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Bigger and Badder

Ron Partlow
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Stomach Distention

Guts. When I hear the words “guts”, I usually think of Braveheart shit: engaging a much stronger and more heavily armed opponent with nothing but a broadsword and a lot of pride. Unfortunately, the word “guts” also makes me think of the current state of pro bodybuilding. What causes that? What’s in there? What’s gonna come out??

In the quest for unlimited mass, it’s seen as a necessary evil; however, it’s something that we need to correct before it destroys bodybuilding. Even Arnold was outspoken on this subject after his Arnold Classic this year. He really put his foot down and demanded the subject be dealt with.

It was during the ‘90s that we started to see the distension begin. The ‘80s was literally void of bloated guts. Every single pro on the Olympia stage had a small, tight waist, and most could still do some type of vacuum pose. However, the ‘90s brought the new era of the “mass monster” and the guts just sort of … happened.

Once Dorian took the throne as Mr. Olympia, with his overwhelming mass, every other bodybuilder now thought he had to put on a lot of size in a hurry. Many started utilizing GH, insulin, and IGF-1 in their quest for a much higher bodyweight. This is why a lot of people blame those compounds for the guts. However, I don’t think it’s that simple.

GH was used in the ‘80s, and there were no guts. Nowadays, most of the men’s physique guys use it, and none of them have bloated waists. I’ve seen far too many bodybuilders use real GH and experience no abdominal bloating or growth of the midsection. I guess if you used enough for long enough, you could cause problems.

There are IGF-1 receptors in all our tissues, even our organs, so it’s not unthinkable that it may cause some growth. The only problem is that IGF-1 was so hard to get and expensive in the ‘90s that there’s no way its use was widespread enough to be linked to all those distended guts.

Using insulin for a bulk while ramming carbs and pushing body weight up usually results in more visceral fat than normal. Insulin is linked to visceral fat stores in particular. The only problem with this idea is that when you diet down and get shredded, all the visceral fat should also be gone. So the waists should be small again … right?

This brings me to what I believe is the main culprit: food. It’s the process of stuffing tons of food down and forcing the body weight up that creates a situation where the abdominal wall actually just gets stretched out of shape.

Huge carb loads are the worst thing for a guy with a bigger waist. Carb loads pull a lot of water to the guts at first. The perfect storm happens if the bodybuilder has been restricting sodium too. You need sodium in the guts in order for the carbs to pass through the intestinal wall. So a low-sodium, high-carb load can result in staggering distention. I’ve seen guys who were only bloated on show day—ruined by a crazy carb load.

So basically, I don’t blame the drugs. They’re definitely a part of the mass-at-all-costs mentality. However, I feel a more intelligent and precise type of bodybuilding is coming. The crazy kitchen sink method only works for the truly gifted, and I do believe that the tighter waists will once again dominate at the pro level. Fashion always repeats itself; men are wearing tights again, so why not the vacuum pose?

To read more about the current (and unfortunate) phenomenon of distended guts, read this article!