Nutrition Plays A Small Role in Building Muscle Mass – Controversial Video

What if half of what you have been told about building muscle mass is completely wrong? You see, building muscle is almost 100% about training and has very little to do with nutrition.

The main thing that nutrition affects is gaining or losing body fat. The mainstream fitness publications would have you believe that you can eat your way to quick muscle gains. This simply is not the case. John Barban has created an exclusive video for the readers of this site, that you guys have to see!

building muscle mass

[I like to look at ancient Greek and Roman statues as ideal proportions to shoot for. Although centuries have gone by, the proportions of these statues are still considered optimum by most of the population.]

A Favor From a Supplement Developer and Industry Expert

I recently asked my friend John Barban to record a 5 minute video about building muscle mass. His stance on building muscle and losing fat is the same as mine…You use nutrition to lose fat and you use your workout to build muscle.

To quote John…”Nutrition plays a negligible role in muscle building”. Click on this video to see him explain why this is the case. I have had several conversations with John and I’m convinced that he knows more about building muscle than any other industry expert.

Pretty Heavy Stuff for a 6 Minute Video!

[John is very well-respected in the health and fitness industry. He has formulated supplements for some of the largest supplement companies in the world. I am glad someone of his stature is coming forward and saying what needs to be said about building muscle. I support his message 100%.]

You Can’t Accelerate the Muscle Growth Rate by Eating More

Back in 1990 after lifting hard for 3 years, I tried to “bulk up” and put on 10 more pounds of muscle. I remember eating my way up from 210 pounds all the way to 230 pounds. I trained hard during that time for 9 months and then I spent the following 4 months “leaning out”.

After dieting hard and getting lean again, I wound up at 212..a whopping 2 pound muscle gain in a little over a year!

You Can Quickly Build Muscle Just Once in Your Life Time

The only time in your life that you can build a lot of muscle quickly is when you first begin training. It isn’t unusual for an untrained person to put on a decent amount of muscle his first 1-2 years of training, but that will be the last of the quick muscle gains (unless he uses steroids).

The window for even faster gains is when a male is in his late teens and early 20’s…because when a teen enters into his 20’s he typically adds a bit of weight naturally and “fills out”.

If a person adds in training along with this time of naturally filling out, then ultra-fast muscle gains can happen…but that will never happen again in that man’s lifetime.

Trained Guys of Same Height Have Similar Amounts of Muscle

This is where the HUGE paradigm shift happened for me. John explains that an experienced lifters of the same height almost always carry the same amount of muscle (5-7 pounds give-or-take)….the only difference in size comes down to how much body fat each person is carrying.

He also explains that frame size (somatotypes) play a role, but only 5-7 pounds in either direction.

Note: I am going to reference John Barban’s Blog in the future and probably do a few podcasts with him, etc.

I like the message he is sending out in regards to gaining muscle and achieving a pleasing physique. When you head over to his blog, make sure and subscribe to his newsletter…”The Truth Hurts”. The first message that gets sent is one called “Get Ready to UNLEARN”…love it!

96 thoughts on “Nutrition Plays A Small Role in Building Muscle Mass – Controversial Video”

  1. This was a great post. I’m gonna pass this along to my friends who are what you would call “gym rats”. They’re always looking for ways to get bigger without going the steroid or drug route and I think that this information will put them at ease. The statement that John made about people trying to attain a celebrity like figure also needed to be said because I think a lot of people DO try to shoot for that look and they don’t know how or what way they achieved it. Again, great post.

  2. Hey Rusty. Good post. When I was in college I used to eat as much as physically possible to try and bulk up. However, for the last few years I have thankfully seen sense and eaten food in volumes that I am comfortable with.

    Whilst I agree that the amount you eat does not dictate how much muscle mass you will gain I still think nutrition is important. Eating the right foods can make you much more alert when working out and also give you the fuel you need to rebuild after a workout. However, eating the wrong foods can make you feel sluggish whilst you workout – something I used to find quite a lot.

  3. Keith,

    I go into the vacation a bit carb depleted without losing muscle. I am going to throw together a free report on how to do this, but it won’t be in time for your vacation. Think along the lines of eating low carb and low fat for 6-7 days before your trip. You are aiming for the muscles to be a bit flat by the time you hit your flight. Within a couple of meals you will look quite a bit better. You will be able to eat pretty loose and not have to worry about working out and will look outstanding and leaner than normal for 7-14 days.


