2

votes

How much muscle is too much?

Commented on March 17, 2015
Created March 05, 2012 at 7:39 PM

It's widely recognized that size inhibits longevity. At what point does additional muscle become a strain on the body?

Fd627132a760e414f2afbf378c8afd9b

(260)

on March 07, 2012
at 05:52 AM

Thats true Shah. Bodybuilding is older than ~40 years, the key point is that putting on muscle did not infiltrate the mainstream until the past 20 years. Its much too early to determine how muscle will effect lifespan on a broad scale.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 07, 2012
at 12:07 AM

I'm gaining muscle on a non-hypertrophy variation of Texas Method eating ~.5g of protein per lb of mass and no supplements.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 06, 2012
at 07:24 PM

For me, it's less a matter of too much muscle and more a matter of not enough body fat.

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on March 06, 2012
at 07:07 PM

So I am wondering, does this principle of stopping muscle gain when the opposite sex starts to find you unattractive work for women? Although I feel like a lot of guys find stronger women attractive, I feel that more men dislike women who decently muscular. For example, http://crossfitperu.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/camille2_60_487.jpg

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 06, 2012
at 05:38 PM

Slight correction:Modern body building goes back sixty years. Vince Gironda said everything there was to say about the subject in the fifties. I find it amusing that he was so Paleo. He loved that liver.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on March 06, 2012
at 03:55 PM

also getting hit in the head isn't helping them.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on March 06, 2012
at 02:39 PM

Apex, it's one thing to gain muscle, quite another to look like a freak of nature such as the examples AC posted.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on March 06, 2012
at 02:35 PM

Apex, it's one thing to gain muscle, quite another to look like a freak of nature such as the examples Kamal posted.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 06, 2012
at 01:32 AM

Very interesting, thank you. I suspect there are a number of co-factors with NFL players that would not translate to the general public. CTE, steroid abuse, social maladaption after retirement, poverty before and after stardom, chronic injuries and even heights come to mind immediately. I also imagine there is a "price to pay" so to speak, for athletic ability, which may be why it wasn't selected for more strongly.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on March 06, 2012
at 01:06 AM

God almighty, did you have to post that.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 11:12 PM

Well, there is a huge difference in appearance between sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar. Also, some of us don't have a choice of being waifish or jacked- it's fat, scrawny or muscular, due to body frame. Gaining muscle has not hurt my personal popularity with women, quite the opposite...

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on March 05, 2012
at 10:57 PM

I also find it ironic that so many men bulk up to boost their attractiveness, when that sort of look is a MASSIVE turn-off for most women. I guess it depends on what your goals are. Step away from the protein shake! lol

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 10:26 PM

It may come to that down the road. I enjoy working out, and have been trying to get stronger without getting bigger. Hopefully someone comes up with a study or thought process saying I have nothing to worry about.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 05, 2012
at 10:17 PM

Damn. I see your point. Maybe instead of working out to minimize hypertrophy, you could even catabolize for a while. Plenty of muscle to spare, it seems.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 09:58 PM

Funny you should mention 242- I'm not to far from that(@5'10"), and while I could be leaner, you couldn't tell unless I was shirtless. No supplements, no shakes, lowish % of protein, workout designed to minimize hypertrophy. You can see why I was wondering...

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 09:33 PM

The grass is always greener on the other side. If even healthy muscle weight is a risk factor, my father and I shouldn't have to worry about building up huge retirement accounts...

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 05, 2012
at 09:14 PM

Poor poor Apex Predator and his easy muscle gain :)

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 05, 2012
at 09:09 PM

The first article about height v. CHD was very interesting.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 09:02 PM

Brush your teeth? I'd be worried when I couldn't wipe my own butt...

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on March 05, 2012
at 08:55 PM

When your muscles are too big that you can't brush your teeth anymore due to flexibility issues. (sorry.. had to do it..)

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 08:45 PM

I hope this is the case! My body build muscle at the drop of a hat, which is what prompted the question.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 08:44 PM

Here's one on height:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071721/ Here's an abstract that implies smaller size is beneficial for longevity:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10488402 This one is old, but also links height and size with earlier mortality:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2393304/pdf/bullwho00041-0106.pdf

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 05, 2012
at 08:15 PM

Can you offer some articles that site "size v. longevity" issue in muscle growth? Where is "normal" v. "too small / weak" or "too big"?

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7 Answers

8
Da3d4a6835c0f5256b2ef829b3ba3393

on March 05, 2012
at 10:24 PM

"How much muscle is too much?"

how-much-muscle-is-too-much?

how-much-muscle-is-too-much?

how-much-muscle-is-too-much?

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on March 06, 2012
at 01:06 AM

God almighty, did you have to post that.

