Bodybuilding has something of a bad reputation when it comes to health and well-being in the fitness industry.
Despite the popularity of bodybuilding as a discipline (although competitions are not growing in popularity, there are more bodybuilders today than ever before!), many experts have expressed concern about how the sport can impact participants’ bodies in both the short term and long term.
Because of this, many bodybuilders are now turning to true natural bodybuilding, which is widely considered to be a safer, healthier way to practice the sport.
But what is true natural bodybuilding, and is it really healthy? Let’s find out.
What Is True Natural Bodybuilding?
True natural bodybuilding, sometimes simply called natural bodybuilding, is the practice of enlarging the muscles in the human body to significant proportions without the use of any supplements not found in a natural human diet.
So, what does this mean exactly? Well, true natural bodybuilders will strictly avoid any performance-enhancing supplements, such as steroids, which are common on the bodybuilding scene.
Some true natural bodybuilders feel the need to distinguish themselves as ‘true’ natural, rather than simply ‘natural’, due to the fact that they have never used such supplements or drugs in the past.
Clearly, a bodybuilding career that does not involve the consumption of drugs or unnatural supplementation does sound preferable from a health perspective. But how much healthier is true natural bodybuilding, really?
The Health Benefits Of True Natural Bodybuilding
Let’s start with the obvious: true natural bodybuilding does not involve drugs or supplements that can’t be sourced from a regular human diet.
Steroid use in bodybuilding is known to have many unfavorable long-term effects on the human body.
From physical health issues such as high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, blood clots, and tumors, to mental effects like mania and aggression, the consequences of abusing steroids can be severe.
With true natural bodybuilding, the health risks associated with drug and supplement use are eliminated, which is one major benefit of true natural bodybuilding over standard bodybuilding.
In the absence of the harmful effects of performance-enhancing drugs, true natural bodybuilding offers many of the same health benefits as bodybuilding in general.
Assuming that true natural bodybuilders are nourishing their bodies properly, this type of bodybuilding enhances physical strength. It also helps to stop muscle tissue from degenerating with age.
Lifting heavy weights naturally can have additional benefits such as improving bone density, which can minimize the risk of degenerative bone disorders like osteoporosis later in life.
So, true natural bodybuilding offers similar health benefits to bodybuilding, with the added bonus of not having to deal with any of the dangerous side effects of performance enhancers.
The Dangers Of True Natural Bodybuilding
Although true natural bodybuilding is certainly healthier than bodybuilding with the help of performance-enhancing substances, this doesn’t mean that true natural bodybuilding is altogether healthy.
True natural bodybuilding, just like all forms of bodybuilding, puts a lot of stress on various areas of the body.
Building a lot of muscle requires a bodybuilder to consume a far higher amount of calories on a daily basis than the average person.
While it’s possible to eat 4,000 calories a day in healthy foods, it’s much easier to achieve this goal by eating unhealthy food and filling up on sugar-heavy protein shakes.
Although many of these calories are burnt off through exercise, such a diet can still cause health problems in the long term.
Unfortunately, many competitive bodybuilders, including true natural bodybuilders, go through periods of ‘cutting’ where they limit their caloric intake and avoid certain foods for between 2 and 4 months in an effort to lose body fat without losing muscle.
Cutting can be very intense, with potential physical and mental health drawbacks. This is especially true if, as is often the case, bodybuilders are advised to limit their water intake for 24 hours before a competition.
Doing so can lead to severe dehydration - although this is usually more of an issue in combat sports like MMA than in bodybuilding.
Nonetheless, this aspect of sculpting an impressive, muscular physique, even when done naturally, can be problematic.
The process of lifting very heavy weights for long sessions on most days of the week inevitably strains the joints, too, which may lead to chronic pain or injuries.
Basically, the bottom line is that while true natural bodybuilding has some clear benefits over bodybuilding with performance-enhancing substances, some risks are inherent in the sport whether you take steroids and supplements or not.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Your questions answered.
How Often Should I Train For True Natural Bodybuilding?
How often you train when bodybuilding naturally depends on your personal limits and your goals. For example, if you’re training for a competition, your regimen will likely be more intense than if you’re doing it purely for enjoyment.
Experts have recommended training each muscle group at least twice a week if you’re serious about bodybuilding. You can divide this up, however, works best for you, but having one or two rest days a week is important to allow your muscles to recover.
With that being said, Dorian Yates was the Mr. Olympia champion for 6 years running, training 4 days a week, and only working out each muscle group once per week.
Is There A Limit To Natural Bodybuilding?
True natural bodybuilders can get just as big as those who use steroids. The difference is that steroids will basically ensure muscle growth regardless of the specifics of training, building muscle naturally requires more commitment, proper technique, and will take longer.
Who Is The Best Natural Bodybuilder?
Mike O’Hearn is generally considered to be the best natural bodybuilder because he is the largest in terms of weight. His competitive weight was 247 lbs and he has won the Mr. Natural Universe competition 4 times.
True natural bodybuilding is healthier than using steroids and unnatural supplements to enhance muscle growth.
Practicing true natural bodybuilding comes without some of the dangerous side effects of steroid use, including mental health issues, circulatory problems, and an elevated risk of certain cancers.
However, that doesn’t mean that true natural bodybuilding is entirely without health risks. The caloric requirements (and sometimes the method of cutting fat before a competition) can still have adverse mental and physical effects.
Plus, lifting heavy weights on a regular basis can put stress on a person’s joints, although it may improve bone health and reduce muscle deterioration in the long term.
Ultimately, there are health benefits (mainly for muscles and osseous tissue) of true natural bodybuilding, and it’s certainly better for you than using steroids.
With that being said, even natural bodybuilders should be mindful of their dietary practices, joint health, and mental well-being.