Why Do Bodybuilders Faint On Stage ?

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Competitive bodybuilding is an extreme sport, and there are no doubts about this. In order to be ready for the D-day, a bodybuilder goes through hell, in virtually every possible way. Right from ass-busting training, extreme dieting, carbohydrate manipulations, salt/sodium manipulation,water control, use of anabolic steroids, diuretics, and stimulants etc.

It’s not uncommon to see bodybuilders collapsing on stage. There is plethora of reasons behind this. But, unless you have an underlying medical condition, there is nothing to worry about, as these issues are temporary and reversible.

Here are the 3 major reasons why it happens:

  1. Dehydration – this is the no. 1 reason why bodybuilders tend to faint or collapse on stage. To be stage ready, bodybuilders have to undergo a lot of extreme dieting in terms of carbs and fat restriction, salt and water control.

Dehydration is the first thing that sets in such a case. In case of dehydration, your blood pressure drops, because the volume of blood decreases. Your blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and organs in your body, including your brain. So if you are not getting as much blood and oxygen as normal thanks to dehydration, you might pass out due to your brain’s lack of oxygen.

2. Holding Breath during Posing – posing is the essence of bodybuilding. Bodybuilders perform 7 compulsory poses in order to show their muscularity & symmetry to the judges. This is followed by a timed free posing routine, wherein the athlete performs a number of poses with music.

These amazing poses, which gives the beauty to the bodybuilders physique, may seem very effortless, but are one of the hardest part of their training & competition. Each pose requires extreme isometric muscle contractions & straining of muscles. And in most cases, bodybuilders hold their breath while hitting each pose, or they perform the Valsalva manoeuvre, during posing.

The primary side effect of Valsalva manoeuvre is a drop in blood pressure, which may make a person feel light headed and lead to temporary loss of consciousness. However, this is a very rare case and passing out episodes with bodybuilders are a combination of combination of dehydration, and Valsalva manoeuvre.

3. Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycaemia) – most bodybuilders cut down their carbohydrate intake to a great extent during the competitions. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy. During exercise, the demand for glucose increases.

In hypoglycaemia, there is not enough glucose in the blood to fulfil body’s energy needs. It’s the carbohydrates which breaks down into glucose in the body, which enters the blood stream, and then taken up by the cells. To do this, the pancreas secretes insulin, which helps the glucose enter the cells to be used as fuel.

As exercise volume/intensity increases, so does the body’s demand for glucose. Also, exercise makes body more sensitive to insulin, which will make insulin work better and thus reduce blood sugar even faster. On top of that, bodybuilders are on a low carb regime, which reduces the supply of glucose.

Hypoglycaemia can cause various issues like weakness, dizziness, anxiety, confusion, fainting, and in extreme cases even seizures, coma and death.

Therefore the episodes of collapsing/fainting on stage, can be either or combination of the above reasons.