T Nation

Overeating And Disease.

Has anyone thought about the ill-effects of long-term overeating (especially heathly “bulking”)?

What I mean is, does anyone have any opinions based on obervations that prolonged periods of overeating can eventually wreak havoc internally?

I’m mainly interested in diabetes and cancer.

This is a possibly irrational fear now that I’m closing in on 40 years old.

My heart wants me to get bigger, my analytical mind wants to be sure that I do everything possible to NOT be one of the millions of Americans with diabetes or cancer.

I really just want to start a dialogue about long-term excellent health and how bodybuilding figures into it.

Does the exercise outweigh the excess calories we eat?

Does the fish oil and fiber and all the other healthful stuff we consume daily outweigh all the oxydative damage we creat by busting our asses in the gym (along with far-above-maintainance calories we eat)?

Or, maybe I’m just paranoid because of all the disease I read about every day?

I’m 42 which means I, like you I suspect, have been around long enough to see the effects of disease on friends and family. I have also thought about this aspect of the bodybuilding “lifestyle”. Apparently, the more calories burned, the more free radicals released which contributes to aging and disease. Do big doses of fish oil, blueberries, Superfood etc. compensate for this. I doubt anyone has the answer yet.

On the other hand, I’m not willing to eat a restricted diet and look frail. Keep lifting, eat clean, supplement intelligently and don’t completely neglect cardio for heart health is the best I can do at this point.

I’ve been doing some casual research about endurance athletes and how very UNhealthy many actually are.

It appears that thier diet is fairly unhealthy combined with tons of damage to the organs (cardiac/skeletal muscle and the brain) with all the running/biking they do.

This may fly in the face of how the general populace percieves “marathoners”.

[quote]giterdone wrote:
I’m 42 which means I, like you I suspect, have been around long enough to see the effects of disease on friends and family. I have also thought about this aspect of the bodybuilding “lifestyle”. Apparently, the more calories burned, the more free radicals released which contributes to aging and disease. Do big doses of fish oil, blueberries, Superfood etc. compensate for this. I doubt anyone has the answer yet.

On the other hand, I’m not willing to eat a restricted diet and look frail. Keep lifting, eat clean, supplement intelligently and don’t completely neglect cardio for heart health is the best I can do at this point.[/quote]

Very nice reply, thanks.

So I’m not crazy?

[quote]derek wrote:
Has anyone thought about the ill-effects of long-term overeating (especially heathly “bulking”)?

What I mean is, does anyone have any opinions based on obervations that prolonged periods of overeating can eventually wreak havoc internally?

I’m mainly interested in diabetes and cancer.

This is a possibly irrational fear now that I’m closing in on 40 years old.

My heart wants me to get bigger, my analytical mind wants to be sure that I do everything possible to NOT be one of the millions of Americans with diabetes or cancer.

I really just want to start a dialogue about long-term excellent health and how bodybuilding figures into it.

Does the exercise outweigh the excess calories we eat?

Does the fish oil and fiber and all the other healthful stuff we consume daily outweigh all the oxydative damage we creat by busting our asses in the gym (along with far-above-maintainance calories we eat)?

Or, maybe I’m just paranoid because of all the disease I read about every day?[/quote]

Honestly, you aren’t being paranoid. There is nothing “natural” about wanting to be unnaturally large, hypertrophy your muscles, gaining 50+ lbs of extra tissue, etc. If you analogize your body to a house, bodybuilding is like adding another story- your energy costs, maintenance costs, etc. will go up.

The toll one’s body takes constantly creating new tissue, gaining fat, losing fat, the supplements, excess calories, heavly loads, etc. can only cause parts to wear out sooner. Unfortunately, it only takes one critical organ wearing out to kill you.

OTOH, oxidative stress is pretty high in those who engage in large amounts of steady state cardio. So, it’s not like those folks have it much better necessarily.

Bottom line- the pursuit of physical perfection (however you define it) is a young man’s dream. Like many things, a young man’s dreams seem foolish to an older wiser man.

Sure, there are some meatheads out there who wish they would’ve gone bonkers with the weights when they were younger, but for the most part, most mature, wise, older men would tell you to lift, run, eat healthily, manage stress, but don’t put “adding as much muscle to your frame as possible” as a worthy or important goal…

Certainly not worth all of the expense, effort, time, etc. that is required. It will just go away, and you will be left empty. As many of us know, it can be an all encompassing, 24/7/365 thing.

I am 29 and have a high stress job. I am not yet married, but will be soon. Honestly, if I add some more muscle and transition around age 32-33 to more of a maintenance regime I will be happy.

Sure, I would’ve done things differently in the past, but to he honest the journey and learning process has been fun and valuable, even if my own stupidity/ignorance cost me “gains” in the past. I will always lift and work out, but I will compete with myself, want to look good and be healthy, even if that doesn’t mean adding a shit load of new muscle.

If I were approaching 40 (like you), I would scrap any dreams about adding more than 15 or so pounds of new muscle. What’s the point? You will probably fail (unless you gain a bunch of fat in the process…yippee).

But, assume you achieve that goal- you would then just have to maintain it at your age. In all likelihood, you won’t, and will just feel bummed about losing it. The excess calories and supplementation it would take you to do that at your age would definitely come at a cost.

So, bottom line- “bodybuilding” (the hardcore version that is promoted here) is a zero sum game after a point that does take its toll on a person’s body. I say build it while you are young and go for it, but at a reasonable age it’s probably time to put one’s energy into general health and make dietary decisions based on something other than building new tissue.

I’m still a decade or so behind you, but I’ve already had this fear pop into my mind. I do think that chronically eating beyond what your digestive system can reasonably handle can cause damage, but as long as your digestive system is working properly, I doubt there’s anything wrong with eating more than we “need”.

I think there’s a sweet spot between eating for maintenance and overeating for muscular bulk that is safe as far as long-term health is concerned.

Not a bit crazy. I also have some concerns about joint health in my so-called golden years.

I prefer to lift heavy (well, heavy for me anyway) and was doing some powerlifting style training but I was concerned what the implications might be 20 or 30 years from now on my joints. I was getting some aches that I didn’t like.

So, I switched to the DC method. Even though the intensity is higher than what I was used to (which I love), the reps are higher so I feel it is easier on my joints.