    I have found no evidence that artificial sweetners affect fat loss at all. I have seen studies that try to prove otherwise, but they are almost always flawed. I have achieved extremely low body fat levels while drinking a couple cans of Diet Coke each day. These days I try to limit my Diet Coke consumption, mainly for health reasons.


    I do think ESE works better. The Warrior Diet encourages one big meal at night every day. I simply wasn’t able to get as lean eating like this. Eat Stop Eat uses two fasts per week until dinner…the big difference is that the ESE method encourages a moderate size dinner. These 2 days wind up being pretty low-cal and really aid in fat loss. You wouldn’t be able to do this on the Warrior Diet, since going low cal every day would basically become an eating disorder. I find the ESE diet easier to follow and more effective than the Warrior Diet. Maybe at some point I will do an article on Bear Grylls.


    I can totally relate to this sentence…”Quitting BB was like being let out of social prison!”. Although I never was a true bodybuilder, I was obsessed with gaining muscle for the first 6-7 years of training. Now I try to become more and more efficient while looking my best. The result is much less time in a gym and more time to enjoy life. I also agree with you that people should try some of this stuff. Between me, John Barban, and Brad Pilon…there is a lot of experience. I’m not saying our way is the only way to go, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot. The worst thing that will happen is that people will maintain muscle while giving their digestive system a break.


    I’ve become friends with Mark Sisson over the past 2 years and really respect his knowledge and wisdom about health and fitness. It has been fun to get to know him. He is a great guy and I certainly plan on doing a review of the Primal Blueprint. It is an outstanding book.


    Okay…let me Google the guy (Steven Strait)…Okay, so most sources say he is 6’2″ and some say 6′ even. I am going to assume 6’1″ to be safe. He looks like he has a bigger frame than Brad Pitt and he is 1-2 inches taller. Brad is somwehere around 5’11” and 6′ tall. Brad Pitt was 155-160 pounds for Fight Club at 6% body fat. For the movie Snatch he was 165-170 at 8% body fat. Steven Strait looks around 8% body fat in most of the photos that I saw. So at 6’1″, I would guess for him to be around 175-180. Just a guess, but I’m probably close.


    I answered this for you in a more recent post (low carb or low fat post). Sorry it took so long for me to get back to you.

    Jason G,

    True that I think most of us (readers of this site) want to steer short of maxing out our genetic potential. At 6’3″ I have been 220 pounds while being kind of lean (15 years ago)…These days I stick around 185-190 and look and feel better (I can actually fit into normal pants). You are right about training differently to stay slim and lean versus getting close to your genetic potential. I wanted to introduce those who do want to gain a bit more muscle, a guy who tells the truth. Jihn Barban is that guy.

    John B,

    Thanks for responding to all the questions!


    You don’t want to create a large chronic calorie deficit. You can go extreme for a day or two and create a calorie surplus for a day or two and as long as you average a moderate calorie deficit you will be fine.


    I still wouldn’t force in too much food. Since you are naturally skinny you can get away with eating more without gaining fat. As long as you aren’t gaining fat, you will be good. Different people have different calorie requirements. You can probably eat more than some and be fine, just don’t go overboard.


    I follow ESE with the Primal way of eating. Fruits veggies and meat, while fasting until dinner 2 times per week. On my non-fasting days I eat 3 primal meals. 1-2 times a week I am less strict, due to being social (parties, BBQ’s, etc.)


    You could do that, but it does seem a little strict. It would be a good approach to losing body fat, but once you get to a point you are pleased with I would suggest that you loosen up the diet a bit.


    Over time your body will adapt to fasting and you will have some of your best workouts in a fasted state. It is weird how it works. There is a perdios of adapting that can take a while.

    John Lloyd,

    I agree that every man is capable of gaining 20-30 pounds of muscle naturally. I did that when I was younger. As I got older I realized that this wasn’t a look I enjoyed and I slimmed down. As far as John goes. He is actually quite muscular, but he downplays it with the clothes he wears. He isn’t the type of guy to pose with his shirt off. Brad Pilon has mentioned that John is stronger and a little bigger than him (and Brad is a pretty big guy). Anyway…I used to have some of the same opinions as you, but those have changed over the years. I’m just simply going to have to disagree with your take on nutrition and building muscle. I still appreciate the comment and I hope you keep contributing even when we disagree.

