All the time in the news you hear of bodybuilders dying due to heart complications. You also hear insults hurled towards bodybuilders all the time (from jealous people) to enjoy their enlarged hearts and other health problems.
So, is bodybuilding bad for your heart?
Well, yes and no. Bodybuilding itself is a good exercise and can boost heart health. However, if you use performance enhancers or weigh far too much, bodybuilding will be very bad for your heart and can lead to early heart attack and death.
But, it’s much more complicated than that, so let’s cover this more in-depth.
Natural Bodybuilding Is Good For Your Heart, For The Most Part
It’s no surprise that exercise is good for your heart. We’ve been told since we were very young to stay active and keep moving to stay heart healthy.
Bodybuilding is no different, bodybuilding is a form of exercise. Furthermore, many people combine bodybuilding with cardio on most days.
Simply put, doing regular exercise has tons of health and heart benefits that lead to prolonged life.
General exercise will make you live longer and have a healthier heart than no exercise and junk food eating all day.
So, as a starter- this exercise is actually good for you. And certainly way better than those that don’t exercise hurling insults at bodybuilders.
However, this is certainly limited, as the health benefits are not ALWAYS present depending on your bodybuilding habits.
Most of the heart benefits really only applies to natural bodybuilders, NOT those that use performance enhancers or have more muscle than their heart can naturally handle. Let’s dive into this.
If You Have Too Much Muscle and/or Fat, Bodybuilding Becomes BAD For Your Heart
As much as we all want to have as much muscle as possible, having too much muscle and/or fat actually will cause bodybuilding to become BAD for your heart, NOT good.
Now, most natural bodybuilders will have a very hard time reaching the point where bodybuilding becomes bad for their heart. Your body will likely not let you put on any more muscle once you reach your genetic limit- and this is for good reason.
Your genetic limit of muscle doesn’t exist because evolution wanted to personally make you weaker, but it exists because if you have too much muscle- your heart cannot handle it and starts to get overworked.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a genetic limit for fat- namely because our evolution favored us storing any extra energy to survive. And our evolution never really anticipated us having such a surplus of food we have today.
So, don’t think that muscle is bad and fat is good. As Rich Piana expertly said, “Your heart can’t tell the difference between muscle or fat, it’s all the same”. So, if you’re 400 pounds of muscle, or 400 pounds of fat, your heart is likely being overworked.
Your heart being overworked, as the sentence suggests, is a very bad thing. When your heart has to beat harder to get blood through your body, it tires the cardiac muscle cells (which are arguably very tough), it also causes an increase in plaque buildup in the arteries, weakens heart valves, and more.
Now, right away- you usually won’t have any problems. It’s when this overworked heart consists for years. Our heart is incredible and works hard, but after years straight of overworking itself, those complications stack up and can end up fatal fast.
That’s why I recommend every bodybuilder regularly sees a physician (typically your primary care or cardiologist) to make sure you aren’t developing severe heart disease before it becomes too late.
Even If You’re Natural, Keep Yourself Under Your Limit
I know I know, everybody wants to be as huge as they can be.
But, for your own health’s sake. Please stay under your limit as a bodybuilder.
Most bodybuilders (including Rich Piana before his death) said your heart often will tell you when you weigh too much. You’ll feel it. And that is so true.
I’ve weighed too much before and you can feel it. It’s almost like your heart is sluggish and it’s just begging you to drop some weight. In those instances, please listen to your heart.
Just because you CAN be 300 lbs of muscle doesn’t mean it’s good if your heart is struggling to keep up. Lose that weight until your physician clears you and examines your heart and lab values.
No amount of muscle is worth your life. And trust me, if you are at a point where your heart is hurting from having too much muscle, you will look phenomenal even if you drop some weight.
And truthfully guys, most of that muscle at those high levels of bodybuilding is barely noticeable. Most of the ‘significant’ muscle is made during your second or third year of bodybuilding, not those last few years.
‘Roids Users Will Have Severe Heart Problems
If you are deciding to NOT be a natural bodybuilder and take up some performance enhancers, please be advised you will have severe heart problems even outside the scope of this post.
You will have everything I just listed above and MORE due to the chemical and hormonal changes in your body.
For instance, chemical and hormonal changes may cause your heart to beat irregularly, faster, slower, skip beats, et cetera. It may even cause swelling in some areas that regulate your heartbeat and other critical components in your body.
Point is, even if you’re not maximizing your performance enhancer use, you are still going to see adverse effects on your health from any usage.
Zyzz Died From ‘Roid Use
Zyzz, one of the most famous bodybuilding legends in history died from ‘roid use at the young age of 22. If you know Zyzz, you know he had absolutely NO health problems, but he misused one little performance enhancer and died that same night.
I covered all about it in the article above. But for summary, here’s what you need to know:
Zyzz used a performance enhancer that would SHRED fat in his body (we are talking PURE FAT loss, no muscle loss, and 2+ pounds of fat a day gone) but he needed to keep his body temperature under a certain amount or he would die.
Let’s shrink the medical jargon, the idea is his body is metabolizing so much fat that if his body temperature gets above a certain amount, his brain, brain stem, heart, etc will fail as they will be at a temperature incompatible with life.
Remember, Zyzz was 22. He had basically no health problems, and one night his body temperature went one degree too high and he was dead.
Now, most performance enhancers aren’t this strict where you have to literally sit in an ice bath (which he did a majority of the time). However, this just goes to show how fast things can happen as a result of gear use.
Rich Piana Died of a Heart Attack and His Heart Was 1.5x The Normal Size
Rich Piana, my bodybuilding idol died of a heart attack (that’s still up for debate) and during the autopsy, they found his heart was 1.5x+ the normal size.
Can you imagine the strain his heart was going through to almost DOUBLE in size to keep up with his muscle growth?
Shortly before his death, he commented in one of his YouTube videos he could feel that his heart couldn’t keep up with his weight and he needed to drop weight. Rich Piana said 300 lbs was too much for his heart.
While he was conscious about that and did better than most, he still fell victim to an unexpected death directly from his intense ‘roid use. Rich Piana was on multiple different performance enhancers and was very open about his use.
Keep this as a reminder, even Rich listened to his body and did the best he could, and still died because of it.
Conclusion of Is Bodybuilding Bad For Your Heart?
That was a ton of information to take in, let’s recap:
- Most natural bodybuilders have nothing to worry about in terms of heart health, as long as they aren’t at their genetic limit.
- Bodybuilding, in general, can be healthy for the heart as it is exercise.
- Bodybuilding can be bad for your heart if you have a ton of muscle or fat or if you don’t rest enough between workouts.
- Bodybuilders using performance enhancers will see serious heart issues that can quickly lead to death.
Thank you for reading!