Gaining Lots of Muscle the Hollywood Way--Fast

Brandon Routh claimed last year on The Tonight Show that he had gained “22 lbs. of muscle,” for his role as Superman.

Daniel Craig, aka James Bond, made the same claim of 20 lbs. of extra muscle for his recent debut in “Casino Royale.”

Years ago, Mel Gibson made similar claims re: working out maybe 3 months before a film shoot, and gaining maybe 20 lbs. of muscle.

Just a few days ago, in an SDMB thread, a poster claimed that gaining 20-30 lbs of muscle (not muscle and fat) in just 3-4 months is quite possible–without steroids–if one follows a top-notch training program that includes some 200 grams of protein each day.

My understanding from earlier SDMB threads is that a man can gain a maximum of about 5-7 lbs. of muscle per year. The remaining weight gain, it was said, would almost certainly be mainly fat, although some people hide it better than others.

What is the straight dope on fast muscle gain, without steroids?

This was Daniel Craig’s typical diet:

Breakfast: Big bowl of porridge with blueberries and honey, a banana and mango smoothie.

Mid-morning snack: A sandwich, rye toast, or nuts and seeds.

Lunch: Large piece of grilled chicken or fish, with mixed roasted veg and a bowl of brown rice or couscous.

Afternoon snack: Banana, berries, apples or pears.

Dinner: Healthy risotto or brown pasta.

Supper: Baked or steamed fruit.

Check out this article I found while googling.

I’m guessing that the porridge and mango smoothie could be a whey supplement delivery system. Risotto could mean brown rice or even quinoa, which could add a good deal of protein. The “Large piece of grilled chicken or fish” is quite a bit as well - we’ll assume he’s eating two large boneless skinless chicken (half)breasts which is about 650k/cal and 120 grams of protein - a pretty typical body building meal (with a salad). So it can be done.

Husband body builds and has to eat pretty much constantly - hence the heavy snacking in the menu you provided. Since he has access to a world-class gym now my husband’s put on about 5lbs of muscle in the past 6 weeks, but unfortunately most of his protein seems to come from Carl’s Jr. and Payday bars.

IANA sports nutritionist.

Everyone knows if you need to go from zero to hero in no time flat, there’s only one way to do it…

You need a montage!

A sports-training montage!!!

(I just couldn’t help myself.)

Interesting article, and it looks like the claims of enormous weight gain are bombast. Perhaps they’re counting gain of lean muscle and not subtracting fat loss, but still probably vastly overstated at 20 or 30 lbs. Maybe this is a competative thing among actors, the way everbody tried to get a role gaining a lot of weight after DeNiro did so for Raging Bull and The Untouchables (as if this is somehow a commentary on acting skill.)

I’ll note that when discussing nutrition they recommend a significant portion of carbohydrates (50%, with 30% protein and 20% fat), consumed early in the morning and after each exercise, illustrating the need for carbohydrates in protein digestion. So much for Atkins-type diets (unless you are grossly overweight and incapable of exercise).

First of all, it’s something of a myth that you need massive amounts of protein relative to the overall calorie balance. Sure, you’re going to need protein to manufacture muscle–the human physiology has a very limited ability to synthesize its own proteins, particularly structural ones–but extra protein, or more protein that you’ve budgeted carbohydrates for, doesn’t do you any good, and in fact takes extra energy to break down. (This is the justification for Atkins and other high protein percentage diets, which conveniently ignores the toxic byproducts.)

Still, I see quite a bit of protein here; the grilled chicken or fish, perhaps the sandwich, the risotto or brown pasta, and I’m guessing some protein supplements in the shake or porridge as well. I doubt Craig actually put on 20 lbs; if you see him in previous films like Layer Cake or Enduring Love (I don’t recommend the latter) he’s already in pretty smart shape, and another 20 lbs on top of that would have made him huge. I’d guestimate somewhere closer to 10 lbs of additional muscle, which is still pretty impressive.


Who knows if they are destined for the Kidney Dialysis Hall of Fame, but I’ve heard plenty of college-age blokes nonchalantly mention that they are ingesting some 200+ grams of protein daily. I’m sure a lion out on the Serengeti needs this kind of protein loading, but a 180-lb., Idaho State college sophomore hoping to get invited into Sigma Chi?

If there’s anything the muscle community agrees on, it’s protein. The more, the better. The diet I linked above is from a Brit trainer who is a major yoga enthusiast, not a charter member of Testosterone Nation.

I attribute some of the “I had to gain 35 lbs. of solid muscle” statements to the Tinseltown PR machine, but some of the gains these male stars make are impressive as hell. Makes me think steroids, hence the OP.

From a physiological perspective, you’re only going to be able to process so much protein efficiently relative to carboydrate intake. The extra protein doesn’t hurt you in the short term (the long term effects of high protein intake are debatable) but short of using anabolic steroids you’re only going to put on muscle mass at a given maximum rate, regardless of how much protein you ingest.