    Jason G,

    I have never claimed that supplements were useless and neither has John. John still works in the supplement industry. I just want people to know that they can hit their goals just as well without supplements. Things like whey protein and meal replacement powders are a great time saver…and are healthier and cheaper than a lot of other meal choices.


    When you workout on an empty stomach, you will burn some fat while working out…but will also have a larger HGH response to the workout. John is talking about EPOC and metabolism…which will be just as strong if you workout in a fasted state. The bonus of working out in a fasted state is the additional HGH response as well as burning (some) body fat while working out. Might as well stack the deck in your favor and get all of the benefits!


    The reason ESE works so well is the overall calorie reduction cause by those 2 low calorie days. With ESE you are eating a normal sized healthy meal, not a big meal like the Warrior Diet recommends. You couldn’t do 5 ESE style fasts each week, because that would cause you to become anorexic. Two fasts per week ESE style increases HGH while helping you maintain a decent calorie deficit over time. It is a great way to get lean and stay lean.


    Eating before lifting doesn’t have too much of an impact for me, but eating before HIIT or any type of interval work is brutal. I ocassionally make the mistake of eating before doing intervals and I fight burping up food. I’m not puking or anything, but I will burp and taste my last meal. I know it is gross, but I know I’m not alone when it comes to this. I absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt get better workouts on an empty stomach. Again…the lifting part is about the same (as long as I’m not doing a circuit). Also the body composition benefits from working out on an empty stomach are outstanding. If it isn’t for you, that is cool.


  4. Great video, and great topic. I’ve made comments about this in past blog topics on here, that eating the amount of food/calories that many of these bodybuilders are eating, in pointless, and results in more fat gain than it does in muscle gain, and how eating less calories would still result in that same addition of muscle mass, but without the extra fat. I’ve never understood the concept of eating 4,000 calories a day, for several months, to bulk, only to then lean right back out. And, I’ve never seen, in videos, or before and after photos, a difference in muscle mass on any bodybuilder, pre-bulk cycle, vs. after they leaned back out, following the bulking cycle. Nutrition is important. Healthy nutrition is important, and will definitely help fuel workouts, which will in turn lead to more energy, and thus, better gains, but I have never believed that good directly related to building muscle mass, only fat.

  5. @Irish

    I was about to say the same thing. Its actually a lot convenient to combine both ESE and Warrior Diet. And for me too its mostly Warrior Diet. And 2 times a week, I do complete fasts. I find this method easy to follow.

    Rusty would agree it all comes down to creating a calorie deficit no matter what diet you follow!

  6. @ Warrior,

    In your opinion given the information you have/know would it work out alright to combine both ESE and the Warrior diet. Personally I think a combination of the two work best for me. I like fasting twice per week because it empties out my system and makes burning fat easier because it allows me to be flexible on my weekends when I tend to eat in a large caloric surplus. I also enjoy eating my largest meal of the day at night. So on non fasting weekdays I tend to only eat fruit/veggies/hard boiled eggs during the day (not all of them in one day I usually pick which one of those I’ll eat that day and then eat 4 apples for example on a Tuesday). However, on the weekend/Holidays/Special Occasions I find it too difficult and wierd to follow either diet. I am going to live life and be a normal person and eat with family/friends when they are eating. I know the Warrior diat is supposed to be a way of life but I guess I’m not hardcore enough to follow it everyday of the year. I guess what I am getting at is do find any information in the Warrior diet that says it must be done always and at all times? The flexibilty of combing the two diets and taking what I like from each allows me to enjoy life but am I not getting the desired effect by not following either diet the way they are strictly designed? For example I am not following ESE by the book either because it says eat normally (3 meals per day on non fasting days) and I am not doing that I am eating more Warrior style on non fasting days. Hope I was clear enough and you can answer my question. Thanks…

  7. Ah, the placebo effect as its best. So pervasive that people have convinced themselves they can lift more in fasted state than when just coming off a solid, balanced meal 1 hour before lifting.

  8. It is definitely very important to be consuming the proper meals with proper proportions to gain these type of specific goals. We, at Studio Element, employ at Registered Dietician specifically for this reason.

  9. Rusty, can you jot down your diet on a non fasting day? You follow ESE and I am curious what exactly do you eat during the day.

    If it all comes down to creating a calorie deficit and also the fact that starvation mode doesnt set in atleast for 24 hours then why cant we devise our own diet. I have full respect for the Warrior Diet and ESE but I just was curious. Minus the processed foods and sugars ofcourse!

