I don’t get bodybuilding at all!
A bit of a strange statement from someone who works in the sports nutrition industry since bodybuilders, both pro and amateur, are our main target audience. Funny as it may seem that’s where I stand, I simply don’t get it. I get cross fit, I get MMA and I even get strongman, but what i don’t get is people spending hour after hour, day after day in the gym for the sake of aesthetics alone with no regard for actual physical fitness.
I’m a pretty active guy, I’ve always played sport and for most of my life i’ve been relatively slim (admittedly I’ve not been in my best shape lately but I am making inroads). Whenever I have trained in a gym it has been for a specific purpose relating to physical performance eg. Running a 10k, achieving a certain level fitness in football pre-season, building up stamina for the 3 peaks challenge etc. To me the purpose of training has always been to up my ability in one way or another. Like bodybuilding there has always been an end goal to my exercise and I guess to some extent there has been a common goal as well – looking good – but to me the two go hand-in-hand. If you are fit you look good, right? But I don’t just want to look athletic I want to be athletic, otherwise what’s the point? It’s like spending thousands of pounds making your car look like a sports car without doing anything to the engine. Eventually someone will challenge you to a race and find out that you can’t back up your claims.
I asked one of my colleagues, who is a bodybuilding fan, what the appeal is and he said something along the lines of ‘it’s just really alpha isn’t it’. But is it? To me being alpha means being dominant – bigger, stronger, fitter, faster, tougher. Not just being bigger with nothing else behind it.
So that’s why it’s much easier for me to appreciate a Cross-Fitter like Rich Froning or a boxer like David Haye, guys with very impressive physiques backed up with incredible physical performance and ability, than it is a Ronnie Coleman or a Jay Cutler. I understand it’s a size thing – the more aerobic exercise you do the less likely you are to retain your gains, and for many bodybuilders size is the most important factor, but take a look at cruiserweight boxers, rugby players and MMA fighters – these are guys with size, strength, speed and muscle mass combined with exceptional levels of fitness. Surely this would be preferable to having one without the other wouldn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for anyone who can dedicate themselves so rigidly to a single pursuit and make the kind of sacrifices that elite bodybuilders make but I’m baffled by it at the same time. To think these guys have spent most of their lives in a gym, devoted themselves to a physical goal but would struggle to run a couple of hundred metres or climb a flight a stairs makes no sense to me.
The food side of things is something else I don’t really get. For me food is something to enjoy, to savour – it’s one of life’s treats. I’ve never paid much attention to what I eat really but then I’ve always had an OK diet. I just figure as long as I’m not shoveling junk food down my neck every day and I include fish, meat, fruit and veg in my weekly meals I’m doing alright. I indulge my sweet tooth a little more often than I should but then I figure the amount of exercise I do allows me the freedom to do so.
For bodybuilders the enjoyment of food seems to have been taken away, it is simply fuel and nothing more. The basis on which quality is judged is not taste or texture but protein content and macros. One of life’s greatest pleasures has become merely functional.
Again, I admire the dedication it takes to regulate your diet so stringently, to pore over the smallest nutritional details of everything that passes your lips. I know I couldn’t do it but then I wouldn’t want to either. I love the fact that I don’t have to deny myself a takeaway on a Friday night or a couple of beers here and there. I know if I overdid it and dropped the amount of cardio I do it could lead to weight gain but I always make sure the two balance out.
This article isn’t designed to be inflammatory at all. It is merely my own opinion and vocalised thoughts which a lot of you probably don’t agree with but that’s what makes life interesting isn’t it – different people with different opinions. Some people don’t like travelling or experiencing new cultures and others get restless if they stay at home for more than a couple of weeks. Neither will ever understand the mentality of the other but they are both happy in their own ways.
I’ve met a lot of good people since I started working at Predator and many of them are regular gym goers. They admire and analyse the physiques in Flex and Muscle & Fitness and generally talk about the 3 Cs – cardio, carbohydrates and cross-fit with disdain. Each has tried to explain their love of bodybuilding to me and I can see the passion in them when they talk about it, just as they can in me when I talk about football. Neither of us necessarily understands the other’s point of view and probably never will but it certainly makes for interesting conversation.
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