Natural Bodybuilding - Why Is It So Controversial?

What does the word natural mean to you? There is a great deal of debate about the art of natural bodybuilding. What is natural bodybuilding in its most genuine sense? In bodybuilding, the definition can change depending on who you speak to.

For example, some consider natural bodybuilding to build your body with no drugs or supplements. In contrast, others believe it is more of a state that you embody only at the time of competition. What you do and how you get it is irrelevant to some people. New supplements have made it difficult to draw a logical line between what is a supplement and what is a banned drug.

So must you exclude all supplements to be a natural bodybuilder? Do you want to know how natural bodybuilding became controversial? Thus, this article will examine bodybuilding’s competitive, natural, and current state.

What Is Natural Bodybuilding?

Natural bodybuilding has changed its meaning over the years. However, there is still some debate over its real significance. For some, it means engaging in bodybuilding without taking performance-enhancing drugs. These include anabolic steroids, human growth hormone (HGH), diuretics, and insulin. However, for many, avoiding steroids is enough for a bodybuilder to compete in a natural bodybuilding competition.

Natural bodybuilder must master their body through training, a good diet, and the use of unbanned supplements. The debate about which supplements are acceptable, however, rages on today. The World Natural Bodybuilding Federation requires competitors to be free of using banned hormone substances, such as Androsterone, for a minimum of 10 years. In addition, everyone must submit to stringent drug tests before a competition.

They also require newcomers to abstain from over-the-counter prohormone supplements for at least two years. Prohormones, seen as legal steroids, are a debated conversation that has stirred up some major controversy.

We use the term legal steroids to describe any muscle-building steroid not categorized as illegal by the government. We often refer to them as prohormone over-the-counter nutritional supplements. Andro is a group of prohormone supplements that works in the adrenal gland, including androstenedione, androstenediol, and DHEA. It is a popular legal steroid that mimics actual anabolic steroids. It is almost undetectable. In chemical terms,

Andro –

Andro is only one hydrogen atom away from testosterone. It builds muscle strength during weight training sessions and increases athletic performance. Andro first came to the world’s attention via professional baseball player Mark McGwire. Mark’s use of the substance in the 1990s allowed him to pack some serious muscle. Andro helped him hit 70 home runs in 1998. Other baseball players like Barry Bonds used similar drugs to improve their performance. Major baseball quickly had an epidemic on its hands. Thus, the baseball world later vilified all the baseball players during that time who were accused of steroid abuse.

That said, scientists have not scientifically proven Andro to stimulate muscle growth, and thus the FDA can not label it as a real anabolic steroid. We should note that the Olympic Games have currently banned it as a doping drug despite its official legal status. Adverse effects of taking the drug include increasing the female hormone estrogen. Also, most anabolic steroids increase estrogen. In addition, too much female hormone in the male body can cause various cancers and heart disease.

Medical professionals advise against using Andro to increase muscle mass because the risks outweigh the benefits. However, many bodybuilders disagree. And still, take prohormones regularly to enhance their performance. When the World-Anti Doping Agency banned Andro, natural bodybuilders frowned upon its usage.

Drug-Free Bodybuilding –

Does Drug-Free Bodybuilding Exist? In competition, a natural bodybuilder must be extremely muscular above all else. Also, they must have achieved their physique through a raw diet. Judges evaluate bodybuilders’ conditioning, symmetry, muscularity, and proportion professionally.

In addition, they expect bodybuilders to have a flawless muscle-to-fat ratio. Unfortunately, it’s challenging to meet that standard when a natural bodybuilder stands next to steroid users. However, it is possible to succeed with hard work, dedication, and a good diet when a natural bodybuilder is compared to other natural bodybuilders. Unfortunately, genetics plays a part in a bodybuilder’s performance, and that causes many bodybuilders to use steroids.

Supplements –

However, there is much debate over whether we should extend the term natural to exclude all supplements and performance-enhancing drugs. Some want the ban to include testosterone, prohormones like Andro, and muscle-building supplements like creatine. Thus, this would prevent competitors from using sports supplements such as glutamine. In scientific terms, creatine and glutamine are natural substances that you can get from your diet.

So should eating eggs, meat, tofu, and rice, all glutamine-rich foods, be considered the same as taking bodybuilding supplements that work like steroids? Most natural bodybuilders say, of course not. But supplements provide creatine and glutamine at levels a bodybuilder can’t get from food.

The debate rolls on, but most natural bodybuilders agree on what they can and cannot take. Performance-enhancing drugs are out of the question. But supplements that the World Anti-Doping Agency approves are fair game. If participating in a competition, you should always check with the organizing committee to understand which supplements are accepted. As long as bodybuilders play by the agreed rules, it is not cheating.

Problems –

There remains a lot of controversy around natural bodybuilding. Natural bodybuilders are a joke to serious professional bodybuilders. Aside from more minor arguments, such as creatine supplements, other, much bigger contention areas exist. The controversy focuses on three central debates: That nothing is genuinely natural, that the drug tests are easy to beat, and that regulators do not ban certain drugs.

We have already discussed what makes up the term “natural,” let us now focus on the drug testing process. The competitors of the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF) must be clean of anabolic steroids for ten years. In addition, they must pass a range of drug tests before and during competition. However, other natural bodybuilding competitions are not as stringent.

