One of the rarely talked about and seemingly old-school methods of rapid fat loss for a pre-contest bodybuilder is the use of amphetamines. The short term use of amphetamines allows the competitor to withstand periods of extreme caloric deficits yet maintain functionality in their chosen profession, endure grueling training sessions and maintain (if not increase) productivity in other aspects of their life. To put it quite simply: the use of amphetamines allows the competitor to suffer without suffering, as the feelings of crippling hunger are not felt.
Mike Mentzer was a known speed-demon and achieved his 800-1,200 bird-diet days through the use of amphetamine-based ‘diet’ pills and later its demon sister: methamphetamine. Mike Mentzer seemingly defied current bodybuilding gospel by maintain impossibly full muscle bellies at competitions; never flat as would be the perceived outcome of a diet of a diet excessively void calories and even the macronutrient protein. Unfortunately, Mentzer was one who never considered the health aspect of physique culture whatsoever; a drug addict and chronic smoker, stimulant abuse arguably contributed to his cardiovascular ailments that led to his early demise. Mentzer wasn’t the only amphetamine gobbler however. Although documentation of their usage amongst competitors in his era and later is sparse, in recent years more confessions have come to light in publications.
Iron Man Magazine published a series of interviews in 2010 with an amateur competitor in the 1980’s using the alias ‘Bodybuilder X’ who trained with some of the top IFBB Pros of the time period in California. ‘Bodybuilder X’ talked candidly about the steroid cycles used during the time period as well as the training methodologies of some of top competitors like Danny Padilla—‘The Giant Killer’. Here is a short blurb from the first interview:
‘The biggest surprise to me was how prevalent amphetamines were around the gyms in Southern California in the early ’80s. Guys were getting amped up like crazy before their workouts. A few of the guys were into crystal meth.
But in my experience the more prevalent overuse and abuse was found in the amateurs. They were the ones who had convinced themselves that high dosages of steroids and amphetamines were needed to get results. Samir and I used to joke about one guy we trained with named Steve. The guy would be so amped, he couldn’t talk normally. He talked so fast it’d be like a machine gun going off. So we started doing this machine gun imitation “Dij, dij, dij, dij, dij.” Hilarious.
I’ve seen amphetamine usage lead to bizarre, self-destructive behavior more often than steroids, but I’d guess the combination to be more deadly than either class of drugs by itself. I know Mike Mentzer admitted to having trouble as a result of amphetamine use. If someone as intelligent as Mike can fall victim to addiction, think about how powerful those drugs must be.’
The competitor clearly noted a widespread use of amphetamines in the sport during this time period, particularly among amateur competitors. Having read the issue when it was first publicized, my interest was sparked, yet I heard nothing further on the use of this hardcore and militant fat-loss tactic, until I befriended a former bodybuilding competitor of the 1980’s. The competitor used this method to obtain a second place finish in the middleweight division in an overwhelmingly talent stacked class at the Jr. California. He relayed his personal account to me on how he achieved Munzer-like conditioning, without using muscle mass on a Salaspils concentration camp like nutritional regimen:
‘At the time I was going to college, working full-time and training in the Mike Mentzer ‘Heavy Duty’ style fashion in the evenings. I was unaware of the use of prescription amphetamine-based diet pills until a fellow competitor told me about his use of ‘107’s’. I cannot remember the actual named of the product at the time but this was the slang term used. I can tell you one thing– The shit worked. It allowed me to do 1,600 calorie days, 1,200 calorie days and even 800 calorie days without appearing as a useless zombie to the world at large.
How else would I have been able to function on this low of calories? I was constantly in motion and had to get shit done, I didn’t have the luxury of taking naps. The current ‘wisdom’ in bodybuilding is that ‘oh no you will lose muscle going so low on calories!’ This however was not my experience at all. Mike Mentzer described something known as ‘Metabolic Momentum’, a parallel state where the human body is capable of remarkable achievements, contradicting all logic and science for short periods of time. If you have been training for years and have developed that dense muscle tissue, how are you going to lose it?
