Body composition and blood measurements of elite senior South African body builders during a competitive season
A dearth of literature exists surrounding the sport of Body Building. Anecdotally, when preparing for a competition, most elite body builders in South Africa will go through two totally different phases of training and dieting. The first phase is the bulking- or weight-gaining phase. During this phase, a structured diet with high carbohydrate component and moderate to high fat content will be followed for several months. During the weight-gaining phase, Androgenic-Anabolic Steroid (AAS) substances are used in moderately high doses compared to the pre-contest period. The second phase of training and dieting, is called the pre-contest preparation phase. This is a very intense phase of high volume training that usually starts about 16-13 weeks from the time of the competition. During this phase, extremely strict, structured diets are followed, with each meal being weighed. During the pre-contest phase, a multitude of chemical substances are used to enhance the desired physique – this strategy of using combinations of different classes of drugs, is called “stacking”. This will be the period with the highest AAS substance milligram usage per week. Very little current information on the profile of these athletes is available to the South African Medical Community, especially the Sports Medicine Community. There exists only a small body of knowledge in the literature on the dosing protocols abused by these athletes and the side effects they incur. Little is known of the usage of high dose AAS amongst the elite, competitive South African Body Building population and the possible side effects. A rare opportunity was presented to the author to study a group of elite level body builders during the 2010 competitive season. Obtaining participants for this cohort was difficult as these athletes form part of a very secluded group of sportsmen. Though the present cohort was disadvantaged in small cohort size, the opportunity to study such a group in depth will not be readily repeated. This is a novice study – to present, no similar study has been conducted in South Africa. All the athletes registered with the International Federation of Body Building South Africa were invited to participate in the study. Interested volunteers were asked to contact the researcher. More than 200 invitations were sent out to the existing database – only 19 athletes conveyed their interest in participation. Eventually, only 14 athletes partook in the full protocol. Blood assays were performed on each athlete on 3 different occasions, while anthropometric measurements and blood pressure readings were taken on 4 different occasions over the length of the competitive season. Each individual athlete recorded his AAS abuse, while some athletes provided sample diets as well. Data was captured on Excel spread sheets and forwarded to Department of Biostatistics, University of the Free State, South Africa. Along with the concomitant abuse of high doses of AAS over extended periods, the present study also found: - Minimal changes in blood pressure - Initial decrease in lean mass, followed by rapid increase in lean mass in just one week and failure to maintain that gain over the following weeks - Disturbed carbohydrate metabolism with increased risk for pre-diabetic status - Lipid profile changes, with decreased HDL, unchanged Total Cholesterol and decreased LDL - Liver enzyme changes highly suggestive of AAS-driven adverse effects - Hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism status - Very high Androgen Status for the cohort with mean total AAS abuse per week measuring 1638,3 mg, with average AAS cycle lengths of 17.43 weeks. In conclusion, it should be noted that the present study’s cohort differed vastly from cohorts from other studies in the literature, as none of the latter observed cohorts under full pre-contest preparation conditions. It should also furthermore be understood that body builders under full pre-contest preparation will respond differently to the use of special diets, different training strategies and different types of AAS abused, than compared to when they train under normal out-of season conditions. The author recommends that sports physicians should continuously target their efforts at counselling adolescents and other athletes about the potential long-term harms of AAS abuse, as well as regularly and prudently follow-up on the potential adverse effects that may develop in current AAS abusers. The author further recommends that, if an opportunity to study such a secluded group of body builders would present itself again, it should be immediately fully utilised.