Is true natural bodybuilding healthy?

Hi there, if you’ve clicked on this article, you’re probably looking to know whether natural bodybuilding is healthy or not.

You could also simply be wondering if getting into fitness is a good idea.

We often hear that enhanced bodybuilding is definitely unhealthy because of performance-enhancing drug use. When talking about natural bodybuilding, we could then say that it is very healthy since we do not use any steroids. 

But is that completely true?

Is true natural bodybuilding really healthy? 

Does bodybuilding without PEDs make it a safe and healthy practice? 

natural bodybuilder in the locker room

What is YOUR definition of healthy?

By some definitions, being healthy means you’re not likely to become sick. Others will say that being healthy is having managed to increase your “normal state” to “a superior state” in terms of brain functions, physical performance…

healthy natural bodybuilder

In the case of natural bodybuilding, we could say that looking better will give you more confidence and a happier state of mind resulting in being healthier. We could also say that reducing your body-fat percentage and having a toned physique will help your organs function better and allow your body to move better, resulting in being healthier. 

So before reading this article, you might want to think about what YOUR definition of being healthy is!

Natural bodybuilding is healthier than enhanced bodybuilding

It is true to say that natural bodybuilding leads to less complications than enhanced bodybuilding. The fact you are not using performance enhancing-drugs will protect your health in the long run. PEDs can have a very negative impact on your health such as damaging the liver, increasing blood pressure etc. 

It is not a recent development that many bodybuilders who abuse steroids are then facing the consequences as they get older. Now, natural bodybuilding does not involve PEDs… but the practice remains the same. It is still important to ask ourselves whether the practice itself is healthy or not.

If natural bodybuilding is healthier than enhanced bodybuilding. Does it mean natural bodybuilding is healthy? 

What is natural bodybuilding?

Natural bodybuilding is a movement within the bodybuilding world where we ban the use of performance-enhancing drugs to attain a desired shape.

natural bodybuilder coach

In practice, it is basically lifting weights and wanting to increase muscle mass overtime. Practicing natural bodybuilding will also lead you to follow the right nutrition plan to grow along with lifting weights. 

Is lifting weights over a long period of time healthy? Also, is it necessary for your body to carry that muscle mass? Is the food you eat while bulking and cutting healthy? Are the processes of bulking and cutting healthy?

Being honest, natural bodybuilding is not the healthiest of sports

Just because the word ‘natural’ is part of the term ‘natural bodybuilding’, it doesn’t mean it is a healthy practice. We will consider many reasons why you might not consider natural bodybuilding as being healthy. In this article, we will make a list of the pros and cons of natural bodybuilding. For example, acknowledging the fact you are building a lot of muscle that just isn’t necessary for your body to survive. 

You do not need muscles “extra” to survive

The truth is, if you look at bodybuilding or natural bodybuilding from a biological perspective, it is pointless. While these “extra” muscles might help you prevent injuries and be tougher in many physical situations, you do not need them. 

You do not need big muscles to survive and thrive in life. But as we will see in the benefits, building an athletic shape can contribute to your overall well being and thus, give you confidence or extra strength to carry life’s weight on your shoulders! 

natural bodybuilder working his brachialis

Other than that, big muscles are just making your heart work harder to pump all the blood everywhere. That is why massive bodybuilders who take steroids have a hard time breathing. Their heart is pumping excessively to feed all these muscles. 

Even though as a natural bodybuilder you will probably never get to the size of a pro enhanced athlete, you can still reach a massive size and feel slightly out of breath from minimal activity, especially when you reach your bulk peak. That is when you carry the most muscle. Any natural bodybuilder that is lean will probably not carry enough muscle mass to feel these effects. 

Natural Bodybuilding can be tough for your joints

Bodybuilding or natural bodybuilding will also take a lot out of your joints. Sure, you can have an approach where you don’t try to go heavy all the time. But at some point, you’re still lifting quite heavy. Even if you can do 20 reps at 100kg on the bench press and it is pretty light for you, that’s still heavy in the grand scheme of things. 

natural bodybuilding can be tough for your joints

Your joints are likely to take a hit in the long run and no matter how well you practice bodybuilding or natural bodybuilding, you’re most likely going to damage them. Making sure to warm up and stretch can help you make the least damage possible. To be honest, if you make sure to follow these rules, it can’t be worse than carrying a backpack as a school kid on a daily basis or sitting down at your desk all year around. 

