Bubble Guts: The Curse of Getting Absolutely Jacked

bubble gut

If you look at professional bodybuilders from the past decade, you’ll notice a strange trend. Despite having six-packs, a bunch of these dudes look like they’re in their third trimester. It seems to defy the laws of physics: How can you have single-digit body fat and a bulging belly?

This leads us to our investigation into “bubble guts” (AKA Palumboism).

Bodybuilding legends like Ronnie Coleman, Kai Greene, and Phil Heath have all been textbook examples of bubble gut. And while it’s a common problem that likely poses a ton of crazy health risks, doctors aren’t 100% sure what causes it, or how to get rid of it.

In this article, we explore the origins of bubble guts, the factors that (might) trigger it, and how to prevent yourself from looking like you swallowed a beachball if you decide to start pumping iron.

What Is a Bubble Gut?

A bubble gut, AKA Palumboism, is a condition where your abdomen bulges outward, making you look unnaturally bloated compared to the rest of your body. Since bubble guts only seem to affect bodybuilders, health experts believe it’s caused by some combination of steroids, HGH, insulin, and high-calorie diets.

Palumboism is named after Dave “Jumbo” Palumbo: a bodybuilder who competed in the 90s and early 2000s. Peaking at nearly 300 pounds of pure muscle, he was notorious for his distended stomach.

In addition to bubble gut, Palumboism has many nicknames in the bodybuilding community, including:

  • Roid gut
  • HGH gut
  • Muscle gut
  • Insulin gut
  • Bodybuilder belly

Why Do Bodybuilders Get Bubble Guts?

There haven’t been any medical studies on bubble gut, so most of the theories about what causes it are just that—theories.

“There’s no data; it’s all anecdotal,” Dr. Thomas O’Connor, AKA the “Anabolic Doc,” told Muscle & Fitness. However, O’Connor went on to name a few likely culprits behind those bodybuilders’ bloated bellies:

  • Insulin: This hormone is used to bulk up
  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH): In addition to growing muscle, HGH grows the mesentery (gut tissue) as well as the muscles in your abdomen
  • High-Calorie Diets: Bodybuilders are notorious for loading up on carbohydrates, which can cause excessive bloating

So, what about the theory that steroids cause bubble guts?

“It’s not steroids, per se,” says O’Connor. “Steroids have been used back in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s and you didn’t see the bubble guts. So, what happened? The bar rose. Competitors all take in more insulin, HGH, and calories—upwards of 10,000 calories a day and 1,000 grams of carbohydrates.”

Bottom line: Bubble guts are the inevitable consequence of too many drugs and too much food, specifically too many carbs.

Can You Get Rid of Bubble Gut?

Since there are no clinical studies on bubble gut, that also means there are no official recommended treatment options. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck with a bloated muscle gut for the rest of your life.

Logic suggests that the first step to deflating a bubble gut is weening yourself off unnatural substances like HGH, insulin, and anabolic steroids. You may also want to consider not eating enough calories to feed a family on a daily basis. Over time, your gut (should) go back to normal.

When in doubt, it won’t hurt to consult with a doctor—specifically one with experience treating athletes who have used performance-enhancing drugs.

How to Prevent Bubble Gut

So you want to channel your inner Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you also don’t want to look like you’re seconds away from giving birth. If you’re taking your bodybuilding regimen to the next level, protect yourself from the dreaded bubble gut by avoiding:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Human growth hormone (HGH)
  • Insulin shots (unless prescribed by a doctor)
  • Gorging yourself with excessive amounts of food

You might not win Mr. Olympia, but at least you’ll be able to fit behind the steering wheel of your car.

Bigger Guts, Bigger Dumps

We’re not here to judge dudes with bubble guts. But we are here to judge dudes who punish their third pit with dry TP. If you’re on a diet of 10,000 calories a day, chances are you’re wreaking havoc on your digestive system and dealing with seriously explosive protein poops. Not to mention the risk of sharting yourself on leg day, mid-squat.

Whether you’re in the running for Mr. Olympia or you haven’t touched a weight since your high school gym class, do your ass a favor and get DUDE Wipes. They’re bigger and stronger than a square of Charmin could ever dream of.

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