How far is too far in the pursuit of the perfect body?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that younger and younger men are walking through the doors of gyms, sometimes using fake ID to get in.
Some are spending big dollars on supplements containing protein, caffeine and other substances, which increase their heart rate and can affect their moods.
Even the supplement industry itself says there should be more regulation of their products.
At the more extreme end, doctors say they are seeing a growing number of men electing to use steroids and performance enhancing drugs in the quest to be bigger.
Obsession with appearance can lead to debilitating disorders, such as body dysmorphic disorder and muscle dysmorphia – also referred to as reverse anorexia or 'bigorexia’.
Insight looks at the male quest for physical perfection, asking when a healthy lifestyle tips over into becoming a pathological obsession.
Senior Producer: Jodie Noyce
Associate Producers: Hannah Meagher and Scott Mitchell
How far is too far in the pursuit of the perfect body?
JENNY BROCKIE: Welcome everyone, good to have you all here and good to have you here Anthony, I want to start with you because you're our 14 year old. How old were you when you started doing weights?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: Well I actually started when I was around like 11 years old, just started doing some free weights but then around 13 years told I started getting serious. I think got into my diet, got strict on that and started going five days a week.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why did you start so young?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: It was probably because of my body shape and inexperience as well. Like with the Asian race they kind of, they're really judgmental and they criticise people's sons a lot.
JENNY BROCKIE: In what sort of ways?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: Like sometimes when they tell my parents, sometimes like what are you feeding your kid? He's getting taller but still skinny.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you were getting a lot of that?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: Yeah, getting a lot of that.
JENNY BROCKIE: Your dad's here with us and we have translator for dad. Is that what happened?
THANH NGUYEN: Yep.
JENNY BROCKIE: That's what happens with families?
THANH NGUYEN: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Let's have a look at how you train Anthony.
ANTHONY’S TRAINING VIDEO:
ANTHONY NGUYEN: My training is pretty strict, I guess. I train two muscle groups a day - one big muscle group, one small muscle group. Usually it takes me around four days to get through a full body workout. Each week, I usually do one full-body workout. I try to waste myself during that workout.
Usually now, I wake up an hour earlier, since I started body building. First up in the morning, I would have, um, six eggs - usually five whites and one whole egg. Then I would scramble that - have that, then measure out my oatmeal - just one cup of that. Then I would just make all my morning tea, lunch, everything that I will need during the day.
I usually have 200 carbs a day. Protein, I have around 150 grams of protein a day, which is kind of a lot for me, so I do supplement between meals a lot. After I train, then I'm usually posing in front of a mirror to see, like, what adjustments I need to, do what improvements - what I need to work harder on.
Been working on my triceps mostly - I think I can do way better improvements on my chest because my arms are out of proportion to my chest. People who I look up to is mostly Kai Greene. He's not only a good body builder, but he's an inspirational one as well. His body shape is the ideal one for me.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why is that an ideal body shape to you?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: Because when I look at other body builders it's usually more buffiness - they've got more muscle mass, but with Kai Green, to my eyes I see more detail, he's more cut, he’s more ripped.
JENNY BROCKIE: So would that be an ideal? Would you like to look like that?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: I would like to but I know probably won't be able to do that without like, like serious supplementation. But I think I can get around, I don't know, two or three times that I am now.
JENNY BROCKIE: Two or three times as big, that's what you want?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: Clean.
JENNY BROCKIE: CLEAN meaning not with steroids or anything like that?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: Anthony Farrah, you're 18?
ANTHONY FARAH: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Is that what you want to look like?
ANTHONY FARAH: I'd love, yeah, that's one day my ideal. There's no limit for me, I want to be a professional body builder one day and you know, to me there is no limit.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how did you get started?
ANTHONY FARAH: It all started when I was 15. When I was 14 years old I had an eating disorder, I was diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia and you know, I sort of lost all faith and motivation to live and when I got out of the hospital the first thing I wanted to do was start training and I started and it became a drug. It just, I became
hooked and it saved my life. It gave me something to do, gave me something to look forward to, something to wake up every day and go forth and do. It's probably perseverance and tenacity and it's my life now.
JENNY BROCKIE: Let's have a look at you working out.
