Bodybuilding Bubble Gut: Palumboism Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Suppose you have been watching bodybuilding competitions for years. In that case, you may have noticed that many of the professional contestants recently seem to have bellies, like they are in their third trimesters. This is not just a random coincidence. This new look is actually the result of something called "bodybuilding bubble gut."

This article will explore what bodybuilding bubble gut is, how it is caused, and whether or not it is dangerous. We will also dispel some of the myths surrounding this phenomenon.

What is Bodybuilding Bubble Gut?

2 bodybuilders with Bodybuilding Bubble Gut

The bodybuilding bubble gut is a condition that affects professional bodybuilders. It is characterized by a distended stomach, which looks like a pregnant belly, and an enlarged waistline.

Medically known as Palumboism, this condition is named after the professional bodybuilder Dave Palumbo, who was the first to popularize this look. In the past five years, as you can see in the Mr.Olympia list on Wikipedia, stomach distension has become more evident in Mr. Olympia winners and runners-up, such as Phil Heath and Kai Greene, even though they have extremely low body fat percentages. This trend is also actual for previous champions like Ronnie Coleman.

In recent years, many athletes have been observed to have bulging stomachs, raising questions among spectators about the cause. This phenomenon is also called "HGH Gut," "Insulin Gut," "Palumboism," or more popularly, "Bodybuilder Belly," "Muscle Gut," or "Bubble gut" in bodybuilding circles. It is believed that this distension of the stomach is caused by the abuse of human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

What Causes Bubble Gut?

A pair of bodybuilders flexing with swollen bellies in a post about Bodybuilding Bubble Gut

According to the Health Research Policy article about What is Palumboism and How to Avoid It, several factors can cause bubble gut in bodybuilders.

  • Human Growth Hormone Abuse - The exceptionally high doses of human growth hormone (HGH) used by bodybuilders can cause side effects such as the excessive growth of some tissues, like the intestines. This can lead to the HGH gut condition, where the abdomen can bulge twice its natural size, particularly after food consumption. This is because the larger intestines can increase visceral fat, the type of fat surrounding internal organs. Visceral fat is dangerous because it is associated with many health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • Insulin Abuse - Many bodybuilders use insulin and human growth hormone to increase muscle mass. However, insulin can also cause abdominal distension seen in the bubble gut. This is because insulin levels are high, and the body stores more visceral fat, particularly around the abdomen. In addition, when insulin levels are high, the body is less able to break down and use stored fat for energy, leading to weight gain.
  • Abuse of Other Anabolic Steroids - Other than HGH and insulin use, bodybuilders are known to use other anabolic steroids like insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), synthetic growth hormone, testosterone, and other performance-enhancing drugs. As stated in the above article, these drugs can help increase muscle mass but can also lead to an insulin gut or a bubble gut. This is because they can cause the body to store more fat, particularly around the abdomen.
  • High-Calorie Diet - While all bodybuilders follow an extremely high-calorie diet, some consume significantly more than 10,000 per day. This large amount of food that stays in the stomach for long periods can cause stomach distension, leading to increased fat storage and possibly reduced muscle mass.
  • High Carb Diet - High carbohydrate intake can cause an increase in glycogen stores, which leads to water retention. This, along with the large volume of carbohydrate-rich foods, can contribute to bubble Gut. If you still insist on keeping a high-carb diet, you may be interested in reading The 11 Best Foods For Carb Loading.
  • Stress and Fatigue of Training - The vigorous training that bodybuilders go through can lead to stress and fatigue. This, in turn, can decrease the production of digestive enzymes, which can cause indigestion and stomach distension. Further, long-term stress affects the nervous system, leading to adrenal fatigue. This can also cause indigestion and stomach distension.

Usually, the culprit will be a combination of the above-listed conditions. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove this theory because Palumboism is a rare condition that only affects bodybuilders and other athletes that heavily uses anabolic steroids and human growth hormone. 

What Are the Risks of Bubble Gut?

