For many skinny people out there, we dream of building a more muscular physique. But is it advantageous to gain muscle? And why if so? This post explains why it can be better to be muscular than it is to be skinny.
Generally speaking, it is better to be muscular than it is to be skinny. Muscular people are often healthier, show better physical performance, and are more attractive to the opposite sex, compared to skinny people. However, being extremely muscular can be just as unhealthy as being too skinny.
My own weight gain transformation journey has seen me go through 3 phases.
I’ve been a 125lb skinny guy.
I’ve also been a 180lb muscular guy with a bulky physique.
Now I weigh in at 160lbs, ripped, and lean.
Below, I share my research and personal insights on why it can be better to be muscular compared to being skinny.
Why Big Muscles Can Be Better Compared To Being Skinny
Here are some of the benefits of being muscular and why it’s good to have some muscle on you, compared to being skinny:
- It’s aesthetically attractive to the opposite sex. I conducted a poll study which showed that muscles DO matter when it comes to attracting the opposite sex…for boys AND girls! You can find the study in the next section.
- Greater power and strength. Studies and scientific reviews have shown a correlation between muscle size and strength. Therefore being muscular can be extremely beneficial to functional daily movements such as lifting, pulling, and carrying.
- Well-developed muscles can protect your joints. A 2018 study found an association between weak quadriceps muscles in the legs and an increased risk of knee pain. This makes sense when you consider that many muscles insert directly onto, surround, and support your joints.
- Increased bone density in those who regularly lift weights. A scientific review has found numerous associations between resistance training (i.e. weight lifting) and improved bone health. It’s suggested that resistance training induces stress on your bone cells which forces them to adapt by getting stronger. Skinny people can benefit from improved bone health in sports as well as daily activities.
- Muscular bodies have an increased metabolism. Most of us could do with burning more fat, especially overwieght or skinny-fat people. And that’s exactly what muscle does. It’s metabolically active tissue which means it burns calories even at rest. Therefore muscular people tend to store less unhealthy body fat compared to skinny people.
- Improved athletic performance. It’s rare to find any sportsperson who doesn’t dedicate some time to the weight room. Weight lifting builds muscle. And bigger and stronger muscles can help you get a competitive edge over your opponents in many sporting games.
- Increased insulin sensitivity and reduced risk of diabetes. This 2011 study suggests muscle mass can help your body control blood glucose levels by improving insulin sensitivity. In layman terms, muscle helps you to burn away glucose fast. This can reduce your risk of blood glucose-related disorders such as diabetes.
- Increased longevity in those who are more muscular. This 2014 study found a correlation between higher amounts of muscle mass and increased longevity. Yup, muscular people seem to live longer than skinny people.
I’ve given you some of the benefits associated with being muscular.
Muscle does seem to matter when it comes to appearance, athletic performance, AND general health.
But it’s also important to realize that being muscular is not the be-all deciding factor when it comes to improving these 3 attributes.
In reality, many variables are at play when it comes to attractiveness, sporting ability, and health.
How Attractive Is A Muscular Vs Skinny Physique?
The majority of females are more attracted to muscular men than skinny men. Likewise, the majority of males are more attracted to women who are toned, fit, and curvy, more than skinny women. However, both genders generally do not like too much muscle mass in the opposite sex.
I turned towards two public forums to find supporting evidence for my claims:
- Girlsaskguys – do girls prefer skinny or muscular guys?
- Quora – are men more physically attracted to skinny or muscular women?
Here are the compiled opinions from women on skinny vs muscular men:
The majority 67% of women prefer men who have a visible and noticeable amount of muscle on their bodies, without being overly bulky.
Brad Pitt in Fight Club is a good example of this type of lean and muscular physique.
It’s the classic athletic look.
Now here are the compiled opinions from men on skinny vs muscular women:
Men seem to have a more varied preference towards the ideal body shape in women.
The majority 62% of men preferred women who are toned and fit OR curvy without being excessively muscular, equally well.
