Looking at bodybuilding shows and competitions, you can easily get encouraged to hit the gym and achieve a similar looking physique. What we see in magazine covers and fitness blogs is of men and women who have reached the peak of physical perfection. If you are hoping to look anything like that, you will need to put in a lot of time and effort. The sad fact is that you might not end up looking like that at all. Not when you want to do it the natural way. Natural bodybuilding lacks glamour because it embodies what real-world results look like. And they are not as perfect, or as quickly achieved as the media would have us believe. So, how much can you really gain then, if you are a natural lifter?
It starts with your genes
Like every other physical characteristic we have, it first has to be written in your genes. We have different body types, and these are coded way before we are even born. The ease, at which you gain muscle and burn fat, is genetically predisposed. There is little you can do to rewrite it regardless of how much effort you put in.
It takes time
Gaining muscle naturally takes time. Not months, but rather years. When you are a newbie starting to train, that first year is characterized with growth. Going forward though, the gains are more trivial but still very noticeable. You never really put on muscle the same way as when you are first starting off, even when everything else remains constant.
There is an upper limit
There is a ceiling which limits how much muscle you can put in. If you are entirely dependent on your biological ability to gain muscle, realize that there will be a point that you will not be able to surpass. A plateau of sorts that you cannot really escape from except very trivially. Without an external source of growth hormone, or testosterone, there will be an upper limit to how much muscle you will be able to gain.
Weight and Diet
Weight training and a proper diet plan are critical in helping you gain lean muscle. In the absence of other external factors, the amount of muscle you gain naturally will be dependent upon these two things. You have to train often, and have to lift progressively heavy weights. This is how muscle grows- by constantly increasing the load it has to bear. Coupled with a diet plan that meets your protein needs and other food groups, you will be on your way to success.
The image projected by Olympia contestants is far removed from what is naturally achievable. Nothing about that competition is natural. It blurs what the reality really is. A natural lifter can gain 20 pounds of lean muscle that first year, 10 pounds the second year, and then 5 and then 3 pounds a year going forward. This is a real-world estimate, and what you should be aiming for.
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