In the world of body building, you have two camps of people. The steroid users who take advantage of every resource available to get the gains they are after and the staunch natural body builders who believe steroids are a form of cheating and unnecessary.
Who is right? The answer is both. There are some people who are naturally (genetically) inclined to bulk up easily and almost without limit. They seem to get bigger with every single lift of the weight.
But then there are the majority of people. They set goals for themselves and work hard every single day to achieve them but don’t seem to be making progress. In those cases, steroids can be the last nudge to push you past the finish line.
Now, that doesn’t mean you HAVE to take steroids if you’re not a gainer. The reason you’re not seeing the gains you want could have more to do with your diet or you’re training program than it does with your genetics.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the key factors that help a person pack on mass:
Diet is probably the most important and most neglected aspect of body building, especially among beginners. Even if you know you need to be eating a lot of calories, you may not exactly how much is “a lot” and you may not be getting those calories from the best sources.
Working out a lot is no excuse to stuff yourself with junk food. And those shakes and supplements should not be treated as a substitute to real, full meals made of real food.
If you want to bulk up, you NEED to consume a lot of calories and those calories need to come from healthy, nutritious sources.
In terms of calories, to bulk up, follow this rule of thumb:
- On training days, eat 18 to 20 calories per pound of body weight. So a 200 pound person would eat 3600 to 4000 calories on a day when they train.
- On rest days, eat 15 to 17 calories per pound of body weight. So that same 200 pound person would eat 3000 to 3400 calories on a rest day.
Many bodybuilders make the mistake of depending on protein shakes and other supplements to fill out their caloric needs. These can be a great help to make sure you are getting enough calories but they should not be your main source of calories.
You want to eat as much real, nutritious food as you can. The nutrient break down should look something like this:
- 50% of calories from protein sources like fish, poultry, and meat.
- 30% of calories from complex carbs like veggies, fruits, and whole grains (think oats and quinoa).
- 20% of calories from healthy fats (unsaturated or saturated, no trans fats) like nuts, seeds, fish, and plant oils (but no corn or soy!).
In terms of training, bulking up is mostly about strength training. There should be some cardio but your main focus should be weight training. That’s something most body builders already know but there are some common mistakes that some will make:
- Not training frequently enough. A lot of body builders will opt to do 2 or 3 really long workouts per week. But it’s actually better to do shorter workouts more often. Aim for 4 to 5 sessions per week.
- Focusing on weight rather than form and reps. A lot of people want to see the maximum weight they can lift. And that’s nice to do. But if you can only do one rep, you’re not doing much for building muscle. It’s better to take off a little weight so that you can actually do more reps. And with each rep, focus on maintaining perfect form rather than speeding through them to do as many reps as you can.
Now, once your diet and workout have been optimized for bulking up, you should start to notice that you are gaining much more rapidly and consistently than you were before. But if the results still aren’t where you want them to be, steroids may be worth considering.
When using steroids, you absolutely need to maintain the optimum diet and workout program. Do not use steroids as a way to avoid putting the effort into your diet and exercise plan.
Steroids help to stimulate muscle growth, increase your energy, and increase your strength. Depending on which ones you use, they can also help you to burn fat. However, for all their benefits, they do come with some side effects which means you need to use them carefully and smartly. Do your research before you dive into a steroid regimen.
So as you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into being a successful body builder. In the end, it is best start natural. Make sure that your diet and your workout are in the optimal balance to achieve the gains you want. Then stick with that optimal routine for at least a full, consistent year.
If at the end of that year, you still aren’t seeing the kind of gains you want, you can consider using steroids. But even if you do decide on steroids, you still need to put the exact same effort into your diet and workout as you did before. Treat steroids like a supplement to boost the results of your effort, not as the magic fixer that’s going to do all the mass building work for you.