Muscle Madness – Bodybuilding Without Destroying Your Health

For a large percentage of guys the fitness ideal is the natural bodybuilder, the guy who uses the lastest training techniques, is in good shape and eats relatively healthy and naturally. I mean who doesn’t admire someone who could bench a Z4 without resorting to steriods?  He looks good, feels good and undoubtedly has women right and left tripping over themselves to meet him.

Well, I want to challenge this ideal.  First of all, women do not, in general, like bodybuilding levels of muscle on a guy, be he natural or be he freakish from steroids. Massive muscle mass-building – say that three times fast! – is almost entirely a male-driven phenomenon.

Consider these results from a Psychology Today study:

Men and women also parted company in the domain of male muscle mass. Men value muscle mass, while women are less interested in oversized biceps and pecs. In ranking male body types, women gave first place to medium with moderate muscle mass while medium with competition muscle mass came in a lowly fourth. When men estimated women’s preferences, however, competition body build narrowly missed second place. We asked women directly, “how important it is for you that [a man] have noticeable muscles,” and we asked men how important muscles were to them. The differences were striking: twice as many women as men said that male muscles did not matter at all.

That’s right – competitive muscle mass is a negative with most women.  Guys, let’s be honest:  if you’re not lifting for the women, then who are you lifting for?  Let me be more blunt:  why are you pursuing something that is an actual turn off for most women?  When I first read this, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  All those “curls for those girls” that I was doing was nothing more than narcissistic madness.

Yes, a certain amount of muscle mass is important for your metabolism, weight control, bone mass and other health factors. Furthermore, a youthful amount of muscle mass makes you look much younger:  we all know one of the best signs of middle age is a flat butt and flabby arms. But, that said, why do we guys do what we do to ourselves in the gym?  It just doesn’t make sense!

Let me give you just a few examples of how Muscle Madness actually can hurt or even kill you:

  1. Injuries.  Competitive bodybuilders generally emphasize heavy, Olympic style lifts and often injure themselves.  As I mentioned elsewhere, almost every major lifter has had at least one shoulder injury from bench pressing.  Other extremely common areas for injuries are the lower back, knee and elbow.  No matter how good you are, it only takes one mistake if you are lifting heavy to cause you years or even a lifetime of pain.
  2. Inflammation. Gaining muscle requires inflammation.  Fitness Rx recently had an article where they discussed the issue that fish, with all it’s inflammation-fighting properties, may actually harm your ability to gain muscle.  If you’ve read much on this site, you know that inflammation is one of your greatest enemies and is an endless source of dementia, heart disease, erectile dysfunction and autoimmune disorders.
  3. Animal protein, especially in large quantities, is very hard on the body.  The Paleolithic Diet folks love to state that for tens of thousands of years we humans were hunter-gatherers and lived on a diet of meat and various scoured vegetables, roots and fruit.  Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that 99+% of our DNA comes from primate-ish creatures that were anything but hunter-gatherers. Turkey and chicken are loaded with inflammatory messengers and will increase systemic inflammation in most people.  Modern feed lot beef is loaded with anachondric acid, another inflammatory chemicals.  Dairy, with all its excess calcium, is also deadly due to harmful calcitrol levels and prostate cancer.  And, if you’re a gym rat, you know that the best formula for packing on muscle is to eat lots and lots and lots of protein.  The formula is 1 g/lb of body weight.  That means if you’re a 200 lb guy, you should eat at least 200 g of protein!  Sorry, but that is just not going to be healty for you long term.
  4. Animal Protein II.  Numerous animal studies [1] show that high animal protein diets, greater than about 12%, are pro-carcinogenic and lower protein diets, less than about 11%, are anti-carcinogenic for certain types of cancer (breast cancer, liver cancer, etc.).  There appear to be serveral mechanisms by which animal protein helps induce cancer.  One is that animal protein interferes with liver enzyme activity, i.e. it does not allow the body to detoxify cancerous chemicals and metabolites passing through the liver as effectively. [2]  Animal protein also increases levels of IGF-1 and studies have linked high IGF-1 levels to increased cancer risk.  See my link on IGF-1 for more details.  [3] Plant protein, including both soy and wheat, has not been found to be pro-carcinogenic.
  5. Animal Protein III. High Protein diets have recently been shown to decrease blood flow and that means to your penis as well, my friend. Furthermore, the authors pointed out that “fibrinogen, Lp (a), and C-RP increased by an average of 14%, 106%, and 61% respectively”. [8] This is a one way ticket to heart and penis problems – avoid it like the plague. Also, remember that the saturated fat that comes with all that protein raises your cholesterol and literally hardens your arteries temporarily.  I know that high saturated fat diets are the rage right now, but for most guys, this is nuthin’ but trouble for their sex life.  We know many guys who after a week on a plant-based diet cured their erection problems. If you just gotta have fat, use olive oil or have a few almonds and walnuts.  Read this link on the Potential Dangers of Low Carb Diets.
  6. Seratonin.  Constant high protein meals can whack seratonin.  Read about Diet and Neurotransmitters.
  7. Appetite.  Constant high protein meals can greatly increase appetite and cravings.  Read about Diet and Appetite.
  8. IGF-1 is a huge risk factor for is a huge risk factor for Prostate Cancer.  IGF-1 levels of 300-500 ng/ml in the blood increases your risk factor by four times across the board and over nine times if you are over the age of 60! [4]  Again, see my link on IGF-1 for more details.
  9. Milk The protein in milk is double-barreled:  not only is it an animal protein, thus raising IGF-1 levels naturally, but it also has significant amounts of bovine growth hormone, which mimics IGF-1 in human tissue.  Please read this link, , which is loaded with research documentation if you are a regular milk drinker.  You will ask the question – Got Milk? – in a completely new way afterwards!  Milk is also loaded with Calcium and even medium Calcium levels in the diet is associated with a greatly increased risk of Prostate Cancer.
  10. Supplements Such as Glutamine.  Many bodybuilders megadose on glutamine supplements in order to boost immune function not realizing that a 2008 study showed that this potentially interferes with Nitric Oxide production (and, therefore, erections). [25] This was based on previous research [26] that showed Glutamine, actually L-Glutamine, decreased Nitric Oxide in a dose dependent manner on bovine endothelial cells. [26]

