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So in my universe, magic (and especially magical healing) are commonplace, and an applied application of healing magic can heal almost every injury at the cost of some "mana". Any healing magic works by greatly boosting the body's natural ability to heal, requiring the energy in the patient's body to be replenished, usually by consuming massive quantities of food. In general, magic in this world is more of a shortcut to science, rather than a replacement. Things like fireballs are created by adding energy to the ambient air in a specific location and launching it, ice by the opposite, and so on.

Wizards are usually knights, and have all of the duties that become knights. In typical swords and sorcery fashion, there is a significant level of fitness required to be a knight, and mages in this world are not the "wear a robe and cast from afar" type of casters. Rather, they incorporate magic into their combat skills. I love the thought of a combat medic sort of role, with the ability to get troops in battle up and in fighting form within a few minutes of otherwise debilitating injury.

I've run into a snag however, that since the healing accelerates the body's natural healing to otherwise impossible levels and these wizards are generally getting a good workout, that all knights will be bodybuilder-esque people. Since all of the criteria for muscular hypertrophy are met, these wizards will have a MUCH easier time building and maintaining muscle mass.

I would prefer my wizards to come in all shapes and sizes, from being skinny rapier wielding duelists to hulking behemoths wielding massive tower shields. I'm at a loss on how to proceed without making all of my wizards super buff/fit individuals.

Some things I've tried to mitigate the issue that don't quite fit:

  • Making healing more targeted: Takes away a lot of the utility of healing, and hidden issues such as lactic acid buildup, muscle tearing, and a general lack of anatomical knowledge for healing.
  • Making healing less potent: Doesn't work with the level of balance I'm looking for with my magic. If I can launch a ball of fire at someone to explode, I should be able to heal said damage with a slightly higher mana cost due to lingering damage.
  • Making magic heal in a different fashion: I'm staying away from any handwavium of "it heals by magic", so things like HOW magic heals is an important factor. I'm not against having a different method, I just can't think of any other way to heal.

Why wouldn't all wizards be buff?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Dec 16, 2021 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ How are they getting a workout? it sounds like they are getting a lot of cardio but not much in the way of bulking. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 17, 2021 at 22:43

17 Answers 17

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Easy Target and Food

It seems from reading your question that a wizard doesn't NEED to look/be super jacked to have superior strength. Sure an average-knight-looking wizard might not be quiiite as strong as a hulked-out one, but he would still be capable of channeling magic to his limbs to give himself a nigh-unbeatable edge over normal folk. In a world where every Battle Wizard could look like Gregor Clegane, there's a few good reasons to look "normal" even if it puts one t a slight disadvantage against Buff Wizards.

My first thought: Food is precious- While they CAN easily sustain massive muscle mass and repair quicker you say it requires a "massive" of food. That's not a simple ask in a medieval world. Depending on the exact period/region, it took anywhere from 8 to 16 "food producers" (farmers, herders, etc) to support ONE person who wasn't farming full-time. Food is scarce, and a wizard that needs to eat like 3 lumberjacks every day to maintain muscle is a massive drain on the society that employs him. Sure, the King ensures his Wizard-Guards have enough food to look and be as imposing as possible. But his Wizard-at-arms that AREN'T part of the Guard are kept at a more reasonable size until/unless an actual war breaks out. And the wizard-knight from poor County X would rather be normal-sized that watch his serfs starve. The wizard on a grail quest knows he can't maintain himself in the wild because he'd have to spend all his time hunting if he stayed as-jacked-as-possible, so he goes for a lean whipcord-look that maximizes endurance at the expense of base strength. Etc. etc. etc. Bottom line is just because it's easy for them to maintain muscle provided they get enough food doesn't mean they'll actually have enough food on-hand.

Second thought: Not a visible target- A huge dude that you know can also cast fireballs because he's jacked is going to catch a LOT of arrows/javlins/catapult rounds etc. Being average-joe size means your just one of dozens/hundreds/thousands of average dudes.

