Bodybuilding “Medical Secrets”

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: September 6, 2018
bodybuilding medical secrets

Bodybuilding “Medical Secrets” to help you and keep you safe:

My experience with bodybuilding:

I know some great bodybuilding medical secrets because of my relationship with elite bodybuilders over the years.

foods that give you energy should be eaten prior to a gym work outAm I personally “into” amateur or pro bodybuilding? No, I’m not nor have I ever been more than a weight lifting enthusiast. A gym rat at best.

However, I am board certified in Internal Medicine, Sports Medicine, Anti-aging Medicine (hormones!) and am a Certified Lipid Specialist.

In addition, I know as a boarded internist, anti-aging, and regenerative medicine specialist a lot about hormones and supplements.

I am a former owner of independent fitness centers and was the medical advisor to CMS-Club Marketing and Management Services where I created their “Medi-trac program.”

In other words, I spent about 25 years heavily immersed in the fitness business. Indeed I have seen my share of near-pro or pro-bodybuilders as fitness club clients or as Sports Medicine patients.

I have not and do not take care of professional bodybuilders or other pro athletes as an A4M doc as I am not allowed to, under my licensure. However, I DO care for those retired from the sport.

A Doctor for BodyBuilding

I am not allowed to prescribe hormones of any type to any competing amateur or professional athletes. I need to make that known in case “authorities” read my writing.  However, I have “looked over” countless lab reports for others who DO take care of bodybuilders to at least advise them and give advice on how to “stop the carnage” to active bodybuilders in a nonmedical capacity.

So what I’m about to discuss is part literature and part my experience. I doubt if any doctor of any sort has written an article like this, honestly.

The sport is enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and many of them do things which are not particularly healthy. I’ll explain further and nd I’ll tell you “like it is.”  If you are into bodybuilding, read on to know what you need to do to stay healthy while enjoying your sport.

Bodybuilding and food:

This is where I give most bodybuilding enthusiasts thumbs up. The old bodybuilding joke is “a lot of broccoli and chicken, ” and while boring, it’s healthy. In fact, let me give you 7 great healthy chicken recipes right now!

The best whey protein shakes are healthy to drink IF they are using a whey protein concentrate with no additives like we have on our website.

The bodybuilding community knows to keep the fat and carbs down and to eat foods high in branched chain amino acids (“bcaa bodybuilding proteins”) such as the whey protein, chicken, and eggs.

Salmon is also a good source of BCAA’s but it MUST be wild caught; sockeye salmon cannot be farmed.

I am not crazy about the Paleo diet being followed by a lot of bodybuilders only because it’s so meat top-heavy.

Note meats contain inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids which actually hinders muscle growth.

So, I’d like to advise a cut back on the beef if you are “doing Paleo.” Markedly, grass-fed beef has less omega-6s. 

Bodybuilding and Hormones:

I’m going to talk about this “dirty little secret” because my goal is to, again, keep bodybuilders safe. For me to advise by saying “don’t do it” isn’t going to stop anyone from doing it. So, please no hate comments from the non-bodybuilding community.

Bodybuilding, unlike professional baseball, accepts that it’s participants obtain hormones to increase their muscular size and overall lean body mass.

It is accepted, and competitors know how to “cheat the system” regarding testing by cycling off hormones when needed.

I am not here to judge; I’m here to help.  I hope you do not judge me either for giving potentially millions of athletes advice on how to be healthy while they are doing their sport.


When men are testosterone deficient, it increases their risks of heart disease and even prostate cancer. Many studies have shown that normalizing testosterone levels will then decrease these risks.

A well-known “side effect” of testosterone supplementation is that men and women increase their muscle mass.

However, there is a real problem with taking massive doses of testosterone and (ugh, these are so unhealthy) ANABOLICS such as the popular Anavar (oxandrolone).

With massive dosing, especially with anabolic steroids, we see the “good cholesterol” HDL take a nosedive right down to the bottom, and we see LDL “the bad cholesterol” climb.