ANTHONY FARAH’S TRAINING VIDEO:
ANTHONY FARAH: I train about six days a week, and yeah, it's basically what my life revolves around now. I train for about two or three hours at a time. At the moment, I'm training each body part twice a week. Monday will be chest and shoulders. Tuesday will be legs. Wednesday will be back and arms. Then I'll just repeat, so I'll have one day off.
You can never be happy with body builder. I guess there's always that step that you need - you can always excel. I wished everything was a lot bigger, but in particular, probably my lower legs, my yoke and my shoulders and traps. But other than that, I want everything bigger. So there's no stopping it.
JENNY BROCKIE: When you say there's no stopping it, what do you mean?
ANTHONY FARAH: It's hard to explain but you know, the way I see life is you can't really put limits on yourself.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, describe an average day for me, I mean we've seen you training, what do you eat?
ANTHONY FARAH: About six eggs, for breakfast. Two hours later I eat again pretty much the exact same meal. Then usually I go train. After I train I have my post work out meal which is about 40 grams of instantised whey protein. Then I'll go home, have another cup of oats and like chicken breast, probably about half a chicken. Then I wait about another two hours, pretty much eat the exact same thing, chicken and rice. Then the rest of the day is tuna and rice, broccoli, chicken, eggs, brown rice, sweet potato, beef.
JENNY BROCKIE: And is that the same day after day after day, always the same?
ANTHONY FARAH: Day after day, you have to be.
JENNY BROCKIE: Do you enjoy eating at all?
ANTHONY FARAH: Yeah, I still do, I still enjoy eating. I enjoy the taste of success more than I enjoy the taste of any food.
JENNY BROCKIE: How do you feel when you miss a meal or a work out? You're injured at the moment, you've hurt your shoulder?
ANTHONY FARAH: I'm injured at the moment, happened two days ago.
JENNY BROCKIE: So how do you feel when you're not doing it?
ANTHONY FARAH: Distraught. Don't know what I'm doing with myself. Like I woke up yesterday and my shoulder was killing me and I knew I couldn't train. I knew I
couldn't train so I pretty much slept for six hours because I had nothing else to do, I didn't know what to do with myself and then --
JENNY BROCKIE: Lilette, you're Anthony's mum. How do you feel about his attitude to his body, given that, you know, three years ago he was anorexic and now he's this?
LILETTE FARAH: Well the thing is with Anthony, he's always been very dedicated. Whatever he puts his head to, he always achieves and so whether it was to not eat, to someone who within, you know, the second he put his head to it, just went for it. And it was really scary because for a long time, you know, I can see this change in him and it affected him quite substantially.
JENNY BROCKIE: Do you think he's exchanged just one obsession for another?
LILETTE FARAH: Without a doubt.
JENNY BROCKIE: Anthony, do you think you have?
ANTHONY FARAH: I've been told that a few times that I have but it's a better obsession, it's a healthy obsession, it's an obsessions that has taught me discipline, has taught me drive that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
JENNY BROCKIE: What do you think Lilette. How do you feel about it?
LILETTE FARAH: I agree that it's probably better that he's at least eating, better than not eating, but he scares me because as well I'm scared of what's going to happen in the future in the sense that he wants to be bigger and better and all those things and therefore, you know, I'm concerned about all the things that needs to be done to achieve that sometimes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Naso, you have a Facebook page with more than 20,000 likes, what are they like?
NASO ATHANASOPOULOS: Well I guess, because I offer advice on different exercises, work outs, they like to have a good body and to look good, meaning my fans.
JENNY BROCKIE: And what's your routine? I mean do you relate to what these guys are describing?
NASO ATHANASOPOULOS: Oh, yeah, pretty much the same but I do work out about six
times a week. And at the moment I'm trying to put on more size so you know, training does get a bit harder now than it was before.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, and why do you do it?
NASO ATHANASOPOULOS: Well, because of my Greek background, we normally follow the ancient Greek philosophy of healthy body, healthy mind. So it's not all about looking good, it's about feeling good as well and I have adapted that into my lifestyle.
JENNY BROCKIE: What do you think of your body?