6
A5410f987b53c5dc97e8a457c6832ed7

(434)

on March 05, 2012
at 08:30 PM

These are just my personal thoughts, and not in any way scientific or correct for anyone other than me. That being said, here's my rule of thumb in one sentence. If my dietary requirements to increase muscle mass exceed my ability to obtain said nutrients through a whole food diet without force feeding, then I have reached my natural limit of lean body mass.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 05, 2012
at 09:14 PM

Poor poor Apex Predator and his easy muscle gain :)

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 08:45 PM

I hope this is the case! My body build muscle at the drop of a hat, which is what prompted the question.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 09:33 PM

The grass is always greener on the other side. If even healthy muscle weight is a risk factor, my father and I shouldn't have to worry about building up huge retirement accounts...

5
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 05, 2012
at 09:21 PM

Sure, longevity might be an issue. But potentially the biggest issue of having too much muscle is scaring away girls. Let me tell you about one man's experience. (that man is not me)

As a 135 pound sophomore in college, I was not exactly a stud. Next door lived a hulking behemoth of powerlifting fury, who repped over 500 pounds in both squat and deadlift. He tought me the basics of Westside powerlifting, elevating me from a weakling to my long-sought goal of having "average guy strength"!

A decade later, I exchanged emails with him. He had finished third at the world powerlifting championships in his age division our senior year, and had disappeared. Apparently, he got so sick of girls being scared of his bulkiness that he stopped lifting altogether, going from 242 down to sub 200. If I remember correctly, he found a girlfriend and lived happily every after. He mentioned that spending all those hours in the gym did not net him the female attention that he expected.

The same is true for me, although I never became the Hulk. So how much muscle is too much? If girls that you think are cool think you're too big..you're too big! Unless you like being too big. To each his or her own :)

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on March 05, 2012
at 10:57 PM

I also find it ironic that so many men bulk up to boost their attractiveness, when that sort of look is a MASSIVE turn-off for most women. I guess it depends on what your goals are. Step away from the protein shake! lol

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 11:12 PM

Well, there is a huge difference in appearance between sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar. Also, some of us don't have a choice of being waifish or jacked- it's fat, scrawny or muscular, due to body frame. Gaining muscle has not hurt my personal popularity with women, quite the opposite...

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on March 06, 2012
at 02:39 PM

Apex, it's one thing to gain muscle, quite another to look like a freak of nature such as the examples AC posted.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 09:58 PM

Funny you should mention 242- I'm not to far from that(@5'10"), and while I could be leaner, you couldn't tell unless I was shirtless. No supplements, no shakes, lowish % of protein, workout designed to minimize hypertrophy. You can see why I was wondering...

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 05, 2012
at 10:26 PM

It may come to that down the road. I enjoy working out, and have been trying to get stronger without getting bigger. Hopefully someone comes up with a study or thought process saying I have nothing to worry about.

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on March 06, 2012
at 07:07 PM

So I am wondering, does this principle of stopping muscle gain when the opposite sex starts to find you unattractive work for women? Although I feel like a lot of guys find stronger women attractive, I feel that more men dislike women who decently muscular. For example, http://crossfitperu.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/camille2_60_487.jpg

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 05, 2012
at 10:17 PM

Damn. I see your point. Maybe instead of working out to minimize hypertrophy, you could even catabolize for a while. Plenty of muscle to spare, it seems.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on March 06, 2012
at 02:35 PM

Apex, it's one thing to gain muscle, quite another to look like a freak of nature such as the examples Kamal posted.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 06, 2012
at 07:24 PM

For me, it's less a matter of too much muscle and more a matter of not enough body fat.

4
9e20abb05f3f6e3cc4bb107f8980aecd

on March 06, 2012
at 01:02 AM

I've only casually looked at the literature, but my general impression is that muscle is beneficial:

Height is negative. Fat mass is negative. But BMI is close to neutral over a wide range, and especially in the elderly the lowest mortality is for relatively high BMIs.

That's only possible if muscle, bone density, etc, are beneficial.

Now it's true that NFL players have shortened life expectancy, dying in their 50s. The likely explanation is that high calorie consumption is a negative for lifespan.

So maybe the real answer is that muscle is good, but how you get it is more important than how much you have. Muscle gained by efficient conversion of a small number of calories to muscle mass is a clear positive. Muscle gained inefficiently with excessive consumption of calories, and accompanied by growth in fat mass, could be negative.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on March 06, 2012
at 03:55 PM

also getting hit in the head isn't helping them.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 06, 2012
at 01:32 AM

Very interesting, thank you. I suspect there are a number of co-factors with NFL players that would not translate to the general public. CTE, steroid abuse, social maladaption after retirement, poverty before and after stardom, chronic injuries and even heights come to mind immediately. I also imagine there is a "price to pay" so to speak, for athletic ability, which may be why it wasn't selected for more strongly.

