Natural Bodybuilding: Skip the drugs on your muscle journey! (2023)

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Natural Bodybuilding: Skip the drugs on your muscle journey! (2)

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Lisa studied journalism and is a certified fitness and health trainer, as well as a meditation coach! She spent many years working for different lifestyle and fitness magazines, and she writes articles for us on the topics of working out, fitness, lifestyle and mind.

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Natural bodybuilding means building your body in the most original sense: no need for steroids or other kinds of doping! A balanced diet and a well-organized training plan is at the core of this sport. Of course, that’s easier said than done, so let’s get into how you can make drug-free bodybuilding work for you!

What Is Natural Bodybuilding?

Natural bodybuilding was created as a counter-movement to conventional bodybuilding. The focus is still on building muscle, but only in a natural way, meaning no performance-enhancing substances such as anabolic steroids.

Anabolic steroids are artificial derivatives of the male sex hormone testosterone, which is one of the primary drivers of muscle growth.

According to the German organization (GNBF) in the International Natural Bodybuilding Association, this sport is based on a holistic approach with four pillars:

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  1. Training
  2. Nutrition
  3. Recovery
  4. Positive thinking
Natural Bodybuilding: Skip the drugs on your muscle journey! (5)

Of course, there are many natural bodybuilders who participate in competitions and pursue the aesthetic goals that go along with them. But natural bodybuilders aren’t just interested in training to build muscles, change their look, and compete. The core goal of natural bodybuilding is to challenge and support yourself physically and mentally in order to improve your overall quality of life.

What’s the Difference Between Natural and Conventional Bodybuilding?

No matter how intense your workouts are and how rigorous your nutrition plan is, there are limits to natural muscle growth. Due to genetics alone, we’re all going to stagnate at some point in our growth. But not everyone wants to accept that.

According to a national IPED (image and performance enhancing drugs) study, nearly 1 million people in the UK have used these substances, and most are doing it for aesthetic reasons1. In the conventional bodybuilding scene, this is a common and accepted practice.

Doping with substances such as anabolic steroids, growth hormones, diuretics, or stimulants (e.g. cocaine) has a performance-enhancing effect and releases reserves you’ve already built up – at least in the short term.

Natural Bodybuilding: Skip the drugs on your muscle journey! (6)

Doping results in drastic changes to your body over the long term and sometimes has significant side effects. Just anabolic steroids alone increase your risk of strokes, heart attacks, liver problems, and mental illness2.

That’s one reason why adherents of the natural version of bodybuilding distance themselves from doping. They also want to show that it’s also possible to build impressive muscles without it.

They can only use supplements on theCologne List of doping-free sports nutrition. These have been analyzed to prove that they present a minimum risk of contamination with banned substances that would show up in drug testing. This means that professional athletes competing in the drug-free version of bodybuilding or other sports can use them.

Natural Bodybuilding: Skip the drugs on your muscle journey! (7)

What Kind of Nutrition Plan Do I Need for Natural Bodybuilding?

Doesn’t matter if you’re a runner or bodybuilder, your nutrition accounts for 70 percent of your success in meeting your fitness goals. If you’re looking to build muscle mass then you need to pay particular attention to the following three factors:

1) Calorie surplus in the bulking phase

In the “bulking phase”, i.e. the muscle building phase, an increased calorie intake is essential for bodybuilders. After all, muscles need energy to grow, before you enter the “cutting phase” and reduce your body fat. As a rule, athletes are advised to consume an surplus of 30-35 calories per kilogram of body weight.

If you go into a calorie deficit before you want to lose fat, you’ll destroy your progress. If you don’t get enough energy from food, your system will fall back on existing reserves, and it’ll start breaking down your muscles. This means it’s important to eat enough carbs, especially after a workout.

2) Enough protein to build muscles

Proteins are the building blocks of new muscles so you should consume 1.5-2 grams of protein per kilogram of weight every day if you want to build muscles. High-quality protein sources include eggs, cottage cheese, poultry, salmon, and mackerel, as well as vegetable alternatives such as beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and soy products.

Natural Bodybuilding: Skip the drugs on your muscle journey! (8)

If you’re consuming more protein, it’s also important to drink enough – at least two liters throughout the day. Excess protein is excreted through the kidneys, so you need enough liquids to facilitate this process.

If you don’t have that much time and still want to give yourself a boost of energy and protein, you can play it safe with a protein shake. Put the powder into our shaker with water, milk, or a milk substitute, give it a shake, and it’s done! Our Vanilla Whey Protein is on the Cologne List, so it’s ideal for athletes who want to get the most out of their muscles – without doping!

3) Varied and balanced diet

It’s not just proteins and carbohydrates alone that make strong muscles. You also need fat, as well as vitamins and minerals, to stay in balance, and maintain a healthy body composition. Make sure you get the variety of nutrition you need with foods like nuts, avocado, and fish, as well as seasonal fruits and plenty of vegetables.

