When I started competing in 2013, I was obliviously ignorant to the use of steroids or steroid like substances, in the fitness/bodybuilding industry. At the time, I assumed that bodybuilding was a simple sport. You diet and train to the best of your abilities and come out looking great as a result. The only supplements that I took were Protein Powder, and BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids). But not before I asked as many questions as possible and researched them both. I recall even thinking that the concept of protein powder was so foreign to me. But soon it becomes part of your lifestyle as a bodybuilder. You were taught that if you wanted to get big (gain lean muscle), you have to follow suit. After researching and asking my current coach, I learned that protein powder was mostly for convenience sake. It was a fast and efficient way to consume a serving of protein. It’s great for a post work out drink to replenish your muscles, or even if you wanted something sweet to curb your cravings.
I’ll never forget buying my first HUGE tub of Café Brazil/ISO Sensation protein. I was so proud to have made this purchase and make it a part of my bodybuilding lifestyle. It almost felt like a badge of honour 🙂 “My coach says I need to take two scoops a day!” and so of course you do, because that’s what your coach tells you. When anyone asked me what I took or what I was on, never did I think they meant what type of steroid are you using. Because to me, that didn’t take place in the Bikini Industry. During my first season of competing, I didn’t once hear of any female that I knew supplementing with steroids. I call this the “Simple Time” in my experiences, because I just had no idea. They say ignorance is bliss and it definitely was for me at this point. I was currently competing at the novice and provincial level, so I was in some ways sheltered from it.
My second year of competing, is when I started to notice a huge change in bikini physiques. Women were coming in leaner, harder and somehow maintained their muscle mass while dropping a lot of fat. I still didn’t think anything of it because I was very unaware of what could possibly be the reason. I started to ask friends who had been in the industry for longer and had more knowledge on the sport, about how I could achieve such coveted physiques. What’s the secret and what am I missing from my “stack” of protein powder and BCAA’S 😉 The response that I would get almost instantaneously was that if I wanted that look, I would have to be open to supplementing a little harder. Naïve me, would say “You mean like Creatine?”..(yeah Linds, Creatine). What I was then informed was that female bodybuilder’s in the bikini industry supplement with steroids too. They just use certain supplements that are lower in androgens (natural compound, steroid hormone , that stimulates or controls the development and maintenance of male characteristics). Steroids with higher androgenic nature can promote virilizaton symptoms in women such as hair growth, deepening of the voice, etc.
I honestly was shocked. I felt like I was just told that my dreams were a lie and a fake. I remember calling my dad and telling him “Did you know that I compete in a category with women who take steroids?” like it wasn’t known by anyone else. We discussed it in depth and I for some reason just assumed that Bikini was a completely natural category. After all, the fact that we were striving to achieve a more natural look than the other categories, should alone be reason enough to be under these assumptions. How could I have been so stupid to believe that people would play by the rules? The fact of the matter is, they are. If it’s not titled as a “Natural” show, than there’s no rules against it. Even when there are rules in place, there are still ways around passing a drug test. In order to claim natural, there isn’t always necessarily a set amount of time that you had to have been clean for either (I’ve only learned some of this information just recently).
In 2014 after placing first in my class in the local Provincial Show, I wanted to go on to nationals. My coach at the time was very supportive. He didn’t sugar coat anything and told me, that the women at nationals were going to look a lot different that they did at Provincials. I was in the best stage condition that I had ever been in and had three weeks to dial it in even more to give them a run for their money. The morning of the show, I took videos and pictures and was so enamoured at the progress that I had made in such a short amount of time. I was certain that there was no possible way that I wouldn’t at least be a top contender. But when I arrived to the change room, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The physiques that I witnessed were honestly jaw dropping. These tiny little bodies with capped shoulders and dry, rock hard abs. WHAT. THE. &*%$ did I get myself into. Needless to say, my height category lined up and I felt like a linebacker compared to the other girls. I fell into last call outs, and felt so disappointed in myself. I vowed then that the next year that I went to Nationals that I would be leaner, smaller and ready.
I spent a lot of my free time doing my research and asking others in the industry that I trusted about what my options were. Every person that I asked had the same solution and the same answer. “If you want to be apart of that world and be a contender, you will have to play the game”. Now, in no way am I claiming that every bikini girl that looks great is taking steroids or isn’t natural. I am simply speaking from personal experience and sharing how this topic has affected me in some way. At this stage of the game I knew that I had two large problems getting in the way of looking similar to the top physiques that were currently placing.
