5 Bro-Science Theories Under the Microscope

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For training knowledge, who should you believe – the Prof with his double-blind peer review or the swole lord with tribal tats and two-litre shake jug? Emil Hodzovic, an A&E medic who moonlights as a competitive WBFF bodybuilder, knows best.

1. The Muscle Pump

Bro-science: Grow faster by swelling your muscles with high reps.

Real science: “Getting a ‘pump’ on helps your muscles grow – even if you’ve only got five minutes to work out,” says Hodzovic. “A few reps triggers the release of nitric oxide, a vasodilator that widens blood capillaries, helping draw glucose and amino acids into the muscles and causing protein synthesis.” A quick pump workout before you hit the pool will help your muscles look good in the short and long term. “Think high-rep supersets. My go-to: five sets of 15 decline press-ups and ten dips.”

Verdict: True

2. Post-Workout Window

Bro-science: Consume protein 20 minutes after a workout or all is lost.  

Real science: “Yes, if you’re a pro athlete, but not for the rest of us – even bodybuilders,” says Hodzovic. The fear is that workouts are catabolic so they break down muscle and you have to shovel down high-protein foods to switch into an anabolic state. “In reality, the food you ate before training will be digesting for hours so you’ll have ample glucose and amino acids available. Protein intake over the whole day is what you need to watch.” A daily dose of 2g per kg of bodyweight is recommended – but if you’re taking your training to the limit, consuming protein as soon as possible is advisable.

Verdict: False

3. No Carbs After Dark

Bro-science: Any carbs eaten before bed will just be stored as fat.

Real science: “The number of calories you eat over 24 hours has a far greater impact than when you consume them,” says Hodzovic. The idea that evening carbs are stored as fat is as unfounded as thinking training on an empty stomach is the only way to torch calories. “The body can balance how it uses fat, protein and carbs through the day. As long as you’re in a calorie deficit you’ll burn calories.”

Verdict: False

4. Frequent Feeding

Bro-science: You must eat protein every two hours, day and night, to feed your muscles.

Real science: “Don’t take this too literally,” says Hodzovic. Setting alarms through the night for hourly protein shakes will disrupt your circadian rhythm and send hormones like cortisol and testosterone, which control fat loss and muscle growth, haywire. But doing this during the day can promote muscle. “Research suggests a hit of around 20g protein from whey or whole food every three hours triggers optimum muscle protein synthesis.” Protein is also very filling, so you’ll be less inclined to reach for the cookie jar.

Verdict: Half true

5. No Pain, No Gain

Bro-science: If you don’t have DOMS, you didn’t work hard enough.

Real science: “The full name should be ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – In Response To Unaccustomed Exercise’,” says Hodzovic. “Anything you’re not used to will cause it. A bodybuilder who takes a walk in the hills will get DOMS. It’s a sign of muscle damage, one factor that causes growth, but it’s not a prerequisite so don’t think you’ve had a poor workout if you’re not in agony later.” If every session kills you, your nervous system will suffer, as will your capacity to train.

Verdict: False

Follow Hodzovic on Instagram @projectgoliath

The Best/Worst Overheard Bro-Science

Viagra is the best supp for major muscle swole

You can promote blood flow to your chest for more muscle growth by sleeping on an incline

Train in your basement so you’re closer to the Earth’s core where gravity works your muscles harder – physics, yo

Make yourself cry while lifting to trigger a stress response that boosts oxygen to your guns

Skip cardio – your heart only has a preset number of beats before it stops anyway

Sam Rider

Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.