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True Natural Bodybuilding

Doping and Steroids

On my page True Natural Bodybuilding I have explained which bodybuilders are using which doping products for which purposes. Here I discuss a few other aspects of the most popular performance enhancing drugs used by bodybuilders. To be honest, since I have never used any doping products myself, I am certainly not an expert in this field. Therefore, if you want to know more factual information on any specific drug, I recommend you to search the internet, starting with wikipedia.org.

Testosterone and Anabolic Steroids

Testosterone (i.e. the male sex hormone) and (androgenic) anabolic steroids (i.e. synthetic variants of testosterone) are by far the most popular drugs among bodybuilders. That is mainly because they are extremely effective in promoting muscle growth, because they are rather easy to get, not very expensive, and relatively safe (although they may have serious side effects, it is rather unlikely that any of them will kill you in the short term).

To obtain the desired results, bodybuilders usually use very big quantities of several different kinds of anabolic steroids at the same time. Most bodybuilders use about 10 to 100 times the therapeutically recommended dose or normal male physiological testosterone level, and use 2 to 4 different anabolic steroids together.

A talented bodybuilder can gain between 10 and 30 pounds (5-15 kg) of body weight and make impressive strength gains in a single 2-month cycle with anabolic steroids. The steroids can make the athlete's total blood volume increase by up to 20%, which results in a permanent muscle-pump look, with sometimes impressive vascularity. The calories that the athlete burns per day can drastically increase during a cycle, which makes it much easier for them to lose excess body fat. Enhanced bodybuilders often eat between 5000 and 8000 calories per day, which is about twice as much as natural bodybuilders.

Some frequent adverse effects of testosterone and anabolic steroids are: elevated blood pressure, increase in bad cholesterol, severe acne, baldness, structural changes in the heart, liver and kidney damage, development of female breast tissue, sexual dysfunction, infertility, shrinking testicles, prostate enlargement, aggression and depression, masculinization in women, increase of body hair, and in extreme cases congestive heart failure, heart attacks, sudden cardiac death, liver and prostate cancer.

Human Growth Hormone (HGH)

The use of human growth hormone can give an extra boost in muscle growth on top of the gains made by anabolic steroids. While anabolic steroids make existing muscle cells grow in size, growth hormone can increases muscle mass through actual creation of new muscle cells. Since bodybuilders have started using growth hormone in the early 1990's, top bodybuilders have gained on average about 20 lbs (10 kg) in lean muscle mass. Because of its high price, growth hormone is mainly used by competitive athletes. So far, there is no effective method to test whether an athlete has used growth hormone or not.

Some possible side effects of using growth hormones are: thickening of the bones of the jaw, fingers and toes, joint pain, nerve compression symptoms, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, reduced sexual function, and cancer.

Growth hormone also stimulates the growth of all internal organs except the brain. This is why most Mr. Olympia contenders since the early 90's have a bloated midsection and look like they are 6 months pregnant. Also listen to this very interesting interview with the legendary Serge Nubret about how the use of doping has impacted modern bodybuilding.

Insulin and Insulin-Like Growth Factors

Around the mid 1990's, bodybuilders started to combine human growth hormone with insulin and insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) in order to reach new levels of muscle size and density. My guess is that these drugs are worth another 10 to 16 lbs (5 - 8 kg) of lean muscle mass. Inappropriate use of insulin is very dangerous and can lead to diabetes, permanent insulin resistance, and sudden insulin shock, which may result in a coma or even death. The risks of using IGFs are not well known yet, but cancer and diabetes are frequently mentioned. So far, there exists no effective method to test whether an athlete has used insulin and IGFs or not.

HGH and IGF-1 effect on lean muscle

Fat Burning Drugs

Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), clenbuterol, ephedrine and diuretics are also very popular among bodybuilders, mainly to reduce excess body fat to levels below 3% at contest time, and to get that dry appearance of paper-thin skin sucked tightly to the muscle. Especially diuretics are very dangerous because they can cause severe dehydration, sometimes resulting in sudden death. Another dangerous fat burning drug sometimes used by bodybuilders is DNP (2,4-dinitrophenol).

