5 min read

Natural Bodybuilding: Skip the drugs on your muscle journey!

Content Editor & Certified Trainer
Lisa studied journalism and is a certified fitness and health trainer, as well as a meditation coach! She spent many years working for different lifestyle and fitness magazines, and she writes articles for us on the topics of working out, fitness, lifestyle and mind.

Natural bodybuilding means building your body in the most original sense: no need for steroids or other kinds of doping! A balanced diet and a well-organized training plan is at the core of this sport. Of course, that’s easier said than done, so let’s get into how you can make drug-free bodybuilding work for you!

What Is Natural Bodybuilding?

Natural bodybuilding was created as a counter-movement to conventional bodybuilding. The focus is still on building muscle, but only in a natural way, meaning no performance-enhancing substances such as anabolic steroids.

Anabolic steroids are artificial derivatives of the male sex hormone testosterone, which is one of the primary drivers of muscle growth.

According to the German organization (GNBF) in the International Natural Bodybuilding Association, this sport is based on a holistic approach with four pillars:

  1. Training
  2. Nutrition
  3. Recovery
  4. Positive thinking
A shirtless white man shows off his muscles outdoors in front of a cloudy sky

Of course, there are many natural bodybuilders who participate in competitions and pursue the aesthetic goals that go along with them. But natural bodybuilders aren’t just interested in training to build muscles, change their look, and compete. The core goal of natural bodybuilding is to challenge and support yourself physically and mentally in order to improve your overall quality of life.


What’s the Difference Between Natural and Conventional Bodybuilding?

No matter how intense your workouts are and how rigorous your nutrition plan is, there are limits to natural muscle growth. Due to genetics alone, we’re all going to stagnate at some point in our growth. But not everyone wants to accept that.

According to a national IPED (image and performance enhancing drugs) study, nearly 1 million people in the UK have used these substances, and most are doing it for aesthetic reasons1. In the conventional bodybuilding scene, this is a common and accepted practice.

Doping with substances such as anabolic steroids, growth hormones, diuretics, or stimulants (e.g. cocaine) has a performance-enhancing effect and releases reserves you’ve already built up – at least in the short term.

Several bottles, syringes and ampoules labeled with DOPING.

Doping results in drastic changes to your body over the long term and sometimes has significant side effects. Just anabolic steroids alone increase your risk of strokes, heart attacks, liver problems, and mental illness2.

That’s one reason why adherents of the natural version of bodybuilding distance themselves from doping. They also want to show that it’s also possible to build impressive muscles without it.

They can only use supplements on the Cologne List of doping-free sports nutrition. These have been analyzed to prove that they present a minimum risk of contamination with banned substances that would show up in drug testing. This means that professional athletes competing in the drug-free version of bodybuilding or other sports can use them.

A pair of white male hands pouring a handful of white capsules from a black bottle into his hand.

What Kind of Nutrition Plan Do I Need for Natural Bodybuilding?

Doesn’t matter if you’re a runner or bodybuilder, your nutrition accounts for 70 percent of your success in meeting your fitness goals. If you’re looking to build muscle mass then you need to pay particular attention to the following three factors:

1) Calorie surplus in the bulking phase

In the “bulking phase”, i.e. the muscle building phase, an increased calorie intake is essential for bodybuilders. After all, muscles need energy to grow, before you enter the “cutting phase” and reduce your body fat. As a rule, athletes are advised to consume an surplus of 30-35 calories per kilogram of body weight. 

If you go into a calorie deficit before you want to lose fat, you’ll destroy your progress. If you don’t get enough energy from food, your system will fall back on existing reserves, and it’ll start breaking down your muscles. This means it’s important to eat enough carbs, especially after a workout.

2)  Enough protein to build muscles

Proteins are the building blocks of new muscles so you should consume 1.5-2 grams of protein per kilogram of weight every day if you want to build muscles. High-quality protein sources include eggs, cottage cheese, poultry, salmon, and mackerel, as well as vegetable alternatives such as beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and soy products.

a shirtless, muscular white man holds himself up on a green bar, showing his muscles trimmed from natural bodybuilding.

If you’re consuming more protein, it’s also important to drink enough – at least two liters throughout the day. Excess protein is excreted through the kidneys, so you need enough liquids to facilitate this process. 

If you don’t have that much time and still want to give yourself a boost of energy and protein, you can play it safe with a protein shake. Put the powder into our shaker with water, milk, or a milk substitute, give it a shake, and it’s done! Our Vanilla Whey Protein is on the Cologne List, so it’s ideal for athletes who want to get the most out of their muscles – without doping!

3) Varied and balanced diet

It’s not just proteins and carbohydrates alone that make strong muscles. You also need fat, as well as vitamins and minerals, to stay in balance, and maintain a healthy body composition. Make sure you get the variety of nutrition you need with foods like nuts, avocado, and fish, as well as seasonal fruits and plenty of vegetables.

Your diet should keep your macronutrients in the following ratio: 40-40-20. 40 percent of your daily calories should come from carbs, 40 percent from protein, and 20 percent from fat.

How Do Natural Bodybuilders Train?

Anyone who wants to change or challenge their body needs a well-structured training plan. You can’t build muscles without working out, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay at the gym as long as possible. Increasing your effort doesn’t necessarily lead to the same increase in results.

Common mistakes in bodybuilding naturally include working out too hard, i.e. with too many weights or reps, and too often. Recovery periods between training sessions that are too short can also slow down your growth.

A white athlete checks his smartwatch during a break from natural bodybuilding. He is standing in a gym and is shirtless.

Natural bodybuilders working at an advanced level usually have 3 or 4 day split programs. In these training plans, a different muscle group is the focus of each workout, so that your other muscles have time to regenerate.

To promote recovery, bodybuilders must make sure that they get enough sleep and keep their stress levels down. Our Recovery Aminos are also a good way to supplement your diet (and they’re on the Cologne List), with plenty of essential amino acids to replenish your muscles post-workout.

Sample 4 Day Split Plan


  Muscle group Sample exercises
1 | Upper Body Chest


Back of shoulders

Bench press, chest press, butterfly, lat pulldown, row, pullover, lateral raise
2 | Upper Body Front of shoulders


Military press, front lift, side lift, rowing, hammer curl, French press, dip, bicep curl
3 | Upper Body Back



Lat pull, rowing, upright row, dips, crunch, leg raise
4 | Legs Thighs



Leg extension, squat, leg press, lunge, calf raise

How Healthy Is Natural Bodybuilding?

Natural bodybuilding puts the focus on more than participating athletes’ superficial appearance and performance in competition, but also their health, fitness, and general well-being. So apart from the risk of injury that comes with every sport, natural bodybuilding is not harmful to your health.

Strict controls ensure that bodybuilders are free of doping substances during a competition. In addition to urine samples, some of the participants have to take lie detector tests to guarantee that every natural bodybuilder actually adheres to the goals and guidelines officially dictated by the sport. Drug testing is so important that anyone who fails or refuses to participate is banned from all competitions, sometimes for several years. After all, the sport’s image must remain “clean.”


  • Natural bodybuilding is a counter-movement to conventional bodybuilding and stands for natural muscle growth without performance-enhancing substances.
  • Substances used for doping in conventional bodybuilding like anabolic steroids increase the risk of various health problems including strokes, heart attacks, liver problems, and mental illness.
  • A natural bodybuilder focuses on muscle building through a balanced diet rich in protein and carbohydrates, as well as well-designed workouts with enough regeneration phases.
  • To ensure that the anti-doping requirements are met, athletes at every competition are subject to strict controls: Only supplements on the Cologne List are allowed.
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