    And since starvation mode doesnt set in atleast for 24 hours WHY cant we do all day fasts for say 5 days a week with a meal at night IF we CAN cope without eating all through the day.

    Will all day fasts for 5 days a week with a meal at night be detrimental and make us lose muscle mass? Will it hamper metabolism? Some questions keep on coming to my mind!

  10. Warrior,

    Thanks for the info. I did go through the book once again, seems like I had skipped some portion of the book by Ori. Yes you are right, its NOT a whole day fast and we are actually undereating during the day. When I am following the Warrior Diet, I basically am eating almonds, apples, watermelons, guava and papaya. I drink a cup of black coffee without sugar once during the day. At night I basically have sausages(with minimal oil fry) and 4 or 5 egg poaches. I really am not sure if this is the right method. Since I am busy most of the time I cannot afford time to cook up a proper meal hence the eggs and sausages. I do not eat sugar at all.

    I have followed ESE in the past too and seems like ESE is much easier to follow. But if my method of following the Warrior Diet is right, I will stick to it. Since I believe I can handle the Warrior Diet pretty much easily. I really want to finally come up with one diet between the too. Rusty, Craig, John and Brad are ESE followers and I would always consider ESE if I am cleared with the idea that my diet above looks okay for an ESE too. I know it all comes down to creating a calorie deficit over a period of time, like a week or a month. And I also have read that starvation mode only sets in after atleast 24 hours of complete fasting. So basically going by that idea I think my method of eating should be good. Provided, eating fruits all day and eating eggs/chicken at night is a negative way of following any of the textbook calorie deficit rules.

    Post workout I just eat a apple and some yogurt. No sugar again.

    Correct me if I am wrong!

    As for my workout, I do HIIT 4 times a week and I stick to low rep, high volume 3 times a week. For abs, I stick with planks and other body weight exercises as proposed by Craig Ballantyne. I want tone, not bulk.

    PS: I started the above a month back and I DO NOT have visible abs yet. My body fat percentage is 15% at the moment. And I have a target of reaching 5-6%. And yes, I am taking a fat burner at the moment.

  11. Denmark,

    Here’s the problem with eating beforehand. You’re insulin will be high (or at least higher than it would be if in a fasted state) and that can make you tired. You’re body is trying to store fat for energy and you are trying to use fat as energy. So it’s counterproductive. I know from experience that working out in a fasted state causes my workouts to be of higher intensity and has helped me get very lean. Try to go at least an hour (but not more than two) after you workout without any calories as well in order to prolong the fat burning process. Then eat a balanced healthy meal. Implementing this will get you leaner and you’ll have higher energy better workouts as well. Once you get through the first few weeks it becomes normal it just takes some mental toughness.

  12. Hey Rusty,

    I came accross this… I agree with your aproach, but am iteressted in what you have to say…

    If I work out on an empty stomach, will I burn more fat?
    James, New York, NY
    Weight-Loss Coach answers

    q: If I work out on an empty stomach, will I burn more fat?

    A: It’s not the fat burned during exercise that matters, it’s the fat burned between your exercise sessions that really counts. Worrying about how much fat you burn during exercise makes as much sense as wondering how much muscle you’re building while lifting. (You don’t actually build muscle during training; you break it down to trigger growth.) Exercise is the catalyst for change, not the change itself. During a high-intensity workout, your body burns carbohydrates and creatine instead of fat. But—and this is a great “but”—it stimulates your metabolism, which in turn attacks your fat stores between workouts. So go ahead and eat beforehand. You’ll need the fuel to make it a worthwhile workout.

  13. Aditya,

    Hello! I feel I need to clear up some misconceptions about the Warrior Diet. It is NOT NOT NOT an all day fast. Ori _explicitly_ states this in his book (sorry I do not have the page number or exact sentence, I am work right now). The idea is to eat foods throughout the day that “cleanse” the system and thus minimally impact the digestive system. These foods are typically fruits and vegetables, grains like quinoa, eggs I think (poached), and nuts. for example some days, throughout the day at work I eat 5 apples one day, or 6 oranges the next, or 4 carrots, or lettuce and sprouts, etc. then a large meal at night. the list is somewhat restrictive since Ori feels some foods impact the body in different ways and do not produce the desired effect.

    furthermore ori states that if you exercise during the day it is okay to have a recovery meal afterwards. IN FACT, the only “diet” portion of the “Warrior Diet” is where ori basically states “no processed sugar”. he advocates more a “way of life” where you basically undereat during the day, and overeat at night.

