I’ve been training at a gym for about 17 years so far, so I know the subject very well.
Have you ever seen those bodybuilding freaks in the weight room? Super muscular? Brown tanned? Always talking about diets and proteins? Always mixing some powders in their bottles? With their singlet effect “nipple I see it / I don’t see it”?
Well, in my gym there is a conspicuous group. When I see one of them I can’t avoid to formulate mentally a question: “can you please stay 5 entire seconds without looking at yourself in the mirror!?”.
He enters the gym and makes a first check in the mirror on the wall. He talks in front of his mate, but he doesn’t look at the person -no- he is checking his abs eyes asquint. During the biceps exercise he is completely focused on his reflection in motion. To go from point A to point B in the gym he makes an itinerary that optimizes his mirror exposure. Recognized? Yes, I am sure that if you go to a gym you have your local version of Mr bodybuilding freak.
The funniest episode happened some time ago. My gym is on two floors, on the upper floor there are the machines for the cardio activities, on the ground floor there is the weight room. From the upper floor you can see the weight room below.
So, I was upstairs on the treadmill, and I was watching these two heavy guys doing the bench press downstairs. It was hard not to watch them, since they were making grunts and screams that you could hear in all the building.
The scenario was terribly funny: the guy who was exercising was lying down on the bench, while the other one was standing up over him for “help”. I’ve never understood why bodybuilders always lift more than what they are able to, and then need someone else’s help. Can’t they just lift less weight?
By the way, the point is that the second guy was exactly at the height of the first guy’s pelvis. From my angle, I was basically watching these two guys, one over the other, moving rhythmically, sweating, grunting, with expressions of pain on their face.
I had to suppress the laughters because it looked so much like a dirty, crazy scene of sex in public.
THE WORKOUT DIET
Now, let’s get serious and go to the core of this article. I made the premise about the relationship between the bodybuilding freak and the mirror because it explains well some aspects of another relationship, the one between the bodybuilding freak and the diet.
Frequently, the first concern of bodybuilders in approaching the diet is aesthetics.
They count every carbohydrate, add plenty of proteins, take supplements, all with the aim of growing their muscles and have a statuesque body with sharp lines.
And it works. To get such kind of body, this is exactly how a diet should be. Plenty of proteins for growing muscle mass, few carbs and fats for reducing roundness and creating the furrows between the muscles, vitamins and minerals for the general health. Not only it works, it also produces results that are desirable under many points of view.
For instance, a solid muscular structure is an important support for the bones. And I know this very well, since I have a vertebral disease. To manage this disease I have to train my back muscles very well so they can support my wrecky spine.
Moreover, having more muscles and less fat is just good for living. When you climb a ladder, when you walk, and when in general you make every movement there will be more muscles that work FOR (when you raise a leg it’s the muscle that raises the leg) and there will be less fats that work AGAINST (when you raise a fatty leg you have to lift that fat with more effort).
And finally yes, from a pure aesthetic perspective, bodybuilding freaks look handsome. Unless they are excessively inflated, they are very attractive.
Good points no? So why not become one of them?
A TOO HEAVY INVESTMENT
Eating becomes an obsession for our friend bodybuilding freak, very easily.
Some time ago a man in the locker room was discussing his workout diet with a friend. He was listing the grams of proteins and carbs that he was eating according to his plan. He was eating something like X grams of carbohydrates per day, and saying with a certain resignation tone that it was very hard not to eat more.
He said: “I am becoming crazy. I just eat a handful of rice per meal. If I drop a grain of rice on the floor, I search for it”.
An obsession and a distraction.
Yes, being beautiful and muscular is great, but is it worth the consumption of so much of your energy, attention, time? I say, if you are smart the answer is no. There is so much else in life that you miss if you are continuously focused on having a perfect mirror look, and therefore a super rigorous diet.
Unless you are a model, an actor, or do something where beauty is crucial, there is simply no reason for devoting so much of your attention to food. It’s a disproportioned investment.
Usually these guys that we see in the gym, shaking their powders and eating their energy bars while they hang on the machines, spend so much time pursuing their muscled version in the mirror that they don’t have much time for other.
They forget that diet is a tool, not a finish line.
What I mean by “a tool”? I mean that you’re that ideally you should go on a diet to obtain health, mental clarity, physical performance. And beauty, too. Instead, you’re not dieting for dieting.
If you forget this, you’ll end up counting your grains of rice too.
WORKOUT DIET CONSIDERATIONS
Finally, let’s make a little nutritional analysis of the typical workout diet that is proposed in a gym. As I said, if not from a smart point of view, from a nutritional point of view it is usually a good one.
The idea of reducing refined carbohydrates is super good. And even if I suspect that many gym trainers don’t know exactly why -frequently they just know that they are fattening- they wisely recommend to avoid white bread, pasta and co. They usually opt for the whole grain alternatives. That’s good.
The typical bodybuilding freak eats a lot of proteins from meat. I think that a certain degree of awareness has been reached in the gyms so that now almost everyone knows that not any kind of meat is good, but only lean meat like chicken and turkey. And fish.
Still I think that there is too much meat protein. Many bodybuilders eat chicken every day, or almost every day. That’s a lot of chicken. If one really wants to have a big percentage of protein in his diet he can go for many vegetable sources that not only give proteins but many other beneficial nutrients.
Soy, quinoa, beans are the easiest examples.
And a note about the “bottle culture”. This is something that I resolutely mark as wrong. Mr bodybuilding freak doesn’t have the culture of fresh, whole food at all. He tends to think in terms of pills and powders, that are usually inside commercially marketed bottled.
This is a very limited nutritional view, since taking proteins from real food means taking also enzymes, fiber and plenty of useful things. On the other hand taking pills means just taking a limited range on nutrients.
AND MS BODYBUILDING FREAK?
Yes, something can be said also about the female counterpart: Ms bodybuilding freak. A creature that is slightly more discreet in some aspect of the practice (I’ve rarely seen a lady screaming during workouts, or obsessively swallowing pills between one lift and the other). But she has her own features, oh yes she does!
…have you ever seen those ladies that walk in the weight room tight in dresses that highlight their fit body, looking more like swimmin suits, and with nail polish, hair extensions, jewels, lipstick, mascara?
Well, When I see one of them I can’t avoid to formulate mentally another question “Why, why, why do you wear lipstick and mascara to do the abs!? This is not a catwalk, you’re in the gym to exercise!”.