Your diet should keep your macronutrients in the following ratio: 40-40-20. 40 percent of your daily calories should come from carbs, 40 percent from protein, and 20 percent from fat.

How Do Natural Bodybuilders Train?

Anyone who wants to change or challenge their body needs a well-structured training plan. You can’t build muscles without working out, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay at the gym as long as possible. Increasing your effort doesn’t necessarily lead to the same increase in results.

Common mistakes in bodybuilding naturally include working out too hard, i.e. with too many weights or reps, and too often. Recovery periods between training sessions that are too short can also slow down your growth.

Natural Bodybuilding: Skip the drugs on your muscle journey! (9)

Natural bodybuilders working at an advanced level usually have 3 or 4 day split programs. In these training plans, a different muscle group is the focus of each workout, so that your other muscles have time to regenerate.

To promote recovery, bodybuilders must make sure that they get enough sleep and keep their stress levels down. Our Recovery Aminos are also a good way to supplement your diet (and they’re on the Cologne List), with plenty of essential amino acids to replenish your muscles post-workout.

Sample 4 Day Split Plan

Muscle groupSample exercises
1 | Upper BodyChest


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Back of shoulders

Bench press, chest press, butterfly, lat pulldown, row, pullover, lateral raise
2 | Upper BodyFront of shoulders


Military press, front lift, side lift, rowing, hammer curl, French press, dip, bicep curl
3 | Upper BodyBack



Lat pull, rowing, upright row, dips, crunch, leg raise
4 | LegsThighs



Leg extension, squat, leg press, lunge, calf raise

How Healthy Is Natural Bodybuilding?

Natural bodybuilding puts the focus on more than participating athletes’ superficial appearance and performance in competition, but also their health, fitness, and general well-being. So apart from the risk of injury that comes with every sport, natural bodybuilding is not harmful to your health.

Strict controls ensure that bodybuilders are free of doping substances during a competition. In addition to urine samples, some of the participants have to take lie detector tests to guarantee that every natural bodybuilder actually adheres to the goals and guidelines officially dictated by the sport. Drug testing is so important that anyone who fails or refuses to participate is banned from all competitions, sometimes for several years. After all, the sport’s image must remain “clean.”


  • Natural bodybuilding is a counter-movement to conventional bodybuilding and stands for natural muscle growth without performance-enhancing substances.
  • Substances used for doping in conventional bodybuilding like anabolic steroids increase the risk of various health problems including strokes, heart attacks, liver problems, and mental illness.
  • A natural bodybuilder focuses on muscle building through a balanced diet rich in protein and carbohydrates, as well as well-designed workouts with enough regeneration phases.
  • To ensure that the anti-doping requirements are met, athletes at every competition are subject to strict controls: Only supplements on the Cologne List are allowed.

Article sources

We at foodspring use only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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Can you build muscle without drugs? ›

Building muscle without supplements and steroids takes determination, a good workout routine, and proper eating habits. To build bigger muscles, you must put together a good exercise and meal plan. You can gain lean hard muscle naturally by eating healthy and working out.

What drugs do natural bodybuilders use? ›

Ephedrine, T3 and Clenbuterol. Most "natural" athletes will use ephedrine, T3 and clenbuterol to lose fat and drop those substances just a few weeks before the competition to avoid detection.

Does natural bodybuilding use steroids? ›

Since natural bodybuilders avoid using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, they seek to optimize their training, diet and rest regimes to maximize natural anabolic hormone production, thereby accelerating recovery and increasing hypertrophy and strength.

Does natural bodybuilding mean no supplements? ›

Natural bodybuilding is bodybuilding without using anabolic steroids, hormones, testosterone, and, in some cases, drugs such as cannabinoids and CBD. Many leagues sponsor natural bodybuilding shows, and some have different banned substances lists than others.

How big can muscles get without steroids? ›

Most men can naturally gain 40 to 50 pounds of muscle in their lifetimes, and most women can naturally gain 20 to 25 pounds. Research shows that you can use the circumference of your wrists and ankles to predict how much muscle you can gain naturally.

Who is the best natural bodybuilder? ›

#1 Mike O'Hearn

Most fitness junkies regard Mike O'Hearn as the best natural bodybuilder of all time. Mike has been around for decades and is still going strong, just like his workouts.

Is natural bodybuilding safe? ›

Natural bodybuilding puts the focus on more than participating athletes' superficial appearance and performance in competition, but also their health, fitness, and general well-being. So apart from the risk of injury that comes with every sport, natural bodybuilding is not harmful to your health.

Do natural bodybuilders live longer? ›

SAN DIEGO—Bodybuilders have a mortality rate 34% higher than that of the age-matched U.S. male population, according to a study presented at the American Urological Association's 2016 annual meeting.

