Bodybuilding.com Information Motivation Supplementation
in:
Obi Obadike
obadike1

Ask The Ripped Dude

"How Much Muscle Can I Put On Naturally?"

Ask The Ripped Dude: ''How Much Muscle Can I Put On Naturally?''

With all the gimmicks and mixed messages about muscle mass, it can be hard to discern fact from fiction. Learn how much you can expect to put on naturally and what you can realistically expect in terms of gains.
Q

I'm on the smaller side, and I'm looking to get bigger. I've been lifting heavy and eating healthy, but I'm not putting on the mass I'd hoped for. Give it to me straight: How much muscle can I expect to put on naturally?

How many times have you heard actors say they gained 30 or 40 pounds of muscle for a film in a matter of months? You sit there in disbelief, wondering what type of diet and training program they were on, who their trainer is, and what you have to do to bulk up and mimic their ripped physique by next month.

Well, I'm here to break it to you easy: It's virtually impossible for somebody who's been training regularly to gain 30-40 pounds of muscle in a couple of months or even a year. The only person with the ability to potentially gain 18-20 pounds of muscle in a year is a gym newbie—someone who's never lifted weights or trained before.

Why? Their genetic muscular potential hasn't been activated yet. In other words, they haven't even approached their greatest gains. An experienced trainee, on the other hand, has hit or neared his potential, making lean muscle, fat-free gains much slower.

Still questioning your progress? Let's review some expert opinions.

Alan Arogon's Natural Lean Muscle Mass Gain Model

Catagory: Years Training: Muscle Gain:
Beginner 1 year or less 1-1.5% total body weight per month
Intermediate 2-3 years 0.5-1% total body weight per month
Advanced 5 years or more 0.25-0.5% total Body Weight per month

According to Aragon, advanced trainees near their genetic potential are lucky to gain 0.25% to 0.5% of their total body weight gain as fat-free muscle per month. That makes the 10-pound-gain claims of already ripped celebrities seem outrageous, right?

In my opinion, it's rare to see a natural bodybuilder or fitness enthusiast close to their genetic muscular potential gain more than 2-3 pounds of lean muscle in a year. This is why it's an accomplishment when experienced bodybuilders manage to gain 7-10 pounds of fat-free muscle in a year.

Lyle McDonald's Natural Lean
Muscle Mass Gain Model

Years Training: Muscle Gain:
1 year 20-25 pounds (2 pounds per month)
2 years 10-12 pounds (1 pound per month)
3 years 5-6 pounds (.5 pound per month)
4 years 2-3 pounds (not worth calculating)

Provided that they follow a sensible, structured diet and training program, a 150-pound beginner fitness enthusiast in Aragon's model can potentially gain 18-27 pounds of lean muscle per year. A 170-pound intermediate fitness enthusiast can potentially gain 10-15 pounds of muscle.

Another expert, Lyle McDonald, offers a natural lean muscle mass theory that's slightly different from Aragon's theory, placing more emphasis on hormonal changes and age. McDonald believes that you can naturally gain 40-50 pounds of muscle in a weightlifting career. This is close to what I've put on naturally throughout my lifting career, and I believe I am close to my genetic potential.

So, if 5,000 calories per day is overkill, what's a good range? That depends on your activity level. Below are recommendations from the International Sports Science Association based on workout regularity.

The ISSA Daily Caloric Consumption Theory For Bulking

Activity Level: Workout Regularity: Calorie Consumption For Lean Muscle Mass Gains:
Very sedentary Minimal 16-18 calories per pound
Moderately active 3-4 times per week 18-20 calories per pound
Very active 5-7 times per week 20-22 calories per pound

My Tips on Lean Muscle Mass Gain for Naturals

It starts with nutrition. The ratio that has worked well with my clients in terms of daily caloric consumption for lean muscle mass gains and minimal fat gain is the 16 calories per pound ratio. For example, if you're a 200-pound person and you're on a 16-calorie-per-pound bulking diet, you would consume 3,200 calories at a ratio of 40 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 20 percent fat.

It also leans on exercise. Even when I've trained clients whose goal was to put on lean muscle mass, I still had them doing sprints at least 3-4 days per week, 20-25 minutes per day. Check out Dr. Wilson's article: Mass vs. Cardio. There he touts short-duration, high-intensity activities as the key to fat loss and muscle preservation. In fact, sprinting was actually found to increase muscle size if limited to roughly 20 minutes per day.

