I’m sick of seeing them, so did I want to run through the five biggest myths of bodybuilding.
These are the myths that you will see perpetuated time, after time, after time, on multiple websites with a great reputation.
The truth is that bodybuilding is far simpler than a lot of people make out. They will also claim that anyone who looks good is on SARMs or steroids, that’s not true either.
Guys have been looking great, and it’s been documented in photographs, for hundreds of years, but especially from the Second World War onwards. No steroids, no specialist diets, nothing other than damn hard work.
So let’s now take a look at the truth around bodybuilding, and which things that are often pushed are actually mostly myths around getting jacked.
1. Protein Shakes & Snacks
You must eat protein. Protein, protein, protein. That’s all you will hear about. The truth is that is simply untrue.
Although protein in your diet is crucial for many purposes, it’s equally possible to be virtually eating zero proteins and still get an incredible amount of bulk piled on. It’s all about the overall fuel, and not the type.
Nothing is worse for this than those expensive protein shakes that are peddled across the Internet. Some of them work out at two or three dollars each, and all they are is flavored protein.
I’m telling you the expert bodybuilders, the guys that Hollywood stars recruit when they want to look good for a role, will tell you almost unanimously that protein shakes and snacks can maybe change things by 5%.
What really matters is that you work hard. What really matters is that your diet is balanced and in a deficit to cut, or surplus to bulk.
So sure, you can spend all the money you want on protein shakes and snacks, but the truth is that they have absolutely minimal impact on the end results. What matters 95% of the time as the amount of work you put in.
Creatine is another (semi) bodybuilding myth. Again, guys who know will tell you that it might, if you’re lucky, change your energy levels, recovery times and muscle building potential by a couple of percent.
For a start, the creatine that you take is poorly metabolized. That means that you’re taking a large dose but hardly any is actually getting to work in the body the way you think it is.
Secondly, people tend to see it as a miracle thing and just stick with it even though the truth is very simple: you have to put in hard work to cut fat and build muscle. It’s as simple as that.
Although you will find multiple studies claiming that creatine helps, there’s simply no way of finding out if that’s the truth. It’s the same with studies around people who get more energy from creatine without being part of bodybuilding, you just don’t know how much of this is a placebo effect, and it’s very difficult to measure the truth.
My advice around using creatine is to not bother. Just work hard and see what happens. If you really want to try it, do your research and then give it a proper go for about six weeks and see if you feel you make any gains in terms of strength and endurance, and that you are not just being fooled.
3. You Can’t Build Muscle While Cutting Fat
Another big bodybuilding myth is that you can’t build muscle while cutting fat. Bodybuilders tend to almost universally talk in terms of bulking phases, cutting phases, or maintenance.
But the truth is far more nuanced than that. Your body doesn’t literally just switch into a calorie deficit and start burning your muscles. It doesn’t work like that.
There is a significant transition period. And you can push things for several weeks if it’s not a major calorie deficit without impacting your muscle at all.
So it’s perfectly possible to work out in a slight calorie deficit for several weeks and still build muscle.
In fact, it’s probably best in the short term to do that, because the building of the muscle and the energy released explains the fat far more quickly. So you are cutting, but at the same time you are still delivering enough energy to the muscle tissue to sustain growth, and your body is not going into starvation mode.
So please stop thinking of things as so black and white. A calorie excess does not equal big muscle growth, while a calorie deficit does not equal fat cutting and muscle wastage.
The truth is that there are many ways to stimulate muscle hardness and growth even in a significant calorie deficit in the short term.
Shocking the muscles by using new techniques, slow reps, supersets, heavyweights, more reps, different exercise routines, all of that can still stimulate response you want even in a calorie deficit.
And people, especially men, back in history when food was scarce, could go for days and weeks on minimal diet and still be strong and purposeful.
The bottom line here is don’t work out in a boring way. Mix things up, keep pushing the different muscle groups, and focus more on your routine rather than your exact calorie count. For me, the perfect situation is an ever-changing routine that pushes you hard, while working mostly in a slight calorie deficit to cut fat as well.
4. What You Eat Isn’t As Vital As People Make Out
Now look, I’m not going to say that eating clean isn’t good. The better your diet more progress you will make in the long term.
Also, it’s better for your health. Low fat, low salt, no refined carbs, in the long run, you going to be fitter and healthier and probably live longer.
But the truth is that in the short to medium term it doesn’t really matter what you eat. It’s the calories matter. The more calories you eat, the bigger you will get. If you work out really hard, then more of that will turn into bulk.
So I’m not advocating you just eat junk food all the time, but you could and still bulk up. You won’t look quite as good, but overall, you’ll still make exactly the same level of progress.
That’s why you’ll see lots of guys stuffing their faces with things like fried chicken. Just to get the 5000 cal per day that they are trying to achieve to match the work load that they are doing.
So no, in the longer term you would be crazy to not eat the best diet you can. It will allow you to cut faster, tone up, and just look all round better (as well as feeling better). But in the short to medium term, it’s not as essential as people tell you to eat the exact correct proportions of food, calorie counts, and food groups.
5. You Have To Lift Heavy To Get The Biggest Gains
This is possibly the biggest misconception in bodybuilding, so I thought I would leave until last in this little article.
It’s probably something that most people think, because it seems to work in your mind that way. The heavier the weight you lift, the more your muscles are under strain, and therefore the quicker they will grow.
Unfortunately that’s not the truth at all. In fact, to a degree, the opposite is true.
When you lift really heavy weights you are putting strain on your muscles and joints in a bad way. On top of that, you can’t really do a good amount of reps.
Plus, after just a few reps your form will start to suffer, which can make the benefits even more minimal, and put you at increased risk of getting an injury.
Lowering the weight is the best thing you can do. The more reps you do, the more the muscles will work, and the more they will be used.
Higher reps with lower weights will also increase your muscle endurance, meaning that you will actually make faster progress in the end.
So don’t fall into that trap. You’ll see a lot of guys at the gym who are actually quite strong, but they aren’t hitting those muscle peaks that you think they should be after the amount of time they’ve been working out for.
The problem is that they are building strength through lifting too heavy, but they are not doing the crucial thing that builds dense, larger muscle.
That crucial thing is time under tension. With heavier weights you tend to jerk them up quickly, and drop them quickly. So the time under tension is actually minimal. You’ll build strength, you are not breaking the muscle fibers so they have to regrow.
So lower the weights, raise the reps, and make sure your muscles are thoroughly exhausted all the way up, and all the way down, to maximize strength, endurance, and muscle growth. Instead of looking at overall weight, look at maximizing the amount of time during each rep that your muscles are under pressure.