#1 Labels and stereotypes
If you are successful at building a decent amount of muscle mass, you may be labeled and stereotyped a certain way.
For example, it’s very common for natural bodybuilders, and even some not-so-muscular models, to be accused of taking steroids. This may be true even when they never even thought about using them.
This accusation typically comes from people that are either inexperienced, not training hard enough, or they simply don’t have the best genetics.
They don’t always imagine that someone can achieve a much higher natural potential than they can without using steroids.
Another common assumption after you put on some muscle is that people may be more likely to think that you’re less intelligent.
We’ve all heard the quote “all brawn and no brains”. This is obviously false because some of the smartest people I know happen to be exercise scientists with lots of muscle.
Yet, this doesn’t stop people that don’t realize that and move past that initial impression.
With all that said, none of this should dissuade you from building more muscle. After all, who cares what people think about you?
But it’s just something that most people aren’t aware of, until it starts happening to them.
Just remember that most of these people that are pointing fingers, simply don’t understand what they’re even talking about.
#2 Protein shakes and bars
Now another thing that no one really tells you. Protein shakes and protein bars can be used, but they are not ideal for building muscle.
Regular meals that include real whole foods are much better options.
Even though you can get the same amount of macronutrients from a protein bar or shake, you definitely won’t get the same micronutrients that you would get from a regular meal, with real food.
According to evidence, many of these micronutrients are highly responsible for muscle growth.
Nutrients like zinc are very important for things like regulating your testosterone levels.
Nutrients like calcium are important not only for strong bones, but also for muscle contractions.
So always do your best to have a full meal instead of a supplement or protein bar.
There are many quick and easy options for protein like hard-boiled eggs, tuna, and greek yogurt.
These still count as whole foods, rather than supplements, which leads us to the next element on this list.
#3 Eat more whole-food meals daily
If you want to see optimal muscle growth results, you should try to eat more whole food meals per day.
Preferably at least 4 meals per day, which is more than most people are used to eating.
Yes – you can get away with eating fewer meals. However, research shows that you’ll get better muscle-building results by spreading your protein intake more evenly.
Ideally, you should spread your protein intake between at least 4 meals throughout the day.
That means you’ll have to consider not only meal prepping, but also carrying around these meals with you.
You’ll also have to find ways to eat more times throughout the day than most normal people do.
For example, it’s pretty standard to have one lunch break while you’re at work. But what if you have to eat two meals at work?
What if you’re traveling or you’re at a party, and you’re really serious about muscle growth?
It’s a lot harder than it sounds to make sure that you get all your meals in. You’re going to have to find sneaky and creative ways to fit in your 4 or more meals.
And maybe you get around it by just having a protein shake or a protein bar for one of your meals. But you definitely can’t do that for every one of your meals.
#4 Lifting weights will only take you so far when it comes to building muscle
When you first start, your diet can be a mess and you’ll still build muscle due to something known as “newbie gains”. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last that long.
Once you’re past that initial beginner stage, your body begins adjusting.
Once you’ll reach that point, you likely won’t be able to build any more muscle, without a proper diet plan.
Just lifting weights won’t be enough. If you want to build muscle the number one thing that you have to make sure of, is that you get enough protein.
You’ll want to take in around 0.7 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
You should also make sure that you’re eating enough carbs and fats as well to create a caloric surplus.
All you need is a 10 percent increase above your maintenance calories, to put on muscle.
After satisfying your protein requirements, you can divide the rest of your calories between carbs and fats however you want.
But keep in mind – it’s challenging to maintain a calorie surplus, just as much as maintaining a calorie deficit.
#5 Beware of a lack of appetite
This is another thing that most people won’t tell you about building muscle.
You see, the challenge with cutting calories is that you’ll feel hungry. On the other hand, people don’t realize that the challenge with building muscle is oftentimes feeling stuffed.
Sometimes, you simply won’t want to eat.
This is in complete opposition to a calorie deficit situation to lose weight. In this case, you’ll be struggling to wait until your next meal.
However, when you’re constantly eating more calories than you need for maintenance, at some point you won’t feel like eating your meal because you’re still going to feel stuffed from the previous one, or two.
When you’re in a calorie deficit, all your bland, boring meals will taste better. Your hunger will make even simple chicken breast taste kinda good.
However, when you’re trying to gain muscle, and you’re eating more than enough calories, you’re going to feel like you’re forcing that chicken breast down.
This is something that you will have to adjust and adapt to. Basically, you’ll have to go against your natural instincts.
There’s a reason why they feed sharks before scuba divers jump into the tank with them.
The sharks’ natural instinct is to stop eating once they’re full, even if they have a delicious scuba diver swimming right in front of them!
You will have to go against that similar instinct. And it’s a lot harder than it sounds to do that day in and day out, consistently.
#6 Creatine can potentially cause hair loss
The theory behind it is that creatine can increase DHT and other male hormones that contribute to male pattern baldness.
There is actual research that shows that creatine might increase DHT. Even though there is some evidence for this theory, it’s probably untrue.
