by Cade Thomas
Bodybuilders are extremists. It just comes with the territory. The desire to transform your body into an overbearing sack of muscles has very little to do with a balanced mindset or average goals. The pendulum tends to swing a little too far in different directions for many of us, and moderation is rarely in our vocabulary. I personally have been guilty of many “knee jerk reactions” in my efforts to become more muscular; Several times when my results were lacking, I completely changed everything I was doing when I might have found a greater benefit in small tweaks to put me back down the road I wanted to be on. So let’s look at three particular topics that tend to lend themselves to these drastic U-turns and extreme changes.
1. Cardio. I have a “friend” (yeah, it’s me) who used to look at themselves occasionally and not be pleased with the amount of body fat staring back at them in the mirror. The disgust led to the only possible solution; Immediately implement one hour of cardio per day without hesitation. Sure, you will get some immediate fat loss which might make your manboobs feel 25% less droopy but you are bound to plateau very quickly. Why jump straight to an hour of cardio when you can milk 20 minutes of well timed cardio for a week or two, then bump it up gradually by 5 minute increments until you don’t feel the need to wear a t-shirt in the pool anymore.
On the opposite end, we have the people coming off an hour of cardio per day who reach their desired body fat levels and then decide cardio is icky and only used strictly during dieting phases. I understand taking a short break if you just finished 16 grueling weeks of prep, but for the majority of the time why not do 10-15 mins to keep some body fat off and potentially shorten the amount you will need to do during prep/cutting? It allows you to eat more food, stay lean, and increased aerobic capacity to potentially aid in your weight training. I guess the heart health and extended life span is cool, too.
2. Food. I am sure most of us know a guy who eats 5000 calories of questionable quality food in the offseason to end up eating 1900 calories at the end of a diet. What’s the point? Bodybuilding is not a healthy pursuit at best of times but pushing your body like this is asking for trouble. Consider the chemicals used for dieting tend to be slightly harsher on the system, what happens in this situation is a bloated and unhealthy off-season bodybuilder transitioning directly into a diet phase and pushing their bodies to the extreme. I am not one to preach on how to approach this lifestyle as everyone has their own path, but if you can’t manage to keep yourself in half decent shape year-round then possible you need to re-assess how important bodybuilding is to you. Adding buckets of fat on top of water retention, we are looking at a serious stress on all of the body. Throw in the effects that junk food usually tends to have (just try checking your bloodwork) on basic health parameters and it’s a recipe for disaster.
No one should be on a contest diet year round, but instead of grossly over-eating (or simply just eating the wrong stuff) then having to ramp up cardio to absurd levels and borderline starve yourself (and chew fat burners like candy) you should be adding in enough quality calories to grow while also eating the foods you truly enjoy on occasion. If you use “off-season” as an excuse to indulge in every twisted thing that enters your brain, you have a food addiction and justify it through your bodybuilding. Bodybuilding is as much about what you are able to deny as what you are willing to do, and you should hold yourself to a higher standard than the family from Honey Boo Boo.
3. Supplements. There seems to be two people when it comes to OTC supplements; The rapid consumer who is constantly dumping money to try new brands and flavors of every product under the sun, and the jaded lifter who has either been duped by supplement marketing schemes previously or simply thinks they are a hoax. For the first group, perhap a night course on how to be an intelligent consumer (or just a smack in the head) would be beneficial. The big problem is that these people see these products simply as a product, and not just a sum of ingredients. For instance, they might see “Gangster Pumps 360” as what they are taking instead of Agmatine, creatine, and whatever it is made of. So when a new product launches they think it is actually a new product, and not just a different company releasing their own offering of the same basic ingredients that was in the last 4 pre-workouts they bought.
Then we have the haters. “Real bodybuilders don’t use supplements”. These guys usually assume that all supps are snake oil and the bodybuilders are all using steroids, so why would they bother? This logic is flawed as many supplements operate on different pathways than steroids and even have synergistic effects with certain compounds. The true answer is probably somewhere in the middle; You don’t need to spend half of your salary on bright labelled powders but there is a handful of core supplements that will benefit enhanced and nonenhanced bodybuilders.
These are just three topics that tend to lend themselves to extreme mindsets.