NASO ATHANASOPOULOS: I think I look okay. You can always get better, there's always room for improvement. But for now I think I do look good, I do feel good with how I am at the moment.
JENNY BROCKIE: Dan, what about you, how do you approach training and the kind of thing that you do and how do you feel about your body?
DAN HARTMAN: I guess I started originally with the goal of getting bigger and stronger just for sports to improve performance and I sort of came to realise that people see you differently when you look different.
JENNY BROCKIE: How do they see you differently?
DAN HARTMAN: Well, I suppose young males in general are more likely to respect someone who, I mean at first glance, looks bigger and stronger. It's the imagery we've been seeing since Hercules back in the ancient Greek times. It's, you know, a young man should be lean,
muscular, you know, athletic.
JENNY BROCKIE: But being lean and muscular and athletic is one thing. Sort of devoting huge amounts of time to it and being really strict with your diet and having photos like the one we can see here of you, which you provided to us, is another thing. Why do you like that look?
DAN HARTMAN: Personally, and I think for a lot of other people who lift weights, they find it very hard to be satisfied with what they have and people always want to improve themselves. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, is it?
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, but you Nathyn I know have felt that you took it too far at various points. Tell us about that.
NATHYN COSTELLO: Well listen to these guys talk, I think, you know, I'm 34 so I'm bit further down the track than these guys and I've changed my tack a little. When I say I took it too far, if I felt myself getting sick I didn't care because I didn't want to miss a training session. If I was injured I'd train. I would purposefully - I would not run because I heard a saying why run when you can walk? Why walk when you can sit? Why sit when you can lie down? Because you're burning less calories than what these guys who want to put weight on. So I stopped playing tennis, I wouldn't do anything, that kind of stuff.
JENNY BROCKIE: So what was going on in your head at that time when you think it was out of control?
NATHYN COSTELLO: Yeah, it's the imagery - I remember seeing John Claude Van Damme in a movie and thinking I have to look like that. That's what everyone should look like kind of thing. So I think what was going through my head was the pressure that either society initially put on or that you take it on board and how somehow apply it to yourself.
I also agree that it's about discipline and it's about - it teaches you all these things. There is still a point where I think you can take it too far so you've just got to find your own balance.
JENNY BROCKIE: Do you see, you guys who do this, when you look at Kai Green, I wonder if you're seeing the same things some of the other people in the audience are seeing. What do you think? I mean what do other people think when they see those pictures of the body builders?
PETER FITZSIMONS, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Clive James describes it as a condom stuffed with walnuts.
JENNY BROCKIE: Spoken like a true athlete Peter. So you just see it as ugly?
PETER FITZSIMONS: Completely grotesque.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, why is there that difference then? Why is there a difference between the way you see Kai Green Anthony do you think and the way other people do?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: I think it all depends if you, it's only if you train, you know what it takes and you know what it teaches you, then you understand what, like the body builders are talking to you about.
JENNY BROCKIE: Nathyn, what did you want to say?
NATHYN COSTELLO: I entirely respect the discipline and I'm impressed by it because you do, you need to be a freak to achieve that. Apart from the drugs and so forth that are required, but no, I wouldn't want to look like that. I don't think it looks good.
JENNY BROCKIE: What did you want to say Jamie?
JAMIE CLOSE: I started weight training when I was 16 because I was heavily bullied at school, you know from a very young age I was bullied. So I didn't it to feel better about myself. But I'm turning 41 this year and I can fully relate to where the young guys are at and that used to be me. I used to have all the flex magazines and I'd stick the posters up and visualise because that's what I wanted to look like. And as I'm maturing, you get to that point where it's just like it's not about the ego and wanting to look good and it was never really about that for myself anyway. So --
JENNY BROCKIE: What was it about for you?
JAMIE CLOSE: Well, being able to be stronger so I could fight back and protect myself, that's what it was about.
JENNY BROCKIE: Peter, what did you want to say?
