Self-Made Bodybuilding Diets Come with Health Risks

Why DIY Diets are Underfed and Over-Supplemented

Many fitness enthusiasts have taken their goals to the next level along with their diet plans. Their bodies are beautiful, defined, and fit for the stage. What remains unseen is lurking within their physiological functioning.

Self-made diet plans have created an unhealthy muscular person with nutrient deficiencies and possible long-term health issues. The Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition published a case study reporting DIY (do it yourself)  diets and supplement regimens significantly exceeded recommended daily intake level among athletes. "These dietary habits often lead to an overconsumption of some macro and/or micronutrients, exposing athletes to potential health risks.”

Potential Health Risks

fitness drink
DIY Diets Can Be Unbalanced. Sava Alexandru / Getty Images

Many people follow diet practices from online bodybuilding sites, magazines, or workout buddies. They begin programs without consideration of possible adverse effects to health.

When it comes to health, fitness, and nutrition, it's never a one-size-fits-all program. Unfortunately, the populous will copy what has worked for someone else and often times apply the “more is better” principle. 

More protein and supplements seem to be the biggest offenders of the DIY nutrition plan. The desire to maintain well-defined muscles overshadows any personal research for best nutrition practices.

“The risks of self-made diets: the case of an amateur bodybuilder” study sheds light on this very important and controversial subject. The purpose of the study examined health risks of this repeated behavior over time and especially addresses adverse gastrointestinal effects.

The British Journal of Nutrition case study reported athletes reasons for supplement overconsumption were "the aspired gain of muscle mass and the covering of micronutrient requirements." Athletes believed they required more nutrients due to high-performance training.

According to the case study, athletes determined their own supplement doses reading instruction leaflets (where available) and the frequency of intake was reported by the athlete. Among 3,887 elite athletes, it was discovered 1 to 78 supplements were taken per athlete. These amounts greatly exceeded the recommended daily allowance (RDA) and tolerable upper levels of intake (UL).

The research included a young male elite swimmer using 10 differing supplements. According to the study, overconsumption of supplements gives a reason for concern. Athletes are not taking into consideration eating both fortified food and taking supplements can cause potential health problems.

Consuming both fortified food and taking high doses of supplements increases total consumption of vitamins and minerals. This combination may easily exceed recommended daily allowance (RDA) for the individual and can reach toxic levels.

"Toxic effects may include short-term reversible gastrointestinal complaints and long-term effects such as the progression of cancer.”

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Self-Made Diets and Gastrointestinal Distress
Self-Made Diets Can Lead to Gastrointestinal Distress. John Lund/Stephanie Roeser Blend Images/Getty Images

The National Institutes of Health published research indicating athlete diets are often not balanced and have the potential to "negatively affect sporting performance.” Research also found significant deficiencies of vital nutrients as a result of self-made diets eliminating essential macro and micro-nutrients.

High energy exertion requires an adequate balanced supply of nutrients to sustain athletic functioning. Our ongoing physiological processes like maintaining the heart, brain, and lungs also depend on balanced nutrients.

In a case study of the 33-year old amateur bodybuilder, he reported fatigue and tiredness interfering with his job and athletic performance.   Also, he complained of severe gastrointestinal distress with daily repeated bouts of diarrhea after eating.

He consumed a very high protein diet, poor in fiber, and supplemented with milk-derived protein drinks and several vitamins and minerals. The case study indicated chronic unsupervised supplementation and self-made diet may have led to his adverse health effects.

Sports Nutrition Counseling

Sports Nutrition Counseling Recommended
Sports Nutrition Counseling and Education is Recommended. Hero Images/Getty Images

The common denominator among research studies indicated athletes to be counseled on proper nutrition. According to sports studies, there is a need for sports nutrition counseling to help athletes. The education gained from counseling would enable athletes to improve their eating habits, health, and athletic performance.

There appears to be an underestimation of the importance of healthy nutrition and overestimation of the supposed power of supplements among athletes. Also, a great lack of awareness of the adverse effects of over supplementation is prevalent among athletes. It's recommended for nutritionists and trainers to inform athletes about the possible health risks of self-made diets and supplementation. This valuable guidance could very well prevent potential severe and chronic health problems.


Journal for the International Society of Sports Nutrition, The risks of self-made diets: the case of an amateur bodybuilder, Lucio Della Guardia et al., 4/1/15

The British Journal of Nutrition, How much is too much? A case report of nutritional supplement use of a high-performance athlete, Carlsohn A et al., 6/28/11

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, Estimation of energy and nutritional intake of young men practicing aerobic sports, Wierniuk A et al., 2013

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