Bodybuilding is seemingly becoming more mainstream as each year passes, which is believed to be the cause of social media, with influencers showing off their physiques regularly as people scroll through their phones.
Friends and parents of loved ones are possibly wondering: is bodybuilding healthy? And will it have a positive or negative impact on a person’s physiological and psychological well being?
Firstly, most people who ‘bodybuild’ are not doing so competitively, but instead are dedicated weightlifters simply trying to look their best. This comes with less pressure, as such people are generally motivated by social means i.e. trying to improve their body composition for their peers to notice.
However, competitive bodybuilding comes with a much heavier yoke, as it is very difficult to make a full time living from, due to intense competition and little prize money for anyone who isn’t the best of the best.
Supplement contracts also generally aren’t lucrative, unless you are defeating most athletes on the Mr. Olympia stage.
Sadly, to tick these boxes, athletes are usually administering a lot of drugs on a regular basis.
Thus, if someone wants to become a Mr. Olympia bodybuilder, this isn’t going to be realistic training naturally and thus taking such performance enhancing drugs can have a devastating effect on the liver, heart, kidneys and hormone levels.
That’s not to say it is impossible to make a living whilst being natural, although it may be an uphill challenge.
Especially in the world of social media, where gym-goers can accumulate hundreds of thousands or even millions of fans with an exceptional physique and diligent marketing. Although it is likely that the person will need ‘world class’ genetics to attract such a following, as well as 24/7 dedication in maintaining a low body fat percentage year round.
Physiological Benefits of Bodybuilding Workouts
Exercise in general is good for cardiovascular health and strengthening the immune system — and lifting weights isn’t the exception to this rule.
Bodybuilding training routines also encourage compound lifts, which work multiple muscles at the same time, which can increase testosterone levels; potentially aiding fertility.
Bodybuilding encourages low body fat and high levels of muscularity, which although may not read very well on a BMI scale; but this is a good combination for keeping LDL cholesterol levels low and a healthy heart.
One negative is that cardio isn’t performed as much, making bodybuilders less physically fit during endurance activities.
As a person ages, muscle loss tends to become a reality which can result in worse posture, increased risk of illness; as well as problems with mobility. Thus, maximizing your muscle mass in your early years may help during old age, especially with the help of muscle memory and the body retaining muscle nuclei (seemingly permanently).
Supplements: Pros and Cons
We have already touched on harmful ‘supplements’ bodybuilders can take, however there are also various healthy supplements bodybuilders utilize to improve their health, as well as body composition.
These are multi vitamins, omega 3s, garlic, amino acids, vitamin C, among others.
These certainly can contribute to improved health, although there seems to be a bit of a reliance on supplements for some bodybuilders, as opposed to obtaining certain vitamins and nutrients via their diet (which is typical of the bodybuilding culture).
Some natural supplements may even cause negative side effects, such as creatine monohydrate and pre workout formulas. Although both of these supplements are perceived to be safe, individuals can experience bloating and water retention from creatine. Inside Bodybuilding also reports that some weightlifters complain of increased blood pressure as a result of supplementation with this amino acid.
Pre workouts can also cause heart palpitations, anxiety and panic attacks in sensitive users. This is attributed to potent stimulants being included in the matrix’s, with the most common being high doses of caffeine.
As with anything, if something is taken to the extreme, usually side effects follow. The same is true with bodybuilding from a psychological perspective.
Bodybuilding can become obsessive (even for non competing individuals), due to the constant monitoring and planning of every meal throughout the day, as well as daily workouts.
Such obsessiveness can cause a person to suffer from muscle dysmorphia, where bodybuilders typically see themselves as smaller than they actually are. This can also be known as ‘bigorexia’.
This ‘unsatisfied’ feeling can even result in low self-esteem and feeling inadequate, which may not be taken seriously by outsiders as they can see the person looking very muscular.
However, when bodybuilding isn’t taken to extremes, many weight lifters feel an improved sense of well-being and confidence from having bigger muscles or visible six pack abs. Also the rush of endorphins can also help to alleviate anxiety and depression, from a cognitive perspective.
As long as a person doesn’t become excessively obsessed with bodybuilding, it can improve their physiological and psychological health.
However, if a person decides to take various supplements, it would be wise to monitor their health or get regular check ups with their doctor to see if there are any adverse reactions occurring internally.