I’m not going to talk about “masculinizing effect” in females as these are cosmetic, not medical issues. Furthermore, in bodybuilding, we tend to see competitors going on and off testosterone in “cycles.”

This is very confusing to the pituitary gland, even though other drugs like Clomid and HCG are used to keep up the testosterone levels as much as possible.

None of these competitors will ever have a normal pituitary-testicular or ovarian cycle again. This means they will not produce their own testosterone at normal levels. Due to this, it would be healthier to go to a lower, more physiologic level of testosterone rather than “cycling off” completely or using large doses of Clomid.

Furthermore, physiologic manipulations need to occur to combat high levels of LDL particles building in the coronary endothelium. Since other habits contribute to these high levels, I’ll discuss how to reduce it from occurring. Anabolics just put the HDL on the floor and HDL is what “gobbles up” these new deposits of fatty material. Therefore, if you can get by without the anabolics, that would be great! 

Human growth hormone:

This is yet another hormone with a “bad rap, ” but in the real world, if someone meets FDA guidelines for needing human growth hormone, it is prescribed with almost universal favorable results.

We know low HGH markers are associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

We are aware HGH thickens up the dermis by causing proliferation of collagen and elastin. For some people with severe HGH deficiencies such that they have skin so thin they bleed to the touch, HGH is an incredible form of anti aging skin care.

We know it adds muscles to patients with serious diseases and muscle wasting. Further, it provides lean muscle while promoting fat loss. At physiological doses, it is not a problem, as long as someone makes sure they do not have any active cancer. For those of you who have heard HGH causes cancer, at physiological doses it actually prevents it, boosts the immune system, protects the brain and more. However, at bodybuilding doses, it raises blood sugar much of the time and can cause changes in the appearance of the jaw as well as carpal tunnel syndrome. As of now, we don’t know if high doses of HGH causes cancer.

This is another time when I would caution about dosing. I’ll discuss how to fix the blood sugar issue when I get into solutions. We know IGF1 levels of 500 ng/ml according to most studies is safe for non-bodybuilders. I don’t see how you get added bodybuilding benes over that, but then again I haven’t “experimented” and it hasn’t been studied. As far as what’s safe for bodybuilders, there is just no data. I’m researching this so stay tuned. For now, though, I’d suggest 350 is tops.

IGF1-LR3- One of the little known bodybuilding medical secrets:

This peptide hormone is not FDA approved, but it seems to be available wherever bodybuilding hormones are sold.

We believe this works by actually recruiting new muscle fiber cells (something HGH doesn’t do) so that bodybuilders get not just hypertrophy of existing muscle fibers but NEW muscle fibers too.

We are positive it prevents decay of existing motor neuron units which then gives us more muscle cells. Note we are not 100% sure it recruits. Further, we know more muscle fibers stick around when you use it.

Clinical trials show no adverse effects when used at physiologic doses but who knows what goes on with massive dosing of anything.

A word about this and anything that needs to be “reconstituted”. If it’s a powder and you add sterile water, you should have a crystal clear solution. If it’s cloudy, you are not getting a pure product. In this case, I cannot even guess about any side effects here. If you have a pure IGF1-LR3 and that allows you to go OFF THE ANABOLICS, that actually would be the best “move” health-wise.

Problems from the stress (physical and mental) of bodybuilding:

Bodybuilders will tend to work out past their limits quite a lot of the time unless they are really disciplined to “know when to stop.”

DOMS isn’t fatal but can set a bodybuilding schedule back. I’ll discuss how to combat this in the supplements section.

Over-training can lead to excessively high cortisol levels, and this appears to be a common problem. (Follow that link!)

First and foremost, this is totally counteractive to what someone is looking to achieve—anabolic growth, not catabolic muscle breakdown which is what high cortisol levels do.

Though, that’s not all. Having high cortisol levels will start interfering with sleep, energy, mood and immune system function.

When I get into the solutions section, I’ll discuss this too. If you need help falling asleep or staying asleep, please do NOT resort to sleeping pills. Sleeping pills will interfere with deep sleep and REM sleep. They are not only bad for your health, but are bad for muscle healing and growth after a work-out too.

