I want to make one thing crystal clear. Competing is not healthy.
As a competitor I am not a poster child for health. I feel like a lot of people seem to forget that, and I get it-I watch what I eat closely, I am very regimented in my workouts and cardio, which are the keys to healthier living. And sure, that's how things started, I wanted to lose a few lbs, be in a more physically fit condition. Then I fell in love with the gym and wanted to take it a step farther. When I started competing it was not for my health, it was to become a competitor. I am an athlete. Bodybuilding is my sport, and I love my sport.
To be “stage lean” requires getting to a body fat level that is considered to be below optimal. It requires, a lot of time, a lot of effort. Competing is an extreme. Being an IFBB pro is trying to become the best at your sport, the same as football, baseball, basketball etc. and if you haven’t heard- the pros in those sports are not always healthy. To be the best you will have to push passed barriers that gen pop wouldn’t (and maybe shouldn’t, that’s for you to decide). That’s just the reality. I don’t compete to be healthy, I compete to push my fucking limits.
We accept the football player with one too many concussions. We accept the runner with ankles of a 90 year old. We accept the Olympic gymnast with low enough body fat that she stunts her growth. Bodybuilding is no different. We are just athletes who love what we do enough to make some sacrifices.
I’m not sorry if this offends you or the ideas you had about competing. I want competitors to know what they’re getting into and general population to realize some of the people they’re inspired by will need to be more extreme then they need to be. I will never sit here and pretend to be the epitome of health, and I never want to see someone trying to get in better shape and live a better life thinking doing what competitors do will get them there.
Not all levels of bodybuilding have to be this way- you can compete for fun, and you do not need to push the body quite as far. There are natural confederations where competition is not quite as fierce. But if you want to make it to the pro level (in IFBB), there will be unhealthy times
This is the most important: there is a difference between unhealthy and dangerous. LEARN THAT DIFFERENCE. You should never feel the need to go into dangerous territory. Anyone one who makes you feel differently should be avoided.
it’s up to you and no one else to decide how far you are willing to push those limits. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to decide something is taking it too far. Just because someone else is willing to push a little farther does not make them more committed than you.
There are healthier ways than others to go about nutrition and training, just because something is healthier doesn’t mean it is any less valid. Suffering does not always equal more progress.
There will ALWAYS be exceptions to the rules. You will encounter a select few who can get stage lean on high calories minimal cardio. But that is not typical.