Doping and the Super fitness lifestyle

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Users of doping substances representing the Super fitness lifestyle

In modern society, according to prevailing ideals, it is often more essential to look healthy than to be healthy. Health is defined by appearance.  The ideal human is hardworking and in perfect shape 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. We are expected to always be on the move and to cope with things, or at least look like it! Similarly, users of doping substances sense of healthy is characterised by glorifying their strong, muscular and fat-free body.  Excess weight or too high body fat percentage often appears as the biggest destructive risk for health and appearance. However, users don’t seem to believe that doping substances are destructive to their health.

Building users’ sense of health and Super fitness lifestyle

Sense of health is a new term describing individuals’ health-related know-how [1]. The main questions related to doping users’ sense of health are: how they look after their own health and how doping substances and gym training affects all this.  In addition, users’ sense of health is particularly made up of, at least, the physical values that are adherent to physical properties, appearance and sexuality, and the know-how of doping substances use and exchange of information between the users on substances effects.  Some of the users expand their sense of health by reading specific literature and studies as well as making inquiries to health care professionals.

Doping substance users’ sense of health is characterized especially by glorifying the Super fitness lifestyle output: a strong, muscular and fat-free body. “Super fitness” is a term that describes lifestyle focusing on extreme healthiness which is followed by quite a number of gym enthusiasts [2].

In addition to maintaining an ideal weight, this super fitness lifestyle aims at good physical and mental health and performance, increased energy, better sex drive, slowing down of the aging process and a general improvement of self-control and achieving peace of mind. Excess weight or high body fat percentage (in the opinion of Super fitness people) often appears for Super fitness lifestyle followers, as the biggest destructive risk for health and appearance.

Users’ opinions on their health and appearance

Only about half of those who answered the Salonpohja’s survey [3] are satisfied with their health and appearance. Based on the answers, it appears that looks are definitely more important than good health for doping substance users. 70% of doping substance users explain that being overweight or having too high body fat percentage is their biggest issue with their looks.

In Salonpohja’s survey, the target weight of up to 90% of those who answered is different from their actual weight. For this specific issue, there isn’t too much difference between doping substance users and “naturals” (those who don’t use doping substances) in regards to their target weight. According to the survey, over 70% of women want to lose weight whereas men’s answers are characterized by the fact that 91% of them want their weight to change – either “off the kilos of fat or more kilos in muscle”.  Most typically, a man of about 80 kilos seeks to get an additional 5-16 kilos of “pure muscle” (39% of who answered) and a woman of about 60 kilos seeks to lose 4-12 kilos of “pure fat” (42% of who answered).

Meaning of diet in doping substance users’ culture

Diet also has a significant meaning to gym enthusiasts: Salospohja’s survey shows that up to 90% of “naturals” and 97% of doping substance users plan, at least partly, a specific diet which they seek to respect. As many as more than a quarter of doping substance users plan a very precise diet which is followed closely. For naturals, 15% do the same thing. For 10% of naturals in Salospohja’s survey this is not really an issue and this issue is insignificant only for 3% of for doping substance users.

However, the answers given do not say anything about the diet plan contents and their consequent implementation, so their relevance or healthiness is not possible to assess in practice. 

"At the gym, all food and eating-related issues are enthusiastically discussed. (...) Besides the discussions and debates regarding food theories, people enjoy talking about what they are used to eating. At the gym or in the locker room they like to moan about their fat, and talk about their past eating habits and how they plan to eat in the future." [2]

Nutritional supplements are also an integral part of many gym enthusiasts’ diet. One reason for using doping substances can be to become part of the gym culture, and simultaneously by using these nutritional supplements, they seek to show for themselves, loved ones or gym partners that “they are serious and do things in an earnest manner”. According to Taina Kinnunen [2], many fitness enthusiasts happily use supplements as they want to eat in a scientifically rational manner like elite athletes [2].

Also based on Salospohja’s survey [3], the use of nutritional supplements is very common both among fitness enthusiasts who use doping substances and those who choose to refrain from using them. However, doping is definitely more common in users than fitness enthusiasts in general and likewise the use of doping substances is more common among users of nutritional supplements. The connection between the use of doping substances and nutritional supplements can also be observed in monetary amounts from what they consume. Doping substance users consume around 65 Euros a month on nutritional supplements whereas those who refrain, only 31 Euros per month.

Doping substances as boosters for body-building

Natural and health-oriented ways of action usually have no particular value for gym enthusiasts using doping substances, but some elaborate body-building technologies are willingly associated. Users feel that using doping substances belong to these aforementioned technologies, when aiming to find satisfaction with ones appearance: "I do not feel they are in any way harmful to my health, so I see no reason for not using them. I need to use all acceptable means to reach my full potential” (Man, 23 years old) [3].

Tuuli Salospohja
Lic.Pol.Sc.

[1] Hoikkala, Hakkarainen, Koski, Lähteenmaa, Määttä, Oinas, Puuronen, Rantala, Salasuo, Tammi & Virokangas (2005): Nuorisokulttuurit terveyden lukutaitona. Teoksessa Marika Javanainen (toim.): Timantit – terveyden edistämisen tutkimusohjelmasta. Suomen Syöpäyhdistys, Helsinki.

[2] Kinnunen (2001): Pyhät bodarit. Yhteisöllisyys ja onni täydellisessä ruumiissa. Gaudeamus, Helsinki.

[3] Salospohja (2008): ”TIUKKAA LIHHOO” – Dopingaineiden käyttö kuntosaliharrastajien keskuudessa Suomessa. Lisensiaatintutkimus, Turun yliopisto, sosiologian laitos. 

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