Steroids, Protein, and Muscle Building

Brad Pilon has taught me a great deal about diet and nutrition. His book on protein really opened my eyes to what the research (not supplement hype) says about this macro nutrient.

One of the most surprising studies he mentioned involved four different groups, all of whom trained for ten weeks:

1. Training+Steroids
2. Training+No Steroids
3. No Training+Steroids
4. No Training+No Steroids

Two of the results aren’t surprising. First, those who trained with weights and used steroids gained the most muscle mass (an average of 13 lb.). Secondly, those who didn’t train or take steroids did not gain any muscle. No shockers there.

But a couple of things did surprise me:

*Those who took steroids and did not train ended up gaining more muscle than those who trained with weights naturally. They made significant gains by doing nothing except sitting around!

*All subjects were eating only around 120 grams of protein a day (0.7 grams per lb. of body weight). This amount was enough for significant gains in muscle in only ten weeks.1

There are a couple of important lessons here:

1. Steroids are complete game changers, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just fooling himself. If you are training naturally don’t compare your results to those who are using drugs. Doing so is an exercise in futility.

I’m not completely opposed to steroid use, by the way (that’s another subject). But I believe many natural trainees get frustrated because they look at what some guy is doing with “pharmaceutical assistance” and wonder why they are not just as big, strong, or lean.

2. Eating huge amounts of protein is not necessary for gaining muscle. I still consume more protein than the average person, but I’m much less obsessed with it. I no longer worry about getting over a gram per lb. of body weight, and now I spend much less on supplements.

Brad’s book has a lot more research (including similar studies to the one I’ve mentioned) and I’d highly recommend you check it out. Just read my review for more information.


1. N Engl J Med. 1996 Jul 4;335(1):1-7. The effects of supraphysiologic doses of testosterone on muscle size and strength in normal men.

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