The “real natty” movement has been gaining popularity in the face of the rampant steroid hysteria in the media and the resulting stigmatization of steroid users in society. It’s cool to be “natty” now. That’s fine but people should be aware of the tricks of the trade in the real natty movement that are being used to promise rapid steroid-like gains and dramatic physique transformations over a short period of time.
Physique-transformations that feature before and after pictures have been used for decades in the bodybuilding industry. This is a marketing strategy that has been put to particularly good use by the dietary supplement industry. How can a picture lie? The photos must be proof that the supplements work right?
Not necessarily. There is no shortage of techniques used to give the illusion of a significant transformation where little or none existed. For example, the presence or absence of a tan, posture and lighting can have a dramatic effect on the appearance of a physique.
Who can forget the scene from the documentary “Bigger Stronger Faster*” where photographer Rick Schaff exposed how supplement companies use these techniques to mislead their customers. Schaff illustrated this with before and after pictures of director Chris Bell that showed a dramatic transformation. In reality, both pictures were taken on the very same day with the illusion of an amazing transformation.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that the #realnatty movement would utilize some of these same strategies to convince individuals that they can make progress even without the use of steroids. This much is true. But suggesting that “steroid-like” gains are possible may be stretching the truth just a little bit.
Julius Kieser, an Australian fitness professional who was once called a leader of the #realnatty movement, is a personal trainer with a story to tell and a training program to sell. His “IronDad” program helped him put on 35 pounds (16 kilograms) of pure muscle in six months without using any type of anabolic steroids or muscle-building drug. And he has the pictures to “prove” it.
Even though he was a real natty, people took one look at him and were convinced he was using steroids. He described the experience in an article posted on his blog entitled “How I gain muscle fast without getting fat or taking steroids”.
“The difference between the photos above are 6 months and 16kg,” Kieser explained. “It doesn’t look like much in a photo, but I can tell you that for the first time in my life, people have asked me if I am on steroids, because I’ve gained so much muscle so fast.”
Unlike Schaff’s and Bell’s before and after pictures, Kieser did indeed make real and significant progress. Nonetheless, Kieser couldn’t help but use at least one of Schaff’s techniques to give the appearance of an even more extreme transformation.
While Kieser didn’t try hard to look “bad” in the before pictures – he actually looked quite amazing and was in ripped condition – he did attempt to make himself look as small as possible. His posture was poor. His shoulders rounded and hunched over. He looked like he was trying to hid in front of the camera. By contrast, the “after” picture showed a bulking Kieser confidently posing with his head high and his chest out in order to look as big as possible.
Kieser did use one very important additional trick to set the stage for the steroid-like gains that he experienced. During the six months immediately preceding his fast muscle gain of 35 pounds, Kieser admitted purposely losing over 30 pounds (14 kilograms). Kieser most likely lost a significant amount of muscle during this period of rapid weight loss as well. This means muscle memory guaranteed that it would be much easier to regain the muscle the second time around.
In addition, any competitive bodybuilder will tell you that there is an extreme rebound effect that follows a period of extended caloric restriction and a significant weight loss. Bodybuilders may similarly lose as much or more than 30 pounds during a 4 to 6 month precontest diet. And what happens after the contest is over? With proper training and nutrition, they often experience an upward rebound in bodyweight (and mostly muscle) of 10 to 20 pounds or more.
These factors likely accounted for a good deal of the progress seen in Kieser’s transformation. Kieser’s accomplishment is still quite amazing and praiseworthy but is a little misleading to the prospective client who doesn’t understand the principles of muscle memory and weight rebound. The gains are certainly not steroid-like.
If you are going to train real natty, then you should expect real natty gains. The only way to consistently make steroid-like gains is to use steroids. Don’t be fooled into thinking there is an equally effective alternative.