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The number one mistake made by natural trainees
I believe that the main mistake someone training without the help of performance enhancing drugs can make is to do too much volume.
The whole purpose of training to build muscle is to trigger protein synthesis. Once it’s been triggered there is no added benefit to continuing punishing a muscle, it will not grow more. In fact, it will grow less and might even lose size!
The key to growth is having the biggest difference between protein synthesis (building muscle) and protein breakdown (mobilizing amino acids from muscles for energy). The more volume you do, the more protein breakdown you get. Why? Because the more volume you do the more glycogen you need to burn for fuel.
What does this have to do about protein breakdown? Plenty!
When you have to mobilize stored glycogen you need to increase the release of cortisol. Basically during training cortisol’s role is to mobilize energy to be used for fuel.
The more fuel you need, the greater the cortisol release.
So the more volume you do, the more glycogen you need to burn, the greater the cortisol release.
And cortisol also comes with a drawback: it can hurt muscle growth. It does so 3 ways:
By increasing the breakdown of amino acids from muscles… basically cortisol breaks down muscle tissue to turn it into fuel. That’s why we say that cortisol is a catabolic hormone.
By inhibiting mTor. MTor is the light switch that turns on protein synthesis (muscle building). Cortisol can inhibit mTor directly and my increasing the level of AMPK. So the more cortisol you produce, the more likely you are to negate the effect of training on protein synthesis. Basically mTor will turn on muscle-building, cortisol can turn it off
Cortisol and other glucocorticoids increase the expression of the myostatin gene. Myostatin expression limits the amount of muscle you build. The more myostatin expression you have, the less muscle you build. High cortisol levels, and thus a high volume of work, lead to a greater myostatin expression during the recovery period after a workout.
So what we want is to trigger mTor/protein synthesis but also keep cortisol release as low as possible to maximize the growth stimulus. This means that volume must be kept low.
It also means that since you can’t afford to do a lot of volume you have to make sure that the volume you do is done at an intensity level that will trigger mTor activation.
Note that enhanced (drug-using) bodybuilders do not have that same problem.
Enhanced bodybuilder do not need to stimulate protein synthesis with the session: the anabolic hormones they are taking artificially increase protein synthesis 24/7. As such doing too much volume will not have the same negative impact as for a natural trainee.