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Natural and Frustrated?
Let me begin by saying this article is not a slam for those who aren’t natural, it’s simply an article that gives an insight into a natural’s life. My testimonies are of truth and nothing more.
There are many ways to look at competing at a natural level. In this ego-building sport we like to call bodybuilding, naturals are few and far between. The majority of the time, people start out natural, but somewhere along the line move on to “bigger and better” things if you must say. The truth of the matter is that there are many frustrations that natural guys like me have gone through and continue to deal with on a daily basis. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a depressing way of life; it just goes to show the various obstacles that many must overcome.
This is my story:
I have been clean my entire life. When I say clean, I’m referring to no steroids, growth hormones, or insulin of any kind. I began this journey in my early days of college. After seeing my first bodybuilding show, I was hooked instantly. It was all I could do to not think about it every day following. That desire turned into determination. I wanted to be the biggest, most symmetrical, and vascular guy on that stage. More importantly, I wanted to do this naturally. I wanted to show the impact that someone could have on this sports’ reputation as a drug-induced environment. It seemed silly to me that the only notoriety was given to guys that use anabolic steroids and/or HGH. What started out as an adventure into new territory turned into a quest against many obstacles. I trained for a solid year, focusing no longer on partying until late hours and using alcohol as way to “release” stress. Instead, my energy was concentrated on one thing; winning.
The show was July 5th, and I had 12 weeks to prepare. I started late, but I have a leaner body frame, so it worked out best. My trainer had been successful in the Jr. USA’s, so I asked him for his advice, which was to ‘‘never veer from the road I was traveling.’’ It surprised me to hear that, but after some time I understood. His quote to me was, “I’ve done more junk to fill this room up… and you know what it’s gotten me; nothing more than a few name drops and countless trophies.” Taking this in stride, I really started focusing on training to my best ability. Natural guys must be overly delicate in order to look good on stage. This isn’t saying that non-naturals have it easy; I’m just referring to having to pay attention to detail. Natural bodybuilding diets require as little amounts of cheating as possible and relentless cardio; the leaner the frame, the better chance of winning a title. Natural guys are known for their shredded stage appearance, so I had a lot of work to do. I found it interesting when I went into gyms with my shirts saying “NO I’m not on ROIDS, but thanks for asking.” The responses I got were not that desirable, in fact, I was flat out starred at and questioned on many occasions. “Why are you natural? So you think you’re better than me?” were some of the countless questions posed to me while training for the show. The fact remains that there is a lot of adversity lying in a natural guys way. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ever tempted to take supplements, but who isn’t? Of course I would like the easy way out, but that’s not how I wanted it to go down. It sounds cliché referring to it like that, but if you have ever been determined to do something no matter the hardships, it feels almost euphoric to overcome. And this, in fact, was what I did. I completed my diet perfectly and came in just on time. I probably could have lost some more water weight, but for my first show it was good enough for me; I finished 1st that year at the INBA’s Natural Muscle Madness. Looking back, I really am glad I pushed through that because it gave me and my surrounding community notoriety that a natural bodybuilder existed and still won.
In relation to that testimony, I learned a lot about the frustrations that are associated with natural guys. It’s overwhelming to witness someone’s gains quicker and bigger than yours.
In fact, a lot of natural guys struggle with this jealous fit.
Steroids allow many things to occur that can discourage naturals:
Their bodies can regenerate and repair quicker, allowing more lifts per week
Increase rate of protein synthesis
Raise testosterone levels which, in return, increase aggressiveness
Tremendous levels of strength leading to massive muscle capacity gains
I’m not saying guys that use get to train easier, but it does however offer some benefits to the routine. Natural guys must be on target with their diets when counting down the days until contest. Cheat meals are almost non-existent because your bodies aren’t in a constant anabolic state. In relation, the cardio must be met with gold standards if you want to look good. Veins are a naturals “calling card” and vascularity doesn’t come without a lean frame. Steroids allow this look to appear at a faster rate. This however doesn’t mean that just because your natural you can boast and claim to be the best, because believe me, you’re not. What it does mean is that you are willing to overcome the adversity and struggles in order to look your personal best. Yes you’re going to have to train equally, if not harder than the meatheads that are benching 400 lbs. In many cases, there is only so much you’re going to be able to do in order to break your genetics. Someone like myself who has we will say “challenged” calves, must really work hard on sets and recovery. Natural guys must always remember that we don’t repair as quickly, so you must get it right when you do, for you can’t come back in 2 days to make up for a crappy chest workout.
Struggles also arise with injuries. If you refuse to take performance enhancers, and yet still lift as heavy as possible, chances are you will or have seen an injury. This is quite common in the natural realm of life, due to the deterioration of joints and cartilage. As the muscle continues to hypertrophy, you guys must also keep in mind that ligament and tissue growth in joint caosules do not grow. This runs risk of damage and possible injury. A way to keep your career in good spirits would be to incorporate stretching into your routine. Stretching will do wonders to your body, as long as it’s done effectively. Dynamic stretches should be implemented before the workout, followed by a static stretch to end your tike at the gym.
Many natural Professionals will agree that in opposition to steroids or HGH, they chose this route in bodybuilding to alleviate their body of potentially harmful side effects. This is certainly true, even though there are athletes who compete naturally, yet inject Human Growth Hormones because it’s undetectable. For these people, I’m sorry to say that I’m going to agree to disagree with your natural status. This drug is just as unfair to the really natural guys as steroids are to you. HGH increases muscle tissue, protein synthesis, bone density, and even attributes to maintaining a lower body fat percentage. This is another reason I chose to compete naturally. I didn’t want to lose a competition and ask myself “damn, did I lose because he was better, or did he just have a better pharmacy than me?” This is so true with modern day amateurs who win NOT based on if they knew how to body build better, but instead, what and when they took to get there? I wanted to be able to say that the guy who beat me was simply better, no questions asked.
In terms of steroid complications, many athletes may escape without harm. Others, however, suffer from various side effects such as:
kidney and liver disease
Depression and anxiety
Achiness in joint capsules
Insomnia and night terrors
Increased risk of prostate cancer
Violent mood swings associated with psychosis
To me, this simply isn’t worth risking. It’s agreeable to say you could develop these from simply being clean due to genetics, but the chances are dramatically less.
In reference to supplements I will promote, I know for sure that if natural guys are contemplating high protein diets, they should highly consider using a liver fix such as milk thistle and dandelion root. These help to filtrate the liver and protect the kidneys when losing water weight as your drop carbs. It’s important to take multivitamins as well such as flaxseed, omega 3s, B-12 complex, vitamin C, and/or glucosamine chondroitin. Your body is under stress as you diet and lift heavy, so secure your immune systems with the proper medicine.
My final point is simply to evaluate whether or not using supplemental drugs are for you. I have a lot of friends that compete unnaturally, and that is OK to me. I’m the last person who is going to judge how someone lives their life, but it’s simply not for me. I don’t condone supplemental steroids in sports, rather it is professional or not. I chose the route that involved risk and hard work. In the end, my look was better than I expected, and I hope to continue down this path until my days in the gym are done.
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