And lastly, Unexpected Danger- If you don't look like a massive threat, but ARE a massive threat, there are tactical and strategic bonuses. Sure you might not win a fair fight against Jacked McWizardson. But if he thinks you can only swing a sword but so fast/hard, and you surprise him with magically-boosted attacks, the element of surprise may overwhelm his advantage in power.

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    $\begingroup$ In most magical scenarios the tech level is not quite present day and food really is the largest issue. A Wizard requiring 2-3x the caloric intake of a normal soldier and causing those soldiers to need 2-3x the intake after healing would put a significant strain on resources. +1 $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Dec 14, 2021 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ Dammit. now im imagining extremely fat wizards waddling to the frontline to unleash hell and then striding back looking absolutely jacked 1 hour later. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Dec 14, 2021 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ Each of these is a story in its own right $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2021 at 5:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Nelson In the general absence of contraception, you could reckon on a baby every 18 months or so on average. If you made it to menopause (say 40) that's 14 babies. Since the population barely changed, 12 of those babies wouldn't make it to having children themselves - and that's assuming the mother survived childbirth. The New Agers are completely wrong - nature is a vicious bitch that wants you dead. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Dec 15, 2021 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Graham: Child mortality wasn't quite that extreme. But yeah, thanks to disease and birth complications, many more women were infertile or became so before they could produce quite so many babies. I'll note, 18 months for the inter-birth interval assumes plentiful calories; in historical times calories weren't that reliable, so two years was more common for agriculturalists; in areas with poor agricultural yields it would rise to the 3-4 year spacing hunter-gatherers typically achieve. And fertility declines dramatically over your 30s; 14 births would be very rare. $\endgroup$ Dec 16, 2021 at 14:06
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Take a look at professional or Olympic-level athletes. All are extremely fit, but they display differing levels of muscularity and size depending on their disciplines, because different types of physical activity place different demands on the body.

A knight who wields a rapier-like weapon will demand speed and agility more than brute strength. If they're expected to fight someone else with a rapier, being big and bulky can be counterproductive: it gives the opponent a larger target to hit. They'll also probably be wearing lighter armour, so they're getting less of an overall workout, unlike the fully armoured up bruisers expected to pummel each other with heavy weapons. A group acting as long-distance scouts might likewise be less inclined to be big and bulky because the larger you are the larger the quantity of supplies you need to maintain the body's energy needs.

And scouts might want to be able to blend in for some covert reconnaissance. Someone looking like they're on the verge of bursting out of their shirts would stand out more than someone who can look unassuming under a cloak.

And finally, there's the simple matter of personal attitude. As you point out, the magic enhances the effects of the workout...but if the person is inclined to be physically lazy, they won't get the same effect. Everyone knows someone who does enough just to get by, so said people would be happy to be just as fit as a normal person who works out a lot would be without the need to work out nearly as much.

