how much muscle can you build naturally
As always, if you are reading this then you have likely come from my recent “How to build muscle naturally” video, in which case, hello, now be sure to go back and like the video and subscribe to the channel lol.
Anyway, as I said in the video, today’s blog post is going to cover everything related to the factors that will influence how much you can gain as a natural lifter and how to know if you have really reached your "genetic potential" or not.
FACTOR 1 – YOUR TRAINING
It is safe to say that if you are looking to build muscle, the type of training you do is very important with Krzysztofik 2019 showing that resistance training is by far the most “optimal” method to develop strength and stimulate muscle hypertrophy. Therefore, if you are not lifting and looking to build muscle, what are you doing?
Not only does that, but the way you resistance train volume wise, intensity, rest periods, tempo etc all also influence how much muscle you are going to build over time from following a resistance training program. This is because, sure, as a noob you can grow doing a bro split of 1 set of bicep curls but as you get older and more advanced, you soon need to train smarter to maximise your gains, one thing being the amount of volume you use per muscle. Correct, multiple research still indicates that there is a graded dose-response relationship whereby increases in resistance training volume produce greater gains in muscle hypertrophy than lower volumes. Therefore, if seeking to gain the maximum amount of muscle, it’s safe to say that ramping up your volume as much as possible WHILE STILL BEING ABLE TO RECOVER is only going to be of added benefit when it comes to hypertrophy.
FACTOR 2 - YOUR DIET
Diet plays such an important role in muscle hypertrophy with both calories and total protein intake significantly influencing how much muscle you are going to gain in response to your taring efforts in the gym. In fact, Slater 2019 state that most studies consistently demonstrate a strong association between body mass gain and the energy surplus meaning that if you feel you are not gaining muscle, you may be undereating and merit increasing your calories in order to shift yourself into a surplus to start gaining weight. Other research confirms this with a study by Iraki 2008 who explains that combining a positive energy balance with resistance training provides the most effective method to ensure the anabolic effects are directed toward increasing skeletal muscle mass.
In terms of protein intake, higher protein intakes of 1.6g/kg consistently result in greater ffm gain than lower ones with higher than 1.6 showing not much additional gain. However, that’s not to say higher intakes still aren’t recommended as per aragon 2017 who state that intakes as high as (2.3–3.1 g/kg FFM) may be beneficial for very lean individuals. Take home message is that, once calories are in check, to fully maximise your ability to gain muscle, you want to ensure you are getting a minimum of 1.6g/kg of protein per day.
Oh, and on the topic of diet, if you are new to the channel/page and haven't already checked out the high volume, macro friendly recipe book then be sure to have a look. Whether it's to directly support the channel or you genuinely love eating huge, tasty meals and don't ever want to be left feeling hungry on a diet ever again, the book is literally everything you will ever need.
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FACTOR 3 - SLEEP
One of the most underrated factors which will dictate how much you grow and recover from your training. This is because, out of a plethora of negative adaptations, Datillo 2011 showed that sleep deprivation/restriction results in reductions in anabolic hormones such as IGF-1 and testosterone, which may be able to decrease the activity of the IGF-1/PI3K/Akt and mTOR pathways, also increasing catabolic hormones and diminishing the signal inhibition for myostatin expression, thereby promoting protein degradation and muscle atrophy. Basically, if you are trying to maximise your genetic potential and overall muscle gain, by not sleeping you are in fact doing the OPPOSITE and risk losing lean mass yet alone building it so be sure, come rain sleet or snow that you get your 6-8 hours (ideally more) of sleep per night.
FACTOR 4 - GENETICS
Genetic potential is of course also dictated by your…………….. GENETICS (duh). For example, Verbrugge 2018 have clearly shown that there are several genes which significantly regulate how much muscle hypertrophy occurs and how many gains you make in response to training with some causing little to no effect and other a lot. Also, factors such as testosterone, muscle fibre type etc. will all further influence how much muscle you are able to pack on which again, are mostly genetical. What can you do about this? Nothing, you can’t really control your genetics but instead use them to be able to determine whether you even have the potential to get as big as Ronnie Coleman or not.
For example, if all your family members are stick insects and really good at running and biking, it’s highly likely you won’t be able to turn into the next Mr. Olympia as opposed to if they are all jacked with insane amounts of lean mass and great at lifting heavy things and putting them back down.
FACTOR 5 - SUPPLEMENTS
Although these will play the tiniest role in your ability to build muscle, for MAXIMUM hypertrophy, Bufford 2007 did show that, in long-term studies, subjects taking creatine monohydrate typically gain about twice as much body mass and/or fat free mass (i.e., an extra 2 to 4 pounds of muscle mass during 4 to 12 weeks of training) than subjects taking a placebo. Therefore, if you are really looking to maximise your gains or push past a plateau when you think you’ve tried everything there is under the sun, adding 3-5g of creatine to your supplement stack may just help that 5% percent.
FACTOR 6 FAT FREE MASS INDEX (FFMI)
For those unaware, FFMI = (fat-free body mass in kg) / (height in meters)2 (VanItallie et al 1990) and can be used as a calculation method as to how much muscle you can build NATURALLY and to distinguish between a natural and enhanced lifter. This is because, Kouri et al (1995) showed that, in a sample of 157 male athletes, comprising 83 users of anabolic steroids and 74 nonusers, many (not all) of the steroid users in their sample easily exceeded a FFMI of 25, and that of some even exceeded 30.
That’s not to say that there aren’t natural lifters over the 25 and steroid users under however, although not fully reliable, FFMI is still a good method to determine your genetic potential by calculating what bodyweight, bodyfat and circumference you can get to, while still staying around the 25FFMI.
To do so, here are some links to some calculators:
Overall, in my personal opinion and based on most of the research results on hypertrophy, weight training and muscle growth is an asymptote whereby I you can gain muscle forever BUT that 98% of those gains are going to be made in years 1-10 after which, for the remainder of your lifting “career”, you resort to endlessly chasing that extra minute percentage of progress which is almost negligible and un-trackable as, at some stage your MRV will literally become your MEV meaning you will likely be lifting more for muscle preservation as opposed to seeking any more significant gains (unless you chose to go down the enhanced rout of course).
Anyway, that is my usual 2.5 hours of writing and researching done for you for today however, hopefully the above helps you to gain an understanding as to the factors that will influence how big you will be able to get and how to truly maximise your "genetic potential" as a lifter.
Don’t forget to like and share this with someone who could do with reading it and as always, if you read this far then I really do appreciate you so much, your support means the world.