Specifically, there was a study that had 20 college-aged rugby players volunteer in a trial. They either received creatine or a placebo. (1)
The results of the study showed that testosterone levels didn’t change in either group. But the group that took creatine experienced a 56 percent increase in DHT and it remained 40 percent above baseline even 14 days later (3).
Because of this many people, including myself, started questioning if creatine could cause hair loss. And even though it is possible, it’s also unlikely.
The reason is that ten randomized controlled trials found that creatine supplementation had no effect on testosterone. (4)
That’s an important finding because testosterone – more specifically, free testosterone – is a precursor of DHT. The testosterone is what actually gets converted into DHT.
Without more free testosterone, you can’t produce more DHT. On top of that, in the study on rugby players, even though they did see a rise in DHT, the levels still stayed well within the normal range.
So, even if creatine somehow increases DHT, it might still not cause greater hair loss than what would occur naturally. And that’s provided that male pattern baldness runs in your family.
#7 Muscle grows while you rest
Surprisingly, this is something that many people don’t realize.
They might have even heard the saying that “muscle grows at rest”. But the way they set up their workout plan and their sleep schedule doesn’t really fit with this narrative.
Sleeping and resting are just as important as working out and eating right, if you want to build muscle.
There are a lot of people out there that eat well and work out hard. But they only sleep 4 or 5 hours a night. This is horrible for muscle growth.
Aside from sleep, you should also take enough time off from lifting weights throughout the week to recover optimally.
If you’re working out 7 days a week, sure there are ways that you can target one muscle each day and not overdo it.
But chances are that you won’t get an adequate amount of rest, if you’re working out every single day.
And the more intense your workout sessions are, the more time you should be resting.
If you’re lifting heavy weights and training really hard, you shouldn’t be hitting the gym more than 5 or 6 days a week, tops.
A great strategy is to split your routine into something like the following. Chest and back one day. Legs the next day. Then shoulders, arms, and abs the third day.
Then take a day off and repeat. These days off at the end of every full-body cycle will help you more than you think.
#8 Take extra time off from the gym
Speaking of exercise breaks, here is another point that you don’t hear about too often.
And that’s the fact that you can actually get stronger and build more muscle by occasionally taking extra time off.
Most people think that you have to hit the gym and go hard every single week to gain strength and build more muscle.
But by taking a full week off from working out, you allow your body to fully rest and recover. Many times you’ll surprise yourself by coming back stronger the following week.
During your week off, you can either just relax and not visit the gym at all, or you can also do simple active recovery.
Personally, I get better results by doing something light. For example, I’ll normally bench press 275 lbs, and I’ll perform at least 9 sets of chest exercises.
But when I take a week off to recover, I’ll still go to the gym but only do 135lbs for just 3 sets.
And that’s it. That’s my workout. And there have been so many times that I’ve done this and have come back stronger afterward.
You can apply the same principle of active recovery to all your muscles, not just your chest.
#9 Muscle detraining and muscle memory
And since we’re on the topic of taking time off another thing that no one really talks about is muscle memory.
You shouldn’t take more than a week or two off for active recovery. But many times people’s lives become very busy and they stop working out entirely for longer periods.
Even though this is far from ideal, the good news is that you do have muscle memory.
After about a month of no training, you will inevitably lose muscle and strength.
But there’s good news for you. You can regain both muscle mass and strength much faster than when you first started.
This is thanks to myonuclei in your muscle fibers. These are responsible for regulating most functions within a muscle cell.
The speed that your body can add new myonuclei is known as “myonuclear addition”. It determines how fast you can actually build muscle.
Even though it takes hard work to increase the number of myonuclei, once they’re in place, they tend to stay.
Research indicates that even after extended periods of detraining, the same myonuclei will remain in your muscles for 15+ years.
Some people even claim that these myonuclei will remain in place for your entire life.
So if you’ve taken an extended break from the gym, don’t use that as an excuse. You can gain back most of the muscle you lost relatively quickly, thanks to muscle memory.
#10 Beware of excessive alcohol consumption
Last but not least, you should know that alcohol will make it much harder to gain muscle, if drank in excess.
Excessive alcohol consumption can even make you lose muscle.
Now, most people realize that alcohol isn’t going to benefit muscle growth. And honestly, if you drink in moderation, alcohol won’t really be that bad.
But drinking alcohol has been found to decrease protein synthesis rates, which is definitely not beneficial for muscle growth.
Moreover, if you’ve ever worked out after a night of drinking, you know that your performance is likely significantly reduced.
For example, you might not be able to lift the same amount of weight. Or you might decide to skip the gym entirely because you’re so hungover.
As mentioned, it’s okay to drink in moderation. That’s because ultimately your results are about what you do in the long run.
If you don’t get much sleep, or drink, just one night of the week, it shouldn’t affect muscle growth too much.
What you want to avoid is excessive alcohol consumption. Because not only does that prevent muscle growth, but it also prevents fat loss.
That about wraps it up. I really hope you enjoyed this post and that you learned something new.
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- A 2009 study had 20 college-aged rugby players volunteer in a study where they either received creatine or a placebo.
- “DHT increased 56% after 7 days of creatine loading and remained 40% above baseline after 14 days maintenance.”
- The reason is that there are ten randomized controlled trials that found that creatine supplementation had no effect on testosterone.