We are getting questions from some lifters, why they can’t get ripped muscles even though they exercise with years, and they don’t even have much excess fat, but nevertheless they get bulky instead of ripped muscles. They do have some results, bigger muscles, they are stronger, etc., but their muscles look rounded or swollen. Their abs are not visible and their other muscles look bulky and puffy and are not clearly visible.
It’s important how much is this “not having much excessive fat” because only a few percent excess fat can make the whole difference. If we take the abs as a reference point, they become visible bellow 15% fat in weight. And because the fat around the stomach is very stubborn, the results will be visible later in comparison with the other parts. With a proper diet and training regime we can achieve an effective and lasting decrease of body fat to a point of having visibly chiseled muscles.
Excessive fat is the main reason for rounded physical appearance without clearly ripped muscle even when there is already increased muscle mass. But there are few very important factors in the game.
Water retention and bulky instead of ripped muscles
- Here we saw how the body retains water because of higher salt intake. But salt by itself is not the only reason why the body and the muscles can look rounded because of water retention. (There are different health conditions that can cause water retention, but they aren’t discussed in this article).
- Another reason is not enough or unbalanced intake of vitamins and minerals. How important are they? Let’s describe just a little bit of their importance. Potassium together with salt are regulating the balance of water in the body. The potassium gets the water out of the cell and the salt gets it in. If the body has excess salt, it will strive to get rid of the salt. With the salt the potassium goes, too. When the potassium gets lower (or there is not enough intake), the body tries to retain it, which results in retaining the salt and, of course, water.
- Insufficient water intake. Here’s why.
- The main reason for rounded body appearance is increased insulin due to carbohydrates intake. When we take carbohydrates, they convert into sugar in the blood. The insulin makes part of that sugar to be transported in the muscles (as glycogen). And in this case the body will retain water, because there are 2-3 grams of water attached per each gram of glycogen. And when glycogen stores are full, the insulin converts the remaining intake of sugar into fat and stores it as such. And a bonus, the insulin by itself retains salt.
Puffed muscles doesn’t mean larger muscle fibers.
Swollen muscles with no definition always means excess fat and lots of glycogen in the muscles. A person cannot achieve ripped muscles when he or she has much glycogen in them, no matter how many millions of isolation exercises they do. Nor can effective shredding of the excess fat be accomplished either, no matter how many centuries you spent running if afterwards you refill the glycogen reserves again. The potential for testosterone and human growth hormone secretion decreases, too. But there is an antidote.