Sport Sports Disciplines

Bodybuilding and heart | Is it true that bodybuilding is bad for the heart?

Bodybuilding and heart | Is it true that bodybuilding is bad for the heart?

by in Sport - Sports Disciplines

last updated: March 17, 2020

  english change italiano english français deutsch español

Let's see the link between bodybuilding and heart problems, what to consider to set up a training program and which nutraceutical supplements can help maintain a healthy heart.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide. Obesity, too much simple sugars, insufficient physical activity, the excessive use of trans and pro-inflammatory fats in the kitchen and a high level of cholesterol and triglycerides are the main causes of heart health problems.


Even among sports disciplines, some have shown a higher incidence of problems for heart health. So let's see what sports affect the heart most and what to consider to set up a training and integration program that protects you from developing heart disease.

Sports and heart problems



Hypertrophic heart with thickening of the left ventricle: a risk of bodybuilding.


We are talking about those sports that put the heart muscle under strain, albeit opposed to each other. For example, in endurance sports, those with long endurance and high intensity such as running, biking, climbing, etc. ... it has been noted that, in the long run, many athletes develop eccentric hypertrophy of the heart muscle that makes it weaker and less resistant to the effort.


On the other hand, in sports where the muscle mass of the large muscles of the body must contract at maximum capacity such as, for example, in bodybuilding, weightlifting, powerlifting, and strongman, the intensity of effort is the master and the heart muscle undergoes concentric hypertrophy, especially of the left ventricle, which determines the ejection capacity. The aforementioned athletes, therefore, have a hypertrophic heart with marked thickening of the left ventricle.

Factors to consider

davide gariboldi


Davide Gariboldi.

When I prepare a training program, whether, for an elite bodybuilder or an athlete over forty who has decided to increase muscle mass, I also take care of minimizing the effects of the training itself on the heart muscle. Here are the factors I consider to plan a workout that does not overload the heart:

  • Work out. I always try to balance isotonic activity with aerobic activity to create the cardiac muscle compensation, or to counteract the concentric hypertrophy given by a pressure effort with aerobic activity, to balance the type of effort of the heart muscle. So, in a hypothetical bodybuilding program with 3/4 weekly sessions dedicated to weights, I always put 3/4 sessions of low impact aerobic activity.
  • Thick blood. In recent years, another problem that professional bodybuilders commonly encounter is a probable elevation of the hematocrit to potentially dangerous levels. This increase is given by the overproduction of red blood cells by the marrow thanks to the greater production of testosterone that an intense activity can bring. A high hematocrit means having thicker blood, so our heart will have to make an extra effort to pump a liquid composed more and more of solid parts. All this will only increase cardiac hypertrophy, but above all, it will test the valves of the heart.
  • Hypertension. Last but not least is the problem of hypertension often attributable to heredity but also dramatic weight gains in the short term, especially in the off-season, when athletes consume a high-calorie diet with cholesterol and triglyceride spikes to increase muscle mass. All these elements are to be held in high consideration by a qualified coach.

Supplements for the heart

gariboldi valuta gli integratori


Some supplements are recommended to bodybuilders to assist the functionality of the cardiovascular system.


Nutraceutical integration has made great strides in recent years and provides invaluable help for athletes who encounter one or more of these problems.

The curcumin contained in turmeric has been shown to help increase the ejection fraction in compromised or insufficient hearts.

Pycnogenol, an antioxidant obtained from the bark of the French maritime pine, has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of cardiac hypertrophy when combined with coenzyme q10. In fact, especially for those over forty years of age, in my very personal vademecum of recommended supplements, I put turmeric, maritime pine bark extract, coenzyme q10 among the very first items.

Another supplement that I use in competitive athletes is vitamin k2 combined with vitamin D3, which has the ability to help keep the blood fluid and to direct calcium towards the bone compartment instead of using it for the formation of very dangerous intravascular plaques. In conclusion, I advise my clients to protect their heart as much as possible by helping themselves with:

  • 4000 mg of EPA per day,
  • 2g of bergamot,
  • 200mg of pycnogenol,
  • 1g of coenzyme Q10,
  • 1 g of turmeric,
  • 100mg of vitamin k2,
  • 8000 units of vitamin D3,
  • 2 tablets of Yamamoto® Research Coletix® and 4 tablets of pomegranate extract (if the fresh fruit cannot be taken).




