More On Muscle Gain

A long time ago, I wrote a piece regarding body composition. I’d like to expand on that with some recent discussions I’ve been having over at “Theory to Practice.”

In that old post, I referenced a study on sumo wrestlers and how they had more “fat free mass” under all that fat than did bodybuilders in the same study. It’s been brought to my attention that the authors did multiple studies that fill in the gaps on why “fat free mass” is meaningless…or nearly so:

The problem with studies like the sumo one (I’ve reviewed it and linked it on my blog) is that there is no way to differentiate between actually muscle and “fat-free mass.” Water is fat-free mass, glycogen is fat-free mass, bone is fat-free mass, and muscle is fat-free mass. If you’re carrying a lot of fat and you’re stuffing yourself, you’ll artificially carry more “fat-free mass” or FFM due to bloat.

The authors only used a two compartmental method of body composition. Fat and FFM, so it is not surprising sumo wrestlers have greater FFM as explained above. They did, however, measure the cross sectional area (CSA) of the muscles,and bodybuilders had BIGGER CSA in the areas measured (Biceps and Thighs) compared to the sumo. So the claims being made are wrong. To be fair the authors never made these claims but was noted by Dante/etc.

Straight from (one of the studies; the authors had multiple):
“The Sumo wrestlers showed significantly higher %FM and smaller elbow and knee extensor cross-sectional areas (CSA) than the weight-classified athletes who weighed from 90.4 kg to 133.2 kg. Moreover, isokinetic forces in the flexion and extension of elbow and knee joints, respectively, at three constant velocities of 1.05, 3.14 and 5.24 rad x s(-1) were significantly lower in the Sumo wrestlers than in the weight-classified athletes and untrained subjects when expressed per unit of body mass.”

Smaller CSA, less force per unit of body mass because so much of that mass is inert weight being classified as FFM but misinterpreted as lean body mass (or dry muscle tissue).

Thus going back to IMTG, levers, goals, etc. etc. etc.

The old sumo post was brought up and I was asked to clarify my position, specifically about the rate of regain when returning to training AND overeating, not just eating your face off:

While I don’t disagree about my old post, I think that I should edit the sumo wrestler stuff out, or at least add the context of FFM != muscle tissue.

Of note with (Tim) Ferriss and (Casey) Viator, they were both recovering muscle tissue to levels they had previously achieved. Muscle memory is a fact, though exercise scientists still seem stumped as to exactly why (Note: I’d like to clarify this statement with a more recent article on muscle memory. The mechanism is in contention, not unable to be found).

The eating more than maintenance comment, while still true, is tricky. Muscle is being produced de novo, which takes time. While scale rates moving up can be a good sign, as Keith noted, it’s hard to tell exactly what is moving up. Little of it is likely dry muscle tissue.

If you’re only concerned with size, eat up. However, the bloat/fat fluctuations, mood swings, and energy fluctuations aren’t for me anymore. N=1, but I think that you’ll find nobody gains like they do as a newbie forever, so an intermediate/advanced guy going for gains in size could reasonably expect 8-12lbs/year if they’re cranking along well, with that number dropping almost in half year by year:

And if you look at (natural) bodybuilders, only the tallest guys crack 200lbs on stage. If they had been gaining at 12lbs/year for 10 years, they started under 100 lbs. So either they started pubescent (possible) or were recovering from a muscle wasting disease at the start. Nobody gains in a linear fashion like that, so the demand for calories to build new tissue as you edge closer to your potential would, mathematically, reduce. So the per session fuel requirements are astronomically small…unless you’re regaining for publicity purposes, which qualifies for both Ferriss and Viator (by way of Nautilus). The rest of the bodybuilding population is not in this boat, thus it doesn’t apply.

I think that clarifies my position better. You need to eat more than maintenance, but not by as much as most think and definitely by less (think 400 to 800 calories more on workout days) than some bulking gurus would have you believe.

This individual then thought that Ferriss and Viator actually superseded their previous “best” weights and also talked about satiety in regards to eating. Some people’s satiety is far below others and there are reasons for that:

I’m going to sound temporarily nitpicky, because I’ve learned certain things from 4 hour body that I was unaware of but there’s a whole lot of crap in there.

1. I’m holding a copy of “The New HIT” in my hand by Dr. Darden. He was at the Colorado Experiment and he was also buddies with Viator way back. According to him, Viator weighed 218lbs when he won the Mr. America, 2 years prior to the Colorado Experiment, which left him 6 pounds lighter

2. Tim Ferriss states that he weighed 187lbs in 1999 before he won his martial arts championship on this link:

This is 6 years before the “Geek to Freak” regain, leaving him 11lbs lighter than before.

So it’s an impressive rate of gain but it wasn’t back to their previous “peaks.” This is sort of stated off-hand but I feel it should be in bold and underlined!

As far as eating to satiety, there was a documentary performed by the BBC called “Why Are Thin People Not Fat?”and it explains some of the mechanisms would alter one person’s “satiety” vs. another:

Finally, Casey Butt has a calculator for maximum rate of mass gain on his website:

I think that clarifies it a bit better. Of course there are outliers but I think requoting Casey Butt is in order:

Over the years I’ve also received many emails full of unsubstantiated claims, hostile remarks and even personal attacks because of the information presented here. But in that time, though many have told me they’re easily going to surpass these predictions, I haven‘t received any legitimate, verifiable statistics that significantly exceed the results of the equations presented above …including correspondence with some of today’s top-ranked drug-free bodybuilders upon which the equations were partially based.

You could gain weight faster, yes, but it’s not going to be muscle.

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4 thoughts on “More On Muscle Gain

  1. Good post. I think the corollary is that we don’t need x grams of protein per pound of weight or LBM. Nitrogen balance studies are out there but nothing that deals with real world endpoints. If we want to increase our muscularity: hard, consistent, progressive work over time. If we want to look leaner: consistent reduced calories over time. Macronutrient composition probably doesn’t matter very much under real conditions.

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