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What Is A Bubble Gut or Palumboism and Why Do Bodybuilders Get It?

    Because of the unique training regimen that bodybuilders do, they sometimes get the unique condition called Palumboism or Bubble Gut. What is a bubble gut or Palumboism and why do bodybuilders get it?

    Palumboism or Bubble Gut is a phenomenon known to only affect people who do intense muscle training. It is characterized by having a round and bloated stomach despite having a toned and muscled overall body. The lifestyle and training regimen of bodybuilders are the common factors of developing this phenomenon and the use of Human Growth Hormones (HGH) and insulin are observed to be the main culprit.

    Read on to learn more about this condition.

    What is a bubble gut or Palumboism and why do bodybuilders get it?

    What Is A Bubble Gut (Palumboism)?

    Palumboism is a condition characterized by a bloated stomach that is only observed with bodybuilders.

    Although the bodybuilder doesn’t really “feel bloated,” the lower part of the stomach seems full and out of proportion from the rest of the body.

    In addition, the bodybuilder would often have a hard time holding their rectus abdominis muscle (or the abs).

    You can think of it as being Johnny Bravo, but with a broader stomach instead broader chest. This bloated appearance does not appear overnight.

    The change happens gradually over the years and becomes more and more apparent as time goes by.

    Palumboism was first seen with Dave Palumbo, a professional bodybuilder who competed in competitions between the years of 1990 to 2004.

    Because of this, the name of the condition was derived from his last name. Palumbo was known for using steroids to aid him in bodybuilding. 

    This rare condition is also referred to using numerous terms, including steroid or roid gut, muscle gut, bodybuilder belly, or HGH bloat.

    What Causes Palumboism?

    As of now, there is still no certain reason as to why this condition happens. What’s observed so far is that it happens to bodybuilders and people who are in a constant grind to gain more muscle mass and power.

    However, the main culprit to this condition seems to be the excessive usage of the Human Growth Hormone or HGH. Additionally, the use of insulin (to compliment the effect of HGH) is also observed to contribute to the formation of Palumboism.

    What is a bubble gut or Palumboism and why do bodybuilders get it

    HGH is actually a naturally occurring hormone that aids in growth, cell regeneration, and repair. Its main function is to ensure the repair of healthy tissues and boost recovery during an injury. It can also help boost the metabolism for faster fat burning.

    Unfortunately, bodybuilders use HGH way above the recommended dosage. HGH overdose causes an abnormally enlarged stomach and the thickening of oblique muscles.

    Palumboism is often described as a very region-specific (torso) acromegaly, a type of growth hormone disorder. This is due to the fact that HGH is consumed in order to retain existing muscles while gaining more.

    According to Healthline, what seems to be the main cause of this condition is the thickening of oblique muscles. When this happens, the bodybuilder will have difficulties in holding his or her stomach, as well as the rectus abdominis muscles or abs.

    For now, more studies are needed to know what really causes this phenomenon and if it should be something of concern to the body-building community.

    Factors that Can Trigger Palumboism

    Palumboism is caused by factors and practices that bodybuilders add to their regimen.

    According to the Health Research Policy, some of the main contributors to its development are taking high calorie, high carbohydrate diet, and heavy muscle stress.

    Making a sucking motion with your stomach while doing a strenuous movement can also add up to the muscle stress caused by workout routines.

    Taking insulin shots without any physician’s prescription can also raise the chance of developing this condition. Insulin is often used to prevent muscle breakdown during workouts.

    It is also a complementary addition to steroids and inhibits catabolism to prevent muscle destruction. This way, the bodybuilders can develop stronger muscles in a shorter period of time.

    As of now, there is still no harmful effect recorded for Palumboism. It seems like its only effect is the appearance of a bloated abdomen.

    Since the trend for muscular fitness shifted into leaner, toned down muscles throughout the years, only a handful of bodybuilders are reported to develop this condition.

    Why Do Bodybuilders Get Palumboism?

    As mentioned beforehand, the lifestyle and training regimen of bodybuilders contributes largely to the development of Palumboism.

    Consuming a high carb, high-calorie diet while stressing the muscles can cause more muscle development. As you develop your stomach muscles more and more, your abs will be forced to grow outward, making a hard bulge and the appearance of being bloated.

    If you’re a bodybuilder that uses HGH, you have a higher chance of getting Palumboism. This is because HGH can cause unnecessary growth to the intestines, adding more to the forming bulge.

    In addition, insulin abuse will allow your body to store more fat in the abdomen, creating even more storage for both muscles and fat to extend outward, adding a more bloated appearance.

    As of the moment, the worst case of Palumboism recorded is by Lenny Montuori. His abdomen is way out of proportion to his body.

    Although not an officially recognized term, Montuori’s case of Palumboism is called “Stage 4 Palumboism” by muscle fitness groups all around the world. 

    Even female bodybuilders develop bubble gut. Similarly, the symptoms are the same: bloated, abnormally sized stomach bigger than the size of the chest.

    However, the number is not as high compared to male bodybuilders and athletes. Female bodybuilders, however, would develop a certain condition known as virilization, in which they develop additional muscles and a deeper voice due to muscle development.

    Only athletes in strenuous sports like bodybuilding develops bubble gut because of their habits in gaining muscles. For people who lift weights and go to the gym occasionally, there’s no reason to worry about it.

