Most people in the modern?world?look at images like the one of Tom Venuto in stage-ready condition’to the left, as being the iconic portrait of a healthy metabolism. Likewise, I think a lot of health and fitness writers and other people in health circles glue the concept of?health with people’s selfish desires to?meet the?current aesthetic ideal set forth by the bodybuilding, fitness,?and?modeling industries. Sticking these two?concepts together makes the desire to diet down and overexercise to the?point of extreme leanness?even more desirable, and provides rational justification in one’s mind for putting so much time and effort into what, under the surface, has nothing to do with health and everything to do with a desire to achieve an elite level of awesome dominance over other members of the same sex.
Basically, this is all a lie.
Doing a bunch of exercising and dieting and getting down to very low levels of body fat is extremely destructive to the metabolism. With the central role metabolic rate plays in total health and proper function of basically all our body’s systems – both physical and mental/emotional, it’s extremely risky and even dangerous to?attempt to do such a thing.? Outwardly signs of low metabolic rate such as low resting pulse and low body temperature are just as severe in fitness athletes and bodybuilders in a stage-ready state as that found in those with eating disorders.
Bodybuilders and fitness athletes are often in denial about this, pointing out that resting metabolic rate is much higher than say, an anorexic runway model. Yes, a bodybuilder has a higher total metabolic rate because he or she has more lean body mass. But metabolic rate calculated just in terms of total calorie usage is irrelevant. That’s like saying a 200-pound 70-year old woman?has a higher metabolic rate than a 45-pound 7-year old girl?because’she needs more calories each day’to maintain her weight.
Um, I don’t think so. What matters is calorie burn per pound of lean tissue, which is why markers like body temperature and resting pulse are better indicators of one’s metabolism than calorie burn. To help solidify this concept’so we can move on, here’s a quiz question…
Who has a lower metabolism?
- Natural bodybuilder with 150 pounds of lean mass that burns 1900 calories per day at rest
- Anorexic with?75 pounds of lean mass that burns 1000 calories per day at rest
If you said the anorexic has a higher metabolic rate,?you win! (nothing)
Okay, one more…
Who has a higher metabolism?
- Old granny with?75 pounds of lean mass that burns 1200 calories per day at rest
- 4-year old kid with 25 pounds of lean mass that burns 1200 calories per day at rest
The kid. Obviously. Three times higher if these were real numbers. Okay, moving on. Hopefully that diversion was conceptually helpful, and will also make your eyebrows crinkle the next time you hear a diet author instruct you to gain a pound of muscle because “muscle burns calories and will make your metabolism higher.”? I wrote more about this in an old post called The Definition of Metabolism.?
Let’s look more?carefully at’this. A week ago a study came out documenting some of the changes that a natural bodybuilder underwent while dropping body fat in preparation for a bodybuilding competition. He turned 27 during the study. These are the changes he experienced. I didn’t see body temperature mentioned, but the drop in heart rate and testosterone is freaking scary and reminiscent of the postI did several months ago on?Coldmember, a young kid who completely destroyed his?body and mind?pursuing these ideals. ????
“Heart rate decreased from 53 to 27 bpm during preparation and increased to 46 bpm within one month following competition; brachial blood pressure dropped from 132/69 mmHg to 104/56 mmHg during preparation and returned to 116/64 mmHg at 6 months following competition; percent body fat declined from 14.8% to 4.5% during preparation and returned to 14.6% during recovery; strength decreased during preparation and did not fully recover during 6 months of recovery; testosterone declined from 9.22 ng/mL to 2.27 ng/mL during preparation and returned back to the baseline level, 9.91 ng/mL, following competition; total mood disturbance increased from 6 to 43 units during preparation and recovered to 4 six months following competition.” Natural Bodybuilding Competition Preparation and Recovery
Basically, in achieving the look that?is perversely becoming the iconic ideal for male sexuality, this guy achieved near-castration level testosterone and the metabolism of Wilford Brimley (not that I’m suggesting Wilford has a low heart rate, that’s a different and very complicated?conversation altogether).?As I have mentioned in the past, I find it?quite ironic that we, as a society, are becoming increasingly attracted to infertile people. Women seem to be even more negatively impacted by’these things, and become infertile with?a cessation of the menstrual cycle, even more quickly.
The reason I’m posting this is to’shed light on the other side of the story. In a society that is worshipping people who do this to themselves AND think that it’s all perfectly, maybe?even optimally?healthy, somebody has to step in and say something sane. I will happily volunteer.
If concentration camp?Jews had?access to?good gym equipment, some BCAA’s, NO-Xplode, some spray tan, a “cheat day” here and there, and a little help from Vitamin T – they would have looked?and basically been in?a similar condition to today’s figure competitors?and bodybuilders.
I have?nothing against some physical activity. Weightlifting and gaining a little muscle is great. Eating healthier (clean, as bodybuilders call it)?is a great intervention for some people as well (not all). But the bodybuilding and fitness competition world has created an?illusion that’these people?are health ambassadors in some way. Not true at all. In the next post, I would like’to discuss frequent early?death and heart disease amongst bodybuilders and powerlifters to ice this?rice cake.