Does the World of Fitness Influencers Have a Steroid Problem?

A new report cites some alarming numbers

There's an old adage about things that look too good to be true.
Jeremy Bezanger/Unsplash

Even before the pandemic, a sizable number of people were turning to Instagram and other social media platforms to take in the latest dispatch from their fitness influencers of choice. Once the pandemic began, this trend deepened, and took on another component: fitness attire. It’s not hard to see why: short videos are a good way of demonstrating proper technique, and the visual medium can also illustrate muscle gain or weight loss effectively.

That’s the good news. The bad news? Some influencers are turning to steroids to keep up appearances.

A new report at Insider offers some unsettling insights into the world of fitness influencers. This includes fitness trainer James Ellis, who began using steroids — first oral anabolic steroids, then injections of testosterone — when he saw that his number of Instagram followers was rising.

“The more you get entrenched in your industry, the more your appearance counts, you start getting accolades and more followers, and those moral decisions just go out the window,” he told Insider.

Insider spoke with several personal trainers for the article, many of whom believe that half the fitness influencers out there use some variety of steroid. This can include human growth hormone, insulin and the aforementioned testosterone.

It probably goes without saying, but this a problem for numerous reasons. If someone is watching an influencer who is, unbeknownst to them, using steroids, it can create a false sense of what’s possible through diet and exercise. And of course, steroid use can lead to health problems.

The Insider article features two images of Ellis, one taken when he was using PEDs, and one taken after he’s stopped using them. Both are of a man in absurdly good shape, but the earlier one feels like something out of an action movie — something that isn’t sustainable year-round. (At least not without substantial risk.) Some things really are too good to be true, it seems.

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