Tennis icon Maria Sharapova is a good example of the former and actress Scarlett Johansson is a prime example of the latter.
Despite the slight differences in the ideal male and female body shape, one thing is clear:
Being too skinny is NOT generally considered to be attractive.
Both men AND women seem to be attracted to a bit of musculature and curves in the opposite sex!
Just not TOO much muscle…
As with most things in life, moderation is key!
You can check out my other post to find out how long and how often skinny guys should be training to build the perfect body.
Does Having Bigger Muscles Mean You Are Stronger?
Bigger muscles do not necessarily confer greater strength. Likewise, getting stronger does not necessarily mean the person becomes bigger. Although muscle size and strength show a general correlation, it is also possible for some people to be big and weak or small and strong.
To understand why this is the case, it’s worth noting that a muscle contraction has two components:
- Muscle fiber shortening. Increasing muscle fiber number and size (aka hypertrophy) generally leads to a stronger contraction.
- Neuronal activation. Increasing neuronal impulse strength leads to a more forceful muscle contraction.
This 2020 study suggests that muscular size is mainly determined by adaptions in the former.
In comparison, muscular strength is governed by adaptations in both of the above attributes
Therefore it’s possible to build a large number of muscle fibers (i.e. big muscles) but still have weak neuronal activation.
This explains why some bodybuilders can be bulky yet show a low relative strength. It’s also why, for example, some muscular people do not necessarily punch that hard in combat sports.
The converse is also true.
Some skinny powerlifters can shift a tremendous amount of weight with their relatively high strength:size ratio. Some skinny fighters can also punch relatively hard. Granted, the technique is largely at play in both examples. But physiological muscle adaptations should also be accounted for.
Is it possible to train for both hypertrophy AND strength?
Lift heavy weights (65-85% of the maximum you can lift for an exercise) and apply progressive overload (increase weight over time).
Also, work in the range of 8-12 reps per set, with 4 sets per exercise.
This is generally accepted to be the best way to improve muscular size AND strength at the same time.
You can learn more in my other post which shares 11 tips to stop being skinny, build muscle, and bulk up.
Why It’s Healthier To Be Muscular Vs Being Skinny
It is generally healthier to be muscular compared to being skinny. Lean muscle mass is commonly referred to as healthy weight. It confers a variety of health and fitness benefits. These benefits include, but are not limited to; an improved metabolism, fitness, insulin sensitivity, and bone health.
Here’s how being muscular confers each health benefit:
- Improved metabolism. As I mentioned previously, muscle is metabolically active tissue. This means muscular people generally burn more calories at rest compared to skinny people. This can help reduce your risk of storing excessive unhealthy body fat when you go on the occasional binge (as most of us are all too familiar with!).
- Better fitness levels. You can’t turn a skinny body into a muscular body without weight training. Lifting heavy weights on a regular basis causes microtears to form in your muscles. The subsequent repair response causes your muscles to become bigger and stronger. As a result, muscular people often (but not always) have better power generation, strength, and endurance compared to skinny people.
- Greater insulin sensitivity. Blood glucose spikes occur after a heavy meal (especially meals that are rich in carbs). And it’s generally bad to have glucose stay in your blood for too long. This is one of the primary reasons why diabetes develops. Muscular bodies are generally more well-equipped to handle glucose spikes compared to skinny people because muscle burns glucose for energy.
- Stronger bone health. Osteoblasts (bone cells) reside in your bones. When your bones are repeatedly put under considerable pressure for extended periods, osteoblast activity is stimulated and they start multiplying. This leads to stronger and denser bones which can benefit athletic performance, daily activities, and general health.
With this being said, there’s a fine line between being muscular and healthy, and being EXTREMELY muscular and unhealthy.
That’s what I’ll discuss next.
Alternatively, you may be interested in my other post for a diet and workout plan for skinny guys to quickly build muscle at home.