Is it better to be natural or take steroids? ›

As most of us can already guess, the average person using steroids will generally get much better results in terms of building muscle and improving performance than someone who is natural and not using anything (especially with all else being equal).

Is natural muscle better than steroid muscle? ›

Natural bodybuilders may not be able to put on as much muscle mass as steroid users but they build muscles that are long lasting and sustainable. Besides building muscles that last, they have a better overall health and faster metabolism.

How far can you go natural bodybuilding? ›

How far can natural bodybuilding go? Everyone has a genetic potential, a certain amount of muscle mass that they can grow over several years. Once that potential has been hit, progress will effectively stall. 200lbs or 90kg of lean body mass is the upper limit that most men can achieve according to experts.

Are there any actual natural bodybuilders? ›

Mike O'Hearn is the largest natural bodybuilder in the world by weight. He is also famous as an actor, model, and personal trainer.

How hard is natural bodybuilding? ›

Natural bodybuilding is a very slow and time-consuming process. Unless you are born with some super human genetics, your 'gains' will not be visible before a couple of years of hard training and diet. Even after that, your 'gains' will still be limited to your gym 'selfies'.

How do you spot a natural bodybuilder? ›

The deeper voice, superior cuts, and rippling muscles are all signs of an enhanced bodybuilder. Naturals do not experience these changes since androgenic hormones are not introduced into their bodies. A natural lifter has no noticeable changes other than muscle growth and fat loss.

Can you get a 6 pack without steroids? ›

Yes, six pack or eight pack abs can be made without steroids also but that takes a lot of hardwork, the right nutrition plan, physical endurance and above all willpower. Everything is achievable but patience and consistency are the two most essential tools.

How can you tell if someone is taking steroids? ›

Drastic mood swings and “roid rage” are common red flags of prolonged steroid abuse.
Other common side effects and signs of anabolic steroid abuse include:
  1. Acne.
  2. Rapid muscle/weight gain.
  3. Enlarged breasts (in men)
  4. Paranoia.
  5. Hyperactivity.
  6. Facial hair growth (in women)
15 Oct 2015

Can you build muscle without testosterone? ›

However, there is good news. Not only is it possible to build muscle with low testosterone levels, strength training and exercise can help increase the amount of the hormone in the body.

How long does it take to become a natural bodybuilder? ›

A novice adult lifting weights three hours per week can expect to gain four to 15 pounds per year without the use of steroids or hormones. After two years of lifting this person should expect just three to 10 pounds of annual gains. After five years this growth will slow to about two to seven pounds per year.

How many sets should a natural bodybuilder do? ›

As bodybuilder Lee Haney once said, "Stimulate, don't annihilate." Current research indicates that anything between 3-10 sets per body part, per session, is sufficient to maximize muscle protein synthesis (MPS).

Do natural bodybuilders take whey protein? ›

However, if you're keen to compete in a natural bodybuilding competition, know there are plenty of safe, effective, and natural supplements you can take. In fact, BCAAs, creatine, and whey protein are naturally occurring nutrients and arguably the most effective supplements for natural bodybuilders.

Is natural bodybuilding good for the heart? ›

Because strength training increases lean muscle mass, it gives your cardiovascular system places to send the blood being pumped. This results in less pressure on your arteries, which helps reduce the chances of heart-related problems.

Do natural bodybuilders make money? ›

Pro bodybuilders in California make an average of $83,000 annually, while in Florida, they earn about $72,000 a year. In Nebraska, pro bodybuilders make an average of $56,000 a year. For top-tier bodybuilders, the earnings are much higher.

How much do natural bodybuilders make? ›

The salaries of Bodybuilders in the US range from $19,726 to $187,200 , with a median salary of $32,020 . The middle 50% of Bodybuilders makes between $28,280 and $29,636, with the top 83% making $187,200.

What age do most bodybuilders retire? ›

Most elite bodybuilders have been living the lifestyle, progressively improving, for 15-20 years by the time they hit their mid-30s. Natural testosterone and GH levels peak around 30, but 5-6 extra years allow for more workouts, meals, and drug cycles to further gains.

Do bodybuilders have heart problems? ›

But because bodybuilders focus on muscle, they fall into the false belief that they are healthy. Blocking estrogen, adding excess calories, eating six times a day followed by spikes in blood glucose and insulin and escalating IGF-1—this all can lead not only to heart disease but to cancer as well.

Why do bodybuilders don't drink water before competition? ›

Bodybuilders work extremely hard to eliminate body fat and develop size and symmetry in the muscles when preparing for a competition. With all this hard work, it is important that all the definition and striations in the muscles are visible through the skin, with no water in the way.

Are there any bodybuilders that don't use steroids? ›

Thanks to supplement sponsorships and international laws, no Pro bodybuilder is about to admit to using anabolic steroids. It would be career suicide and could have legal ramifications. However, let's be clear. There are no bodybuilders who have a pro card who don't use anabolic steroids.

