Any person who walks into the gym must have two things in his/her mind. Fat loss and muscle gain, and strive for it, work towards it. Any person, who makes a conscious endeavour to make this happen, is a bodybuilder. You are building your body.
Human body happens to be the most complex system of machinery. Outwardly, it may seem like just the limbs, the head, the back, chest and the core. But as the age old saying goes, the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know.There is an entire universe inside that apparently simple set of body parts.
When I say building a body, what comes to the mind, is the hypertrophy in externally visible muscle. That in fact might seem like a very simplistic and naive perception of bodybuilding.
Even if it is focused on the hypertrophy of the visible muscles, that cannot be done, unless and until the deep seated muscles, the ligaments, the tendons and the biochemical pathways are all aligned to work towards the same goal. And that there is a certain level of myofibrillar hypertrophy besides the plain sarcoplasmic hypertrophies that we are apparently targeting. That brings us a bit closer to real bodybuilding. When you build something, it has to have a firm and strong foundation. As far as the human body is concerned, it is an entire process.
A lifelong, never ending process, for which the very first basic necessity would be to condition the mind as early as possible. Biochemical conditioning too begins here. Once we are positive, we wish to look good, feel good, work towards our fullest potential, and begin to relish life in that direction, then the outward indulgences and gross sensory pleasures will cease to impress us in any way. Our goals would be larger, more relevant, deeper and profound. As we strengthen and reinforce these thought processes that manifest themselves in physical dimensions, what is seen on the exterior is a well-developed physique. Of course the technicalities and mechanism of nutritional constituents, the apt proportion of macronutrients, micronutrients and the relevant resistance training to bring about micro trauma and the subsequent super compensation is the obvious and the most indispensable part of this.So hence, when I say natural bodybuilding, every person who is strengthening herself, measuring his/her diet, calibrating it consciously, matching it with appropriate exercises is bodybuilding.
It may be to support his/her respective sport or personal goals. What eventually happens is that if you have a well balanced approach, you have educated yourself well and created sufficient awareness, you are ready to accept that this is a lifelong process that has to evolve over time, and years, you will be able to reach the very best version of yourself. By well balanced approach I mean that, your weight training would have to be supported by a well-maintained cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, endurance and other components of fitness. We also need to understand that no matter how hard you train there are certain genetic tendencies that cannot be conquered, whatsoever. For example the height, the length of limbs, the basic bone structure and even the body’s tendency to have more fat in certain areas where there is probably a greater concentration of alpha-2 receptors, that inhibit lipolysis. (Lipolysis is the breakdown of fats)
You cannot claim to increase your height, or change the shape of your nose by training more. It just has to be accepted. Reaching your best potential can give you a happy and a very satisfying life, and help you to explore the world in so many ways.
At times, for your own personal goals, a basic diet and exercise schedule may not get you the absolute potential that your body is genetically capable of.This may be for several reasons. You may not have sufficient time or rest. Your urban lifestyle may not get you the desired nutrition. Sometimes you may require a certain macronutrient, say protein, in larger quantities. And if you consume that much protein in natural form you may end up consuming a ridiculously high amount of calories that may defeat the entire purpose of gaining muscle and losing fat.The same holds for several other nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins, as they are needed in large quantities by people who exercise. In that situation, we come to supplements. The word dietary supplement in itself means that these products supplement the diet and cannot replace the diet completely. However while we have certain goals accompanied by certain limitations, that we need to surpass and supersede, we need the support of these supplements. For example, muscle is primarily made up of protein. As explained earlier, a bodybuilder may need higher protein than usual to accomplish hypertrophy by super compensation, while at the same time keeping the calorie intake in check. The only way that is possible is by taking a protein supplement. It would be desirable that the supplement contains just pure protein and minimal if at all any other macro nutrient.
A whey protein isolate or hydrolysed whey that does not load the system unnecessary is usually the best bet. Similarly, the high activity level can cause high oxidative stress, eliciting the need for antioxidants. Supplementation may be needed to ensure adequate blood supply to the muscles and for the completion of the required biochemical reactions for protein metabolism.
Calcium is needed for the transmission of nerve impulses to the muscle fibre and hence for its contraction. It is also needed for strong bones that would support the enhanced body structure.
Similarly, the need for so many nutrients increases substantially when the physical activity levels increase and the desire to excel is greater than what can happen by default without any extra effort or endeavour. The same goes for exercises and training.
Irrespective of what you eat, or how optimal your nutrition is, there is a natural disposition that we all are born with. For example, we wish to achieve sarcoplasmic hypertrophy for bodybuilding. It is achieved primarily in Type II fast twitch muscle fibres. It is the protoplasmic and contractile content that increases in these muscles giving the illusion of increase in size.
Every individual has a mix of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibres distributed all, over the body in a different ratio.
As we exercise and train our muscles to strengthen and grow, the body takes shape in accordance with the type of muscle fibres, quantum of fibres, and length of limbs for roundedness and so on. The way we train, focusing on different muscles, understanding our structure, using different training modalities, especially by bringing about variations in the number of repetitions, resistance applied, time under tension, the technique of execution of an exercise, limiting the time between exercise and the order of execution of these exercises , helps to design the routine to eventually sculpt the body. The body can thus be sculpted, in due course of time. That is an ever evolving process. Natural bodybuilding needs a person to have a very balanced and matured mind. It needs consistency in the long run. It needs you to overlook indulgences and temptations. In fact it keeps a person focused and brings forth the best version of the person.