You don't need to lift the whole gym to make your muscles grow, but you want to lift heavier. You have to add stress and tension to muscles to make them grow. I advise a client to train at 80 percent of their one-rep max for each set. A rep count should be 10-12 reps.

It is amazing how many muscle-building programs out there promise that you'll look like the incredible Hulk if eat more than 5,000 calories each day. Sure, you'll look like a hulk ... of fat. Many of these programs cause you to gain an enormous amount of unnecessary fat, giving the illusion that you put on muscle. The number on the scale might increase, but the likelihood that lean-muscle gains are the cause is slim. Never rely on the scale as indicator of how much muscle you put on, because it doesn't differentiate between lean muscle and fat. The only way to determine how much lean muscle you have is to get an underwater body-fat test or a Bod Pod test to break down your numbers on fat-free lean muscle mass weight versus body fat.

Any time you're on a bulking program where you goal is to put on muscle, it's inevitable that you're going to gain a little fat. Just make sure that fat gain is minimal.

Once you can separate the myths from the truth about natural muscle gains, you'll be on your way. Train hard, eat healthy, be patient, and it will happen!

Transform Your Body


References
  1. International Sports Sciences Association- Berardi, John, PhD, Andrews, Ryan, MS/MA, RD. "Nutrition: The Complete Guide". www.ISSAonline.edu PG. 347
  2. http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/whats-my-genetic-muscular-potential.html Mcdonald, Lyle

Related Articles

About The Author

Known as ''The World Most Ripped Fitness Model,'' he's very passionate about educating people all over the world about health and fitness.

RATE THIS ARTICLE
POOR
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
EXCELLENT
OVERALL RATING
7.7

Out of 10
Good
46 Ratings

61

Comments

Showing 1 - 25 of 61 Comments

(5 characters minimum)

      • notify me when users reply to my comment
n250

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
n250

Great article, there is so much myth surrounding this topic.

Aug 29, 2013 5:28pm | report
 
michaelr575

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
michaelr575

I gained 50 lbs over 3 years... If I kept at that pace I would be on stage in Sept going for a sandow!! Good read, now I just have to prove the research wrong!

Aug 29, 2013 5:31pm | report
 
Violander

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Violander

I am afraid one anomaly can't prove the research wrong. Just because there are some people out there who are able to exceed the expectations does not mean a single thing. On average, the above is true.

Aug 31, 2013 3:03am | report
michaelr575

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
michaelr575

Yupp, thats why I agreed with the article. I was only meaning that I would try and prove the research wrong for myself, not so I could write my own article on "how I proved everyone wrong and put on 182.5 lbs of muscle in 5 years!" Haha! I wasn't so much of an anomaly, either. Just a little over, but I was grossly underweight and followed some strict programs. Also, all my weight wasn't LBM, I added several lbs of fat, probably 10-15 lbs, which means my "muscle" gains are right in line with the article. So there is no "anomaly" yet, but in another 5 years I'll make sure to update if there is!! Thanks for commenting though!

Aug 31, 2013 6:17am | report
dustin31995

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
dustin31995

lean body mass doesn't always mean muscle mass. Weight training does tend to increase bone density that SO many people tend to forget.

Jan 26, 2014 4:12am | report
mikegt87

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
mikegt87

bulk starting t-minus 4 weeks. Thanks for the tips I'm going to be shooting for 2 lbs of weight gain a month

Aug 29, 2013 8:05pm | report
 
Sicknotz

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Sicknotz

Good read, cheers Obi.

Aug 29, 2013 9:31pm | report
 
JGally

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
JGally

Biggest mistake I made when I first started to lift.. As long as the scale was moving upwards I thought I was getting stronger. While I may have been getting stronger I was also adding a lot of fat. When I saw these guys in the gym who weighed the same as me and were shredded I wondered what the hell I was doing wrong! Now I realized that 185lbs of shredded muscle is much better than 230lbs of 17% bf.. It's a steady process but that's what makes it fun imo.

Aug 29, 2013 11:04pm | report
 
devgnhardeep

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
devgnhardeep

who is a natural bodybuilder according to you? does he take any supplements?

