4

votes

Muscle gain with diet alone (no workout)?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 09, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Hi hackers,

unquestionably, working out is the most promising way of building muscle, but:

I heard several stories of people, who didn't work out, but had an increase in muscle mass by following a paleo diet alone. Does this sound reasonable? What could be the biological background? Maybe muscle as protein store?

cheers

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on June 10, 2012
at 11:35 PM

Yeah. My dad is built and he has never workout at the gym. Just pure plant lifting.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 09, 2012
at 04:03 PM

Well I'm not big at all but I have more muscle mass than last year (after being vegan for a while). The first thing my mom told me was that I had a normal body composition again. Never worked out, though I don't have a car so I walk a lot and have to carry groceries for a couple of miles (that's something like carrying 60-70lbs 2 times weekly).

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on June 09, 2012
at 03:56 PM

+1 Thanks for posting the link.

88cee497750e98a318ebc402ef2c83b0

(86)

on June 09, 2012
at 03:30 PM

Great question. Been wondering about this myself.

E2b72f1912f777917d8ee6b7fba43c26

(2384)

on June 09, 2012
at 02:47 PM

Great, thanks!!

C3bc92e6b5eba45dc55f43ac3c70cc25

on June 09, 2012
at 02:36 PM

What'll happen if I eat slow absorbing proteins?

E2b72f1912f777917d8ee6b7fba43c26

(2384)

on June 09, 2012
at 01:31 PM

Really plausible answer, thanks!

E2b72f1912f777917d8ee6b7fba43c26

(2384)

on June 09, 2012
at 01:29 PM

I know and I don't advocate to sit around all day and wait for the muscles to appear, just interested in the biology behind

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12 Answers

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12
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 09, 2012
at 02:39 PM

I was involved in a clinical trial that compared two different diets (high protein hypocaloric vs hypocaloric) on weight loss in overweight and obese individuals. At the end of the trial period (30 days) there was no significant difference in the amount of weight lost - both groups lost approximately the same weight, about 3.5kg. We also tested cholesterol (TC/LDL/HDL), CRP and glucose - no significant difference there either. However, when it came to body composition there was a highly significant difference (p<0.01) between the two groups. The group on the high protein diet actually had an increase in lean body mass (LBM) despite the weight loss whilst the other group lost most of the weight by losing LBM. This was an unexpected finding.

It suggested - at least in overweight to obese subjects - that they were protein deficient in their diet and that an increase in dietary protein was sufficient for them to increase LBM (given there was no difference in exercise).

I would also agree that muscle acts as a protein store - just as adipose tissue is a store for fatty acids and liver and muscle is a store for glycogen. We know that muscle is preferentially catabolised during periods of starvation or cortisol secretion. The liberated amino acids are converted into glucose.

I think its reasonable to consider that moving from a low protein to a high protein diet (as in a Paleo type diet) would have a positive effect on the balance of anabolism vs catabolism in muscle.

Obviously, for further muscle development muscles need to be stimulated with training but I would suggest there is definitely a dietary threshold on protein intake that must be met for basal muscle development particularly in people whose diet may be protein deficient (e.g have protein displaced by other macronutrients).

E2b72f1912f777917d8ee6b7fba43c26

(2384)

on June 09, 2012
at 02:47 PM

Great, thanks!!

6
F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on June 09, 2012
at 02:37 PM

You can add lean body mass with diet alone:

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?doi=10.1001/jama.2011.1918

Don't know of any evidence that you can increase strength without training, though.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on June 09, 2012
at 03:56 PM

+1 Thanks for posting the link.

4
Dfe1dfb34939145fe21b3d8fa6832365

on June 09, 2012
at 03:31 PM

If the person was carrying less muscle than their bodies should have had, due to hormones being off (High cortisol for example?), and a diet change fixed those hormones, they could return to their more natural body composition.

Muscle mass is decided by hormones first. Training influences hormones, and so does diet.

4
4de8f1be3ed89b2b0de3463349fb1737

(964)

on June 09, 2012
at 02:38 PM

Is it possible some of these people don't work out, but do work on farms, construction, in shipping, or carry kids around, do a lot of yard work, or are otherwise active?

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on June 10, 2012
at 11:35 PM

Yeah. My dad is built and he has never workout at the gym. Just pure plant lifting.

