Case Study: Unfavorable But Transient Physiological Changes During Contest Preparation in a Drug-Free Male Bodybuilder

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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Extreme body composition demands of competitive bodybuilding have been associated with unfavorable physiological changes, including alterations in metabolic rate and endocrine profile. The current case study evaluated the effects of contest preparation (8 months), followed by recovery (5 months), on a competitive drug-free male bodybuilder over 13 months (M1-M13). Serum testosterone, triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4), cortisol, leptin, and ghrelin were measured throughout the study. Body composition (BodPod, dualenergy x-ray absorptiometry [DXA]), anaerobic power (Wingate test), and resting metabolic rate (RMR) were assessed monthly. Sleep was assessed monthly via the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and actigraphy. From M1 to M8, testosterone (623–173 ng∙dL-1), T3 (123–40 ng∙dL-1), and T4 (5.8–4.1 mg∙dL-1) decreased, while cortisol (25.2–26.5 mg∙dL-1) and ghrelin (383–822 pg∙mL-1) increased. The participant lost 9.1 kg before competition as typical energy intake dropped from 3,860 to 1,724 kcal∙day-1; BodPod estimates of body fat percentage were 13.4% at M1, 9.6% at M8, and 14.9% at M13; DXA estimates were 13.8%, 5.1%, and 13.8%, respectively. Peak anaerobic power (753.0 to 536.5 Watts) and RMR (107.2% of predicted to 81.2% of predicted) also decreased throughout preparation. Subjective sleep quality decreased from M1 to M8, but objective measures indicated minimal change. By M13, physiological changes were largely, but not entirely, reversed. Contest preparation may yield transient, unfavorable changes in endocrine profile, power output, RMR, and subjective sleep outcomes. Research with larger samples must identify strategies that minimize unfavorable adaptations and facilitate recovery following competition.

Pardue and Sprod are with the Dept. of Exercise Science, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, NC. Trexler is with the Applied Physiology Laboratory, Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC.

Address author correspondence to Lisa Sprod at sprodl@uncw.edu.