  • Hadi, Pourmasoumi, Mohammadi, Javaheri, Rouhani, Phytother Res. 2019 Feb;33(2):276-287. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6234. Epub 2018 Nov 19. The impact of pycnogenol supplementation on plasma lipids in humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials.
  • Luzzi R, Belcaro G, Hosoi M, Feragalli B, Cornelli U, Dugall M, Ledda A, Minerva Ginecol. 2017 Feb;69(1):29-34. doi: 10.23736/S0026-4784.16.03913-7. Normalization of cardiovascular risk factors in peri-menopausal women with Pycnogenol®.
  • Luo H, Wang J, Qiao Q, Ma N, Liu D, Zhang W.ormat: AbstractSend to
    Exp Mol Med. 2015 Oct 23;47:e191. doi: 10.1038/emm.2015.74. Pycnogenol attenuates atherosclerosis by regulating lipid metabolism through the TLR4-NF-κB pathway.
  • Hu S, Belcaro G, Cornelli U, Luzzi R, Cesarone M, Dugall M, Feragalli B, Errichi B, Ippolito E, Grossi M, Hosoi M, Gizzi G, Trignani M.Int Angiol. 2015 Feb;34(1):43-52. Epub 2014 Nov 13. Effects of Pycnogenol® on endothelial dysfunction in borderline hypertensive, hyperlipidemic, and hyperglycemic individuals: the borderline study.
  • Enseleit F, Sudano I, Périat D, Winnik S, Wolfrum M, Flammer AJ, Fröhlich GM, Kaiser P, Hirt A, Haile SR, Krasniqi N, Matter CM, Uhlenhut K, Högger P, Neidhart M, Lüscher TF, Ruschitzka F, Noll G.Eur Heart J. 2012 Jul;33(13):1589-97. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehr482. Epub 2012 Jan 11.Effects of Pycnogenol on endothelial function in patients with stable coronary artery disease: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study.
  • Bai XJ, Hao JT, Wang J, Zhang WF, Yan CP, Zhao JH, Zhao ZQ. Pharmacol Rep. 2018 Feb;70(1):60-68. doi: 10.1016/j.pharep.2017.07.014. Epub 2017 Jul 15. Curcumin inhibits cardiac hypertrophy and improves cardiovascular function via enhanced Na+/Ca2+ exchanger expression after transverse abdominal aortic constriction in rats.
  • Ray A, Rana S, Banerjee D, Mitra A, Datta R, Naskar S, Sarkar S.Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2016 Jan 1;290:54-65. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2015.11.011. Epub 2015 Nov 21. Improved bioavailability of targeted Curcumin delivery efficiently regressed cardiac hypertrophy by modulating apoptotic load within the cardiac microenvironment.
  • Ahuja S, Kohli S, Krishnan S, Dogra D, Sharma D, Rani V.J Pharm Pharmacol. 2011 Dec;63(12):1604-12. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.2011.01363.x. Epub 2011 Oct 13. Curcumin: a potential therapeutic polyphenol, prevents noradrenaline-induced hypertrophy in rat cardiac myocytes.
  • Geleijnse JM, Vermeer C, Grobbee DE, Schurgers LJ, Knapen MH, van der Meer IM, Hofman A, Witteman JC.J Nutr. 2004 Nov;134(11):3100-5. Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: the Rotterdam Study.
  • Vossen LM, Schurgers LJ, van Varik BJ, Kietselaer BL, Vermeer C, Meeder JG, Rahel BM, van Cauteren YJ, Hoffland GA, Rennenberg RJ, Reesink KD, de Leeuw PW, Kroon AA. Nutrients. 2015 Oct 28;7(11):8905-15. doi: 10.3390/nu7115443.
    Menaquinone-7 Supplementation to Reduce Vascular Calcification in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease: Rationale and Study Protocol (VitaK-CAC Trial).
  • Beulens JW, Bots ML, Atsma F, Bartelink ML, Prokop M, Geleijnse JM, Witteman JC, Grobbee DE, van der Schouw YT.Atherosclerosis. 2009 Apr;203(2):489-93. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2008.07.010. Epub 2008 Jul 19. High dietary menaquinone intake is associated with reduced coronary calcification.
  • Kaneki M, Hosoi T, Ouchi Y, Orimo H.Nutrition. 2006 Jul-Aug;22(7-8):845-52.Pleiotropic actions of vitamin K: protector of bone health and beyond?

Suggested articles:

Heart rate zones

The heart rate is the number of heartbeats detected in a given period of time. As HR is a precise indicator of how our heart and body are working… read article

Crossfit | Introduction for Beginners and Full-Body Workout

Crossfit workouts for beginners are similar to those for experienced Crossfitters but shorter, or less intense. In this post, we introduce the… read article

Crossfit: objectives, positive and negative aspects

Crossfit is a sport based on strength and structured metabolic conditioning, which incorporates exercises from a range of different sports disciplines… read article