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Why do some bodybuilders develop steroid guts?


Steroid Freak
Now here is where things get even trickier. Not because there isn’t a reason. But because there are multiple explanations floating around about why it exists.

This is the winning theory amongst judges, and stems to the visceral growth your body undergoes during bulking. If this theory is to be believed, steroids are not to blame for the appearance of these guts – although they don’t help. No, it is performance enhancing drugs such as insulin, recombinant human Growth Hormone and occasionally other anabolic peptide hormones.

These trigger visceral fat storage and increased connective tissue, as well as swollen livers, ascites fluid, and the thickening musculature of your pelvis – all of which can leave your stomach looking bloated and distended.

Now, on the surface, the science looks sound. Insulin for instance is linked to visceral and organ fat storage, so raising it could in theory expand your gut. However, given how harsh diets and fat burning drugs are, it is difficult to believe that bodybuilders would still have large amounts of fat trapped in their liver and around their intestines.

Similarly, Human Growth Hormones could potentially trigger GH-induced gut hypertrophy and cause your organs to grow. Yet so can testosterone. Yep, testosterone can trigger this same roid gut. Yet, it is not blamed like these two.

But here is the real kicker – and the reason why this debate is so big – despite drug regimes being more intense and bodybuilders being a hell of a lot bigger; the pharmacological impact of insulin and GH (on your gut) hasn’t changed. So this sudden appearance of large stomachs in recent years, doesn’t entirely make sense under this theory.

Take the following facts:

  • There are no published studies/written evidence that indicates that GH or insulin causes abdominal distention. All the evidence is empirical.
  • Bodybuilders only take 10-12 units of insulin before and after they train. Even if they took double, this is still less than what diabetics use. Do they have distended stomachs? No (mind they aren’t strenuously training in the gym either).
  • In cases of patients taking GH to prevent muscle wastage, they take approx. 9-18 IU a day. Bodybuilders take 4-12 IU a day tops – nowhere near as much.
  • Doctors never tell patients taking prescribed GH or insulin that they’ll experience radical abdominal distention from use. Even bodybuilding websites don’t post this warning.
  • The only people who accuse GH and insulin of causing roid gut are internet experts commenting on contests (post event).
Add all of these together and what these facts suggest is that pharmacological use of GH and insulin – which is taken at much higher levels than bodybuilders – doesn’t cause abdominal distention.

So what is the real cause, if it isn’t entirely down to Palumboism? How are bodybuilders managing to be lean AND have fat stomachs when they have spent months rigorously training with the purpose of looking slim and powerful?

Here are some additional theories:

  1. Slow digestion – this can affect bodybuilders when they use diuretics and then carb-load (to saturate their muscles with glycogen), as they are usually dehydrated. This can create problems, as there is not enough water to make the glycogen they desire. As a result, their abdominal muscles become stretched (as they are so full) and fluid (blood) is drawn to it, leaving them with a big bulge trying to fill this vacuum.
  2. You can’t have a small waist with massive abs – it’s a simple fact. Even Arnie isn’t as massive as some of the bodybuilders you see these days.
  3. Not managing your medicine cabinet – it can be hard getting the balance right between diet, drugs and exercise when getting contest ready. Obviously you want to achieve maximum bulk before you cut; however, make a mistake in this chain and you won’t achieve the definition you want. It is regularly agreed upon that roid guts are a sign of something that went wrong during training – namely, with the drugs/supplements they’ve used. Use them right and you’ll experience minimum side effects. Get it wrong, and you could turn up competition day looking 4 months pregnant.
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