By Leo Robert. Former Mr. Universe Pro
It has been with a heavy heart that I have watched steroids take over bodybuilding, a sport that has given so much back to me over my lifetime. And no, I am not talking about financial gains when one considers the prize money allotted to titleholders during the era in which I competed. Rather the undeniable exhilaration of a strong and healthy body bound by hard work and discipline - this is where the true rewards lie. Through this experience comes self-assurance, power and confidence to take on other challenges in every part of your life. Bodybuilding is a daily commitment of practicing a healthy lifestyle which becomes a grounding force that promotes harmony and a strong sense of well-being.
When viewing a bodybuilding contest today, I feel restless as I watch the competitors cross the stage in a posing routine that they are barely able to execute restricted by the huge appendages which once were muscle.
Modern media has promoted an image that has permeated the status quo. The human body was not built to resemble the expectations of today's generation of bodybuilders. Society has become accustomed to seeing huge oversized muscles and veins often grotesque in nature. Sadly this has impacted the sport of bodybuilding in a profound way by setting standards that can only be achieved through artificial means. This image of muscularity is perceived as the yardstick for every hopeful bodybuilder. Those who are able to successfully build their bodies naturally often feel intimidated by this sad reality.
It has always been my belief that size, proportion, definition and symmetry must work together. At all times, I trained for my health first and competition second. Often competitors today go through cycles of extreme training, dieting and dehydration. During my ten years of competitive training, I never wavered from my diet or training even when I was in between contests. This practice enabled me to progress in my career and to always be prepared for the next competition or invitation as a Guest Poser.
I cannot comment on the types of steroids available to athletes today. Researching that topic made my skin crawl particularly when I read a news report that some steroids are laced with “joint-strengthening human growth hormones”. It was difficult to conceive that the weight of those inflamed appendages compromise the very joints that support them. Meanwhile the heart, liver, kidneys and other organs continue to sustain often irreparable damage that has led to many deaths within the bodybuilding community.
There is a strong distinction between health foods/nutritional supplements and what is described as performance enhancing supplements and drugs. If you research the Internet, you will find so-called “healthy” products that claim to mimic the muscle growth effects of steroids. I have to wonder if this is meant to lull the consumer into a false sense of security. We all need macronutrients to sustain life and maintain health, i.e., carbohydrates, protein, fat and water. Minerals and vitamins are a by-product of these and with the deterioration of the quality of our food, the need for supplementation increases. Whether each one of us is equipped with the knowledge of knowing what supplements and dosage our bodies require is something to consider. Each one of us has a unique genetic make-up, metabolism and lifestyle. I recommend that knowledge and moderation be your guide.
It is easy to get pulled into the wave of the thousands of products available in the marketplace today that promise superhero-like results. Despite all the claims make health your primary focus. If you select a nutritional product based on the benefits to your health than it will positively impact your training. When you enhance your health, your body will respond in extraordinary ways. You will perform better, become more stronger, recover more easily, have increased energy and endurance and every cell in your body will renew and be revitalized.
If you hear your inner voice saying not enough research has been done to test the long-term effects of this product, listen to it. Technology and research are moving so quickly that it gives little time for us fragile mortals to catch up. Avoid the temptation of choosing a so-called shortcut that may or may not achieve short-term benefits. And, by taking this product, what are the underlying consequences to your health? Research any supplement that you are considering taking and ask yourself will this product truly benefit my body and well-being? If you do not have a clear and positive answer to that question, then move on. Health is your most precious possession.
I continue to remain hopeful that the sport of bodybuilding will come full-circle, as it began so many years ago - when athletes relied upon their own physical prowess and harnessed the human spirit to become champions.