You health at risk sign in a post about Bodybuilding Bubble Gut

While the bubble gut may not be harmful in itself, the underlying conditions that cause it can lead to serious health problems. As mentioned above, the abuse of insulin and human growth hormone leads to health problems such as the excessive growth of some tissues, obesity, and type II diabetes. In addition, the abuse of other anabolic steroids can lead to health problems such as;

  • liver damage
  • high blood pressure
  • infections
  • skin conditions
  • hormonal imbalances, and
  • heart problems

How is Palumboism Treated?

How is Palumboism Treated written in an image in a post about in a post about Bodybuilding Bubble Gut

There is no recommended treatment for bubble gut because it is not a proven medical condition. However, the underlying conditions that cause bubble gut can be treated. For example, the abuse of anabolic steroids can be stopped, and the use of human growth hormone can be tapered off. In addition, the high-calorie diet can be replaced with a healthy diet, and the stress of training can be managed with rest and relaxation.

Stomach distention is reversible when lowering steroids or eliminating use. Some retired bodybuilders, such as Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman, had stomach distention but have since seen their stomachs return to standard size. So, this proves that the bubble gut can be fixed.

The same article suggests intermittent fasting as a way to help with Palumboism. By eating only during an 8-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours of the day, you can help to reduce hgh bubble gut and keep a high-quality physique.

In addition to the above suggestions, you can also try gut health hacks shared in our previous article 14 Science-Based Gut Health Hacks To Nurture Your Gut Microbiome to improve your health.

How To Prevent Palumboism?

Prevention written on a board in a post about Bodybuilding Bubble Gut

Although high-carb and high-calorie diets are necessary for bodybuilders to bulk up, they must be monitored. Overeating can lead to stomach distension and a bubble gut. In addition, bodybuilders need to be aware of the risks of using anabolic steroids and human growth hormones. These drugs can lead to health problems, such as bubble guts. Finally, bodybuilders need to manage the stress of their training by getting enough rest and relaxation.

By following these guidelines, bodybuilders can avoid the health problems of bubble gut. You may also be interested in reading What Does It Mean to Be Healthy? for more tips on living a healthy lifestyle.

Conclusion

Professional bodybuilders often use high-calorie diets and anabolic steroids to increase muscle growth. However, this can lead to a condition called bubble gut, characterized by a distended stomach. Bubble gut is not a proven medical condition, but the underlying conditions that cause it can be severe. Therefore, bodybuilders should be aware of the risks of bubble gut and take steps to prevent it.

Please see your doctor if you have concerns about your health.

FAQ

Why Do Bodybuilders Get Palumboism?

The exact cause of Palumboism is unknown. However, there are several reasons that scientists believe it stems from. A high-calorie diet and anabolic steroids, human growth hormones.

Can bubble gut be reversed?

Yes. Palumboism is reversible when the underlying causes are treated. For example, the abuse of anabolic steroids can be stopped, and the use of human growth hormone can be tapered off. In addition, the high-calorie diet can be replaced with a healthy diet, and the stress of training can be managed with rest and relaxation.

Can natural bodybuilders get bubble gut?

If they do not use steroids, growth hormones, or other performance-enhancing drugs and have a healthy diet, natural bodybuilders should not get a bubble gut. The moderate use of these drugs may also not cause a bubble gut. However, the abuse of these substances can lead to this condition.

Do probiotics help bubble guts?

Probiotics will help with the symptoms of gut issues, but they will not help to reverse or prevent Palumboism. To reverse palumboism, you must address the underlying causes, such as the abuse of anabolic steroids or HGH and insulin.

References

What is Bodybuilding Bubble Gut?

Wikipedia: Dave Palumbo

What Causes Bubble Gut?

Health Research Policy: What is Palumboism and How to Avoid It

Predator Nutrition: Bodybuilder Gut

WebMD: Visceral Fat

PubMed: What causes the insulin resistance underlying obesity

UpToDate: Use Of Androgens And Other Hormones By Athletes

Predator Nutrition: Palumboism

NIH Journal: Effect of a High Fat Diet vs. High Carbohydrate Diets

HSS: Overtraining: What It Is, Symptoms, and Recovery

PubMed Journal: Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain

What Are the Risks of Bubble Gut?

NIH: What are the side effects of anabolic steroid misuse?

How is Palumboism Treated?

Predator Nutrition: Palumboism

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