Do you need a ton of calories to build bigger arms?
Every hypertrophy expert says that being in a “caloric surplus” is fundamental to muscle growth. This has been one of the main reasons for the rise of the natty fatsos – a group of people who underestimate their body fat percentage and think that their bulking efforts result in thicker muscle fibers, although most of the gains are in the form of lard.
Smaller muscle groups (e.g., forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders…etc.) don’t really need a lot of nutrients to recover and grow. If anything, one can make progress at those places on a low-calorie diet. However, I am not talking about starvation or anything similar.
There are many examples of men with large forearms developed from work. One time I saw a man cleaning the street who had pretty decent forearms and striations on his triceps, which was shocking and impressive for a noob to see. Seriously, his triceps were cut. I am pretty sure the man was not involved in steroids given his social status and education. In his case, the “what does not kill me, can only make stronger” principle had given him a good physique.
Is it true that an inch of arm growth requires 15-20lbs of weight gain?
By the time you have added an inch to your arms, you may have indeed gained 15-20lbs, but only 4-5lbs will join your triceps and biceps.
The arms are a smaller muscle group and need fewer nutrients to recover. This also explains why some rock climbers have large forearms despite being skinny. You don’t need 2 000 extra calories to build your wrist extensors and flexors.
All of this goes against many of bulking methods presented by popular and unpopular fitness experts who advise you to eat at least 3-4k calories. Men like Rippetoe even say that skinny noobs should consume 6-7k calories to take advantage of the “untrained novice effect”. Since the body cannot effectively use all of this food to build muscle, at least when you are natural, the excess energy is stored as fat.
The preferred locations for body fat storage are the belly and the legs because at those places the fat cells interfere the least with the natural moving patterns. This is also one of the reasons why many permabulkers (people who never stop bulking) brag about the size of their legs. I’m sorry boys, but it’s all fat. This leads me to the conclusion that even larger muscle groups like the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes do not require an extreme caloric intake to grow.
The idea that you need to eat a lot to build bigger arms is false because:
1. When you are a natural bodybuilder, excess calories make you fatter, not more muscular.
2. The arms are a small muscle group and require a smaller amount of bricks to be constructed.
In short, neither starve nor overeat.