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Richard Choueiri

Study: Physiological Changes During and After a Bodybuilding Contest Preparation

By July 2, 2013

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Shawn "Flexatron" Rhoden

Bodybuilding is a sport of extremes that causes wide fluctuations in a bodybuilder's physiology while they prepare for competition. Thanks to a recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance by Dr. Lindy Russow et. al, we now have documentation of physiological changes in a bodybuilder before and after a contest.

The study followed a drug-free natural bodybuilder in their mid-twenties in the six months leading up to their competition and in the six months after. The study recorded changes in heart rate, testosterone levels and mood state, among other physiological factors. Some of the most interesting results that came out of the study are:

  • Heart rate decreased from 53 to 27 beats-per-minute (bpm) during contest prep and then climbed up to 46 bpm is just a month after the contest. If you do the math, the contest prep caused a near 50% percent drop in the bodybuilder's heart rate. Normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 bpm. A heart rate lower than 60 bpm can still be considered healthy, due to a higher stroke volume, but 27 bpm is an extremely low value sure to result in a feeling of tiredness.
  • Testosterone decreased from 9.22 ng/mL to 2.27 ng/mL during competition prep and then went up to 9.91 ng/mL after the competition. This is a massive decrease in testosterone. A level below 3 ng/mL is called Andropause, or male menopause. The symptoms of this condition include excessive fatigue and a decrease in sex drive.
  • Total mood disturbance increased from six units to 43 units during contest prep and then decreased to four units six months after the contest. Bodybuilders are known to be agitated and short-tempered while preparing for a contest. All the stresses placed on the body, coupled with the super strict diet regimen, obviously cause a big change in mood.

As you can see from this physiological data, preparing for a bodybuilding contest is no easy task and it takes a large toll on your body. This data should make anyone appreciate what bodybuilders have to go through before stepping on stage that much more.

If you've prepared for a competition in the past, then feel free to share your experiences and how you felt leading up to and following the contest. Do you feel the prep was worth it and would you do it again?


July 12, 2013 at 6:29 am
(1) Area 51 Gym says:

Interesting write up, wasn’t aware of the differing stresses and their levels, as you say it’s a sport of extremes! Keep it up.

August 2, 2013 at 5:47 pm
(2) Richard wall says:

Im prepping for a comp now. Just over 3 weeks out and yup im agitated as hell and fatigued alllll the time. Loving the body transformation though. Will be doing it again

November 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm
(3) Ben says:

Very interesting study that shows the real impact of training and diet on the bodybuilder’s body and health. It should never be underestimated.

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