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    $\begingroup$ In reality rapiers are one of the most physically-demanding swords to use. Rapiers are long, and even though they are quite slender, that length of steel is heavy no matter how thin it is (at least if its stiff). Plus you have to hold the rapier out with your arm fully extended, which is exhausting even with nothing in your hand, and of course you can only use one arm. On top of that, proper form involves a very awkward kind-of-crouching pose, basically sticking your butt out so you can lean forward for even more reach—putting more weight on muscle. Still, different muscles than a warhammer. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Dec 15, 2021 at 4:56
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    $\begingroup$ @KRyan Something being physically demanding doesn't make you big. As Keith says, a lot of high level athletes are very lean, depending on the activity. People doing fencing aren't as large as rugbymen or strongmen. People doing endurance running are usually extremely thin. So a mage lifting a 5kg sword won't have the same physiology as someone with a rapier (around 1kg) and that's fine. $\endgroup$
    – Jemox
    Dec 15, 2021 at 9:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Echox A 1-kg rapier would be an unusually lightweight one—they tended to be more like 1.5-1.8 kg. And a 5-kg sword would be an extremely massive one—and definitely wielded in two hands. Even two-handers tend to 4 kg as an upper limit (though there are a few monstrosities even up to 10 kg in the historical record). And being able to use two hands better than halves the effort, because of how it improves leverage, which makes the rapier demand more from one’s muscles than the, say, claymore. Duelists may not have been hulking, but look at Olympic gymnasts—they’re still pretty big. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Dec 15, 2021 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Davor Depends on the era, but most of the time swords were expensive and a status symbol. Cheap swords have existed, but even when they did, the ones that were not cheap were very obvious, and still a status symbol. Knights most certainly did use them—though rarely as primary armament on the battlefield, and almost never against armored opponents, that much is true. Also, “rapier” and “knight” don’t really belong in the same historical discussion anyway; they existed in very separate centuries. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Dec 16, 2021 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Flater I am discussing which weapon is most physically demanding to use in combat, as widely agreed upon by historical weapon experts and martial artists, i.e. the experts who actually know how much effort goes into really using a weapon. There is pretty universal agreement among experts that, contrary to popular opinion, rapiers are among the weapons with the toughest strength requirements. Frankly, that they are the most isn’t even my claim, just that a “skinny” duelist doesn't match reality. Don’t see much relevance in a static cutting test in this context. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Dec 16, 2021 at 13:55
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Damage is integral for making muscles

I read a summary of an article saying that muscles grow thanks to damage. It suggested that work-outs that improved muscle would always trigger tiny damages all over. In turn these triggered infection behaviour, which also gave off signals for more food and multiplication of the muscles. That would increase blood vessels to the damaged parts for sustenance as well as the density of these muscles.

Your sped up healing might pose a problem here. If the time to heal naturally has been reduced by a large margin, any infections and accompanying signals are reduced or even removed. That means the muscles don't get the time or enough signals to improve.

That means if people try to improve their muscles with magic, they need to exhaust themselves more repeatedly than other people, as well as increasing the amount of food they need. Increasing the work-out time and force feeding much more food can be a very daunting task.

Healing would mostly be used to bring you back to your last optimal form, but not with much extra muscle or anything at all. Any mage seeking to be buff can do so in the normal way, or use the normal way together with magic to make it easier (less tired, decrease pain). Or, finally, a specialised kind of healing that still allows for muscle improvement. That might be more difficult.

Each reduces the amount of mages that will be buff to a level of the normal people, or just a little higher.

Ps. I understand what you mean with body builder physique, but a body builder generally doesn't have many 'useful' muscles. Those muscles are often big and powerful in a few situations, but tire easily. They are only that for show. Useful muscles differ greatly per sport and occupation. Strong climbers are different from martial arts.

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    $\begingroup$ As one bodybuilder once told me. "It doesnt matter if I cant even punch a hole in a pack of butter, as long as it looks good". $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Dec 14, 2021 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ Damage is integral for making muscles because the body doesn’t bother fixing or improving muscles that are sufficient to the tasks they’re put to. Damage is how your body knows you need better muscles; if they aren’t getting damaged, your body assumes they’re good enough. If magical healing directs and augments natural healing and growth processes, it can just tell the body to make the muscles better, regardless of what the body thinks is good enough. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Dec 15, 2021 at 5:00
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    $\begingroup$ @KRyan Yes, a world builder could have magic able to make muscles big. But you also could as a world builder not have magic able to make muscles big. The OP is asking how to avoid letting magic make muscles big. So, why would you pick the first option? This provides a simple reason why a wizard can't work out, use magic to heal, and generate huge muscles; the healing bypasses the muscle growth message, so the muscles don't get stronger. The wizard has to build muscles the old-fashioned way, which is a lot of effort. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Dec 15, 2021 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Yakk Yes, and the described system of magic that this world-builder has described does make magic able to make muscles big. What you’re talking about is a different system of magic. You cannot say that magic is just pushing natural processes further and in more specific ways than they would otherwise, without allowing them to “heal” muscles more than the body otherwise would bother with. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Dec 15, 2021 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @KRyan No, the OP described magic as able to accelerate healing. The OP did not describe magic as able to make muscles big. The OP thought magic enabling faster healing results in magic making muscles big; this answer points out this might not be the case, as the biological healing pathway may not be the same as the "make bigger muscles" biological pathways. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:00
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Magic resets you to your soul's image.

