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  • Writer's pictureJean-Philippe Ricau- Registered Dietitian

How to build muscles without taking supplements?

Embarking on the journey to muscle gain often involves navigating a world filled with promises of quick fixes and artificial enhancements. Can you build muscles without supplements? Yes you can.


In this guide, we explore a different path—one that focuses on building muscles without the reliance on supplements. Discover how natural ingredients can replace popular muscle-building supplements, offering a safe, affordable, and sustainable approach to achieving your fitness goals.


This article was reviewed and approved by Jean-Philippe Ricau, a Dietitian with 25+ years of experience, co-founder of myfrenchdietitian.



Beautiful man's body
Bonus: a photo of me

Why People Turn to Supplements to build muscles:

Individuals seek supplements with the hope of accelerating muscle mass gain, promoting faster recovery after workouts, and reducing muscle soreness. Common muscle-building supplements include protein powder, creatine, BCAAs, and testosterone boosters.



Photo of protein powder for muscle growth
Credit: Aleksander Saks (Unsplash)

Proper Nutrition to build muscle without supplements:


How to Replace Supplements with Natural Ingredients?

The transition from supplements to natural ingredients is not only feasible but also provides a range of benefits.


A healthy diet is essential for muscle growth. You need to eat enough protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.


The good news is that many components found in muscle-building supplements can be sourced from natural foods.


For instance:

Protein Powder: Replace with meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts.

Creatine: Obtain from meat and fish.

BCAAs: Found in eggs, meat, and dairy products.

Testosterone Boosters: Substitute with zinc (Oysters or other shellfish, beef, and pumpkins seeds for instance), magnesium (spinach, almonds, bananas), and vitamin D (fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, egg yolks, milk, orange juice).

Something that boosts testosterone quite well: every morning, blend ginger, lemon juice and water in a glass rather than drinking orange juice.



Quinoa bowl with eggs, avocado, beans, tomatoes and olives
Credit: MK.S

Eat Natural Protein to build muscles?

Protein is the building block of muscle, so it is important to eat plenty of protein-rich foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts.


A 2016 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that people who ate a high-protein diet gained more muscle mass and strength than those who ate a low-protein diet.


Source:

International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise

J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017; 14: 20.

Published online 2017 Jun 20.   doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8

PMCID: PMC5477153

PMID: 28642676


This study found that people who ate a high-protein diet (3.4 g of protein per kg of body weight per day) gained more muscle mass and strength than those who ate a low-protein diet (1.2 g/kg/day) over a 12-week period. The high-protein diet also helped to reduce body fat.

The study's authors concluded that a high-protein diet is beneficial for building muscle mass and strength, especially when combined with resistance training.

Overall, this study provides evidence that a high-protein diet can be beneficial for building muscle mass and strength. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine the optimal amount of protein for muscle growth.


To optimize muscle growth, based on my experience, I usually recommend to intake a minimum of 2.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, when surpassing this threshold and exceeding 3 grams, hydration becomes crucial to mitigate potential adverse effects of high protein intake. Ensuring an adequate water intake is essential.


What else should I eat for muscles growth?

Carbohydrates provide your body with energy for workouts and help to repair muscle tissue. Good sources of carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.


Healthy fats are also important for muscle growth and overall health. Good sources of healthy fats include avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.


Also consider incorporating antioxidant-rich foods into your diet, such as pomegranates, to counterbalance potential protein-induced damage.




Benefits of Choosing Natural Ingredients rather than supplements to build muscles:


Opting for natural ingredients over supplements comes with several advantages:

  • Safety: Natural ingredients typically have fewer side effects.

  • Affordability: Real foods are often more cost-effective.

  • Sustainability: Choosing natural ingredients supports a sustainable approach to nutrition.

  • Holistic Nutrition: Natural ingredients provide essential nutrients crucial for overall health.



