If you want to be healthy, is building muscle a good idea? Inside we’ll dig into that.
I’ve got a few quotes from my clients and what is motivating them right now to take action to work out:
- I wanted to gain muscle to be healthier
- I wanted to get more energy in my life. I was a very tired person all the time.
- Wanted to get healthier and tired of wasting energy researching
- I love it. But it does beg the question—is it really healthy to gain muscle?
Natural Muscle Is 100% Healthy
One of my favourite articles, published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is called the Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease.
- Muscle acts as a storage tank of life-giving amino acids for your body, including for your organs to work. Muscle is lifesaving if you get in an accident and can’t eat, or you are fasting for a long period of time, or you get a serious illness, etc.
- Muscle plays a role in the prevention of many chronic diseases. It’s complex as for why but it might be because of increasing the metabolism and the fact that muscles take up a lot of glucose (sugars).
- Muscles pull on bones, giving them stress, which then gives them improved bone density.
- Building muscle delays sarcopenia. This is when you lose muscle mass as you age. This process of losing muscle naturally starts as early as 30 if you do absolutely nothing about it. But if you challenge yourself, you can delay this process to age 65 and beyond.
There’s a ton in that article. But it’s clear that having more muscle is very, very healthy.
On top of that, I remember one study finding that exercise acted as a “cornerstone habit.”
Basically, once you start exercising, a lot of other things change in your life. It becomes easier to eat healthy (as your body craves the nutrients), it becomes easier to go to bed and sleep deeply, and it becomes easier to command your life as you develop more willpower. People in the study were naturally giving up smoking and gambling after beginning to exercise. It’s wild.
But there’s one huge problem.
Building Muscle The Wrong Way Can Be Bad For Your Health
Depending on how you do it, building muscle can be very damaging.
Dirty bulking is when eating ultra-processed foods with the only goal of getting more calories. This includes overdosing on isolated protein powders. At one time, I was drinking 150g of protein every single day, which no doubt hurt my body.
Supplements that upset natural balance in the body and can contain toxins from lab formulation—pre-workouts, multi-vitamins, ZMA, “natural” T-Boosters, etc.
Badly Designed Workouts Leading To Injuries
This can happen when doing an intense routine from someone on performance-enhancing drugs or doing an Olympians workout when you’re a newbie or just bad programming with a high risk-to-reward ratio of exercise selection for building muscle.
How to Gain Muscle In A Healthy Way
The good news is that these problems can be avoided pretty easily.
- Focus on “building,” not “bulking.” Eat foods that support muscle, hormone-boosting through health improvement, etc., while giving more priority to improving your workout programming. The good news is that this also avoids needing to be hungry for months and months to burn off all that extra fat.
- Get your protein from real food, not powders. It comes with co-factors, perfect ratios of amino acids and minerals, and will make the process of building muscle easier—not harder.
- 99% of supplements often make things worse—skip them. And if they do make something better, it’s often a sign that you have a big gap in your diet that you should fix.
- The older or the more unhealthy you are, the slower you’ll need to ease into a program. This is because the more deficient your nutrient status is from a poor diet, the higher the chance of injury. Focus more on improving your diet at first and taking things slower with your workouts until you’re feeling confident that you can handle more.
Building Muscle Made Me Healthy
I love building muscle. Eleven years ago, in 30 days, I gained 21 pounds and was no longer suffering from tendonitis and alopecia—and my energy was off the walls. That little sprint was incredibly helpful for my health.
But there were other times when I was so dead set on bulking that I made my health worse.
This is one of the reasons I made the True Gains system, once I realized that relentlessly pursuing muscle through powders, dirty bulking, and heavy strength training was making my health and energy way worse.
Now, I reoriented back to eating healthy foods, but that still supported muscle, dropped the unnatural supplements, and the whole process of being muscular and lean got easier.