The way common healing magic is that you take a snapshot of yourself in good health, and magically heal yourself to that state. That gives your magic a clear guideline of how to heal that doesn't require much biological knowledge or sophistication.

This has the side effect of wiping out any muscle gains you made. Just as it can restore broken flesh from burns, it restores any muscles that have grown back to normal.

To get really buff you have to avoid healing for a couple of weeks or months.

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  • $\begingroup$ But then where would all the different shapes and sizes OP desires come from? Why would there be fat, underweight or hunchbacked mages if you can simply heal yourself to a nice, healthy, muscular, normal weight shape? $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Dec 16, 2021 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ For the same reason irl people don't just become healthy muscular people- food is nice, and exercise is hard. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Dec 16, 2021 at 15:06
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-Converted to answer as suggested-

I'm going to have to argue that avoidance of making healing targeted is exactly the problem. Real medical science is one of the most specific fields you can possibly study. The way you have described your magic suggest all other acts require specific knowledge to a degree. Making healing require at least an understanding of a step by step process would be more than reasonable. Mend bones, bind arteries, repair muscles, etc.

Alternatively, if healing works on more of a "return to template" sort of mechanic might be a better way to explain the muscle issue as well as adding restrictions if needed. Maybe a combat medic can return soldiers to a previously recorded state (possibly adding an age reversal element), but that also means individuals not previously recorded require a much more extensive healing process.

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Your healing magic would only help mages who are limited by the body’s natural ability to recover.

In the real world most people’s fitness is limited by their willingness to do physical exercise, not by how much training volume their body can take.

Depending on sport/training and nutrition athletes also look very different. Skinny endurance runners, climbers, gymnasts, swimmers, bodybuilders, strongmen … they all look very different.

So I don’t see how this would be different in your world.

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If you dont use it you lose it.

This is an important idea in biology. To conserve energy anything that isnt used will become smaller or less advanced. A leg placed in a cast will see the muscles atrophy, but also the joints will become more limited in mobility, the bones lose a lot of their mass and carrying capacity and the brain centers that govern that leg will become smaller and less able to steer it. This same concept is why women need to avoid wearing pushup bra's all the time. The tendons that hold the breasts up will have less tension and become weaker, making the breasts sag and the need for wearing a pushup becomes greater*.

Your spell does not just accelerate healing, it accelerates the body's adapation as well. According to the body that just went through several days, weeks or even months worth of healing your body barely moved, and much of the muscle mass and capabilities are diminished.

You can incorporate a limiter in the spell so your mages and subjects dont become atrophied husks the first time a spell is used, but they will suffer loss over time from using such spells.

*or at least the idea that they need them.

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Magic is more demanding than food is able to provide for, esp. when it's used recklessly.

Using a lot of magic very quickly can't be provided for by simple metabolism. Energy is stored in all your cells, and magic takes the easiest energy first. So maybe a low and slow use of magic is great for toning up and burning fat. Big flashy bursts eat muscle, damage organs, or weaken bones. Distinguished battle mages are wizened and easy to spot because they've sacrificed health, appearance, and quality of life for the safety of the kingdom, etc. So are the less heroic users who don't care about their health if it means they get a lot of power very quickly.

The standard user who hasn't seen much battle is pretty fit and trim. The tried and tested rank-and-file (who have been able to pace themselves, but who've seen a little shit now and again) come in every body type and health circumstance you can think of.