3
2c2349bc7af0fedb59a5fe99dac9fae2

(2707)

on June 09, 2012
at 03:12 PM

It is definitely possible, and this is probably the case for the genetically gifted people who tend to store excess calories as protein more than fat. This is known as partitioning. Most people are not that lucky, and you need more of a stimulus to grow muscle.

Whenever you are in a caloric surplus you will grow some muscle and fat. The ratio depends mostly on genetics, but of course there are some things you can do to influence. One of those is obviously exercise. The other side of the coin is drugs :)

So to keep it short: Yes it is possible, but probably not gonna happen for you. No shortcuts, keep it real, eat a lot of clean paleo food, lift heavy weights 3 times a week (squats and deadlifts are key here), and you will grow muscle.

2
8bf720ac1b997a871a434b72686b8a82

on June 09, 2012
at 01:28 PM

As we know from studies, tking testosterone supplements alone without training are superior in ganing muscle than training alone. (http://www.alexandrelevangelista.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/effect-of-testosterone-administration-and-weight-training-on.pdf)

So maybe, in some people T production got elevated as soon they ate more dietery cholesterol/animal fat which is needed to produce Testosterone.

The thin is, those indivudals must have been on a very cholsterol devicientdiet in the firt place, maybe vegan.

So yeah, I say it is possible.

E2b72f1912f777917d8ee6b7fba43c26

(2384)

on June 09, 2012
at 01:31 PM

Really plausible answer, thanks!

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 09, 2012
at 04:03 PM

Well I'm not big at all but I have more muscle mass than last year (after being vegan for a while). The first thing my mom told me was that I had a normal body composition again. Never worked out, though I don't have a car so I walk a lot and have to carry groceries for a couple of miles (that's something like carrying 60-70lbs 2 times weekly).

2
219f558c6fb724423033d983cca96d1a

(258)

on June 09, 2012
at 01:06 PM

I'd say if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. You probably lose some fat to reveal some muscle, but you're not going to just gain muscle. The only way to get muscle/stronger is to work at it. That's all my opinion, I'm sure some will say otherwise.

1
B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 09, 2012
at 03:51 PM

I don't see why not. If you manage to raise testosterone with diet, why wouldn't it increase muscle mass? It's not as effective, but probably works IMO.

1
1e443a3241f80129faa05125ce346e47

(734)

on June 09, 2012
at 01:10 PM

This is extremely unlikely. These people probably did work-out a lot already (cardio, just an active lifestyle in general), and just didn't focus particularly on muscle gain. You have to do something to gain muscle. That something doesn't have to be working out in the strict sense of the word. If those stories come from people who do heavy manual labor all day, then that definitely is possible.

To make a long story short: muscles have to work in order to grow. Working out is the most efficient, but not the only way to do that.

0
1d8d318b49aebd4265b6da27efe6f8c6

on July 10, 2013
at 03:16 AM

I actually had this happen to me recently. Early on my weight and inches decreased and I would record measurements once per month. I was then injured and couldn't exercise for a few months and decided to clean up some other areas of my life. I started with getting at least 7 hours sleep, and made my sleep deeper supplementing with GABA. Both are known to increase human growth hormone. I intermittent fasted for probably 12-16 hours daily, got my stress under control, and knocked a ton of items off my never ending to do list (which was another stressor for me), very careful to eat foods that did not spike my insulin (higher on protein and fats). When I measured at the start of the new month, I had more muscle definition and lost 1% body fat, 1 inch off waist but gained 2 pounds. It wasn't until I dug a little further that I found out all those changes help to release HGH which looks like it contributed to muscle gains. I'm 40 and naturally muscular to start with but was really surprised this result. So it is possible! Just not sure how long its gonna keep working.

0
531b053b68e92ac509fc1544f88dc103

(1205)

on June 09, 2012
at 02:28 PM

The only way your body can "grow" muscle, is by stressing your muscles and tearing them down through heavy lifting (weight training). Then, you have to feed your muscles with quick absorbing protein so that they rebuild bigger and stronger in preparation for the next time.

C3bc92e6b5eba45dc55f43ac3c70cc25

on June 09, 2012
at 02:36 PM

What'll happen if I eat slow absorbing proteins?

0
1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

on June 09, 2012
at 01:05 PM

Its not reasonable whatsoever.

E2b72f1912f777917d8ee6b7fba43c26

(2384)

on June 09, 2012
at 01:29 PM

I know and I don't advocate to sit around all day and wait for the muscles to appear, just interested in the biology behind

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