Mindful Consumption: Even Healthy Fats Can Create Intramuscular Fat


Nuts and seeds are a good source of unsaturated fats, considered healthy fats. Nevertheless, it's vital to complement this with regular cardio exercises to effectively burn the accumulated fat. Failure to do so may lead to the deposition of fat within the muscles, posing challenges for subsequent removal.


Even healthy fats can lead to weight gain if consumed in excess.


When we consume more calories than we burn, our body stores the surplus as fat. This fat can be deposited in various parts of the body, including the muscles. Intramuscular fat is more challenging to burn than subcutaneous fat, which is found under the skin.

Cardio exercises are an excellent way to burn calories and lose weight. They also help reduce intramuscular fat mass.

However, it's essential to note that nuts and seeds are also rich in essential nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. So, it's important to continue consuming them, even if you engage in cardio. Just be sure to do so in moderation.


Strike a balance in your nutrition and exercise regimen to achieve optimal results.



Exercise to build muscles


Resistance training is essential for building muscle.

Resistance training exercises, such as weightlifting and body-weight exercises, challenge your muscles and cause them to grow.

It is important to focus on compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Some examples of compound exercises include planks, squats, dead-lifts, bench press, and pull-ups.

You should aim to do resistance training exercises at least twice per week.


Start with a beginner strength training program 

and gradually increase the weight and intensity of your workouts as you get stronger.


Be patient and consistent. 

Building muscle takes time and effort.


Rest helps building muscles

Rest is just as important as diet and exercise for muscle growth. When you sleep, your body repairs muscle tissue and builds new muscle fibers.

You should aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.



Man lifting dumbbell



FAQs


Is it possible to build muscles without taking supplements?

Yes! It is entirely possible to build muscles without taking supplements by emphasizing a nutrient-dense diet, engaging in compound exercises, and prioritizing factors like proper hydration and sleep. This holistic approach fosters effective muscle development, offering a natural and sustainable alternative to relying on artificial enhancements for fitness goals.


How Can I build muscles quickly Without Supplements?

Building muscle naturally is an art that goes beyond relying on supplements. Here's your roadmap to bulking up without the extra help:

1. Give Emphasis to Lean Protein: Lean protein is your muscle's best friend. Prioritize lean sources such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products to supply your body with the necessary building blocks for muscle development.

2. Sustain Caloric Abundance with Nutrient-Rich Foods: Fuel your journey with nutrient-dense foods, ensuring a caloric surplus. Lean into whole foods like lean beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products to provide your body with the essential nutrients needed for robust muscle growth.

3. Engage in Compound Exercises: Optimize your workouts by incorporating compound exercises that activate multiple muscle groups. Think squats, dead-lifts, bench press, and pull-ups to stimulate comprehensive muscle growth.

4. Challenge your muscle progressively: gradually increasing weights, reps, or intensity during workouts. This principle keeps your muscles adapting and growing.

5. Ensure Proper Hydration and Quality Sleep: Give your body the support it needs by staying adequately hydrated and prioritizing quality sleep. Optimal hydration and 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night contribute significantly to muscle recovery and growth.


How fast can I Build Muscle Without Supplements?

The timeline for natural muscle development is as individual as your fingerprint. Factors like genetics, workout intensity, diet consistency, and lifestyle habits play a role. On average, anticipate visible results within 8 to 10 weeks of consistently intertwining strength training (4 to 5 times a week) with a well-balanced diet.



Conclusion:

Building muscle without supplements is not just a possibility; it's a holistic approach that brings added benefits. A well-rounded diet comprising natural ingredients, coupled with regular exercise and sufficient rest, forms the foundation for achieving your fitness goals naturally.

While supplements may seem enticing, consulting with your doctor before incorporating them into your routine is crucial to ensure they align with your overall health and well-being.

Remember, the journey to muscle gain is unique for each individual. Embrace the power of real foods, discover a sustainable approach, and unleash the potential of your body to achieve the physique you desire.

With consistent work and dedication, you can build muscle without taking supplements.



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