One thing the diet you posted (I’ll assume it’s an accurate representation of Craig’s training diet) is that there is no information about his workout. The linked article focuses on lifting and strength exercises; I wonder if Craig did a lot more aerobic exercise, given the amount of stuntwork he had to do. Running or swimming isn’t going to build up muscle like lifting will, of course, but it would explain the large amount of carbs in the diet.


You’ll always gain quite a bit of mass quickly if you are a beginner. It’s when you are seasoned that the gains will slow down dramatically. Like the article stated, these people have lots of hired help and lots of downtime.

Except protein and fat are the ones we need. Carbohydrates are the ones you could have almost zero of and stay alive and moving. We’re an upright omnivorous social predatory animal and outside of established cultures in the wild I would expect most of our dietary requirements to be filled by hunting. Besides our brains, our only real amazing evolutionary adaptation is endurance running - we can pretty much run anything down. We’re not the lion on the Serengeti, but if you were on the Serengeti I wouldn’t expect to be digging up any hoagies or a rice bowls.

I have never seen a single study that shows that lack of carbohydrates is in any way damaging to the human body when the caloric requirements are met. Excess of certain proteins, overcooked meats, saturated fats, excess of proteins when in a severe caloric surplus and an improper fat/protein balance can lead to health problems. Eating an ok balance of lightly cooked protein and fat should be ok. Most carbs we eat have to go through so much processing just so we can digest the stuff it’s amazing we bother at all. Now I eat a lot of carbs, but I happen to not like most of them (hence I am a little biased) and if grains got eliminated from our diets I wouldn’t particularly miss any of them (maybe except for buckwheat and grain alcohol).

So when these actors say they did it without anabolics, is there any real reason to believe them?

“Muscle community” != Science. The muscle community is full of steroid ridden and genetic muscle freaks (predisposed to larger muscle mass), typically they would get big on anything. Also, many of the “muscle community” read bodybuilding magazines which are primarily funded by the manufacturer protein powders, bars and the likes. Of course they want you to believe that you need to eat that much protein.

ACSM, thats American College of Sports Medicine, suggests only 15-20% of your diet be Protein (55-60% Carbs, and 20-30% fat).

I think I would trust ACSM before I trusted Brock the steroid ridden Janitor.

That’s interesting. Is there an online cite for this?

I went to the ACSM website, where they list an available brochure entitled Questioning the 40/30/30 Diet, but they don’t actually have it online as a PDF or HTML document. Too bad, I’m interested in hearing this angle, as most guides I’ve read to weight training, not muscle mags but “Idiot’s Guide” and other “Intro to Fitness” types of books, recommend reducing carbs and increasing protein – not necessarily to 200g of protein a day, but to something approximating the “40/30/30” balance of carbs/protein/fat referred to by the title of the ACSM pamphlet.

Let’s review some basic nutritional biochemistry: You can convert fats and proteins to carbs via gluconeogenesis, but that is inefficient and produces toxic byproducts. Getting out of carb/protein/fat balance is more than just calorie trade-offs; it forces your body to shift over to breaking down fats and proteins to sythesize needed glucose via gluconeogenesis for glycosis and aerobic respiration; while burning up fats is desirable (to a certain extent), using needed proteins for glycosis isn’t. The reactions are inefficient and produce waste products that have to be scavenged. During lipolysis (in which unbound fatty acids are released from fat cells) ketones are produced; these are processed out by the liver, but when carbohydrate starvation is occuring they’re produced in excess which leads to ketosis. This can reduce pH levels in the body as well as stressing the liver and kidneys.

In addition, with carbohydrates you get a number of compounds that contribute to the process of glycosis that may not be present in sufficient quantities of high protein or high fat foods, leading to incomplete digestion. Taken to an extreme, this results in fermentation (or anaerobic respiration) and the production or lactic acid as well as ketones from side reactions. This is neither desirable nor maintainable. In any case, you would not want to take any diet to the extent that your blood glucose level falls out of the appropriate range.

Converting from protein>glucose>fat is highly inefficient; a high protein diet without sufficient fats or starved of easy fuel carbs will result in some degree of nutritional starvation (hence, the applicability to high protein reducing diets like Atkins), and it’s quite possible to die from having too lean or carb-poor a diet, regardless of how much protein you consume. You’re certainly not going to be able to maintain an aerobically active lifestyle without a majority share of carbohydrates. Humans are not historically primary carnivores like the large cats, but scavenger/gatherers who are opportunistic hunters similar to ursines. This can be seen from the length and construction of the human digestic tract which is much longer than that of pure carnivores. We do require sources of protein to fuel our abnormally oversized brains, and in prehistory the only way to regularly and reliably obtain the requisite proteins (and energy rich lipids) was from dense animal source muscle protein, but with a few isolated populations it has never comprised the bulk of any natural diet (and those that do also have a very high fresh saturated fat percentage which typically includes a fair amount of carbs and a lot of vitamins).