    ESE, from what i can discern, is an actual textbook fast, that is, NO food for a period of time (usually 24 hours) on certain days. I garner from his postings that rusty does this 2x a week since (I assume) he feels he can better control his diet this way, and HGH is released after a period of fasting. I say whatever works! But I will not try it until I buy the ESE book myself for the full story (i am considering it).

    If you are currently following the Warrior Diet by not eating _anything_ throughout the day, then eating one giant meal, this is NOT the Warrior Diet. You should read the book in order to fully appreciate the Warrior Diet, and to fully understand the ramifications of changing your diet in this way. After all it is your own body, dont you want to know everything you can about following a specific diet??? The postings here (this post included) are simply not informational enough.

  14. Lets not come to the conclusion that supplements are useless. Whey protein can be a good substitute for red meat protein and as a result add years to a persons life.

  15. And I might add, comparing the sizes of the average guy in the gym is unscientific and idiotic. The average guy doesn’t know anything about how to construct a workout, proper nutrition,etc…Even WITH steroids, you would be hard pressed to gain muscle doing bicep curls, tricep extensions, sloppy bench presses 4 times a week and having a diet consisting of about 1800 calories of junk. That is the typical young american guy’s training/eating habit. I’m in college, so I see this first hand everyday…

  16. I’m a fan of your site Rusty, but this article is crockery. Every man is capable of adding 20-30 pounds of muscle to their frame with the right nutrition and training. You can train to the cows come home, but wont gain an ounce without a caloric surplus of around 500-1000 a day. Now, Barban is right in that (without steroids)your gains will come VERY gradually after the initial gains, but you’ll still gain miniscule amount of muscle as you get stronger. Strength gain and Hypertrophy are highly correlated and one can continue to get stronger well into his 40s. Nutrition plays an important role in this. Any powerlifter will tell you, that strength comes easier with a caloric surplus. Barban is right on supplements, they’re practically useless. However, he’s profiteering on this ‘conspiracy’. Instead of buying protein powder, everyone who’s read this article is now going to buy his book. And frankly, I love how people with not so musucular physiques talk about what is and isn’t necessary to build muscle. Sorry Rusty, neither him nor you, are that muscular. Now, I know you believe everyone who is muscular uses steroids, but that simply ain’t true. They’re are PLENTLY of guys from the 1940s, 1950s(pre-steroid era) who built impressive physiques. Reg Park, Steeve Reeves,etc…Those guys set the bar for what can be accomplished without drugs. Now, you could argue these guys were genetically and maybe so. But I truly believe, that most average sized(say 5’10 170lbs) can reach a lean 190-200 lbs. With hard work in the gym AND NUTRITION that is an achievable goal. Repetable natural trainers like Lyle Mcdonald, Stuart McRobert would confirm that.

  17. Hi Rusty,

    Do you doing any weights or cardio on the days that you do ESE? just curious… I find when I workout from an all day fast that I don’t seem to get as good workout and lose some muscle. When I eat something for lunch then wait 4-5 hours, I seem to have better workouts on non-fasting days. Interested in input from others…

  18. Hi Rusty,

    Could you do the following diet with ESE:

    eat low carb through the day… workout on empty stomach… and eat either low carb meal or maintenance meal at night after workout… basically just drink green tea and maybe one piece of fruit during the day then on the fasting days do a total fast? So this would basically be putting a warrior type of diet with ESE. What do others in the post think about this? i appreciate all of your comments.

  19. Oddly perhaps but just the opposite is happening to me. Im deep into my (gulp) 50’s – the new thirty, right(?) and im having far better muscle gains now than when I was a jock in HS and college and lifted the York Barbell way, protein sups and all. My diet today is far better as is my workout but not my first time around the gym- so why the gains? Good hard work, Clean Food works at any time. Kettlebells, Squats and Deadlifts don’t lie.

  20. Hi Rusty,

    Sorry no post for a long time, just got really busy in other areas of my life. Anyways, this is a very, very interesting post!

    What John has to say is very thought provoking and if you think about it, it does ring true! Especially the whole 20 year old vs 40 year old in the gym thing. Sure the 40 year old is probally stronger but they aren’t that different in size.

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