    By avoiding HGH and gaining more muscles naturally, you should be less susceptible to this condition.

    Can You Still Get Palumboism Even If You’re Not A Bodybuilder?

    In case you’re wondering if bodybuilders are the only person susceptible to this condition, that’s not actually the case.

    Anyone who is trying to gain muscle mass and toned body form can get Palumboism. People who work out and train daily without rest and control over HGH consumption can develop Bubble Gut.

    A pretty good example of this is Scott Steiner, who is a professional wrestler from NWA. He is actually known for its Bubble Gut, which is noticed by quite a lot of fans in the wrestling world.

    Steiner is not a bodybuilder, but his muscle-building regimen likely caused the development of his bubble gut. Aware of this, Steiner has gotten a gigantic tattoo to cover up his bubble gut.

    Can Bubble Gut Be Reversed?

    Fortunately, Bubble Gut is not a serious condition and only affects the body aesthetically. Healthline reported that there is no recommended treatment for Palumboism.

    Getting rid of unhealthy habits that cause oblique muscle weakness is the key to reversing the bubble gut. Since bubble gut is developed via muscle development, there is only one way to combat this condition: stop gaining more muscles.

    The first thing you could do if you developed Palumboism is to stop the intake of anabolic substances, such as steroids and HGH.

    This way, your body will have less capability of retaining muscle growth and unwanted water retention.

    You must also consult your physician to guide you on how to fully remove excess bloat. Make sure to ask a doctor that specializes in muscle condition for help, as different treatments might be needed for various body types.

    As much as possible, avoid using sucking motions with your stomach during workouts or other stressed-include activities.

    The stress should be redirected to the back muscles, and not in the stomach. It’s one of the reasons why the uncontrollable development of excessive stomach distension.

    Prevention VS Cure

    Just like other things in medicine, it’s better to prevent a condition from happening than to cure it.

    Although it can take a lot of effort to do so, it’s better than risking all your hard work in muscle building just because you don’t like how bubble gut looks.

    In addition, there’s a lot of reasons why you should avoid the use of steroids and HGH when it comes to muscle formation.

    To avoid Palumboism, all you have to do is to avoid all the things that lead to the weakening of oblique muscles.

    Hence, don’t overexert yourself when it comes to training. Avoid using steroids and Human Growth Hormone to supplement muscle growth.

    Don’t consume insulin shots, especially if you don’t really need them for medical reasons and without a prescription by your physician.

    How Do Body Builders Get Rid of Bubble Gut?

    There is no doubt that bodybuilders will still need to gain muscles to get into competitions and win.

    Getting rid of bubble gut is not possible before a contest as it requires you to stop from your daily workout regimen.

    However, you can configure your exercises before the contest and avoid things that can cause a bubble gut.

    1. Stop the HGH and Insulin Dosage Before the Contest

    Since HGH is the biggest contributor to this phenomenon, the best way to get rid of the bubble gut is to totally avoid using it. It’s one of the sure-fire ways to avoid getting the belly.

    But if HGH and insulin are a part of your training, what you’ll want to do is to diminish the dosage before the competition.

    A lot of bodybuilders do the opposite (consuming more HGH) in order to develop more body mass. But just like “cramming” for your exams, you’ll only give yourself a higher chance of getting the belly.

    Additionally, the usage of insulin can cause more fat buildup as it increases the body’s fat storage.

    2. Undergo Intermittent Fasting

    If you need to cut more fat, you might want to consider intermittent fasting. This method is known for helping in fat loss while maintaining muscle.

    And since it cleanses the stomach for things that you don’t need, you will actually have a better appearance in a bodybuilding contest.

    Just make sure to time the intermittent fasting efficiently to completely reduce stomach distension.

    3. Reduce Your Carbohydrate Intake

    Just like HGH, a lot of bodybuilders add more carbohydrates to their diets to have a last-minute body mass. However, this can cause a lot of unwanted bloating.

    If you really want your stomach to appear good and healthy, keep your muscle gut under control. Avoid taking high-carb food.

    4. Aim for A Healthier Digestion

    The time before the contest is as important as the time while it’s happening. It’s important to keep your body well-nourished and in shape.

    Aid your gut muscles by supplementing fiber instead of carbs. You need good digestion to avoid the bodybuilder’s belly.

    Establish healthy recipes to help you with your digestion.

    Aim for this option especially if you are using a water manipulation technique.

    5. Protein Is A Friend

    Protein is a good friend for muscle retention, recovery, and formation. Instead of high-carb food, you should eat meals with high protein.

    This can be done by consuming more meat and adding protein supplements. And as mentioned earlier, add more fiber to the mix.

    6. Add Aerobics Exercise To The Mix

    Since you’re not taking high carbohydrates, you should also configure your exercises.

    This means that no heavy lifting for now. Instead, you should add more aerobics exercises to build more muscles without the risk of destroying the already existing ones.


    Palumboism is a condition characterized by a bloated stomach that is commonly observed with bodybuilders.

    It has been observed that this phenomenon usually occurs in those that use Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and insulin.

    If you have this Palumboism, there are things that could help you get rid of it: stop the use of HGH and insulin, do intermittent fasting, lessen carbohydrate intake and lean more on protein, take care of your digestion, and establish a mix of aerobic exercises.


    James Wright

    James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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