So, in my opinion, you should seriously re-think trying to go the speed of light, that is you should reconsider your desire for infinite mass. It’s not worth the price. Besides, women would much rather see a six pack on your abs.  And well-trained abs will do a lot more good in the bedroom than 20 inch biceps anyway. Think of some of the greatest athletes in the world right now – guys like Federer and Phelps – and they are much more the physically ideal of women around the globe.

I want to emphasize that I am NOT trying to talk you out of weight or strength training nor am I going to the extreme of saying that muscle is not good for you.  If you’ve poked around my site at all, you know that I emphasize the slow build up of Muscle Mass for many reasons, including the fact that it burns fat, builds testosterone and helps you look decades younger for starters.  But I encourage you to reconsider the traditional body building hype that is so often promoted on the web and in the mags:  it is probably just plain dangerous for your long term health.

I also want to point out that I tried an Ornish Diet, which is a quasi-vegan diet that actually reverses arteriosclerosis, and found that I put on several pounds of muscle while building a six pack on my abs!  I had not seen that since my college days.  Again, this kind of healthy lifestyle is what you need:  building muscle, lowering fat, getting good abs and cleaning out your arteries!  So put on some muscle and get in shape and don’t kill yourself while you’re at it!  (For more information, read my link on the Great Diet Smackdown (Part II) and how the Ornish Diet appears to stop Prostate Cancer dead in its tracks.)

CAUTION:  New research shows that aerobics/cardio should always be done after weight training.   Please read my link on Weight Lifting and Arterial Stiffening for a detailed analysis.


1) Arch. Path, 1968,85:133-137;J Nutr,1972,102:53-60; Biochem Pharmacol,1973,22:1005-1014; Life Sci,1976,19:1191-1198.  There are about two dozen more studies documented on p. 372-373 of The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II, Benbella Pub., 2006.

2) Adv Nutr Res,1979,2:29-55

3) J Natl Cancer Inst,2002,94:1099-1109; J Am Diet Assoc,1999,99:1228-1233; Am J Nephrol, 2001, 21:331-339; Brit J Cancer,2000,83:95-97

4) Science,Jan 23 1998,279:563-66

5) Hypertension,1999,33:1385-91

6) Experimental Physiol,2005,90(4):645-651

7) Experimental Physiol, 2007, 93(2):296-302

8) Angiology, 2000, 51(10):817-826

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