To Use or Not to Use

Although the non-therapeutic use of the above discussed drugs is illegal, I guess it's up to each individual to decide whether he wants to use them or not; and whether he wants to go through life as a bodybuilder, a natural bodybuilder or a true natural bodybuilder. However, before making the big step, please consider the following disadvantages of being a drug user:

  • Non-therapeutic use of these drugs is illegal in most countries.
  • If you are a competing athlete you may be cheating and test positive.
  • You will experience side effects and may be taking serious health risks (see above). You should be taking additional drugs to prevent or treat the side effects.
  • Drug use may be addictive. You may lose your motivation to train without them.
  • You may have to spend lots of money. Some drugs are very expensive.
  • You give the sport a bad image. Bodybuilding is already very strongly associated with drug use.
  • You may have to lie about your drug use. Will you tell it to your girlfriend or wife? What if she finds out? Are you ready to live a lie?
  • Most women don't like chemical bodybuilders. They find a Mr. Olympia type of physique, or anything close to that, very unattractive.
  • You might have to buy your drugs on the black market or the internet, and end up with low quality, fake or even dangerous stuff.
  • You cannot really be proud of your results as most of them exist because of the drugs, not because of good genetics, proper diet, and hard training.
  • How far will you go? Which and how much drugs will you use? How much money will you spend on them? Will you stop when you get female breasts, lose your hair, get severe acne and become impotent, or will you continue till you get serious heart disease, diabetes or even cancer?
  • When you stop using the drugs, you will lose a big part of your muscles.
  • Is it really worth all the troubles?

How to Recognize a Steroid User

Whenever I see a big muscular guy in the gym, I always ask myself the question whether he would be a true natural bodybuilder or not. Unfortunately you often cannot answer that question with certainty. It is especially difficult to say, if they haven't been using drugs for a longer period of time. However, if they are in the middle of a steroid cycle, a trained eye can often clearly see it from their appearance. Usually they gain lots of muscle mass in only a few weeks. They look like if all their muscles are permanently pumped up, even when they are not lifting weights. Their muscles really jump out, look hard, full, and often vascular. Their metabolism is up to twice as high as normal (often above 5000 calories per day).

Unfortunately there exists no test that can determine a bodybuilder's detailed drug use in the far past, and doping test results are very easy to manipulate. Therefore, if you really want to know whether a bodybuilder is true natural, or which drugs he has been using to build his physique, you will have to ask him. The standard answer to this question is, however, always "No, I have never used any drugs". However, if you get to know the guy better, develop some friendship, give him some complements on his physique, and especially if he thinks that you are a drug user yourself or interested in becoming one, he might well loosen up and start telling you at least part of his true story.

There are, however, two simple and quite innocent questions that can help you in many cases figure out whether a guy has ever been on steroids or not:

  • Did you ever compete in bodybuilding contests or are you planning to do so?
  • What is your highest daily calorie intake when you are in good shape?

Remember, about 99% of all competitive bodybuilders use anabolic steroids, certainly the heavy guys with a fat free mass index (FFMI) greater than 27. Also remember that heavy anabolic steroid use can double the daily amount of calories burned. If you are still not sure, grab the guy's balls. If they are the size of a peanut, you can be sure that he is on steroids. If there are no balls at all, you're dealing with a female bodybuilder. ;-)

What Do I Think about Bodybuilders Who Use Drugs?

I love to watch the top professional bodybuilders. I love to watch contest and training videos. I have been at the Mr. Olympia contest in 1997, the Musclemania Wold Championships in 2007, and I am dreaming to go once to the Arnold Classic. I love to work out in gyms where there are many big, muscular, strong man training in the hard core fashion, because it creates a motivating atmosphere. Several of my friends are enhanced bodybuilders. I respect everybody's choice to be a true natural bodybuilder or not.

true natural bodybuilder at FIBO 2009 - Dennis James

What I don't like is all the myths, hypocrisy and lies about drug use. However, I understand that most bodybuilders don't want to admit their drug use because it is illegal after all, and it's not really cool to admit that most of your muscles are the result of drugs rather than good genetics, proper diet and hard training. Ronnie Coleman at least is an honest guy. He always says to the public, after he wins a contest, that he could never have done it without the help of GOD (Gallons of Drugs). ;-)

One of the main reasons why I have made this website, however, is to convince people that bodybuilding does not by definition implies drug use, and that it is definitely possible to build quite an impressive physique without any drugs at all. Personally I have added almost 50 lbs (22 kg) of muscle to my frame by true natural bodybuilding, which I think is definitely worth the effort.