PETER FITZSIMONS: I entirely understand you wanting to do it and you wanting to do it for the purpose of getting stronger for a sport, for not being bullied. What I don't understand is when it goes to the next step where you say forget doing this for a purpose to be strong for a purpose, but just for the body image. If I was, throughout this audience, if I had a mirror and I just kept looking at myself in the mirror, I think you'd think I was a wanker. For a lot of us, for a lot of us, sport which is building yourself up and flexing your muscles is the sporting equivalent of that and I don't - I understand building a body for a purpose but doing what you're doing seems to me like building a Mazzerati with great care and then leaving it parked in the garage.
JENNY BROCKIE: Anthony, what do you say to that?
ANTHONY FARAH: Well I guess, as you said, for sporting purposes, yeah, fair enough and the thing is body building is a sport in itself. There's natural body building and then there's body building such as the IFBB where, you know, steroids isn't condoned so much but it's not, it's not frowned upon.
PETER FITZSIMONS: Here's the bottom line, you 18, you've got this fantastic energy to put into life?
ANTHONY FARAH: Yes.
PETER FITZSIMONS: You know and I know, I've done it for football purposes, I love that feeling of feeling strong, but here's the answer, that you're injured. I presume a week or two weeks if you can't train, then the condition will fall away, yes?
ANTHONY FARAH: Yes.
PETER FITZSIMONS: The point is this, if you put that same energy into reading a book, into exposing yourself to different ideas, it doesn't fall away. It grows so that every book that you read, every idea that you understand, with body building, okay, terrific but it's such an energy, it devours. If you've got ten units of energy to give to every day, from what you've told us it sounds like 7 to 8 units of that energy is going into something that will dissipate in two weeks unless you keep it up. Whereas if you were to put that energy into reading,
writing, doing different things, talking to people, it doesn't go away, it just build and you'll still have a book that you read best of Bertrand Russell now, it will enrich your life when you're 75 years old..
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, anyone else wants to jump in?
ALEX: I totally agree with the fitness part. I work out for fitness but you've got to draw a line somewhere and when you dedicate that much time of your day to being like that, clearly it's not natural, it's not worth the time. So if I had to get up that early in the morning to maintain that and to look that way, I don't see the point..
JENNY BROCKIE: Is there pressure to be buffed for guys do you think? Is there pressure to look like this?
ALEX: I think there's some, yes..
RICK: Um, yeah there would be a bit from, you know, the TV shows and magazines and stuff. They generally seem to condition you to think that that's the way you should look. So then I think that's not right.
JENNY BROCKIE: Murray, you've been studying men's attitudes to their bodies for fifteen years, what's going on at the moment do you think?
PROFESSOR MURRY DRUMMOND, BODY IMAGE RESEARCHER: Well, there is an enormous amount of pressure on young men in particular to look a certain way. It's a body that is athletic looking, it's muscular, it's devoid of fat and it's hairless - which is something new.
You know, you look back at the archetypal physiques of the '60's and you know, the Burt Reynolds physiques, they were quite hairy and you had the original Cleo centrefold which was Jack Nicholson I think"¦.Jack Thompson.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yes, not Jack Nicholson.
PROFESSOR MURRY DRUMMOND: So it's a body now that's conscious.
JENNY BROCKIE: Is it a body that's easy to get?
PROFESSOR MURRY DRUMMOND: No, it's hard to get. It's a very conscious body.
PETER FITZSIMONS: Surely it is for a very small percentage. I suspect I, and a few older blokes here, are representative, far more representative of mainstream male Australia. Even when I weigh in at 140 kilos and I've got to 148, I have never looked at myself in the
mirror and see anything other than a fine figure of a man. And that's the truth of it.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay Nathyn, is that the way you look at yourself in the mirror?
NATHYN COSTELLO: No.
PETER FITZSIMONS: He's got a right to.
JENNY BROCKIE: No, but he doesn't you see?
NATHYN COSTELLO: As I said, my age, I've learnt to sort of balance it but I look in the mirror and still sometimes think I'm fat or skinny or whatever and I know it's ridiculous but it's a conscious thing I have to sort of run through.
JENNY BROCKIE: So do you see yourself though the way the other way other people see you because I know recently you saw yourself in a mirror, or you saw yourself and somebody else saw you and it was very different picture. Can you describe that?
