Unless you're living under a rock, chances are you've heard the term "natty" tossed around quite a bit. It's an age-old debate within the bodybuilding community that traverses the tough topic of hard work and fairness.
It's almost like a game, the way people examine and accuse people of breaking the "natty" rules. Many have strong opinions on remaining "natty", while others are mostly indifferent.
Stick around to discover the true meaning behind what means to be "natty," why it's so important, and the considerations you should take into effect when thinking about hopping on gear.
What does "natty" mean in bodybuilding?
The term is used so frequently, yet so often left unexplained. What exactly does it mean to be "natty" in bodybuilding?
Natty implies being chemical-free. In the bodybuilding community, being natural and free from steroids is a big deal; many lifters who take steroids are discounted because of their performance-enhancing drugs.
The word "natty" is nothing more than a fun term for someone natural. Being natural in the bodybuilding world means staying away from all sorts of performance-enhancing drugs.
You may find "Natty or Not" series all over the internet, all coming down to the core debate of whether a certain lifter is "Natty or Not." The thing is, it's almost impossible to tell without having their bloodwork done and revealed.
However, there are a few tell-tale signs that we will cover later in the article.
Another term for natty bodybuilders is unenhanced, while an alternative term for bodybuilders on drugs is enhanced. This is derived from the fact that their body composition is enhanced by their usage of performance-enhancing drugs.
Typically, the drugs used by enhanced, or unnatural bodybuilders, are known as anabolic steroids. Anabolic means "to build", hence the usage of anabolic steroids to build muscle.
Why is important to be "natty"?
Being "natty" is more than just abstaining from drug usage in bodybuilding. It's a way of life that has many benefits; taking steroids can alter the course of your entire life, not just your bodybuilding career.
Being "natty" is important because many bodybuilding competitions require competitors to be natural, or without drugs. Another important reason to remain natural is to preserve your health; taking performance-enhancing drugs comes with a long list of adverse side effects.
Bodybuilding falls into two major categories: natural and enhanced. The focus of today's article is on natural bodybuilding.
To compete in natural bodybuilding competitions, competitors must pass a drug test to prove that they are completely free and clear of any performance-enhancing drugs.
The tests given are known as polygraph tests; their goal is to detect the presence of substances on the banned performance-enhancing drugs list. If bodybuilders pass the test, they are free to compete.
Outside of being able to compete in "natty" bodybuilding competitions, it's wise to stay natural for health reasons.
A study published in 2018 confirmed some of the following side effects as a result of anabolic steroid usage: early onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, behavioral disorders, decreased serotonin, and cognitive deficits such as memory loss.
As you can see, the risk may not be worth it for many bodybuilders. It is important to weigh your options wisely, thinking through your decisions and all their consequences.
What makes someone not "natty"?
If "natty" is being free of drugs, what exactly does it take for someone to be enhanced?
An enhanced, or unnatural bodybuilder, is someone who takes anabolic steroids to enhance their physique and strength. These steroids tend to significantly raise testosterone levels and speed up recovery.
A lifter or bodybuilder becomes unnatural when they take anabolic steroids for the first time. Some of the more "popular" or commonly used steroids are testosterone, trenbolone, and human growth hormone just to name a few.
When a bodybuilder takes any one of these substances, he or she is no longer considered natural; they are now enhanced.
By taking these drugs, hormone production is increased and the body can therefore accommodate more muscle mass. By the use of synthetic hormones, lifters also recover quicker, further facilitating enhanced muscle growth.
Can you be "natty" again if you stop taking steroids?
A major debate in the scientific community concerns a bodybuilder's label after taking anabolic steroids. Are they considered "natty" again, or is their reputation forever tainted?
Unfortunately, once taking steroids, lifters are not considered "natty," even if they get off of performance-enhancing drugs. It was previously thought that lifters could return to a natural state, but recent studies have revealed that taking anabolic steroids permanently alters muscle fibers.
Without getting into too many details, the usage of anabolic steroids permanently changes muscle structure and function. Period.
This is confirmed by a study performed in 2005 that compared two groups of powerlifters: one enhanced, and one natural.
The study found that in enhanced lifters, even years after ceasing to take anabolic steroids, their muscle fibers remain larger and denser.
It is not fair for these lifters to then be considered "natty," considering the well-known fact that they are still reaping benefits from their drug usage.
Signs someone is not "natty"
While the only way to confirm whether or not someone is on gear is through drug-testing or verbal admission, there are signs that someone may be taking steroids.
I wouldn't recommend calling people out on this, but if you're curious, these are dead giveaways that someone is a steroid user.
- Pink or red skin tone - Taking steroids often turns the skin a bright pink or vibrant red color.
- Unrealistic increase in muscle mass over a short period - If someone puts on muscle like a madman, it is likely attributed to steroids (unless they are a new lifter).
- Uncontrollable temper - This stems from developing cognitive deficits as a result of steroids. You'll commonly hear this referred to as "Roid Rage."
- Potential hair loss - Steroids enhance androgens in the body, which play an important role in a condition called Alopecia. Alopecia is also known as Male Pattern Baldness.
- Skin irritation and acne - Taking anabolic steroids increases oil production in skin pores, leading to more clogs and the development of acne.
- Gynecomastia, aka Gyno - Many steroids used by bodybuilders are converted into estrogen and produce a puffy area around the nipple.
- High VBF (visceral body fat) - While steroids reduce subcutaneous body fat, they increase visceral body fat due to impaired insulin sensitivity.
- Increase in the visibility of veins (more vascular) - Taking steroids often decreases collagen production, subsequently thinning the skin. This makes veins more visible, contributing to the vascular look that many enhanced bodybuilders have developed.
Should I stay "natty"?
Depending on who you ask, taking steroids can be frowned upon. At Six Pack Center, we do not judge or make specific recommendations; we simply provide you with the necessary knowledge to make an educated decision for yourself.
Being a natural bodybuilder or an enhanced bodybuilder has its respective benefits. Natural bodybuilders will reach their ceiling quicker and will not see as great of a physique, but they steer clear of many health issues and can compete in any competition. Enhanced bodybuilders may see a greater physique, but they must then contend with adverse side effects.
As stated before, this is an informational post; it is in no way, shape, or form meant to be persuasive. We are simply representing the facts and knowledge about natural bodybuilding.
As with all things in life, there are benefits and drawbacks.
Natural bodybuilders have overall health that is surely better than enhanced bodybuilders. The caveat is that they will hit their ceiling and plateau much quicker than others.
Another benefit of remaining "natty" is the ability to compete in any competition of your choosing.
On the other hand, enhanced bodybuilders can build insanely impressive physiques, but it comes at a cost. Taking steroids is no joke and the side effects are potentially serious.
It's up to you to decide for yourself. Natty or Not?