Maybe some people (necromancers?) can tap into the reserves of others, and people will sign up to give away their health for money, while wealthy unscrupulous wielders amass power at very little cost to self.

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Limited Healing Capacity

As cells divide, they divide imperfectly -- this is the theory behind aging. Given the premise that healing magic is based on boosting the body's natural processes, then said processes should work as they would normally done, which is somewhat imperfect.

If one is consistently using healing magics to jack up by healing their training injuries faster, they are shaving off bits of their effective lifespan to maintain that state. Doing it a few times might not be so bad, but doing it consistently as part of their workout routine is where the problem lies.

As such, the heals are reserved for potentially crippling injuries such that the shaved off lifespan is traded for longer active service in their role.

Yes, you can still get the jacked ones that are far stronger, but that will come with the drawback of an effectively shorter physical service due to the lowered lifespan from repeated healings -- even if only the muscles are in danger.

Learned Responses

Another potential peril of magically healing everything is that over time, the body will require that magic to initiate healing processes for anything beyond a paper cut. Whether it is a single type of injury affected or the body as a whole, the point is that the more magic is used to heal, the more the body comes to rely on it to heal.

A few times isn't so bad, doubly so if it is an injury that would not heal in time had magic not been used. Alternatively, perhaps that dependence can be weaned off by not being magically healed for a period, or through some manner of ritual or spell

Magical Buildup

Healing magic leaves a sort of residue over the healed area -- not unlike a scab or the lactic acid that can build up on muscles. Unlike our natural processes, there is no simple way to remove the magic buildup from healing magic outside of time and rest.

Additional food might provide the needed energy and raw materials for the healing magic to do tis work, but only rest and abstaining from having spells cast on you can remove the magic buildup inside the body. For minor healings, it might take a day or two to fully clear out, while a sucking gut wound could take a month or longer.

With this and a careful schedule, one could jack up with magical help but are aware that their regimen needs rest time to clear out the residue in their system.

And yes, people have had critical overdoses of magical reside from repeated healings. It wasn't pretty.

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Don't Sweat It

The percentage of people who can get major muscle growth is pretty small. Genetics plays a huge role in determining the outcome of a set of exercises across a range of individuals.

Gaining major muscle requires exercise, great diet and specific gene combinations. No amount of exercise is going to turn Peewee Herman into a Conan hulk. The best he could do is to abuse anabolic steroids to gain some muscle along those lines.

This can easily be seen by looking at various horse or dog breeds. Clydesdales and other draft horses are bred for pulling heavy loads. Racehorses are bred for sprinting. The same is true for dog breeds.

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  • $\begingroup$ Have you ever heard of Carrot Top? He was scrawny but is now extremely buff. There's plenty of rumors about him taking steroids, yet he denies them totally saying that he has always lifted weights and when he got famous he finally had time to just do nothing but lift weights. $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2021 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ This. I think people severely underestimate the role of genetics and body type to perceived muscle mass and "buffness". There are people who cannot ever develop a six pack (but would be extremely fit and strong) and those who look extremely buff are not the strongest people. It is a lie promulgated by media that exercise and diet will get anyone that "buff" look. Furthermore, some people can do hardly anything and will have a buff look. The variation in body appearance will happen automatically. Just compare linebackers to basketball players and you will see the tip of the iceberg of variation $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2021 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ Source? Though I don’t know how you’d properly control exercise and nutrition in a study (the main problem of all nutrition and exercise studies). $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Dec 16, 2021 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ I can personally attest to that. I've seen people who who don't necessarily look like the stereotypical strongman, and who could lift weights and diet and exercise and never look like a bodybuilder (they've tried) but are still plenty strong. And I've seen others who only need go on a very basic diet and apparently just look at a weight set and they're ripped without needing to actually exercise that much. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2021 at 17:51
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Like in sports, different fighting styles require different body types.

