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How To Avoid Palumboism and What Is It?



Staff member
May 27, 2010
Bodybuilding is an interesting and challenging sport, but it comes with its risks. Some bodybuilders, to bulk up and achieve an aesthetically pleasing body, spend most of their time in the gym. But some in a bid to become mass monsters or achieve the highest form of fitness end up using anabolic steroids just to get massive.

When it's done right through hard work and consistency, every bodybuilder can be in their best shape. But by overdoing it and taking risky substances, you're at risk of deforming your body. You're also at risk of muscular, skeletal, and other bodily side effects.

One of these conditions that could befall a bodybuilder is called Palumboism. This condition is not a real medical condition and there are no medical records about it. Palumbo refers to some types of bodies that are bloated from normal proportions.

In this article, you'll find out everything you need to know about Palumboism and how it can be prevented.

What is Palumboism​

Palumbo happens when there's swelling on the muscles at the side of the abdomen, also called the oblique muscles, which makes it difficult for bodybuilders to hold their stomach or their rectus abdominus muscles.

Palumbo can be called other names like steroid or roid gut, human growth hormone or HGH gut, HGH bloat, bubble gut, insulin gut, muscle gut, and bodybuilder's belly.

So, Palumboism or bubble gut is the extensive intention around the midsection allowing bodybuilders to look like they're excessively fat and have heavy swelling around the gut.

This trend has become more popular especially in the last 5 years as there are pictures of Mr. Olympia winner and runner-up Phil Heath and Kai Greene, and even other legendary athletes like Ronnie Coleman. These people have shown excessive abnormal swelling in the stomach despite having low body fat.

This has caused a stir of reactions among fans and spectators as to what is causing the bloating of the stomach of these athletes and why it has become rampant in recent years. Palumboism can also be called human growth hormone and so it is believed to be caused by insulin and HGH abuse.

What Causes Palumboism/Bubble Gut in Bodybuilders?​

Bubble gut is caused by different factors like excessive use of insulin and the use of HGH injections that started in the nineties. There is no specific factor that has been concluded to be the reason for the bodybuilder's belly(Palumboism). The most reasonable conclusion is that different factors combine to cause it.

These include:
  • Human growth hormone abuse​

Bodybuilders use an extremely high dose of HGH that's estimated to be around 5 milligrams per day. This has some side effects like the undue growth of some tissues like the intestines. When the intestine gets larger, it causes the abdomen to increase to twice its normal size especially after eating food.
  • Insulin abuse​

Many bodybuilders also mix HGH and different other substances coupled with insulin use. This practice is referred to as stacking. The use of insulin can further cause an increase in the fat storage that's located behind the stomach known as visceral fat and this can cause a swollen abdomen.
  • Increased Abdominal Muscle Mass​

With the use of insulin and human growth hormone drugs and the mixture of several supplements and a diet that is very high in protein, muscle mass increases significantly. This causes an increase in the size of the Rectus Abdominus(the six pack as it's usually called). And it also causes an increase in the muscles that are beneath it, like the Transverse Abdominus and the Internal Obliques. This causes swelling in the entire midsection, giving a bloated appearance and adding to stomach distension. This look is popularly called Palumboism.
  • High carbohydrate diets​

Foods that contain high carbohydrates cause an increase in the level of glycogen that's stored in the muscles and this leads to increased water retention because glycogen attracts water. So this and the large intake of food that's high in carbohydrates add to muscle guy by causing a swollen look.
  • High-calorie diets​

Regardless of protein, carbohydrates, or supplements, all bodybuilders adhere to an extremely high-calorie diet with some of them consuming about 10,000 calories a day. By taking this high intake of calories, it means consuming a high volume of food that can be in the stomach for a long take which results in gut distension.
  • Carbohydrate loading and water manipulation techniques​

Many bodybuilders and fitness models employ a technique called 'carb' or 'glyco' loading; this is where a bodybuilder dehydrates and reduces his intake of carbohydrates and sometimes uses ingest diuretics to help remove water from the body. They can take in a large number of carbohydrates and water to increase the volume of water in the muscles and this causes a greater and more defined muscle.

However, if miscalculated, the loss of water coupled with the issue of high carbohydrate intake can lead to slower digestion and stomach emptying, which means there's a storage of food in the guts for a long time, causing distention.

How to prevent an HGH belly​

Recent studies have shown that even the use of human growth hormone has little or no effect on the promotion of muscle mass. And studies have also shown that the use of insulin has more danger to the body than other safer supplements. In light of this, abstinence from these substances would seem like the best solution.

Bodybuilders already know this but the reason they keep taking it is that they think that there's no way this substance would not affect the growth of their muscle mass. At the same time, they also take these drugs because they help in the recovery of tendon injury and can even prevent injury. Because of these benefits, advising bodybuilders to stop using these drugs will be futile.

However, there may be ways to reduce stomach distension without completely halting the use of insulin or human growth hormone. Different methods can be used in helping to prevent insulin or HGH from causing Palumboism in new bodybuilders and reduce its effects on professional bodybuilders.
  • Taper HGH and insulin dosage close to competition​

From observing several bodybuilders who used human growth hormone throughout their careers like Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman, it's evident that stomach distension isn't a permanent condition and it can be reversed by reducing the dose or better still stopping the use of the cycle. Insulin is a primary bulking substance and can stop the cutting process by increasing fat storage. So, cutting down on the amount of HGH and insulin, especially when preparing for a contest will allow the bodybuilder benefits from the drugs and still reduce gut distension on stage.
  • Use Intermittent Fasting when Cutting​

Intermittent fasting has been proven to be as effective as normal cutting down on calories for weight and fat loss while still maintaining muscle. When calculated correctly, this will make sure that the amount of food in the digestive system is not high and help reduce stomach distension. At the same time allowing a high physique quality to be maintained on stage during a contest.
  • Reduce Carbohydrate Intake Throughout Contest Preparation​

Many bodybuilders usually feel that they have to increase their carbohydrate intake when cutting for muscle mass. However, since insulin use has been reduced or eliminated, there's no extra benefit to maintaining a high carb intake. Cutting down on carbohydrates and maintaining fats can cause an increase in the level of testosterone when dieting while the reduced food volume will control the level of muscle gut.

During these times, the intake of protein can increase even without taking highhigh-carbohydratery products by taking eggs, meats, and, supplements. It should also be taken into account that protein increase during these diets could help engage visceral fat loss that was caused by the initial use of insulin. Also, eating outside meals or at restaurants can make it hard to achieve a low-carb diet. For this, you can seek the assistance of nutritionists to help with the proper diet plan.
  • When Carb-Loading, Ensure Correct Timing and Nutrient Intake​

When using water manipulation techniques, ensure that you increase the intake of sodium and electrolyte through supplementing with electrolyte solutions like Genius Electrolytes and you increase the intake of the digestive enzymes to aid digestion.

This can be achieved by supplementing with digestive aids such as Fiberlyze. Also, focus on the timing and make sure it's correct, giving at most 24 hours to allow complete glycogen super-compensation before you get on stage.

Using these strategies can be very effective in preventing Palumboism and reducing the bodybuilder's belly.

On the other hand, it's important to put individual differences into consideration and to try out these steps carefully as different people have different reactions to these methods.
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