by Christian Duque
Just the very title of this article should raise eyebrows because the whole idea of bodybuilding suggests the concept of building the body through sensible training, sensible eating, and taking quality supplements and compounds. There’s nothing antithetical about taking food-based products or exogenous, synthetic hormones because the lifter is simply supplementing naturally occurring hormones in the body that are declining due to age or injury.
At the end of the day, the bodybuilder is working towards the goal of gaining lean muscle tissue. They’re also sculpting their physique through training and certain exercises. This can be achieved by training strong body parts less and perhaps training lagging body parts more. It could include caloric manipulation and any number of different supplement protocols from mass cycles, lean cuts, as well as microdosing. There’s a wide array of things that can be taken to increase size, deepen cuts, and maximize vascularity. That’s not what this article is about. I’m not looking to delve into the whole natty or not argument. We can do that in future articles and I feel we’ve also discussed this at length in the past. That said, that subject never gets old in physique-based sports. People always want to talk about it, especially because it’s an ages-old pastime for people to call out fake natties.
This article, however, is about the spikes in athletes across the sport’s ten pro divisions that are going to plastic surgeons to create physiques that in their estimation will get them better placings, land them more sponsorships, and get them more attention by the fitness media using plastic surgery. While we’ll discuss some of the more common procedures that are being done, what I really want to focus on is whether or not athletes are being pressured into going under the knife. I don’t see anything wrong with elective surgeries so long as the person getting it done is doing it for their own happiness. Anything short of that, I see as a problem.
And who am I again to you? Absolutely no one. I’m just someone with an over-entitled sense of importance who thinks my opinion somehow matters. That said, I’d like to share my insights after covering physique-based sports for 15+ years. I’ve run athlete programs, marketing teams, and done hundreds of interviews and articles. I put my credentials on the table because I’ve interacted with my fair share of folks who have gone under the knife and/or put all sorts of things into their body because they were under the misconception (or maybe the rightful conception) that that would help them place better, go pro, or win a pro show. The problem is what was a goal in your 20’s may be a regret in your 30’s. It’s one thing to get on a cycle. Maybe it’s your thing and maybe it’s not. For the most part, if you decide you want to move, you can. If you start having cosmetic work done left and right, there’s procedures that will leave you scarred for life.
Plastic surgery is elective. In most cases, insurance won’t cover it. Now just because they won’t cover it doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary or that it’s dangerous. Insurance companies are notoriously stingy and that even applies to therapies and medications that you actually need to live longer. Don’t ever forget that insurance companies are a business like any other. Don’t fall for the cute commercials and the heart-warming brochures. To them, it’s all about money, and keeping costs down. That’s not so you’ll pay less in premiums, rather, it’s so their stockholders and bigwigs will make more!!
Some of the more common procedures for male athletes would be gynecomastia surgery. Gyno can be either hereditary or the result of gear use. It can range from pseudo-gyno to full blown gyno. And while it can be unsightly, some pro’s never really address it. This condition is seen as much in the pro’s as in the amateur ranks. In fact, in the not too distant past, guys have won pro shows and qualified for the Mr. Olympia while showing clear signs of the condition. It’s at this point that the media and select judges may address the matter in various contexts. No one with full-blown gyno is going to win the Arnold Classic or Mr. Olympia, but many fans and commentators don’t like seeing guys looking like that on the biggest stages of the sport, either. The backlash is undeniable.
There have been some documented cases where insurance companies will cover the procedure if there’s psychiatric harm that comes as a result of the condition, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s 100% an out of pocket expense. While it’s a very simple procedure, the stakes get higher when dealing with a physique-based athlete. It’s one thing to have this surgery for a guy with a dad bod but it’s quite another for a person who will be competing with a tan and under lights with single-digit body fat percentages. Cost can be an issue that a great many will go south of the border or to Thailand where they can save a considerable amount of money. That said, you take your chances with surgeons in other countries, and sometimes the end result is anything but pretty.
Another common procedure for both men and women is liposuction. We don’t hear about it so much for men, but it’s an undeniable fact. The reason we don’t hear about it so much is because of the fact that diet plays such a pivotal role in our world. There are a number of approaches to eating and many believe that great physiques are created in the kitchen. If food and training alone can’t fix the issue of stubborn body fat, many in our world will then go to any number of compounds. At that point it comes down to trial and error. It’s very seldom if ever the case if a competitive bodybuilder can’t shed fat with diet, training, and drugs. For those who just can’t do it, then liposuction may be an option. And if they go down this route, chances are they’ll have to do it more than one time.
Another extreme measure would be gastric bypass and/or the lap-band. This isn’t very common in the more muscular divisions, but could it be something going on in Men’s Physique or Bikini. I mean I suppose. Would this fall under cosmetic surgery? That’s debatable as well, but if anyone is considering something this serious simply to get a better placing, I really think they need to have a heart-to-heart with a licensed mental health therapist. And what’s my basis for saying so? Nothing more than good common sense. Then again, maybe my common sense is bunk to you. We’ll get back to this.
Perhaps the single most common type of cosmetic enhancement is breast augmentation surgeries. Whereas breast tissue is a knock for male competitors, it’s a huge plus for females. Very, very few will compete flat chested. Even though that’s perfectly normal and natural. Breast tissue is fatty tissue so when female competitors drop to single-digit body fat percentages it’s only normal that their faces will sink in, they’ll look depleted, and their fat deposits will dramatically shrink. That said, the lion’s share of top amateur and pro bikini competitors look busty on stage despite having shredded glutes. How is this possible? Breast implants. Most, if not all the top ladies, across all six divisions have them. While it’s not a requirement to place well, I’d say the writing is on the wall. It may not be a box on the scorecards, but how many flat chested women – besides DLB – can you think of that have won top titles? I can’t think of one.
Then of course there’s the whole botox argument. Some may use it to battle migraines, but most use it for anti-aging properties. Botox is increasingly common with both male and female competitors. And while I’m sure many won’t agree with me, I see all fillers as basically falling into the same category. Whether you fill your lips, cheeks, or delts, it’s a foreign substance used to make you look better. I see more similarities between botox and site enhancing oils than I see differences. That’s not a knock on either, it’s just an observation. Don’t get in an uproar!
At the end of the day I don’t have any issues with cosmetic enhancement of any sort so long as the person is doing it for their own happiness. I do have a serious issue with people going under the knife because they’re being pressured by a coach or a judge. It’s your body and while I’m all for personal freedoms, I’d hate to see someone alter the way they look for life for a $5 Coke can trophy, a piece of cardboard with their name on it, or a couple bullshit protein powder sponsorships. It’s not worth it. Don’t compete, much less get surgeries on yourself, for anyone but yourself. If it makes you happy and you’ve thought out the decision properly then that’s all that matters. Hollywood celebs LIVE at their plastic surgeon’s offices. As long as they’re happy, that’s all that matters. Same applies to whoever is reading this article.
If you’ve made your decision and you feel great about it, let me at least revisit the topic of finances. While I understand no one is made of money and some of these procedures can get quite costly, consider saving money on less high stakes things. Maybe buy generic soda for the next few years or buy storebrand peanut butter and jelly. Going abroad for elective surgeries with the hope of saving a couple grand just sounds like a terrible idea.
What’s your take on plastic surgery in bodybuilding?