Compare the following:

  • Basketball players are usually very tall. Being tall gives you a strict advantage over being buff because you are not allowed to wrestle your opponents.
  • Sumo fighters are usually very muscular and heavy. Because opponents need to push you out of the ring, being massive gives you an advantage.
  • Ballet dancers need to be light and flexible to perform all the moves required.
  • ...

All of these people have lots of muscles, but depending on what muscles they use and how, their bodies are very much different.

Applying this to your world, here are some ideas for battle roles:

  • The berserk: The biggest, most muscular brutes you have, heavily armoured, and send to terrorize the enemy frontlines. Probably spezialized in offensive magic, rather than healing.
  • The healthpool: Specialized in all sorts of healing abilities. Stays behind to heal everyone getting back from the front. Needs to constantly eat to replenish mana, with the side effect that they are usually very fat. (All the food needs to go somewhere when not in battle.)
  • The medic: Small, and fast. Runs around behind the front healing people, but needs to be able to fight off attackers while doing so.
  • The pyrotechnician: Combines the role of a banner holder with the ability to signal battle commands via fireworks and provides lighting for night fights. Possible for all body types, but seems to pool crazy people because noone else wants to play with fire (literally).
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Without getting too technical, it sounds like by the very nature of having such a command over the manipulation of energy as you describe, they'd easily be capable of deciding not to be buff, right?

Perhaps there are aesthetic or cultural reasons to halt or reverse the effects of excessive mass-building if they feel they are getting a bit too overblown. Not everybody wants to look like they're made of lopsided meat bubbles. I certainly wouldn't consider that a given, even if it's trivial to do so.

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You are confusing exercise with burning calories.

Exercise is used to burn calories, but so do normal activities. Thinking burns calories, but it doesn't give you bigger muscles.

Exercise is also used to create bigger muscles, so I can understand why you would think that burning calories would give you larger muscles. However, with the energy being burnt for the creation of magic, your muscles wouldn't be as covered in body fat as normal, so they could be more pronounced.

The caveat to that last sentence is that because you are burning so many calories, you are likely going to be eating more calories to keep up. Also, muscle is a much more dense source of calories than fat, so you could also be burning muscle, instead of fat, for some energy intense spells where your body can't keep up with the energy spike, you aren't eating the correct foods, or you aren't eating enough calories.

Building muscle burns the calories/fat that a wizard would rather use for spells, so having muscle may not be their priority. If they can make muscle more energy dense than fat, then it might be worth it. It's pretty well known that fat stores around 3500 calories per pound, but I can't find anything about how energy dense muscle is. Muscle is more dense than fat, so that a pound of muscle will be smaller than a pound of fat, but I don't know how that translates to energy density.

Wizards or magicians that don't do a lot of spells may be overeating, especially if they used to do a lot of magic but aren't anymore. Or they are eating heavy meals in expectation of needing to do a lot of spells in the near future, such as a war. This second idea would similar to a bear or squirrel getting fat for hibernation, only the wizard is doing it for a specific reason, rather than it simply being part of a seasonal and instinctual reaction. This overeating would tend to make the wizard to be plump, stocky, beer bellied, or maybe even obese, rather than ripped.

Since it takes calories to increase the natural healing and other abilities of the body, and the healing and other abilities of the body burn calories, it might be dangerous for a wizard to do this to themselves. It may be a situation of a downward spiral where everything is greatly multiplied to a dangerous factor.

Sure, healing a small cut naturally might only use 10 calories, but the spell to heal the cut also costs 10 calories, so a wizard casting the spell on themselves might be expending 20 calories. While this might work just fine, doing something more calorie intensive might be involve more risk. So you want to do something that burns 3500 calories to lose a pound of weight? Ok, so you do that spell which also costs 3500 calories and you end up accidentally losing 2 lbs, but you spent those calories so fast that it burned muscle and fat, so now you are extremely tired because your mind needs calories to work, too. Do you have the energy to end the spell or does the spell continue to burn energy until you accidentally burn yourself up? If the spell lasts an hour, you might be able to deal with it, but if it happens in a minute, it might be too many calories at once, leaving you unable to stop what you started.