NATHYN COSTELLO: Yeah, what I was just saying was I was at the gym, this is a bit embarrassing to share but anyway I was at the gym and I saw a guy and there was no mirror to sort of - for me to be in the picture and when I saw him to me he looked the way same as I did. And not being disrespectful but moments later after doing whatever, I was sort of doing something else and he came by and he was right next to me and I actually see the both of us in the mirror. Then it was clear to me that I was in the better condition than him. So I'm not being rude to this guy but when I couldn't see us next to each other, I literally thought he looked exactly the same. And he didn't and that's just, that's what I see.
NASO ATHANASOPOULOS: One thing we've missed, to most people it's not all about howyou look. With you take the weight training and that, if you take someone that's never done it before and they're skinny, it does bring confidence. People do feel better and with that confidence they might go for that job interview. They might get that job.
JENNY BROCKIE: A good point, Peter?
PETER FITZSIMONS: I totally accept that. I think everything you've said there is fantastic. An hour a day is fine but when it's going, you know, it's five hours a day or three hours a day, six days a week, that is obsessive, that is ludicrous and that is surely not healthy.
JENNY BROCKIE: Rocco, you know what happens when it gets unhealthy. Where can this lead, tell us where it can lead because you're a psychologist?
DR ROCCO CRINO, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Look, it can lead to a condition we call muscle dysmorphia. And what muscle dysmorphia is all about is where the person is intensely preoccupied with not being lean enough and not being muscular enough, despite being above average in muscularity.
Now as a result of this preoccupation, they spend hours lifting weights, they become intensely preoccupied with their diet. It's significantly interferes with their life in that there's no way in the world I'm going to miss a training session at the gym and it doesn't matter if work wants me there or doesn't matter if my wife has organised or partner has organised a meeting somewhere, I've certainly got to do that. I won't go out for dinner with other people because they eat food that's different to mine and I can't measure the protein that I'll be having and they might want some fried chips, etc"¦ So there's a significant impact socially, in terms of their occupation, in terms of their interpersonal relationships.
JENNY BROCKIE: And do many men come for help for this condition?
DR ROCCO CRINO: No. .
JENNY BROCKIE: That you're describing?
DR ROCCO CRINO: Very few.
PETER FITZSIMONS: Haven't got time, got to get to the gym.
DR ROCCO CRINO: That's exactly right, haven't got time. And it's justified in their head in the sense that I'm doing this make myself look better so that I can, I can, I can, this image in my head of the perfect male is what I need to be like.
JENNY BROCKIE: Sound familiar fellows, any of this?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: I think he's actually kind of right with that. I've actually been told like I'm obsessed with it. But with body building, I think it teaches you the discipline and if you feel actually patient enough and put full dedication to it, I think you can achieve anything and still stay clean and still have time management.
JENNY BROCKIE: How often do you think about it though Anthony?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: Usually - it's every night actually. Like I think about my time management for the next day and --
JENNY BROCKIE: To do with training?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: Yeah, to do with training and my study since school has just started, assignments are flowing in, and it's just that time management.
JENNY BROCKIE: What takes priority though? What's most important?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: When I first started actually the study kind of like, my training actually overtook study and that got to the point where my parents started lecturing me every day to study. Sometimes I would drop my study and just hit the gym, but then I kind of realised that this cannot be my future if you know what I mean and body building could be a second job or just a hobby.
JENNY BROCKIE: Does that description sound familiar to either of you two?
ANTHONY FARAH: At one stage it did and then I guess I did mature more myself in my own mind and I started to take realisation of what was important and at what times you need to put things at priorities. Okay, fair enough, at one stage I wasn't going out to social groups with social meetings because I didn't want to be around, you know, say someone's going out eating clips, eating Mackers, I wouldn't go there. But now it's completely different, pretty much all the boys will go to Mackers one night and I'll go with them. I don't mind, I just sit there. I don't eat, I enjoy my friends' company.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you go to Mackers but you don't eat?
ANTHONY FARAH: Yeah, I don't need to. I'll eat but I'll make use of it. I make perfect balance with my training. I make sure I train but at the same time I make sure if I've study to do, I'll do it.
PROFESSOR MURRY DRUMMOND: What happens if you don't exercise?
ANTHONY FARAH: If I don't I'm disappointed with myself but I make up for it, there's always room to make up for it.
