What’s the single most disappointing, awful thing about a bodybuilder’s physique, regardless of whether he’s in the pro league or just a regular gym rat? No, it’s not chicken legs or a set of flat, lifeless shoulders. It’s the distended belly which makes bodybuilders look like they’re about to give birth and pretty much ruins their overall appearance, no matter how ripped and well-developed the rest of their body is.
If you’ve been following the professional and amateur bodybuilding scenes, you’ve noticed the controversy surrounding the distended stomachs that many committed bodybuilders seem to struggle with. This issue has provoked important discussions in the bodybuilding community over the past two decades and even led the IFBB to instate changes in their judging criteria which favor thin waists and V-shaped physiques back in 2005.
So what causes gut distension, anyway? There have been a lot of theories. Some blame the mass introduction of HGH, IGF-1, insulin and other hormones in the world of competitive sports, which more often than not led to their chronic abuse, fueled by the “more is better” way of thinking. Others suspect the cause is the frequent use of diuretics combined with massive carb-loading regimes which causes a slowdown of the digestive system.
Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure: bodybuilder’s bellies have never been bigger. This issue was especially prevalent at the Arnold Classic this year, where the number of bodybuilders who looked several months pregnant was greater than ever before. Schwarzenegger himself called out the president of the IFBB and criticized the current judging standards in bodybuilding that have repeatedly failed to preserve the high aesthetic criteria of the sport. Huge bellies are not only responsible for spoiling the competition scores of many guys out there (although they’re not spoiling as many scores as it should), it’s also a symbol of the many negative trends that have gained popularity in the bodybuilding community and thereby have compromised its reputation and credibility. And as such, it shouldn’t be swept under the rug anymore – it has to be thoroughly discussed and adequately addressed before it causes any further damage to the sport we love so much. In this article we’ll try to uncover all the reasons why distended guts are such a frequent phenomenon in gyms and bodybuilding competitions and how they can be prevented.
The Downside of Drug Use
At its highest level, bodybuilding is more than challenging in many aspects. The diets are crazy and almost impossible to follow thoroughly, the training routines are brutal and then there’s the need to boost one’s appearance and performance with the help of a large variety of drugs. Top level bodybuilders don’t have any room in their life for slacking. If any link of the chain is not good enough, the chain will break and they’ll be out of the game, so they have to put a 100% all of the time. That being said, the role of drugs in competitive bodybuilding is no secret – it’s safe to say that for decades now, the consistent use of drugs is a necessity for building a winning physique.
However, drugs are not something you should screw around with. Knowing how to optimize their use is just as important as having the best training program. And without the knowledge on how to minimize the unwanted side effects, there is a huge chance that the temporary effects of drug use will eventually backfire and result with damaged health. And this is exactly how stomach distention happens. Bloated guts on bodybuilders are far from normal – they’re a clear indicator that something went terribly wrong and most probably it’s the fault of the coach who’s in charge of the bodybuilder in question.
What Does Science Has to Say About It?
The truth is that there have been no reliable, peer-reviewed scientific studies that suggest that GH or insulin cause abdominal distention. This is kind of hard to believe, given that this theory is incredibly popular in the context of internet forums, articles written by ‘experts’ and gym gossip. Still, for those who want to build their opinions on empirical facts, there is no solid foundation to be found to support those claims.
It’s a fact that consistent and adequate use of GH and insulin cause muscles and to some extent, organs, to grow. But if it was able to make your stomach grow the size of a football, we’d have known by now, as such important reports would really ruffle some feathers in the medical community.
Furthermore, a bodybuilder who’s using insulin and GH would be most likely taking around 10-12 units of insulin before and after he trains and 9-12 units of GH per day. That’s still a lot less than what doctors prescribe to their patients with diabetes or hormonal imbalances every day (some diabetics take more than 50-60 units a day). If these patients receive doses of GH and insulin that greatly exceed the doses that competitive bodybuilders use, why aren’t they experiencing even worse cases of abdominal distention? You’ll never hear that a doctor has warned his patients with diabetes about the possibility of radical abdominal distention from the use of the insulin, not even on online health and medical sites. In fact, the only time you hear that GH or insulin use is associated with gut distention is on bodybuilding forums. According to scientific data and most logical analyses of the problem, the use of GH and insulin certainly does not cause uncontrolled organ hypertrophy. Therefore, we can safely conclude that such theories are total bullshit, at least for the time being.
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Todays IFBB heavyweights are more focused on who can eat the most meals a day, instead of who has the more effective training methods. Instead of being a means to get bigger, eating excessive amounts of food has become a means to an end. Gorging on fast food, pizza and ice cream 4-6 times a day, or eating 12 oz cuts of beef and chicken breasts 10 times a day (e.g. Phil Heath), will eventually wreak havoc on your abdomen, with or without HGH.
Consuming several pounds of meat/chicken a day, not including all the potatoes and rice; a practice many of today’s IFBB pros do, is simply too much food for a man 5’10 or shorter. What happened to the 5-6 “small” meals a day standard of the 70’s?
To put it tersely, today’s “mass monsters” eat too much, and they have the pot bellies to show for it.