To make the analogy to construction, proteins are like bricks, fats are the mortar that holds them together, and carbohydrates are the cast you use to pay the bricklayers. You can try paying the bricklayer in bricks and mortar, but it’s going to cost you a lot more and he’s only going to take a certain amount before he quits. Pumping in more lean proteins is a game of diminishing returns; the guy eating two pounds of red meat every day in addition to a henhouse full of eggs is probably excreting a significant amount of that protein back out.

Epimetheus makes a very good point; most of these guys are not trained nutritional experts and have essentially no knowledge of nutritional biochemistry or human physiology beyond what they’ve read in muscle rags. They know what “works” in terms of building muscle mass, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the most effecient or healthy in the long term, and the magazines themselves have every incentive to sell the notion of high protein diets in order to sell protein supplements.

Whether or not these actors use anabolic steroids is unknown, but it’s clear that there’s little reason for them to do so; as the cited article makes clear, it’s leanness, not muscle bulk, which gives the kind of definition that makes actors look “buff” and muscular. If you want to look like Lou Ferrigno in mere months then you’re probably going to be popping steriods like Pez, but if you just want to look like Daniel Craig, you need to burn up the fat percentage to single digit levels while focusing on some definition rather than bulk muscle growth.

robardin, reducing carbohydrates (in moderation) is advisable if you are doing strictly anaerobic strength training and trying to reduce body fat percentage, particularly on off-days. However, this is more about reducing fat than increasing muscle mass, and has to be carefully managed in order to keep from reducing muscle growth. I don’t have a specific cite for you offhand, but this is basic human physiology, regardless of what any bodybuilder tells you about eating nothing but pure protein shakes and a banana a day.


I would tend to believe them. Why? There’s no real need to use anabolics for them because they have the time (all day, everyday), motivation (millions of dollars), and money (aforementioned millions of dollars) to bulk up without taking shortcuts. They can afford the best nutrition and the best fitness gurus to assist them.

There’s really no reason for them to take shortcuts with the potential for a massive PR disaster.

Also, on preview, what Stranger said re: steroids.

I can’t find a direct site to ACSM, I did find this article on the NSCA, and this one on usa swimming.

ACSM has changed their site recently and it isn’t as navigable, and google doesn’t turn up much. I also learned the recommendations through my Nutrition course.

But see Dr. Lowery’s opinion for a good argument in favor of higher protein intake for athletes.

If you carefully read the entire article, you’ll see it is saying exactly the same thing I did above (including using the bricklayer analogy), to wit:*We need more than just “bricks” (amino acid building blocks), we also need “gas for the brick layer’s equipment” (calories from carbs and healthy fats)…If we hearken back to our glutamine highlights, we can see that glutamine is a good thing metabolically. Yet researchers have shown that if a person eats a high-protein diet at the expense of carbohydrates, his muscle and (circulating) glutamine concentrations actually fall.(10) Yep, fall – despite the ample protein and glutamine intake. So you see, there are good reasons why we need carbs–and fats–along with our beloved protein…So, as free-living (beaten down) athletes, we probably need protein more than many nutritionists think… as the recent revival of amino acid research suggests. But should we be consuming 300+ grams per day while eating next to zero carbs and/ or fats? Definitely not.*Now, he’s indicating that higher protein levels are necessary for atheletes–a fact nobody denies–but that’s just a component of overall higher calorie intake, including a balance of fats and carbohydrates.


Which sounds suspiciously like, “why would baseball players use steroids? They have all the time and money and incentive to bulk up without taking shortcuts.”

My problem with that is not that I don’t think it’s right. My problem with that is that to me that seems like thinking one is smarter than they really are. We are in a situation where we don’t have to rely on eating every kind of edible junk we come upon. To me cooked carbohydrates feel untested by evolution – sure lots of things are untested but these are so recent that for all we know they’re the only cause of all cancers. Met anybody who’s had cancer and never eaten a cooked carbohydrate? I’m not making a claim here, just a hypothetical. To me a protein/fat diet is the reasonable “default” from which you can experiment - a fundamental basic diet from which we can build science. Unfortunately all the science on the subject seems to make the assumption that carbs are safe to eat for humans. You see life-long vegetarians and vegans occasionally, and studies surrounding protein consumption, but I’ve yet to see long-term study about people who have avoided grains their entire life. People look at Atkins like it was the most counterintuitive thing in the world like to me it doesn’t like a weight loss diet, it just looks like a step in a more natural direction. To me avoiding grains is in the same category as eating organic foods and avoiding frying and refined sugars. Bread’s bread, be it cake or pasta. It’s an opinion not a statement of long term benefit of it . I’m just saying it should be a reasonably safe default.