ON January 6 2013, the country lost its most decorated bodybuilder the legendary George Takundwa.
Report by Brian Nkiwane
The former bodybuilder and ex-Mr Zimbabwe died at the young age of 58 at Parirenyatwa Hospital after succumbing to a stroke raising questions about the sport.
The muscleman — who at the age of 26 was crowned Mr Rhodesia when the sport was still white-dominated — also held the post of Zimbabwe National Bodybuilding and Weightlifting Association president.
A lot has been said about the lifespan of bodybuilders many arguing they die fairly young.
In this regard, Standardsport spoke to one of the retired bodybuilders Ottis Goredema who explained what bodybuilding is, its dangers and other notions that go hand in hand with the sport.
“Bodybuilding is the use of progressive resistance exercise to control and develop one’s musculature. An individual who engages in this activity is referred to as a bodybuilder. In competition bodybuilders appear in line-ups doing specified poses, and later perform individual posing routines, for a panel of judges who rank competitors based on criteria such as symmetry, muscularity, and conditioning,” Goredema said.
Goredema said there were stages of dieting that had to be followed by bodybuilders to help them maintain the shape and the muscularity for a long time.
“The body uses protein for building the muscles, whilst the carbohydrates provide the large amounts of energy needed to sustain the gruelling training. This is known as the bulking phase of training. Once muscle growth has progressed, the athletes may then adjust their method of training to incorporate more sculpting exercises whilst remaining on a high protein, low fat, moderate carbohydrate diet to reduce fat in the body and maintain the muscle gained during the growth/bulking phase.”
Bodybuilders who then decide to enter a competition go through a third phase known as the pre-contest preparation phase.
In the few days leading to the contest, salt, water and carbohydrates are severely restricted and eventually eliminated in order to obtain maximum definition.
This type of dieting can only be sustained for short periods of time, but is necessary in order to present the best body possible for the contest.
Bodybuilding as a lifestyle requires consistent training, determination, perseverance, discipline and a well-balanced diet in order to maintain a good physique throughout the year, with periods of more intense training and dieting during the competition phase.
In fact, it is often said that bodybuilding is 70% diet, 10% training, 10% rest and 10% genetics; putting 90% of the work within the individual’s reach.
After competition, the body requires at least a one-month period of complete rest from training in order to fully recover from the rigorous training.
Although the competition “on-stage” physique can only be maintained for a few weeks, the athlete can easily maintain an athletic body during the rest of the year if they maintain a well-balanced diet and train a few times a week.
Despite the fact that all successful bodybuilders use the sciences of nutrition and physiology to achieve their goals, bodybuilding as a worldwide phenomenon has also gained notoriety for its use of pharmaceutical science, in the form of anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids are medications synthesised to mimic the effects of the male hormone testosterone in the body.
However, some bodybuilders often include inordinate amounts of these drugs in their training regimens in order to aid maximum growth and definition in their contest preparations. These drugs do have some immediate side effects that include increased blood pressure, liver stress, temporary shut-down of the body’s natural production of male hormones as well as heart-by-pass.
“As you grow older, muscles also shrink, so many of them would use these steroids to try and keep the muscles in shape.”
Although steroids are officially only available with a doctor’s prescription in most countries, a thriving black market exists where underground labs have sprouted on every continent where steroids are manufactured by amateurs under unhygienic conditions, further increasing risk to those who take them.
Athletes need expert advice on drugs — Goredema
Goredema emphasised the need to get advice before starting to use some of these steroids. He explained why at times the drugs were associated with short lifespans in most sporting disciplines.
“What then causes a short lifespan is that those athletes that take the drugs with the help of medical practitioners always go for professional advice, even when they feel they no longer want to continue using them.
“Their medical advisors then give them other forms of tablets that they take to wean them off properly to avoid side effects. But look what happens with our own athletes; if they decide to stop using drugs, they just wake up the following day not taking them, just like that. All I am saying is that this sudden cut off supply in the body will definitely have side effects,” he said.
Although bodybuilding is often fingered out as a steroid abusing sport because of the development of super-sized athletes, the use of steroids is in virtually every Olympic sport.
During the London 2012 Olympics, over 20 athletes who competed in various disciplines at the games have been suspended for performance enhancing drugs including anabolic steroids.
Lance Armstrong, the infamous endurance cyclist who won seven yellow jerseys in the Tour de France, has finally admitted to having used anabolic steroids and further exposed the tricks athletes use to mask them to pass drug tests.
“So this cuts across all sporting disciplines but at different rates,” concluded Goredema