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Great follow-up question to the Protein Myth article:

Hi Cris,
I was reading your article about protein and you said that even the most genetically gifted person would be hard pressed to gain more that 10-12 pounds of muscle mass in one year. What about the Body-for-Life champions like Anthony Ellis, Ab Ansley, or Doug DeRuyter who made gains like that in 12 weeks? Since they have before and after pictures, and after analyzing DeRuyter's nutrition plan and finding he was taking in close to 3000 calories a day and more than 250 grams of protein while training each body part only once per week, how can we believe that those kinds of gains are impossible? Thanks!

Jamie (from BC), ninteen, skinny, tired of contradictions ect... :P

Answer:

Dear nineteen and skinny,

Don't confuse limited anecdotal evidence as representing the experience of an entire population, or any part of the population. These quick muscle gain claim's are easily defeated:

It doesn't matter that a person says they ate 250 grams of protein per day and gained muscle. A person could say they jumped over a building, but of course this could not be true because it is not within the realm of physical possibility, so such a claim is dismissed. It is not within the realm of physical possibility for the average male to absorb 250 grams of protein per day. A person would need to weigh 280 (lean) pounds to absorb this much protein, and the Body For Life people you mention do not weigh anywhere near 280 pounds.

Keep in mind that a 1-pound per week increase in lean muscle mass equals 52 pounds in one year. So where are all these people who gain 52 pounds of muscle per year? If these people can gain 10-12 pounds of muscle in 12 weeks, what happens after that? Why do they stop? Does the formula only work for 12 weeks? This could not be biologically possible.

Again, if these gains were possible, there would be hundreds of thousands of people in MR. Universe form with only 6 months to 1 year of training. Of course, this is not the case.

Don't fall the stupid newspaper picture trick. This is not recognized as a legitimate method of proving that a certain amount of time has passed. I could buy today's newspaper, then take a picture of me holding it. I then buy the next days newspaper and put it on the shelf for 1 year while I train, then take my picture holding that newspaper. Placing these two pictures side by side, I then claim that I made one years worth of gains in ONE DAY. Do you see how the newspaper trick works? It is not a scientifically or legally valid method of confirming that a period of time has passed because of the obvious ability to take a picture with the newspaper at any date after the newspaper was published. Also, it seems to me that some of those fast muscle gain pictures look like bad cut-and-paste jobs with transferring the image of a head to the image of another body.

3000 calories is not a lot of food for a male who trains every day. The endurance athletes I train, as well as myself, will eat up to 4000 - 5000 calories per day on extensive training days, and 2500 - 3500 calories on easy and moderate days. Some ultra endurance athletes easily consume 10,000 calories a day. Why do we eat so much? Are we super human? No. 2 to 3 hours of moderate to hard training on the bike can blow through 2000 - 3000 calories. This isn't special or unusual for an athlete. So the 3000-calorie per day consumption you quoted for the Body For Life people does not strike me as being worth mentioning as "special", but rather just part of a normal diet for a regular exerciser.

If a male weighed 280 to 290 pounds, was lean and was in a mass training phase, they could consume up to 250 grams of protein per day, and this would be healthy. It works out to about 1.8 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day. If a male who weighed less than 250 pounds (lean) ate 250 grams of protein per day, it would take a matter of days to develop high urea nitrogen levels, leach calcium, and begin a process that can lead to kidney stones. This is a medical fact. Humans cannot absorb more than about 1.8 - 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day. We can eat it, but can't absorb it. The unabsorbed protein may stress our kidneys and is released in urine and feces.

Furthermore, I hesitate to use the word "champions" when referring to the people you mentioned from Body For Life. In a philosophical sense, a person is their own champion if they achieve personal goals, but if you are looking for actual athletic champions, then show me the medals. If you want examples of true champions, look at my results page. Take a look at the images pages and look at real pictures of real races, no staged photos here. These are real athletes winning real medals.

It may be possible to find limited exceptions where some individuals who are untrained, who begin a training program, and gain 10 pounds of lean muscle between 5 and 7 months time. However, this initial gain could not be continued. While this is within the realm of possibility under these specific circumstances, I haven't seen it myself and I've been coaching since 1987.

12 Weeks is enough time to make real changes in body composition, and no special formula is required - just a commitment to regular well planned training and a healthy diet. The primary change would be fat loss - up to a maximum of 20-24 pounds of fat loss is possible in 12 weeks. However, most people will lose around 5 pounds of fat per month when on a healthy fat loss plan. 12 Weeks is also enough time to make significant increases in strength and aerobic fitness, but not enough time to graduate from sedentary to athlete. 12 weeks of mass training is enough to gain up to 2 - 3 pounds of lean muscle mass.

It should be clearly understood that if a person loses 10 pounds of fat and gains 2 pounds of muscle in 12 weeks, which is very realistic with healthy exercise and diet, that person would look very different. So different that a claim of huge muscle gain may, by appearance, look like a plausible claim. In a side-by-side photo comparison a very lean and cut 14" flexed biceps muscle will look larger than a flexed 16" fat biceps muscle. Photos can be very deceiving.

When critical thought is applied to these bogus muscle gain claims, it becomes immediately apparent they could not possibly be true.

- Cris LaBossiere

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This page was last updated on January 20, 2008