0
246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21430)

on March 06, 2012
at 05:27 PM

I would say any amount of muscle mass that requires an unnatural amount of lifestyle changes or drugs, would be too much.

For example, if you spend 4hr in a gym 4-5 days a week to upkeep your muscle, you might have too much muscle.

If you are eating 8k calories per day to keep your mass, and you lose 5-10lbs if you eat under 4k for more than 2 weeks, you might have too much muscle.

If you have visible abs, take anabolic steroids, and lose 10% of your bodyweight when you go off-cycle, you have too much muscle.

(And yes, I know 1-2 guys that pretty much fit that mold - albeit they are professional athletes)

On the flip side, if you can naturally maintain muscle with a moderate calorie diet and reasonable strength training, then you are, to quote Goldilocks, "Just Right".

I understand this answer is a bit more on the "instinctive" and subjective side, but that's pretty much the view I have of eating Paleo in the first place.

Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on March 07, 2012
at 12:07 AM

I'm gaining muscle on a non-hypertrophy variation of Texas Method eating ~.5g of protein per lb of mass and no supplements.

0
E34fbfa1bca9ae970c9c7313bf9de9f8

(1436)

on March 06, 2012
at 03:39 PM

I think it's a mistake to focus on muscle size (unless that's your goal, of course), you should instead focus on muscle strength/power. The 4-6 rep range is best for this. You won't get big, but you will get strong (Myofibrillar hypertrophy). Body builders lift in the 8-12 rep range (or more) and end up getting big, but it's all fluid (Sarcoplasmic hypertropy).

Check this out - these are small people moving a ton of weight:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpwnUA5qMe0 (female benching 300 @132lbs) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_bK9sQv6AM (male squating 485lbs (!) @ 130lbs)

6071fe9bc269384aa2613c277ff39d2c

on March 17, 2015
at 05:42 AM

Yeah, those low rep powerlifter and football player types are tiny :-) All kidding aside, it's not nearly so simple. Intensity, volume, technique, program design, diet, and genes are all very significant. You're also a bit unfair with bodybuilders. They vary their reps, it's the  overall volume that you're referring to. And, in truth, if you're talking about the top tier guys, really no one is stronger except powerlifters. All you have to do is check their actual stats.

0
Fd627132a760e414f2afbf378c8afd9b

(260)

on March 06, 2012
at 05:27 AM

Apex,

I have a few issues with the studies you linked. First, its difficult to isolate cause and effect when you're dealing with the historic trends outlined in the first and second articles. They're implying height may be responsible for increased heart disease in the 20th century. Haven't we been preached from seemingly every paleo source that the 20th century heart disease increase was due to change in dietary habits? We've also seen the same trends from new cultures implementing the SAD such as in native americans and other cultures. So this may be a serious error in attribution. Using that logic we can blame increase in heart disease on the automobile, airplanes, football, or any other 20th century innovation.

Secondly, its hard to say based on historical data and analysis that muscle has anything to do with lifespan. Modern weight training has really only been around for ~40 years or so, and has only been widespread for ~20 years. Prior to that, you didn't have many muscular people. If you use typical hollywood actor in the 60s versus today as a prototypical build people emulate. The 60s had skinny dudes and today they're all lean with some muscle.

Finally, its really hard to seperate body mass from body fat as very few studies are going to isolate fat people from muscular people. BMI is the easiest way to measure and calipering hundreds of people is problematic and subjective. If muscular people are grouped with fat people through BMI, then of course skinnier people will have a longer life span than the combined group of fat and muscular people, but that doesn't make muscular people necessarily less healthy than skinny people.

As for the overall question, I don't think its possible for someone to have "too much" muscle (without hormonal help) as muscularity will naturally adapt for activity level. If you're an ultramarothoner, you're not gonna get bodybuilder size and vice versa.

Fd627132a760e414f2afbf378c8afd9b

(260)

on March 07, 2012
at 05:52 AM

Thats true Shah. Bodybuilding is older than ~40 years, the key point is that putting on muscle did not infiltrate the mainstream until the past 20 years. Its much too early to determine how muscle will effect lifespan on a broad scale.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 06, 2012
at 05:38 PM

Slight correction:Modern body building goes back sixty years. Vince Gironda said everything there was to say about the subject in the fifties. I find it amusing that he was so Paleo. He loved that liver.

6071fe9bc269384aa2613c277ff39d2c

on March 17, 2015
at 05:53 AM

You must be young. The modern form of bodybuilding itself existed in the 50s and strength training has been widespread since the 70s via the upsurge of bodybuilding (e.g, Arnold) and football standards.

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