PROFESSOR MURRY DRUMMOND: So you make up for it in what way?
ANTHONY FARAH: The next day I'll go twice as hard.
PROFESSOR MURRY DRUMMOND: Do twice as much. So do you sort of see that this - okay, let me put it to you this way. Are you controlling it or is it controlling you?
ANTHONY FARAH: Oh, I guess it's somewhere in the middle. It would be somewhere in the middle.
GI JOE VIDEO:
PROFESSOR HARRISON POPE, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Here is America's favourite action toy, which is GI Joe. When GI Joe first came out in 1964, he looked like this. If he were my height, he'd be a perfectly normal-looking dude, with an average chest, maybe 11- or 12-inch biceps - perfectly normal-looking.
But now, by 1975, 10 years later, you will see that GI Joe has started to put in a little time at the gym. He has a 15-inch bicep, bigger chest, even a suggestion of abdominal muscles here. And then, if we go to 1992, you'll see that GI Joe has not only been putting in more time at the gym, but maybe he's do been doing a little juice on the side.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, anyone got any theories about what's happened, why those changes made? Murry, what do you think that?
PROFESSOR MURRY DRUMMOND: I mean what drives it? Is it our culture that's driving the
changes or is it the people who are marketing the toy that's actually driving those changes and having an influence on us in society? That's one of the interesting dilemmas. I mean --
JENNY BROCKIE: Sorry, who says it's chicks?
MAN: I said it's chicks. I mean that's what chicks want - no-one wants, I mean what chicks going to want to hook-up with someone not - who doesn't work out when they can hook up with someone who can like?
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, Lauren, come on I want here from some chicks?
LAUREN: Yeah, I think that healthy is great, like that's great but when it's taken to this extreme that yeah, you're spending so much time at the gym, I don't think that that personally is attractive.
MAN: Where does the time come for the girls?
JENNY BROCKIE: Sorry?
WOMAN: It only takes two minutes, doesn't it?
MAN: But what ever happened to personality?
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, what did you want to say Angie, did you want to say something?
ANGIE: I think it's really unattractive actually, the whole obsession with body building. I would like someone who is healthy, potentially they do something where they run or something occasionally, just healthiness I think is attractive.
MAN: Would you want someone with abs and a 6 pack in your honest --
ANGIE: I would honestly think it's not that important.
JENNY BROCKIE: How much of this is about vanity, guys?
JAMIE CLOSE: All of it.
JENNY BROCKIE: All of it Jamie?
JAMIE CLOSE: Not all of it's with vanity but who in this room now wouldn't, would like to feel a bit better or feel a bit better about yourself. Put your hands up. We all want to look better and feel better so what's wrong with spending a couple of hours in the gym? We're going for a training session in the morning.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, but a bit better but I want to go back to my question which is how much of it is about vanity.
MAN: I think it's really difficult not to get a little bit because when you're training and you're fit, you feel really good about yourself.
LILETTE FARAH: Society in general for a while now has promoted this. Society, magazines, image is everything, you know, you can't get a job unless you look picture perfect. You can't,
you know, walk down the street without someone, you know, saying something to you if you look not the right way or if you look - you're wobbling, someone might say you're wobbling or any of this. So society in general has placed, I believe, our youth in this position.
DR KATHERINE SAMARAS, ENDOCRINOLOGIST: Women have addressed for 30, 40 years, all this body image stuff and you know, women have been exploited and traded in the media terribly. Now sadly it's also happening to young men and we don't have, we're not raising young men, we're not developing young men that can go no, no, no I don't accept that. I'm going to be 'who I am’ and that starts with seeing who I actually am.
JENNY BROCKIE: Anthony, let's have a look at what you take every day to get into shape.
ANTHONY FARAH’S VIDEO:
ANYHONY FARAH: These are basically all my supplements. Start off with probably one of the most overlooked, but one of the most essential – multi-vitamins. Also I've got my ZMAs here. This is my creatine. Over here is my muscle marinade. That's my BCAAs.
