I see a lot of novice bodybuilders doing some pretty extreme things to gain an edge. I want to take some time in this article to address some of these and try to sort out what is worth your time and money.
The majority of us over complicate bodybuilding (myself included). It’s amazing how many advances in science and health have pushed the envelope in bodybuilding in just the last 20-30 years. It’s a very exciting time, as we have more science behind this sport than ever before. I would venture to say that bodybuilders and cyclists are at the forefront of technology, nutrition, drugs and physiology. I can speak to the crazy things some guys will do to gain even a fraction of a percentage in bodybuilding. Everything from the plethora of peptides on the market today, to drugs like EPO & DNP, to waking in the middle of the night to have a huge calorie packed shake. I have tried them all and I want to reflect on the value/return of these efforts, in the grand scheme of things, to try and separate what is really worth your time, money and effort.
Workouts and Training – obviously this will be the first thing on the list; we know this works and we know it’s needed to create a stimulus for the body to adapt to. Some guys like the low volume HIIT stuff, others like higher German style volume training, but the majority of us probably fall in the middle here. There are a thousand different training programs so we won’t get granular here, but I want to express the importance of regularly changing your training style and trying some different types of training. if you notice your training getting stagnant, then don’t be afraid to try some HIIT training for a few months. On the other side, if you’re doing some really hard core training and busting your ass, don’t be afraid to give yourself a break and let the body heal up 100%. I feel like I spent so many years training hard, but never allowed my body the time it needed to fully heal so while I was breaking the muscle down on a regular basis, I never got all of the growth out of each workout because I dove right back in and trained those muscle groups again because it was ‘chest day’ or ‘leg day’ again and I needed to stay on a schedule. Rotate your exercises, workouts and rest days.
Recovery – this is something I wish I had put more effort into earlier in my career. You can call it active recovery, or whatever you want, but doing any combo of extreme stretching (read the DC guide on this), yoga, sauna and cryotherapy will help your body recover and stay injury free. Watching a 270 pound inflexible bodybuilder doing yoga is quite comical! The first several times I did it, I hated it! I didn’t like how weak and inflexible I was in so many of these poses, but the more I did, the better I got and I saw a huge difference in my posing and especially in my range of motion for many of my lifts. Hot yoga is also great to crank up the intensity one more notch, or doing some basic stretches in the sauna can help achieve the same effect. Cryotherapy is a new fad but is becoming a solid part of many top athletes recovery regime. On your days off or after your workouts be sure to incorporate some form of this as it will help with recovery, flexibility, and generally make you feel and perform better.
Nutrition – in order to build muscle your body needs high quality nutrition. If you asked me 10 years ago, I would have told you that you have to eat every 2-3 hrs to build muscle on a regular basis. That is 6+ meals per day! That’s a lot for the average guy and there are some things that need to be taken into account.
- How big are your meals? Some guys like to feed on small meals throughout the day; however, others, because of lifestyle and schedule will do better on 3-4 larger meals per day.
- What is the quality of food you are eating? This will dictate how fast your food can process and how soon you can put more down the hatch. There is a big difference between eating a burger at a fast food joint or having the fajitas at Chili’s, as opposed to cooking a burger or fajitas at home with organic quality ingredients. If you don’t believe me, try it and see which one makes you ‘feel’ better.
- What type of food are you eating? Everyone has certain foods that their body “agrees with,” and seems to digest better and provide more satiety than others. You will find those foods through trial and error, but when you do, that is what you will want to incorporate into your diet.
Post Workout Nutrition – this is something that can be done for cheap and pays major dividends in building muscle. You have an increased anabolic window for about 90 minutes after you train. This anabolic window is caused by the body deleting its glycogen and other nutritional reserves during your workout, thus creating the ability for the body to super compensate and reload those lost nutrients + some extra. A good analogy is squeezing a damp sponge in your hand and wringing out all of the water in it (this is your workout). If you eat nothing after your workout, then your sponge remains dry, but if you immediately take that sponge in your hand and dip it into a bowl of water it will soak up ever ounce of water it can hold. Your body does the same in this 90 minute window. The body is depleted and is begging for nutrition to help start the repair process. During this time,your body will shuttle amino acids and sugars much faster than normal. I recommend between 30-60 grams of whey protein and some simple sugars (30-60 grams of sugars) as soon after you get done working out. It takes minimal planning to do this and it is not expensive if you bring a shake with you to the gym to have a quick refuel right after you train. It is wise to plan your next meal about 45-90 minutes after you have this shake.
