HOW MUCH MUSCLE CAN YOU NATURALLY GAIN?
I saw a skinny guy in the gym, who has been a regular for the last few months, lifting weights and looking in the mirror immediately after the set got over. A bit of pump that he observed made him smile a bit. But there was this sadness behind that wry smile written all over his face. Deep down, he knew that he has a long way to go. Months? Years? Who knows? He approached bigger guys and ask them about how much time it takes to get as big. Every answer he came across, baffled him. Some suggested hard work and persistence for 3-4 years will get him there. Some suggested clean eating, whereas some said that without steroids, it’s just not possible. All disheartened, the guy is now left with no choice except for a few google search results showing the training regimes of famous celebrities or the availability of different steroids in the market. The story is not new. Almost every average skinny has faced this. So, what is the real solution here? Let’s find out. The Truth! It is impossible to gain 20-30 pounds of muscle naturally for someone who is training regularly in a few months or even a year. Only if you are a newbie- someone who has never worked out before, you have the potential to gain around 18-20 pounds of muscle in a year and that too if your nutrition and training is bang on target. Why so?! Research says a person can gain up to 40-50 lbs of muscle ( Naturally*) in their first 4-5 years of proper training and dieting. After that, muscle gaining is negligible. So, when you start early at about 18-20 years of age, you can build a decent amount of muscle mass quickly. On the other hand, it is difficult to put on muscles rapidly when you are 35. Also, you should know that gaining muscles are smooth when you are a newbie in the gym. For a newbie, the muscular genetic potential hasn’t been activated yet. So, it is possible for him to get there.Of course, your nutrition and training should be bang on target. And by training, I mean proper lifts that are progressing gradually over time. Just exercising* won’t cut it. If it is an experienced trainee, on the other hand, making lean muscles and fat-free gains are much slower. So what does muscle growth depend on basically? Genes – Yes! If you are blessed with good genes, well you are just going to annoy a lot who are a bit inferior genetically (but there are also a lot of those who use it as an excuse for their lack of efforts, so beware!). Bone Structure – Yes, it does! People with more massive bone structure do tend to be more muscular than people with smaller frames. They tend to have high testosterone levels as well, and that helps them gain muscle faster. Muscle Structure – Yes! Muscles have two parts- Belly and tendon. Muscles don’t grow longer, only wider. So, their potential for growth depends on the length of the belly. Longer bellies and shorter tendons = Ability to gain more muscle mass. How testosterone comes into the picture Well, it is the most essential factor in deciding how quickly you can gain muscle. It is the primary hormonal driver of muscle growth. Increasing testosterone levels can put muscles to your frame without any exercise at all. But, the sad news is that you cannot raise your testosterone levels DRAMATICALLY * above the normal range even after the excellent training regime and structured nutrition. That’s why people use steroids*to raise the testosterone levels way above average so that they pack muscles in no time. But, you just cannot afford to that because the side effects are plenty- liver disease(tumours and cysts), kidney disease, heart disease( attacks and stroke), mood swings, depression, suicidal tendencies and most importantly- Impotency( say goodbye to sex and for what? Few pounds of extra muscles??!). So what can you do? First – Learn patience! Second – Correct your nutrition! Eat 150-200 calories above your maintenance calories (calories required to maintain your current weight). Eat protein 2g/ kg of your body weight. Suppose you are 70kgs- it means you got to eat 140-150g of protein every day. Keep fats around 60-70g every day and rest of the calories from carbs. Assess your condition every week and manipulate calories accordingly. Always keep a small surplus of calories so that you do not put on too much fat along with the muscles. How to train? You have to keep testing your strength regularly. Perfecting your lifts-forms and techniques is also very important. Increasing your volume(weight*sets*reps) will help initially. Read about periodization if you hit a plateau. Implement it. If fatigue sets in over a few months include ‘tapering’ ( DE loading- training with lesser volume) for a few weeks to address that. Being aware of the science behind the work out will take you a long way. So, keep brushing your knowledge. Moral of the story is that you have to be consistent with the efforts, and it will take years to look like one of those Instagram models. Because natural bodybuilding demands all of it. But if you feel demotivated, you can find much inspiration in Facebook SQUATS group. All the mentors/ members there are living proof of that. Actually, this whole group is proof that you can achieve a dream physique (without using any drug) if you are honest with your efforts. Also, being skinny is not a disadvantage at all. You are likely to put on lean muscle mass without getting fat. It’s true that you might hit your genetic potential sooner than others, but consistent training and nutrition will definitely give you an aspirational physique in 2-3 years, and you won’t be disappointed with that. So, it does not matter where you start from, what matters is how far you are willing to go. One day, you can look back and see that all of it is worth the efforts. Happy bulking everybody! Article by: Kshitij Roy