If you’re a bodybuilder using PEDs, chances are you have either used insulin along with AAS, or you’re thinking about trying it. After all, that’s how the guys today got so huge, right? To get some perspective on whether insulin is something most bodybuilders should or shouldn’t be using, I spoke with Redcon1 athlete James Hollingshead, winner of the 2020 IFBB Europa Pro and British Grand Prix, a rising star known for his dense, round musculature. Here’s what he had to say on the subject.
This all started with a video you put out on your own YouTube channel recently. What was the scenario?
I go to my doctor a couple of times a year to get my blood work done just to make sure everything is OK. We got into a discussion about my current protocols and what I was using, and he asked if I was using insulin. I told him no and expressed my opinion as to why. I’ve created this opinion after being a bodybuilder for over a dozen years. I strongly believe it’s overused, relied upon, and misused. It’s used by a lot of people who shouldn’t be using it. My doctor agreed and expressed his own strong opinions on the matter. We both agreed that few people should be using it. I personally use it far less now than before. My current coach, Patrick Tuor, believes there is a time and place for its use, but even then, it should be minimal.
When did you become aware of insulin use and decide you wanted to try it?
I started using it around 2015. I dabbled in it and it did nothing good for me because I didn’t know what I was doing. That was a time when my progress had stalled for a bit. I’ve used insulin on and off since then, more with certain coaches than others. But with my current coach and my two most recent contests, which were also my first two pro wins, I used it the least. That’s why I have the opinion now about it that I do. I feel it’s important to let bodybuilders know that it’s not necessarily needed.
Why do bodybuilders use insulin?
The meathead approach is, I want to eat shitloads of calories, the majority of them from carbs, and my body is going to have a hard time absorbing that unless I use insulin. I’ll use insulin along with my meals to improve the uptake of glucose and other nutrients, store more glycogen in my muscles, and get bigger and stronger. That’s the basic approach. People think insulin will help you go beyond the parameters of your natural ability to uptake carbs. When people are struggling to add another 10 pounds or whatever, that’s when they turn to insulin to allow them to eat more, absorb more, and get bigger.
Does it work that way for most people?
Insulin can work, but you need to be extremely on point. That’s why I don’t think it’s viable for the majority. I don’t think 99 percent of people can adhere to a plan that’s as strict as it should be. I think it’s too precise and too potentially dangerous if done wrong. It’s not necessarily needed for the results that can be achieved without it. In my opinion, maybe only the upper echelon of bodybuilders who are trying to eke out that extra 1 percent are the ones who should use it, but it should be done under the supervision of a medical professional or at least someone who understands the mechanisms. Too many people think they know all they need to know. They think that for every unit of insulin you use, you simply eat 10 grams of carbs and you’ll be fine. That’s so generic and easy to screw up. What if you get something wrong, like eat a carb that digests slower? Say it doesn’t digest in time, and you go into hypoglycemia? There are many things that can go wrong if you don’t understand the mechanics of both insulin and nutrition. It’s a territory most people shouldn’t be visiting. That’s how I feel as a guy who’s been a pro for four seasons now. I think I’ve been able to develop a level of understanding about it where I can comment about it. Some may disagree with me, but it’s served me well to be more reserved and aware.
I have a real problem with both insulin and diuretics. You could shoot a few full bottles of steroids today, and you won’t be dying any time soon as a result. But if you fuck up and take too much diuretics or insulin, you can die that very day, within minutes maybe. You talk about the need to be precise. Not everyone is intelligent enough to even do the type of calculations we’re talking about with iu’s of insulin, grams of carbs, and the right types of carbs. Yet proponents of insulin use like to reassure us by saying, as long as you know what you’re doing, you’ll be fine.
There’s a danger zone that’s relatively difficult to get into for most, unless they are mistaking cc’s for iu’s or something that bad. But you also have to think of the long-term effects of getting it slightly wrong, where you will possibly be storing a lot of fat. What would that do to you over years? Some people still eat shit food and take insulin, because they think, fuck it, this will make me grow. It’s a storage hormone, so it will cause you to store a lot of what you’re taking in. If there’s a lot of trans fats and other shit going in, which people like to eat in the off-season because they think that’s how you grow, you’ll uptake a lot of those bad nutrients. That’s one factor that bothers me.
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