This is about $40 bucks. This was... About $60. Usual tub of protein is about 150. I spend all my pay on supplements. This is called a white flood. Ailts pre-workt nitric oxide and energy enhancer. You take it, and even afterwards, you'd still be frustrated in anger - like you get into the gym and you want to tear it apart. My head's feeling a bit light. My arms - I just have this really weird, like, tingling feeling.
When I get up there and I see the weights and I put my headphones in my ears, I'll just be in the zone. I know it.
JENNY BROCKIE: Anthony, do you take all that stuff every day?
ANTHONY FARAH: Um yeah, I try, if I can afford it, yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how much does it cost all together to take all that?
ANTHONY FARAH: Honestly, everything there in total, probably about 200 bucks, 250 bucks. You know, I work for myself to support myself and that's what I put most of my money towards. But you know?
JAMIE CLOSE: 250 a week?
ANTHONY FARAH: Not a week, probably about a month. It's really not that expensive. If you really want to put your mind on something, you put it - it's better than me going out and spending it on alcohol and beer and all this other thing I don't need. You know, it's healthy. I don't see it as a bad thing. I don't know why it's being --
JAMIE CLOSE: How can you take a whole bunch of chemicals and think it's healthy for your body? Your body wants food, it wants vine ripened, organic foods.
ANTHONY FARAH: Well supplements the thing is with supplements, people see supplements as you know, yeah, okay, you're taking it to get big. It's nothing more than supplementation. If your diet is right, your training's right, your sleep's right, everything else is right, then yeah,
take supplements because it will help you out, it will supplement you. It won't get you where you want to go, it will supplement you.
JAMIE CLOSE: Not a synthetic multi-vitamin, that's not giving you any nutrients mate.
Your body wants food.
ANTHONY FARAH: My body does want food and I give it food.
JAMIE CLOSE: Supplement it with organic vine ripened food and then look at super foods with more antioxidants and different nutrients and give the supplement --
ANTHONY FARAH: And I do, I give my body 6 to 8 meals a day of perfectly balanced meals, of meals balanced with carbohydrates, protein"¦
JAMIE CLOSE: But you're still nutrient deficient.
ANTHONY FARAH: Sorry?
JAMIE CLOSE: But you're still nutrient deficient. The World Health Organisation show we need about 5 to 9 servings. Now the servings are the size of your fist.
ANTHONY FARAH: Of what?
JAMIE CLOSE: Vegetables or fruit.
ANTHONY FARAH: I get them.
JENNY BROCKIE: Tell me a little bit more about that feeling you described when you take some of those supplements, about wanting to tear the gym apart? What's --
ANTHONY FARAH: It's just, you know, if you're feeling down on the day you'll take a pre work, you'll get in there and it will be a good training session, and you know, I don't take them every day. I'll cycle them. Like I'll take probably two tubs every year and when I do it, it's good.
JENNY BROCKIE: Lilette you tried one of these pre workout drinks, once. What was it like?
LILETTE FARAH: I did. It was funny actually. I wasn't feeling well and he was just about to go off to the gym and he said what's wrong and I said I'm really tired, I don't know what's wrong with me. And he said oh, do you want to try one of this? This will get you going, it will make you like really hyped up and I went no, I don't want to and he said go on, try it. I said okay, let me try it. So I did and that feeling that he described of the tingling in the arms and just, it really was quite - for the first time I think I realised why he acted the way he acted a lot.
JENNY BROCKIE: How did he act?
LILETTE FARAH: That is being really tense and edgy and you know, he's always - not all the time but when he is on supplements I find that, you know, his mood's quite frustrated and you really do have to walk on egg shells with him. But I know it's sometimes those supplements because that whole day I felt really, really unwell, it was not a good feeling.
JENNY BROCKIE: Anthony, your reaction to that. Does it make you feel angry, does it make you feel edgy?
ANTHONY FARAH: It's just that supplement in particular, it's just that pre work out muscle one in particular which, you know, I don't take that often but when I do it, yeah, it does stimulate that feeling and she's correct.
LILETTE FARAH: I tried before his protein shakes and that, but that one in particular, grape juice or whatever they call it, was quite, it really was a bang.
JENNY BROCKIE: What's in it?
ANTHONY FARAH: It's got some new ingredients. I don't know how to spell it, it's something like triexi-- or whatever it is.