Most of the sports can be body-traumatising, not just natural bodybuilding

A lot of sports aren’t that healthy and often joints are traumatised. If you take tennis, for example, there is a lot of stop and go in the movements. If you take rowing, this can definitely build you a good back but your joints might also suffer. At the end of the day, it is all about trying to make the best out of it and following good practices to prevent these issues.

Natural bodybuilding can be extreme 

If we also look at most natural bodybuilders, we all have to bulk. When we bulk and reach a certain level, it can be as much as 3500, 4000, 4500 or even more calories per day. It is sometimes hard to reach this amount of calories by only eating healthy. A lot of young natural bodybuilders will eat junk food to reach the calories or drink some dirty but tasty shakes. 

hardcore flexing natural bodybuilder in front of the camera

There is no issue with that and to be honest, it kind of works. It’s just that it’s not very healthy. Sure, it’d be better to reach 4500 calories with salad and fish, but the fact is, that would be a painful process. Therefore, looking at the average natural bodybuilder, with the amount of calories they need to eat most of the time it would be virtually impossible to fit enough calories in each day with healthy food so they resort to junk food. That can’t be good for your health. 

On the other end of the spectrum, cutting down to a competition level can also be unhealthy. When you approach 6 or 7 % body fat you put your body in a dangerous state. If you do many competitions in your life, you are then repeating this back and forth by losing and gaining weight which can definitely impact your health

Natural bodybuilding can still lead to mental health issues

Steroids would multiply these issues we are about to talk about by 5 times. But it does not mean you can’t develop these issues without using PEDs. We are talking about body-dysmorphia, bigorexia or an overall lack of confidence. 

Natural bodybuilding will be healthy mentally if you have considered why you are going to practice it before you get into it. Once that is clear for you, it should work out for you. 

Most people get into fitness and bodybuilding because they don’t like the way they look, and a lot of them will fall for the “never satisfied” obsession.

Make sure you know why you are doing into it! 

Your family and friends will most likely not understand

If you are a teenager, be prepared that your family and friends will question your bodybuilding activity. Although bodybuilding and natural bodybuilding are becoming more and more popular, you will always have people around you telling you that you are not doing a real sport or that putting on too much muscle is ugly etc… 

woman with great shape in the gym on the smith machine

Truth is, if you like it and know the reasons why you are there and it helps you with your personal development, just carry on. Eventually people will stop bothering you with that! There will always be something that people will disagree with, whatever you do, so with that in mind just carry on lifting weights 🙂

Right, enough nagging.

Natural bodybuilding has a lot of benefits

Natural bodybuilding teaches you discipline

Although natural bodybuilding is not always very healthy, it still offers a lot of benefits. Determination and working hard to reach new heights. People will often say bodybuilding isn’t a sport but it is probably one of the hardest practices out there. You do not only have to lift a lot of weights. You also have to watch yourself in the kitchen and recover enough.

young natural bodybuilder flexing

Natural bodybuilding or bodybuilding in general makes you think. It’s all about looking good on a cut and choosing the right exercises for yourself. It’s all about understanding your body shape and knowing what to fix and how to fix it. It’s also an art. Posing requires more work than people would think, and it is quite exhausting. 

This requires some crazy discipline which bodybuilders should be proud of.

In my opinion, we could also argue that natural bodybuilding is even harder than enhanced bodybuilding. Natural bodybuilding requires you to be more patient, to be better at programming etc. There is no aspect of luck about it.

The natural way simply looks good

Natural bodybuilding also gives you a great look. The natural way just has that thing that enhanced bodybuilding does not particularly have. No side effects, no acne, no redness of the skin, no 3D delts. It might not look huge but it looks “wow”.

natural bodybuilder flexing his biceps

Natural bodybuilding will prevent you from injuries

Yes, some people hurt their joints and pull muscles, but if you do things safely, because your muscles are getting stronger they usually protect all those areas.