Is the magic flow or time dependent? Is there a limit to how much magic a wizard can do at once? Can the wizard essentially or actually burn themselves out? Can a fat wizard do more magic total or simultaneously than a thin wizard? These are the things that could determine the society of wizards. Overeating may not be a negative for wizards, since they can just go fight a war, heal a town of all it's sick, provide drought protection over a farmer's fields, or whatever "great magic" is necessary to get them back down to a "reasonable" weight.

"Have you seen how fat Griff the Great has become lately? Maybe he should slow down on the pastries a little."

"Nah, it's about time for his yearly defattening, where he loses 100 lbs. bolstering the strength of the river dam again."

"He looks like he's about 400 lbs, though."

"I guess he'll have to do it twice!"

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  1. Genetics. Some people have large heavy body type, others are tall and skinny, most somewhere in between. So some might look like bodybuilders, while others, still buffed, might be more like runners.

  2. How much they are willing to work out. If they are naturally stronger and faster than most people there would be very little incentive for them to work out. If they are up high on the social ladder they might be spending their time eating and drinking and have their subordinates carry out their duties.

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Magic makes life easier.

What's the point of magic? To make things easy! Swinging a sword hard enough to decapitate a three-inch piece of bamboo at a mandated court festivity for knights? Hard. Having your imp familiar swing the sword, in superb style? Easier. Sending a glamour that makes people think they saw you, accompanied by the same imp acting on his own, while you lie about in the wizard tower streaming movies out of a Dimensional Piracy Rift? Now you're talking practical magic.

Traditional biological muscular hypertrophy requires pulling on a strand of titin with a muscle contraction of more than 70% of the maximum force you can apply. Which is to say, hard. It won't happen if you have a Word to do pull-ups, a Word to climb (or jump) over the wall, a Word to stay safely on the bull for 8 seconds or 8000 without even holding the rope. And why should you want it to? Wizards are wizards, meant to live by their wits. The patriarchical oppressive peer pressure that forces them to represent themselves as "knights" of an upper class in order to be able to use their minds freely - it is a sheer injustice. A mage may not have the courage to snub the goon with the crown as properly as he deserves, but maintaining a nerdly appearance is a subtle way to get the point across.

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East Asian fighters using powers instead of brute force

Your civilization is similar to East Asian countries, and your wizards are martial artists with psychic powers.

In modern Chinese, Japanese, and Korean anime and fantasy movies, such as Wuxia, Xianxia, Naruto Shippuden, Avatar the Last Airbender, and others, fighters use magical powers to fight instead of brute force. Heroes perform feats of great strength mainly by using a kind of telekinetic force (augmenting their blows using powers) instead of muscular mass. For example an old man martial arts master with a beard might pick up a huge boulder with one arm, and hurl it at his opponent with incredible speed, without even breaking a sweat. East Asian fighters typically use qi for both offense and defense. So they are not big or bulky, and they wear traditional robes instead of heavy armor like stereotypical Western knights. The role of the wizard and the role of the knight both are played by the martial arts master. Even Samurais, the closest to "western knights", typically wear light armor, and prioritizing agility and skill of martial arts.

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Well, there do exist a few young attractive male wizards..

.. but a magus increases in power with age. At a young age, magic is not under control yet. If involved in the military young wizards will become "normal" knights at first, thoroughly trained and looking like attractive young folks. Their natural ability to heal will maintain their beauty, for say 40-50 years. When they age further, they will improve their magic skills and become officers, but at the same time, loose their good looks and grow a beard. As we all know, a really powerful wizard is always a skinny old man with a long long, grey beard.

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