The activities and the mind-set that one needs to do in order to sculpt the body, manifests itself in everything that is done and hence brings forth a glowing persona. It makes you very aware of your body and how it exactly functions very precisely. It teaches you to condition your mind in such a way that you would rarely have a tendency for any lifestyle diseases and this will help you to age gracefully.
As everyone of your age steps into middle age and eventually old age, you continue to look young, athletic and are very energetic exploring different things in the world. That is an altogether new form of happiness and spiritual enhancement, besides acceptance of your own body, as you fine tune and understand it.
However, what happens when you come to competitive bodybuilding?
Competitive bodybuilding means that you would obviously be compared to other bodybuilders.
That entirely shifts the whole essence of natural bodybuilding.
In non-competitive bodybuilding, your work and progress is based on becoming a better version of yourself to live a productive life. Fitness as we know, has several components:- strength, power, endurance, flexibility, body composition and so on.
While our focus ideally should be on all round development of all these components the focus in bodybuilding, is primarily on fat loss and muscle gain.
In natural bodybuilding, we get the best version of ourselves in a natural way and at our own pace.What if this is not good enough when it comes to standing on stage in comparison to others, winning and emerging out as champions? The reason could be anything ranging from having a genetic advantage or having access to better equipment, or being in a profession that allows the time to eat, train, sleep, rest and repeat without any pressure, family support, financial stability to procure the requirements, ability to travel to locations where competitions are being held, having a good coach to teach everything from posing to tanning; just everything makes a difference and then, we hear of a classic example. A competitor may be strong, may ride a bicycle, and surpass and defeat everyone. And then there is a competitor, not so strong, wheezing past everyone, because he/she is on a super bike. A strong competitor losing on a cycle versus a weak competitor winning on a superbike may not sound fair enough. But that is how it is.
Bodybuilding to some extent requires one to be narcissistic. Without judging whether narcissism in itself is positive or negative, it has to be accepted that some degree of it has to be there, which in fact keeps the bodybuilders so self-obsessed that he/she is non-judgemental towards others. But it is not easy for such a person to accept that his/her very best is not good enough to defeat other contenders on stage.
Women especially are scrutinised much more and all these things have emotional and psychological repercussions. To stand on stage, alongside highly enhanced, athletes with super-natural conditioning, separations and striations and your own self looking plane and flat, can be very demeaning to the narcissistic mind. One may be asked, “Why come to the competitive stage at all when you can’t be anywhere near them?” That has in a way has given a valid justification to all competitors to take anabolics and ergogenic substances, just because they are competing.
They so proudly stay that they have no choice but to take it since they are going on stage.
As a bodybuilder steps into the competitive world, very relevant realization that dawns upon him/her, is that this is a subjective sport. A lot depends on your fellow competitors, as well as the criteria laid down by the bodybuilding federation, the preferences of the judging panel and the kind of judges who form the panel. A lot also depends on his/her individual psychology in how he/she is able to deal and accept what happens beside his/her individual long term targets and expectations from the competition.
If it means achieving fame and glory, one has to approach it in a way that the stage memories are captured and used with a parallel sense of detachment. Clinging on too much to winning medals and comparing oneself too intricately to others can be emotionally draining and stressful, pushing you to take to means and substances that can harm you in the long run and take away all the benefits of bodybuilding.
Almost all bodybuilders including Olympians, reach their peak, learn as much as they can in their competitive journeys, recondition their minds and then eventually realize that, if they are to stay alive and productive and live happier lives, they need to simply follow the same routine and life sans anabolics. They also need to work on mobilities and their abilities without harming themselves without going overboard. I would say they graduate to natural bodybuilding.
While there are federations, that have strictly natural bodybuilding divisions in their contests, they somehow do not receive the hype.
People in today’s world like to see freaky bodies. Something that fascinates them, but know deep inside the disadvantages of it all.
While natural bodybuilding can bring about the best in a person, especially so because it takes a lot more that is obvious on the exterior. It can come only by being consistent physically, mentally, emotionally spiritually and psychologically, besides having a tremendous amount of strength, patience and resilience and re-adapting to the society with grace. Competitive bodybuilding in a desperate attempt to prove oneself, may take away the essence of it all, because besides the obvious anabolics and other bizarre ways, there is judgement, jealousy, society, partiality and money involved, that can complicate matters. It may in fact need you to be far more evolved mentally. If taken in the right way, it can teach you to respect fellow competitors become non-judgmental and develop a great camaraderie with fellow fitness enthusiasts.
I wish for a world where natural bodybuilding is highly encouraged. If the norms of WADA and NADA are truly followed and stricter and clearer guidelines are laid down with support from the governments, natural bodybuilding can bring about a whole paradigm change in bringing awareness in fitness and putting things in perspective to carve a path towards a fitter, a stronger and happier world.