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Guide to Natural Bodybuilding | What is it? Diets & Workouts

Guide to Natural Bodybuilding | What is it? Diets & Workouts
Jack boardman
Contributor6 years ago
View Jack boardman's profile

Bodybuilding (the regular kind) and natural bodybuilding, by and large, are actually not all that different. OK – there are some things you definitely won't be doing, but a few tweaks and optimisations to your training and diet, as well as taking advantage of natural anabolic hormone production, and you could find yourself on the route to becoming a natural bodybuilder.

That's not to say that natural bodybuilding is an easy feat – anyone that's into it will tell you that it takes work, endless hours and serious dedication to attain a physique that's fit for competition. Not sure where to start? We've laid down our bodybuilding know-how – from cutting-edge nutrition to tough training to start you on your journey to the natural side...

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What is Natural Bodybuilding?

The definition of natural bodybuilding drills down to the fact that natural bodybuilders don’t take performance enhancing drugs or steroids. That's not to say that all competitive bodybuilders take advantage of steroids, or that they automatically fall into the category of drug users.

What the two share in common is the activity that goes on inside the gym: the daily endeavour to achieve gains, to pump, build, recover and repeat. Doing resistance-based exercises designed to target muscle fibres in order to develop and grow. When it comes down to it, both types share the same three areas of focus: training, nutrition and nutritional supplement intake. Missing one of these integral key areas will have a detrimental effect on your mass muscle gains.

Natural Bodybuilding Competitions

Natural bodybuilding competitions provide a drug-free platform for bodybuilders around the world. The bigger, best-known competitions include the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation, British Natural Bodybuilding Federation and the International Natural Bodybuilding Association, all of whom are very strict when it comes to drug-testing. Policies mean that competitors may not use any prescription medication or banned substances, including over-the-counter hormonal substances which are thought to give their training performance the edge.

natural bodybuilding

Is Natural Bodybuilding For Me?

You don’t have to look very far when you're researching the advantages of natural bodybuilding. Many people are led to believe that developing a good physique without steroids or banned supplements is impossible – but it’s simply not true. Instead, discipline and ambition applies. By not tampering with your hormonal levels, doing it the natural way is healthier for your physical and mental wellbeing, and when you see results, you'll know that you earned every inch of them.

A Natural Bodybuilding Diet

There are a couple of hard and fast nutrition rules you should live by when you're bodybuilding naturally. You'll need to eat protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats in set quantities, and you'll need a routine that you can set your watch by. You also need to achieve a calorie-surplus every day when you're seeking to gain muscle (cutting is a different story).

Related: Build Muscle, Lose Fat | Scientists Close in on Holy Grail


It’s that simple. Proteins are the building blocks of natural muscle gains, which don’t require performance-enhancing drugs in any way, shape, or form. To develop muscle mass, consume 1-2g of good-quality protein per pound of bodyweight every day.

Related: Nutrient Timing: The Importance of Pre- & Post-Workout Nutrition

Eggs, whey and lean meat are your cornerstones. Each are brimming with all of the essential amino acids at an affordable price. If you eat a plant-based diet, you can still pack on just as much muscle as non-vegans, but it's vital that you eat a wide variety of plant-based protein sources throughout the day, as some fall short on particular amino acids. It’s all about getting your amino acids, so ensure that you consume an animal or plant protein with every meal along with casein prior to long periods without snacks at hand.

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Carbohydrates and Fats

Carbohydrates and fats are essential for growth and energy. You should avoid refined, processed carbs like the plague, which will leave you with the wrong kind of fuel in your tank and also leave you hungry a short while later. Look for carbs that are low on the glycemic index scale, which means that they are slowly digested and leave you fuller and with energy stores for longer. Good examples include whole grains and oatmeal.

Not all fats are bad, so make sure you get your omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish and seeds, along with cashews, almonds, olives and avocados.


Last but not least, hydrate as much as you can. This encourages muscle-protein synthesis and a properly functioning digestive system. You should especially increase your water intake if you're utilising supplements like creatine, which make use of a lot of your body’s water content.

Natural Bodybuilding Supplements

Your primary objective here is to avoid any banned substances in the supplements that you take. When competing in a natural bodybuilding competition, if you're not sure of the rules and what constitutes an illegal substance, the answer to that is quite simple: do your homework. The competition will have a set of guidelines, which you should read and cross-reference with any supplements you're considering.

Related: 7 Best Supplements for Muscle Gain

Transparency is key. Stick with a brand that provides full disclosure on the contents of their supplements.

Related: What Supplements Should I Be Taking On A Daily Basis?

Natural Bodybuilding Workouts

Many natural bodybuilders aim to progressively increase the number of reps they lift through the duration of their workout, along with the amount of weight that they're lifting, and applying this to all areas of their body.

Divide up your workout week so that you hit all the large muscle groups, and be sure to combine both compound lifts and isolating exercises.

For your upper body, try:

Exercise Reps Sets
Bench Press 5 4
Seated Rows 5 4
Shoulder Press 5 3
Pull-Ups/Downs 6-8 3
Bicep Curls 10 2
Tricep Extensions 10 2
Lateral Raises 12 2


For your lower body, try:

Exercise Reps Sets
Squats 3-5 5
Leg Press 6 3
Lunges 8 2
Leg Extension 12 2
Hamstring Curl 12 2
Calf Raises 15 3
Hanging Leg Raises 15 2

Take Home Message

The difference with natural bodybuilding is the choice of not using banned substances that unnaturally enhance your sporting performance. Want to get big the natural way? Look to nature for your substances and devise a regular workout routine that's designed to build muscles. Ultimately, though, the hard work is down to you.


The 8 Best Supplements For Muscle Gain

Is growing muscle on your agenda? Then you've probably considered supplements – read this first.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Jack boardman
View Jack boardman's profile

Jack is a fitness and nutrition writer who specialises in weightlifting, boxing and MMA training.