Why Being Extremely Muscular Can Be Unhealthy
Being extremely muscular can be unhealthy if sensible weight training and diet precautions are not followed. It is not uncommon for bodybuilders to take performance-enhancing drugs and an unhealthy amount of supplements to facilitate building a muscular physique.
When I say extremely muscular, I’m talking about the typical bodybuilder-type physique as well as their attitudes to building muscle.
What do I mean by attitude?
Speaking from research and experience, it can take years of dedication and commitment to build an extremely muscular physique.
It becomes a lifestyle where you go on repeated cut and bulk cycles to chase maximum musculature and minimum body fat to get the shredded look.
If not done properly, these extreme diet swings can take a physiological toll on your body.
“Bodybuilders have a 34% higher mortality rate compared to an age-matched U.S. male population”Jody Charnow, Renal and Urology News.
For example, it’s not uncommon to see cases of bodybuilders with cardiovascular health problems.
Additionally, it can also become increasingly tempting for a bodybuilder to take performance-enhancing drugs and excessive supplements in their quest to build the “perfect” physique.
Even supplements as trivial as a pre-workout drink can contain a lot of caffeine.
And again, this can take a toll on your cardiovascular system with prolonged use.
But as with all things in life, moderation is key.
When done sensibly, bodybuilding can increase your lean muscle mass which confers a host of health benefits as described above.
If you’re interested, you can check out my other post if you are interested in how I got buff and muscular as a skinny guy.
Is Being Lean And Shredded Healthy?
It is generally healthier to be muscular and lean than to be overly skinny or overweight. However, being too lean and shredded can also be unhealthy. Having body fat levels below 10% can cause problems such as; low mood, fatigue, reduced strength, hormone imbalances, and compromised immune function.
Having a lean and muscular body is generally better than being skinny or overweight.
You’ll often be more agile, stronger, and have less unhealthy body fat weight to lug around.
Just don’t overdo it in your journey to become shredded and get that six-pack.
Speaking from personal experience, some of the disadvantages of being too lean and shredded, and reasons why it can be unhealthy include:
- Mood control can be difficult for people who are shredded. A low-calorie diet can make you more irritable, lack focus and attention, and generally down.
- Being too lean and shredded can increase fatigue. A low-calorie diet is commonly associated with low energy levels.
- Physical performance is negatively impacted. You’re usually at your weakest when going on a cut. It can be a challenge to perform the daily activities you usually have no issue with performing.
- Athletic performance can get worse. This comes as a result of low energy and decreased strength.
- Low-calorie diets can induce insomnia. This is what I hate most about going on a cut. I struggle to go to sleep and stay asleep. This is not uncommon in people who go on a sudden calorie deficit.
- Being shredded is often unsustainable. It may be a good look, but the lean shredded look is often unsustainable (especially for those on a program to get shredded fast). It’s not uncommon for people to go on a binge and lose their gains shortly after a cut.
- Malnutrition can compromise immune function. Your body needs nutrients to function optimally. Denying your body these vital nutrients can affect your immune system and cause you to become ill more easily.
- Testosterone levels can fall. Studies have shown that bodybuilders have their lowest testosterone levels during a cut. This can affect your mood and libido.
I’ve explained why it’s better to be muscular than it is to be skinny.
Being muscular is generally healthier and it also seems to do you favors when it comes to attracting the opposite sex.
Just be modest in your approach and avoid either extreme (being too skinny or too muscular can be equally bad).
You should also be sensible in how you build the ideal body.
Getting extremely muscular (like a bodybuilder) or excessively lean and shredded comes with a unique array of health disadvantages.
Additionally, it’s not all about looks.
My survey revealed that a significant number of people (men and women) don’t have a specific preference.
What’s more important is being confident in yourself and happy with who you are!
Are you a skinny guy trying to build muscle and get a better body?
Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions! You can find my details on the “contact us” page.
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printable worksheets) I used to go from skinny to ripped!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)