Aug 30, 2013 1:37am | report
 
dutchie1

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
dutchie1

if your talking supplimental-wise, a natural bodybuilder is someone who doesn't take any peformance enhancing drugs, some people say supplyments (nutribolics) such as whey protein is cheating, in reality it's just pure protein, just like the protein you get from food such as fish or eggs

Aug 30, 2013 7:50am | report
devgnhardeep

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
devgnhardeep

who is a natural bodybuilder according to you? does he take any supplements?

Aug 30, 2013 1:37am | report
 
XxmetallicaxX

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
XxmetallicaxX

well if you drink milk and call that natural, and then supplement with milk casein powder and call that not natural I guess it wouldn't make much sense would it, just cause someone takes supplements doesn't mean they arent natural in other words

Aug 30, 2013 5:07am | report
XxmetallicaxX

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
XxmetallicaxX

and if there is a natural bodybuilder out there who has never taken supplements, I.E. vitamins, protein, etc....then I want to know his name

Aug 30, 2013 5:08am | report
RelaxImJoking

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
RelaxImJoking

His name is Goliath but he lost the first BB comp to some cut dude named David or something. Mass doesnt always win I guess. Poor Markus Ruhl.

Aug 30, 2013 10:00am | report
cmvs

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
cmvs

if you are considered an intermediate due to years of training, but you're diet has been very very poor, getting very few calories, therefore no gains has been accomplished. What could a person like this expect to gain on a year, if he/she started to eat enough to support musclegrowth.

Aug 30, 2013 3:32am | report
 
jsjulianto0

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
jsjulianto0

Shame on me.. I trained and supplied my body in a bad way for almost 2 years :| Just being serious nowadays.. (1July2013) asdasdasdasd

Aug 30, 2013 4:59am | report
 
BillytheKid82

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
BillytheKid82

So it the latest edition of Mens Health Mark Wahlberg claimed he went from 170lbs to 205lbs for Pain and Gain in 7 weeks. How is this even possible??? I despair when I read all the Hollywood 'I gained 20lbs in 8 weeks' articles.

Aug 30, 2013 6:53am | report
 
dutchie1

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
dutchie1

like the guy mentioned in his article those claims are crap, naturally someone thats very expiernced (5 years of trainig) should be happy to put on 5 pounds of muscle in 2 years

Aug 30, 2013 7:53am | report
delfartel

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
delfartel

It's called steroids.

Aug 30, 2013 8:42am | report
fourdegrees

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
fourdegrees

MarkyMark looked pretty heavy in that movie, like he had a lot of excess fat. It is completely possible for his claim to be true if he kept his BF fairly low before before bulking.

Aug 30, 2013 3:59pm | report
buxhux

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
buxhux

They have a trainer, bust their ***, eat right. and Presto! it happens! ................OOpps.....forgot a little detail...................steroids!

Aug 30, 2013 8:46pm | report
patricktydean24

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
patricktydean24

he said he ate 12 times a day around the clock with alot of mass gainer shakes, he wasnt exactly ripped for the movie either

Sep 1, 2013 7:09am | report
CUTigerAl

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
CUTigerAl

I have been working out since highschool. I went from 135 my freshman year to 200 my senior year. (I had growth spurt from 5'6 to 6'5 between 8th and 9th grade.) I gained 25lbs my fresman year of college. I gained 30lbs from age 30 to age 31. It can be done. I take no steroids and I only do whey protein sparingly. I found the diet that worked and the workout plans that worked. For example even at my most muscular I had no pecs until 30 when I discovered the overtraining dropset method. That worked for my chest. And remember that bodies change with time.

Aug 30, 2013 9:18am | report
 
borgeaa

Rep Power: 10

  • rep this user
borgeaa

Obi, thx for this great insight.
It was a doubt I had.

Aug 30, 2013 9:21am | report
 
RelaxImJoking

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
RelaxImJoking

40 - 50lbs of muscle naturally. Is this to be calculated in with the latest height to weight ratio?

If an average man 5'4 should weigh 142 pounds, does this mean his natural body building potential is to be at 192 pounds same bfp?

Aug 30, 2013 10:41am | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 61 Comments

Featured Product

Give Us Feedback:
Report A Problem
Site Feedback
Follow Us:
Twitter
Facebook
RSS Feeds
Bodybuilding.com Newsletter

Receive exciting features,
news & special offers from Bodybuilding.com