The Pros & Cons of Competing in Bodybuilding

Competing in bodybuilding, whichever category it is, has it’s positives and negatives.

Of course the further up the ranks you go, the harder it gets but the rewards get bigger too!

For those of you not familiar with the world of bodybuilding, here’s an example of the categories you usually find in competitions (yes it’s not all about the big boys!):

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As you can see there are varying degrees of muscle mass in each category. Yet each one has to work extremely hard both in the gym and in the kitchen! Growing muscle, no matter how big or small requires a strict diet and consistent training.

So let’s take a look at what you stand to gain, should you choose to enter a bodybuilding competition:

  • You will learn a lot about your body, how it reacts to certain foods and styles of training. This knowledge can easily be transferred to a lifelong healthy lifestyle, minus the extremities of competing. You will know which foods affect you negatively and how to manipulate your training to maintain your shape and still enjoy a few treats.
  • You will push yourself mentally and physically. Following a strenuous training routine for 3-6 months before a competition will challenge you a lot. You will discover your limits and try to push past them. You will learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and you will work on them.
  • Your confidence will get a major boost. Who knows, you may even start liking what you see in the mirror!
  • You will meet new people, go to new places and have new experiences. All of these will help you grow as a person and develop a different perspective in life.
  • And finally a bit of a controversial one: you may discover who your true friends are. Committing to a competition means committing a significant chunk of your life towards achieving a fitness goal. Your new lifestyle may no longer fit with that of your current social circle. Will your friends understand and accommodate your needs (and may be even try new things together with you!) or will they avoid you and mock you?

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But all these good things don’t come without a price… literally:

  • It is an expensive sport. Every competition comes with a hefty bill and your new-found fitness lifestyle can significantly bump up your monthly expenses. Also, you can easily get sucked into the false need for new things: you’ll think you need more / new supplements, clothes, protein shakers, etc… The only way to manage this is to reallocate money from other parts of your life (e.g. eat more homemade meals instead of eating out, travel less, and by reconsidering other unnecessary expenses).
  • It can be damaging to your physical health. Ironically, the sport that should showcase the ultimate health & fitness can have detrimental effects to your health if not done properly or if done for a very long period of time. Staying at a very low body fat is unnatural and can unlock a chain of health problems, especially when it comes to hormones. Ignoring cravings and following a cheat meal protocol encourages binge eating a lot of junk food (which you would normally not do if you allow yourself treats on a regular basis). The “muscle building diet” is an acidic diet high in animal products and artificial sweeteners (protein powders & bars) which can cause damage to the digestive system if not balanced out with healthy greens.
  • Your mental health can suffer too. Constantly restricting what foods go into your mouth can trigger many mental health problems such as depression, lethargy, eating disorders, self-hate  and guilt, food phobia (or rather should I say fear of gaining weight and fat from eating), and so on. On the other hand, not everyone is good at being disciplined and committed. If that is not your cup of tea, then the journey to a competition will stir up some negative emotions in you. Self-blame and not feeling good enough are just a few examples. It can get boring at times or you may develop a fear of missing out on your social life… yep the issues are many!
  • The bodybuilding lifestyle is not a sustainable lifestyle. You can’t train and lift heavy weights forever. You can’t deprive your body of carbs forever. You can’t deny your mind delicious treats. An injury or a health problem can easily put you out of the gym and may be even leave you unable to eat the necessary proteins to sustain your muscles. Therefore, it is important to follow a lifestyle and diet that you can sustain as you progress through life. A wide variety of healthy foods and moderate, enjoyable exercise will keep you going for a long time.

So is it good or bad? It depends on every individual. The way I see it is that competing once or twice is a good way to kickstart your journey into health and fitness. After that, it’s upto you to find your true fitness passion!

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