What is the closest supplement to steroids? ›

What Are the Closest Legal Supplements to Steroids?
  • D-Bal Max.
  • HGH X2.
  • Clenbutrol.
  • GenF20Plus.
  • Brutal Force HBULK.
11 May 2022

Can you look like a bodybuilder without steroids? ›

1. You can get as big as a pro bodybuilder without taking steroids; it just takes longer. Despite what many of the magazines say, all professional bodybuilders use either steroids or steroids in combination with other growth-enhancing drugs.

Can you build muscle if you smoke? ›

Not only does cigarette smoking compromise the health of your heart and lungs, it also diminishes muscle gains from exercise by acting on your body in several distinct ways. While you will still gain muscle through exercise as a smoker, your results as a nonsmoker will greatly improve.

What drug makes your muscles grow? ›

Some athletes take a form of steroids — known as anabolic-androgenic steroids or just anabolic steroids — to increase their muscle mass and strength. The main anabolic steroid hormone produced by your body is testosterone.

Does smoking affect muscle growth? ›


It also reduces protein synthesis, an important requirement for muscle growth. In smokers, there is an increased level of myostatin, a hormone that inhibits muscle growth reduces the strength of the muscles and prevents the toning of muscles.

What is the best drug for muscle growth? ›

Fastest Muscle Building Pills Like Steroids

D-Bal Max - Best legal steroid for bodybuilding. HGH X2 - Best legal steroid for bulking. Clenbutrol - Best legal steroid for fat burning. GenF20Plus - Best legal steroid for lean mass.

Do cigarettes increase testosterone? ›

Both total and free testosterone levels increased significantly with increasing number of cigarettes smoked daily (p < 0.001). Smoking men had 15% higher total and 13% higher free testosterone levels compared with men who never smoked.

Do cigarettes make you stronger? ›

Cigarette smoking has been shown to increase serum hemoglobin, increase total lung capacity and stimulate weight loss, factors that all contribute to enhanced performance in endurance sports.

Why do bodybuilders vape? ›

Obviously the fact that nicotine has these positive effects on fat loss and appetite reduction make it an attractive choice for some bodybuilders, and an e-cigarette is a much better choice than inhaling the aforementioned nasties you get in a poisonous tobacco cigarette.

What do bodybuilders use to sleep? ›

Tryptophan seems to be the most effective and you can usually find isolated tryptophan supplements at most sports nutrition stores (16). Melatonin has also been shown to have positive effects on sleep quality and may even reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep (6,38).

What do bodybuilders inject into their muscles? ›

Synthol is a substance used by body builders as a temporary implant which is injected deeply into the muscle. The enlargement effects are immediate. Synthol is used in small groups of muscles to enlarge their volume (for example triceps, biceps, deltoids, muscles of the calf).

Does sleeping pills affect muscle growth? ›

In conclusion, the combination of having sleep problems and taking sleeping pills was correlated with the low skeletal muscle mass and physical performance, such as walking speed, hand grip strength, and number of squats, in community-dwelling elders.

Is it good to smoke after gym? ›

Smoking after a workout might seem counterintuitive, but exercise is helpful if you're addicted to cigarettes. Although it cannot cancel out the effects of smoking, it will make you healthier and may even help you kick this habit.

Is it OK to smoke after gym? ›

So, to answer how long you should wait to smoke after a workout is best to wait for a couple of hours. Besides, a workout can help curb your cravings for a cigarette, so you can delay smoking for some period, maybe even for a day. So, the next time you hit the gym, try to avoid smoking for as long as possible.

What happens if u smoke after workout? ›

If you smoke, you get less oxygen in your heart, lungs and muscles. This reduces your physical fitness. It can also cause inflammation in your bones and joints that may contribute to other conditions like osteoporosis.

What foods are natural steroids? ›

Learn More About Natural Steroids
  • Celery. Expert nutritionists say that the scent of celery stimulates testosterone production in men. ...
  • Spinach. ...
  • Quinoa. ...
  • Eggs. ...
  • Fava Beans. ...
  • Avocados. ...
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil And Coconut Oil. ...
  • Foods High In Vitamins C, A, and D, Zinc, and Magnesium.
18 Aug 2022

What is the closest supplement to steroids? ›

What Are the Closest Legal Supplements to Steroids?
  • D-Bal Max.
  • HGH X2.
  • Clenbutrol.
  • GenF20Plus.
  • Brutal Force HBULK.
11 May 2022

How much testosterone should I take to build muscle? ›

Based on research across a wide range of testosterone doses, current Clinical Practice Guidelines recommend treatment with intramuscular testosterone enanthate or testosterone cypionate between 75-100 mg weekly or 150-200 mg every two weeks.


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