Have you ever glanced through your fitness feed on IG admiring the physiques?

Maybe you’ve visited bodybuilding focused websites to get weight loss or muscle building tips?

Are you one of many highly dedicated people who’ve graced the glossy magazine covers or professional bodybuilding sites?

For most, it is hard to imagine what would cause someone to take the actions required to create the type of body that would allow them to confidently stand in a row of other similarly chiseled human beings on brightly lit stage to be judged and potentially win a coveted trophy and bodybuilding title.

What do you think of those who hold that dream or take the steps to achieve it?

If you’re one of those competitive bodybuilders – what do you think about yourself?

In this blog we are exploring the line between health and illness in competitive bodybuilding.

Is competitive body building healthy or unhealthy?

Fitness or pathology?

Amateur and professional body builders hold themselves to a strict standard of physical activity, oral intake and supplementation.

For competitors, the drive to optimize their physique is among their primary daily priorities.

They are searching for multiple micro improvements that will give them an edge, ensuring their muscles become well shaped and defined to grab them the coveted trophy, title and prestige that come with winning a bodybuilding competition.

So, how does this drive translate to health and illness?

A recent literature review found increased risk in competitive bodybuilding for four psychological illnesses including:

  1. Muscle dysmorphia – a negative body image and obsessive desire to have a muscular physique. 
  2. Eating disorders – a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits
  3. Abuse of appearance- and performance-enhancing drugs – these drugs do not provide a euphoric high, however substance use disorder defined as continued use despite adverse consequences can develop.  For example, anabolic-androgenic steroids like testosterone or steroid precursors like DHEA that can lead to heart attack, stroke, liver tumors, kidney failure, infertility and psychiatric illness
  4. Exercise dependence – an irresistible impulse to continue to exercise despite injury, illness, fatigue or other personal demands

In order for someone to have these diagnoses there are specific criteria including: impaired social and occupational function, subjective distress, or adverse health consequences.

The literature review concluded that not enough was known about the prevalence of psychological illness in the competitive bodybuilding world.

In particular, the issue of drug use including hormonal and other performance enhancing substances in both female and male competitors.

Whether you are a recreational or competitive bodybuilder, at OBF Gyms, we are mindful of the prevalence of mental health issues that go along with body transformation desires or efforts. 

We educate and support our clients to train smart and to build healthy habits that will enhance not only their physique, but also their lives. 

We do not promote techniques that will lead to short or long term health deficits.

You can get results without 6 hours of cardio a day!

You can get results without steroids!

You can step on a competitive stage feeling full of energy rather than depleted!

Are you ready to work with the best personal training studio in Toronto?

Send us a message and connect with our team to get started!


Competitive Bodybuilding: Fitness, Pathology, or Both? Steele, I.H, Pope, H.G Jr, Kanayama, G. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2019 Jun 18. doi: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000211