Drug Testing –

One often raised point is how long it takes for anabolic steroids to leave the body. Most steroids become undetectable by test after a month. In addition, evidence shows that trials have failed to pick up heavy steroid usage in the past.

For years, Lance Armstrong was famous for duping the anti-dopers at the Tour de France. The Tour has some of the most rigorous testing procedures globally. However, lance showed us no matter how sophisticated the testing process, you can beat it.

Gold Standard Testing –

Many natural bodybuilding competitions have fewer resources to provide the same level of gold-standard testing. So there is controversy about whether steroid abusers are slipping through the net. Do cheaters lose their doping gains before a competition? Evidence has shown they do not. So there is still much debate about whether a 10-year stipulation is adequate or is just for show.

Many competitors know when a drug does not appear positive on a drug screen. Most cheaters believe they are natural because they do not take drugs during competition. So they are natural at the time of competition. People also point to Dennis Wolf as an example of a bodybuilder who, some suggest, is too large to have achieved it through his diet, workouts, and natural supplements.

However, Dennis is an idol who has competed and won countless competitions. So to be clear, there is no evidence to suggest anything other than he is clean. But the naysayers still rumor, and so the controversy continues.

Undetectable Drugs –

We talked about Andro and how that crosses the line into doping. But there are other drugs that some ‘drug-free’ athletes consider acceptable, which are almost undetectable. Most screening processes do not pick up HGH, for example. Insulin is a natural chemical that bodybuilders can abuse and is also challenging to detect. Here are some ways that competitors cheat:

  • Hidden Urine Samples
  • Bribe Officials
  • Masking Agents
  • Solicit Medical Professionals
  • Cycle Doping

It is heartbreaking to see the community split in such a divisive way over something that, at its core, seeks to be natural. Take comfort that most natural bodybuilders want to be clean and work hard. It is possible to do it without resorting to using steroids. But creating glutamine and other performance-enhancing drugs is almost necessary to compete. Let’s take a quick look at how.

What Are Natural Bodybuilding Supplements?

If you are bodybuilding naturally and compete in a competition, consider supplementing your diet with the following legal supplements:

Creatine –

Though some consider creatine to be as addictive as some class-A drugs, there is no doubt it is one of the best supplements. Scientists have researched creatine, and they know the supplement’s side effects. In addition, creatine already occurs organically in food and the body.

But not in high doses to get the best effects. Studies show bodybuilders get twice the benefits of strength when taking creatine than merely working out. Reviewers have named creatine the most effective supplement for increasing muscle mass. If you have kidney problems, do not take creatine. The supplement can add extra strain on the kidneys.

Whey Proteins –

Eating protein to build muscle mass is essential. However, whey protein also contains amino acids that you cannot produce in your body. Also, many protein powders now come with creatine and glutamine. Double-blind studies have shown that whey protein will help the body metabolize protein and recover more quickly from a challenging workout.

Glutamine & BCAA –

These are another group of amino acids that you can take in supplement form and will help naturally increase your muscle mass. BCAAs, short for branch chain amino acids, help reduce muscle soreness after a workout. Many protein-rich foods include glutamine. So you can get even more of it by adding it to your diet. However, it would help if you took these supplements around a workout.

What Are Some Natural Ways to Build Muscle?

Natural bodybuilders know their genetics define them. They must work with what they have if they don’t want to turn to steroids. It is possible to build a well-defined natural body without using performance-enhancing drugs. But let’s be honest. We are talking about a well-defined body compared to other natural bodybuilders. The best natural bodybuilders can not compete with professional bodybuilders who use steroids.

Workout Program –

Study your form and see if there are areas you need to improve. Make sure you are working toward muscular fitness. You can use compound exercises, progressive overload, a periodization plan, and a rest and recovery plan to get better results. It’s important to remember that professional bodybuilders use steroids and benefit from working with a trainer, dietician, doctor, and masseuse.

Thus, you will need a complex program just like theirs because you don’t have the benefits of steroids. Work with a trainer who is an advocate of natural training. Finding a doctor and masseuse to help you care for your body is best. Also, they can advise you on the best natural supplements and muscle recovery programs to get you the best results.

Calorie Surplus –

Eating is an anabolic process; sometimes, you must eat big to build mass. You can follow an anabolic diet to make sure you are bulking and cutting at the correct times. Bodybuilding nutrition books and websites can guide you in the right direction to find the diet that works for you.

Bodybuilding is a science, not magic. First, you must know what you are doing. The wrong diet can make you fat or prevent you from building muscle. Because of metabolism, bodybuilders need a customized diet that works with their bodies.

The Last Word on Natural Bodybuilding and the Controversy that Surrounds It

Natural bodybuilding will always be a debatable subject. As we know, many avenues for abuse and an equal number of grey areas make it difficult for athletes to find common ground. As a result, the term natural will always be under scrutiny.

The best you can do now is to ensure that, as a competitive bodybuilder, you check the banned substance list long before the competition. You should always know what you are putting in your body and what the experts say about it.

Finally, it’s only cheating when you don’t follow the rules everyone agreed upon. If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to read some of our other articles on bodybuilding. What do you think? Also, share your response in the comments so others can benefit from your experience.

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By Terry Clark

Terry Clark, M.S. is a math professor, certified fitness trainer, nutritionist, bodybuilding coach, writer, and fitness enthusiast. Terry loves working out, math, music, chess, cooking, writing, and teaching.

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