What Mentzer didn’t mention was all the shit he was taking. With the use of anabolics the human body is turned into a metabolic machine and I would gander it is hard to lose actual muscle tissue. As far as gear is concerned I was taking 200mg of Deca every 4 days, that’s no bullshit. I wasn’t retaining water, I wasn’t bloated and I was freakishly shredded. At some point it wasn’t even about winning anymore, it became about seeing what my body was capable of. I would look in the mirror and see striations rippling in my pecs and a deeply striated serratus. I had not never seen anything like that in anyone before. I had pictures on my wall of the most shredded bodybuilders I couldu find. I had a picture of Albert Beckles and even one of Clarence Bass.
After pre-judging concluded at the Jr. Cals, I had people come up to me and actually say ‘Man, you are the most shredded person I’ve seen in my life!’ Unfortunately towards the end of my prep I was also borderline basket-case. I was depleted and all fucked up on lasix. After prejudging concluded I started guzzling water and by the time of the night show I appeared as fully-blown water buffalo. It was so bad the audience was actually booing when they announced my placing.
That was my last show as a non-drug-tested athlete and I retired from competing to pursue a professional career. Unfortunately, with my fucked-up mind set and how well it worked, if I had a ‘make or break show’ where everything was on the line I would do it again. Sometimes I see these pros making a comeback for one final competition and hiring such-and-such guru and I think—shit, they should hire me and I will put them on that protocol! What show isn’t ‘make or break’ however? You can’t do that too many times or you will die.’
My friend noted the remarkable effectiveness in his personal experience in the use of amphetamines but also hinted at the health implications of their chronic use, not even mentioning their addictive nature. The amphetamine gourmandizing poster-boy: Mentzer would continue the use of amphetamines much past his competitive career, being addicted to not only the compounds themselves but the feeling of productivity and their assistance in the use of his writing. This is no surprise as Mentzer was a disciple of the Ayn Rand school of philosophy. Ayn Rand was also a heavy amphetamine abuser, making Lemmy Kilimister of the legendary hard-rock band Motorhead (Motorhead is slang for a speed user) look like a relative lightweight. Rand would begin her consumption of Benzedrine pills to finish her novel Fountainhead in in 1942. She would continue the ingestion of Benzedrine for nearly three decades. Mentzer would emulate his hero and continue his own use of amphetamines after his controversial placing in the 1980 Mr. Olympia to stay awake for 2-3 days at time, penning his articles for WORKOUT Magazine. His abuse also demonstrated one of the more prevalent use of amphetamines, which was acute psychosis. He would regularly be institutionalized after 1985, when the magazine went tits-up and his father died. It should be noted that Mentzer was not taking any erogenic aids at the time, which undoubtedly increase the chance of an acute psychosis.
A modern-day competitor willing to take the plunge of becoming a muscle-bound motorhead, undoubtedly will experience the increased risk of an extended stay at the psych ward. A cocktail of mind and mood altering compounds such as: Trenbolone, Halotestin and Anadrol-50 and amphetamines will not help the mental state of a bodybuilder who is already void of calories. Quite possibly instead of receiving a plastic trophy at the NPC Gopher State Classic, you might be receiving a gold star sticker on your daily behavioral progress chart in the Bipolar ward for taking a shower and combing your hair. However, in this subculture some participants are willing to put ‘everything on the line’ to achieve victory. While many of the pharmaceutical amphetamine-diet based diet pills of the past are unavailable, there remains a select few illicit options available, unless of course one is savvy enough to obtain a prescription.
Continued in part 2, will be a discussion of currently produced amphetamine based diet agents available to the competitor. Also presented for the Iron Affinity reader will be hypothetical outlines for their usage accompaning a pre-competition cycle. Turn the volume up on your copy of Motorhead’s ‘Bomber’, uncontrollably scratch yourself and eat ½ of a rice cake and swig down your Ready-To-Drink zero-carb whey protein isolate protein drink and get sick with it.
- “Muscle-Building Myths Exposed! Part 1.” Iron Man Magazine. 2010.
- Currey, Mason. “What Do Auden, Sartre, and Ayn Rand Have in Common? Amphetamines.” April 22, 2013.
- McGough, Peter. ” Mike Mentzer – The Untold Story of the Journey to His Final Days.” Muscular Development. June 5, 2014.