It’s when you stop lifting that you realise your back starts hurting. Lifting weight with consistency will prevent injuries and feeling chronic pain.

Hormone release and other neurotransmitters

As with many sports, once you get going and start to see the results, you start enjoying it. More than that, after your workouts, your body rewards you with endorphins, dopamine and other neurotransmitters. 

woman feeling good after a gym session

Physical activity also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These hormones will usually be released as your body is under stress and helps you cope with the amount of pressure training gives.

Being in shape for the rest of your life

Muscle memory for natural bodybuilders is real. If you have been training hard for a decade, you will never go back to being skinny again. You feed yourself with a few meals and you can already feel your muscles swelling up and your body asking you to go back to the gym. Strength might not come back as quickly as your size, nonetheless it comes much quicker than when you are a complete newbie.

natural bodybuilder showing his back with the sky

Natural bodybuilding or bodybuilding is both an individual and social sport

We can often think when starting natural bodybuilding/bodybuilding is that it is a very individual sport, which in a way translates to asocial. In reality, going to the gym is one of the best ways to meet people and make great friends. 

gym friends together spending a good time in the gym

Unlike many social sports like handball, volleyball, football, where it’s often the same team, here you always go to the gym thinking that you might meet someone new, every single day. 

The gym turns out to be one of the best places to socialise. While it is a very social place, you still are practicing an individual sport. Having both of these aspects in one sport is a great outcome!

You gain a lot of strength practicing natural bodybuilding

You will gain a lot of strength if you train like a real natural bodybuilder, and this will have an impact on your life in general. You won’t be the guy or girl getting tired from carrying their luggage in between two flights. You will be the guy in the family we ask to move stuff around! (I actually don’t know if that’s a good thing, it can get annoying). This strength will have cross-overs to other sports. Just like Charlie mentioned in his interview, he has noticed that the strength he gained really helped him improve in other sports. Combat sports like judo or jiu-jitsu could highly benefit from your experience in natural bodybuilding.

bodybuilding gets you stronger

You get what you’ll put in

There is no magic in natural bodybuilding. While in enhanced bodybuilding, taking steroids can almost do all of the work if you are genetically responsive, natural bodybuilding won’t work that way. Yes, some people will have better genetics than you, but in the end, the results you get are proportional to the work you put in both in and outside the gym. The sport is hard and not many people are willing to get in shape as much as you are ;).

sweaty natural bodybuilding session

Should you get yourself into natural bodybuilding?

Yes, definitely! If you compare the pros and the cons, you can in my opinion outperform the cons. Let’s do a quick recap:

Pros:

  • Natural bodybuilding is very social
  • Natural bodybuilding will allow you to be in great shape for the rest of your life
  • Practicing the sport regularly makes you feel good and helps you cope with stress
  • It teaches you discipline
  • You will be more solid and avoid injuries
  • The natural way looks good
  • You will learn how to make diet plans

Cons:

  • I can’t remember 🙂

Does Rachel Mclish look unhealthy to you?

I made an article on Rachel Mclish and how great of a natural bodybuilder she is. In the article, we learn how to train to get a physique similar to hers (if you are a woman, I recommend you read it). Looking at her in her sixties, she still looks incredible and looks to be perfectly healthy – at least from the outside.

Rachel Mclish showing her biceps

Her arms are still showing veins and she seems to be well toned. Her attention to good dieting has probably also helped her looking that good on the outside. If all of us can expect to look like that because we practice natural bodybuilding, we are setting ourselves up for a bright future!

Conclusion: is natural bodybuilding healthy?

In my opinion and following my definition of being healthy, I believe natural bodybuilding is neither healthy or unhealthy. I think the balance is even. The question is: will the practice of the sport benefit you for where you are, what you want to become, what your goals are and your approach to life? If the benefits of natural bodybuilding like discipline, learning how to diet, surpass your current self and meeting good people outweigh the fact your family and friends might contradict your activity, then natural bodybuilding will be a healthy practice for you.