 Oxidative stress:

Oxidative stress is what occurs when your body doesn’t have enough antioxidants “on board” to neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are the unstable molecules that react with other substances in your body to damage cells or create abnormal ones.

The reason that bodybuilding habits lead to oxidative stress which is incredibly common amongst “mortals” in the first place is two-fold.

First, bodybuilding athletes do not want a gassy, bloated belly. They want perfect GI tract function, especially when they are trying to “rip” their abs. Generally, few are eating 12-15 servings of fruits/veggies per day. So, that’s one reason. Second, heavy exercise produces free radicals. As a result, we’re talking about a population of intense training athletes who are more prone to generating their OWN free radicals. Stress and the stress hormone cortisol increases inflammation, which further increases free radical production. (Yes, I’ll talk about inflammation too).

So, what?

Oxidative stress is associated with a myriad of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, increased levels of LDL particles in the coronary endothelium, cancer and Alzheimer’s. When you pair it with inflammation and glycation (a high blood sugar from the HGH) as well as a high cortisol, you have the perfect environment for future disaster. Luckily, this is easy to fix. Yes, I’ll discuss.


Since the majority of bodybuilders eat an anti-inflammatory diet and certainly are NOT overweight or as we say “over-fat,” that’s not why they have inflammation.

Intense, daily exercise as well as “stress” can cause inflammation which, when coupled with just what I discussed above, leads to much of the same long term.

Short term, inflammation leads to more DOMS, slower healing after a muscle-shredding workout and therefore inhibits optimal muscular growth.

The (partial) fixes for bodybuilding lifestyles:

In short, if you’ve been keeping track, we need to fix high cortisols, oxidative stress, inflammation, reduce fatty deposits and often high blood sugars (a fasting blood sugar above 85ng/dL). Also, we need to fix DOMS—delayed onset muscle soreness—for those of you who OBVIOUSLY  don’t work out, LOL.

Oxidative stress:

Either “juicing” if it fits into the calories or an amazing multi-vitamin-multi-mineral; I have YET to find one that is “enough” is the usual answer.

What I recommend, and it fits into the bodybuilding caloric allowance, is a stevia sweetened blend of fruits (reds) and veggies (greens) powders taken as drinks twice daily.

Measuring for oxidative stress is done with raman spectroscopy scanners (I have one) or via urinary isoprostanes. If you do the reds/greens 2x/day and add a quality multi with fish oil, you’re good to go.


Generally speaking a pharmaceutical grade and non-GMO complex curcumin product, along with fish oils is enough for most bodybuilders. This helps DOMS too by the way.


You should take an adrenal adaptogen mix and an adrenal glandular.

I know it sounds like witchcraft to some, but there are aromatherapy blends (we have an amazing one) that have been studied and also found to bring down cortisol levels!

If sleep and energy are impaired, you need to fix those things.

Anyone with a high-stress job or workout schedule should be on two adrenal adaptogen supplements.  I am on them and so are most of my high-octane patients.


There are several integratives which will bring this down—chromium nicotinate, alpha lipoic acid, and berberine. Glycation leads to stiffening of all cells including skin and muscle tissue, so it’s also an aesthetic problem for a competing bodybuilder. Most guys are on a metformin—a drug. It’s not my cup of tea, but not the worst thing either.

Reduce LDL Deposits:

We know that if we fix oxidative stress, inflammation, cortisol, blood sugar and normalize, not over-shoot testosterone levels that we create an environment where small dense oxidized LDL particles cannot stick to the coronary endothelium. (That was my 1 min youtube video explaining the tests you need to get).

So with the high testosterone levels “going on” we’ll have fixed all but that, making it considerably less of an issue but not entirely taking it away.

Supplements for bodybuilding:

If you look through the articles on this site, I can make a case for ribose, L-glutamine, creatine if in combo with nitric oxide boosters,  acetyl-l-carnitine, GPC and this list could go on and on.

You MUST get a good clean whey powder. And so as not to bore you here I’ll give you links to read (if you wish) about my pics for the best muscle building protein and the best weight lifting supplements.

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