Steroids and HGH – there is no contesting that Steroids and HGH do work. I am not going to go into too much detail here, except to say that when looking at what steroids to take, it is always a safe bet to stick with the basics. A testosterone ester should make up the base of your cycle, then depending on your experience, you can add another inject like Equipoise, Deca, or Tren to supplement the testosterone. The only other thing I would recommend is an oral steroid like Dbol, Winstrol, or Anavar. Keep the doses low to moderate and understand that you’re not going to consistently get the gains you got on your first cycle or 2– they will taper off the more you use steroids. Before you up the dose on steroids, try incorporating a different workout program, some active recovery, more rest, or tweak your nutrition.
Supplements – anyone who has been in this game long enough probably knows that the majority of supplement claims are BS, or highly exaggerated. That being said, I want to briefly touch on the supplements I think we can all agree on that should be a staple in any program. Whey protein in some form should be supplemented for your post workout shake, and/or for meal replacement throughout the day. Find a real whey protein isolate! If you look on your tub of protein and see that it has whey protein concentrate listed on the bottle the chances are it is mostly concentrate and very little isolate. In my opinion the isolate is far superior. You can research the reasons why and see for yourseld. The next supplement I would spend my hard earned money on is creatine. I think creatine has more clinical studies done on it than almost any other supplement. Simply put, creatine works. It helps to push more water into the muscle, allowing it to perform better. If you can afford some powerful anti oxidants and a good multi vitamin then I would definitely advise that as well. There are thousands of different supplements on the market, and while many of them have shown to increase this level or that, leading to increased performance I don’t believe the return is worth the investment on most of them if you are a novice or recreational athlete on a budget.
I remember being a young aspiring bodybuilder about 20 years ago, chatting with the current Mr. Olympia. I was a die hard, if he told me eating 2 pounds of dirt each day would help me build bigger muscles, then I would have done it! I wanted every edge I could get. In speaking with Mr. O, he really surprised me with his simplistic approach to the drugs and a few other things. I was expecting him to give me the secrete pro bodybuilder stack of steroids I would use to get huge. What he told me kinda left me confused..? He didn’t know about half of the new peptides coming out, had never used igf, and said he relied on some Test, Eq, Tren and Anavar to prep for shows and the doses were not nearly what I expected (very low). Part of me did not believe him, as I know many guys say they take far less then they really do, but over the years and seeing how his body, mind, and enjoyment of life has held up over the years I have realized he was telling the truth.
If I had to give myself a few points of advice 20 years ago here is what I would say:
- Building muscle takes time: there are some things you can’t cheat and time is one of those. Stay on your routine but get some hobbies so you’re not totally engulfed in this game trying to chase every little rumor promising gains.
- Take more time to recover. Your body is not a calendar. If you don’t sleep well for a night or 2 in a row, you don’t need to be blasting a crazy leg workout the next day as your recovery ability is already compromised. Train hard, but rest smart. I would rather take an extra day or two off and ensure I have left ample time for recovery and rebuild, then train a day or two early and stay stagnant.
- Pick 3 steroids to use (2 if you’re in the off season). Take some breaks from the gear if you are younger, if you are in your later 30’s then make sure to get some time on just a TRT dose.
- Find the foods your body agrees with and incorporate those in your nutrition program.
If you take the points in this article and incorporate them in to your routine, I think you’ll see a strong foundation for muscle gain. Yes, there are thousands of things you could do to give yourself an edge, and all of those small advantages can add up to real gains, but the financial cost, time spent, and injury that can come from trying untested methods are not worth it for 95% us. Years of doing this will maximize your potential and still leave you with some money in the bank and some sanity in your head!
Thanks for reading. Any questions, please feel free to comment or email us, we love hearing feedback from you guys!