make him look more built when wearing clothes.
Muscle mass gives him a foundation, so the fat added over the muscle (up to a certain point) will make his body occupy more space while keeping a certain amount of shape. Remember, there's a certain range of fatness where the body doesn't look visually different when it comes to definition and muscularity.
The 13 to 16% range. Basically you have the same amount of muscle and say ten pounds more fat, you'll actually look bigger and more muscular because your degree of leanness will appear the same.
This Is just one side of the paradox.
Losing body fat will make you look and feel smaller and less muscular at first. As I said there isn't much visual difference between 13 and 16%. So the first 6-10 pounds of fat you lose won't make you look leaner. You'll simply look and feel smaller because your muscles will be flat from a lack of glycogen/intracellular water. A diet won't make you look truly better until you drop down to at least 10% body fat. That's the point where you start to actually look bigger even though you're becoming "smaller".
As you keep going down to 8% or so, people will actually believe that you're gaining size as your weight goes down! So when you aren't lean, adding some fat will make you look larger and losing just a bit of fat will make you look smaller. But past a certain point (10%), you'll look larger by the day as you're losing fat!!!
Weird, but that's actually how it works.
Is looking great a few months a year what you're really after? Think about it. Why not look good all year long and possibly even gain MORE?
Get to a body fat % where you look lean and muscular. A male who's training for aesthetic purposes should never go above 10-11% body fat, which is not THAT lean. But it's a point where muscle definition and muscularity are enough to make you look very good and leaves you within four to six weeks or so of being in superb condition when needed/desired.
Building a great looking body is not an overnight process. It's a damn 24-hour a day job. It isn't limited to the hour you spend at the gym; it's a lifestyle.
I'm sick of seeing guys with big potential trash their bodies by following the bulking advice from Internet "gurus" who advise them to force feed 7-8k cals even (or mostly!) from junk food – . All this will do is add heaps of fat to their bodies, compounding the future disaster.
Granted, lots of young lifters don't eat remotely enough to support maximum muscle growth, but eating junk or grossly excessive calories isn't the way to go.
Find your own sane balance.
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.”
― William Shakespeare, Hamlet