In Memory of Dead Bodybuilders

In memory of some famous bodybuilding champions that died an early death:

  • Carlos Rodriguez died 1991 age 48 stomach cancer
  • Mohammed Benaziza died 1992 age 33 clenbuterol injection
  • Ray McNeil died 1995 age 29 killed by his wife
  • Andreas Münzer died 1996 age 31 liver and then kidneys failed
  • Mike Mentzer died 2001 age 49 heart complications
  • Ray Mentzer died 2001 age 47 cardiovascular disease
  • Hans Hopstaken died 2002 age 45 heart condition or pneumonia
  • Ron Teufel died 2002 age 45 liver failure
  • Scott Klein died 2003 age 30 kidney failure and heart failure
  • Claudia Bianchi (female) died 2004 age 34 blocked arteries
  • Derrick Whitsett died 2004 age 38 heart attack
  • Marianna Komlos (female) died 2004 age 35 breast cancer
  • Robert Benavente died 2004 age 30 massive heart attack
  • Sonny Schmidt died 2004 age 51 cancer
  • Charles Durr died 2005 age 44 enlarged heart
  • Don Youngblood died 2005 age 51 massive heart attack
  • Fannie Barrios (female) died 2005 age 41 apparent stroke
  • Paul Demayo died 2005 age 38 heroin overdose
  • Eduardo Kawak died 2006 age 47 heart attack
  • Eric Otero died 2006 age 37 hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Johnny Fuller died 2006 age 62 cancer
  • Dan Puckett died 2007 age 22 heart condition
  • Greg Deferro 2007 age 53 heart disease
  • Rob Sager died 2007 age 29 heart failure
  • Shelley Beattie (female) died 2008 age 39 suicidal depression
  • Art Atwood died 2011 age 38 heart attack
  • Frank Hillebrand died 2011 age 46 heart attack
  • Luke Wood died 2011 age 35 kidney failure and heart failure
  • Casey Viator died 2013 age 62 heart attack
  • Ed van Amsterdam died 2013 age 40 heart attack
  • Daniele Seccarecci died 2013 age 33 heart attack
  • Greg Kovacs died 2013 age 44 heart attack
  • Matt Duvall died 2013 age 40 heart attack
  • Nasser El Sonbatey died 2013 age 47 kidney failure
  • Terri Harris (female) died 2013 age 49 massive heart attack
  • Mike Martarazzo died 2014 age 49 heart attack
  • Vince Comerford died 2014 age 52 heart issues
  • Shawn Robinson died 2014 age 31 heart issues
  • Alex Azarian died 2015 age 45 undisclosed cause
  • Baito Abbaspour died 2015 age 37 vasculitis
  • Rod Koontz died 2015 age 63 cancer
  • Dallas McCarver died 2017 age 26 heart attack
  • Rich Piana died 2017 age 46 enlarged heart

And let's not forget those who are still hanging on:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger heart valve surgery still living
  • Boyer Coe quadruple heart bypass still living
  • Danny Padilla heart attack still living
  • Don Long kidney failure still living
  • Ed Corney heart attack and 2 strokes still living
  • Flex Wheeler kidney transplant still living
  • Mike Morris kidney problems still living
  • Tom Prince kidney failure still living

Case Study: Dallas McCarver

Dallas McCarver, a successful IFBB professional bodybuilder (260 lbs at 6'), died in 2017 at the age of 26 from chemical bodybuilding. His autopsy report revealed that he suffered from a very severe case of organomegaly (abnormal enlargement of organs) due to the use of growth promoting drugs and hormones. His heart was nearly 3 times the size of an average human heart, his longs were nearly double the size of normal lungs, his liver was 3 times the size of the average human liver, and he also had enlarged kidneys. Organomegaly explains at least partly the bloated stomachs that we see in modern chemical bodybuilding. The life-threatening health conditions McCarver had at the age of 26 were severe concentric left ventricular hypertrophy (risk for heart failure), severe coronary artery atherosclerosis (risk for heart attack), and thyroid cancer. What caused his sudden dead was a fatal heart attack. The most common cause of early death among chemical bodybuilders is a cardiac event caused by an enlarged heart with concentric left ventricular hypertrophy and/or coronary artery atherosclerosis, as explained in this video.

None of these health risks you will experience with true natural bodybuilding. In fact, TNBB will significantly improve your cardiovascular health and decrease your chance to get cancer.


Although the modern doping products are very powerful in promoting muscle growth and body fat reduction, better think twice before starting to use them and inform yourself very well about their side effects and health risks. If you are hoping for a long and healthy life, you probably do not want to become a chemical bodybuilder. A must-see for everybody who considers starting with anabolic steroids is the documentary on steroids produced by Nat. Geogr. Chan. One of the best books with practical information on anabolic steroids is Anabolics by William Llewellyn.