- My metabolism was slow to begin with and now shot.
- I have a very hard time in general dropping fat to the degree necessary for the sport.
In order to fix these issues in a short time frame, I would need to supplement with something a little stronger than protein powder. The only other option was and still is, time. Time away from dieting so hard and from extreme cardio. Even then, you can never be certain of how your body will react and how long it may take to reverse properly. I would need to slowly reverse my diet (increase calories) and decrease cardio to a point where it wouldn’t require such extremes to drop fat. My coach was very supportive and gave me all of the information that I needed. I asked what my options were and he told me. At no point was I forced during this time to take anything I wasn’t comfortable taking. I was simply informed that at this level of bodybuilding, steroid use is not uncommon (putting it lightly). In fact, being completely natural is quite uncommon and not many are able to make it passed a certain level of competition because the comparison in physiques are just so drastic. Again, I just felt as if I had hit a wall and that there was no where for me to go. I discussed it with my partner and he was very supportive and told me that whatever I was comfortable with doing, he was onboard. He asked what women commonly supplement with and the only word that I knew at that point, was “Clenbuterol”, which is a steroid like substance that is considered more of a stimulant.
“Clenbuterol Hydrochloride is a powerful bronchodilator that is used to treat breathing disorders like asthma. Beyond treating breathing disorders, Clenbuterol is commonly used as a thermogenic. In fact, you will more than likely find more Clenbuterol use in fat loss plans than anywhere else. It is a very common fat burning tool used by many anabolic steroid users. It is a long standing favorite among competitive bodybuilders and other physique athletes during contest preparation. However, it is also used by non-steroid users for its fat loss properties.”
I told him I had researched about it and what all of the possible side effects were (Which is something everyone should do before they decide to take anything). One of the side effects that didn’t sit well with me, was the possible increase in anxiety. I already suffered from it and at times couldn’t sleep if I drank too much coffee through out the day. Another was the possible side effects on your heart. My dad suffers from a heart condition called Atrial Fibrilation where you suffer from irregular heart beats. After seeing him struggle with it for years, he was very firm on any sort of supplementation that interfered with the possibilities of increasing the likelihood of contracting the disorder, as my risks are higher than others. I also learned that with anything else, you need to slowly cycle off of these drugs to allow your body to adapt back to its natural state. I’ve heard horror stories of women with increased night sweats, anxiety attacks and severe depression. These possible side effects alone were enough to scare me away.
I had already spent the majority of my life saying no to things that I couldn’t condone morally. I wasn’t taking fat burners for the same reasons and I also believed that if I trained hard enough and followed my diet that the results would just happen naturally. For a split second I toyed with the idea of going against everything that I set out to do on my own, and taking a risk. I wanted that pro card so badly that if felt as if I would do anything to get it. But this? I just couldn’t do. I knew that I wanted to prove to women that its possible to achieve your goals in the bodybuilding or fitness industry as naturally as possible. Most importantly, I would have felt like I was lacking integrity if I made this choice. I believe that if you’re ashamed to admit something to yourself on the route to success, how can you possibly admit it to anyone else. Especially if people begin to look up to you and ask you for advice or direction.
I know that steroids are a very mixed bag conversation. I prefer to stay on the natural side of things because I am aware of the risks and I personally don’t think the benefits outweigh the possible long term side affects. I already struggle with anxiety and depression and I didn’t want to add more possibilities for those two issues to escalate. What anyone else uses is their decision. Hopefully they are well aware of whether those risks are worth it to them or not. I just hope that with each decision you make on your path to success and motivating others, you are proud of the decisions and own them. I know people who supplement and don’t deny it, because it’s their choice and the path they’ve chosen. When women approach me and ask what steroid they should take and what I recommend, my answer will always be the same. I don’t take any as a personal choice and I don’t have any experience with it. Being a woman in today’s society is hard enough already, let alone being a bikini competitor, and Personal Trainer who some may look to for guidance. I want women to be healthy and happy with themselves and realize that taking such drastic measures isn’t the answer to achieving either. I have enough trouble admitting how strict I have to diet and how much cardio I need to commit to for shows, that the thought of adding any other extreme to my routine is just overwhelming. I want women to look at me and think that achieving my fitness level or physique is possible. I want to set realistic goals for myself as well as for others in this industry that is so full of smoke and mirrors.