JAMIE CLOSE: Chemicals mate.
ANTHONY FARAH: Yeah, some sort of chemical.
JAMIE CLOSE: You body doesn't need them.
JENNY BROCKIE: And where did you find out about this stuff? Where are you getting your information about how safe all this stuff is and whether you should be taking it and how much you should be taking?
ANTHONY FARAH: You know, directions, I get blood tests done every now and then. I'm completely healthy, the doctor says I'm too healthy. You know like --
JAMIE CLOSE: Let's compare blood samples, let's do that.
ANTHONY FARAH: Okay.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, who else takes supplements? I'm just interested, do you take them?
DAN HARTMAN: Yeah, I take some but I only take ones I've actually seen evidence that
they work. For example protein has many, many studies backing it and I obviously know from my own experience taking it that it works. I think there's a big problem that a lot of people are taking supplements that they don't know what's in them, they don't know what they do and they don't actually do anything as far as performance and it's just more stuff that's being thrown at you.
JENNY BROCKIE: Anthony, do you take them?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: Like I take the usual protein, multivitamin, flaxseed oil, fish oil, but I haven't gotten to the stage where I've gone the supplementation. Like some of my guy friends they kind of like really rely on it. They drink like four or five protein shakes a day and some of them use test boosters to like, I don't even know what that does to you. They just pick random test boosters off the shelf, they read the label, gains mass, gains muscle in two, three weeks, they buy it.
Actually one of my friends, his tendons started getting sore, like his knee tendons, shoulder tendons they started getting sore. After I think around four days in use and I kind of explained to him and he realised like the reality of it is.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you're a bit careful about that stuff?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: Katherine, you are a hormone specialist, you see plenty of young men with hormone problems. What do you think of supplements?
PROFESSOR KATHERINE SAMARAS: I think there is no supplement that will do better than
real food and so it depends very much on how much food you eat. Certainly the protein content has to be right, the fatty acid balance has to be right, the carbohydrate balance has to be the right kind and the right amount to balance the energy that's expended. Supplements don't necessarily help you achieve being cut, I think is the term, or ripped I think.
So I think apart from a very healthy balanced diet like I heard the gentleman just on my left say, I don't know that supplements are anything but money down the drain and cleverly marketed and it comes back to this issue of self esteem. Marketing people know you can sell a mug anything if their self esteem is low. So we can create markets by making everybody feel lousy about themselves and then we can markets products to them.
The women's cosmetic industry is the pinnacle of that and I see this, supplements, vitamins, everything that is associated with getting money, fleecing young men essentially, is very much the same thing.
JENNY BROCKIE: But the young men are thinking they're getting results, they think they get results from this. I mean do you have concerns as a specialist that there's danger in any of this stuff or is relatively harmless?
PROFESSOR KATHERINE SAMARAS: I mean I think the high guarana, caffeine supplements
are frankly dangerous. And we know about sort of sudden deaths in people who are body builders. Whilst it's never clear what substances they've got in their bloodstream, or it's never made clear to the public, one wonders about huge doses of caffeine and guarana and some of these other chemicals that are in some of the supplements or tablets or diuretics. I mean we're not just talking about nutritional supplements, we're talking about a whole lot of other chemicals and drugs that can get under the regulatory guidelines and be taken in huge amounts.
JENNY BROCKIE: Wendy, you represent the supplements industry. Are there dangers?
DR WENDY MORROW, COMPLEMENTARY HEALTHCARE COUNCIL: I think that there can be and I think one thing that has been particularly highlighted today, I'd be interested to know
whether the products, particularly the one that had the effects that you were describing, was that bought with an Australian a number on it?
ANTHONY FARAH: Yes, it was, it's approved by the Australian FDA and the reason you get the tingling is because of belanine in it. Which is a known, like it's known naturally occurring substance and it does make you tingle.
DR WENDY MORROW: We don't have an FDA here, we have a TGA and I actually wonder whether or not there is an issue with products coming in through the back door where they don't have the same regulations in America. They don't have the same stringent quality standards that we have here.
JENNY BROCKIE: Wendy, is there any kind of age limit on how you old you have to be to buy this stuff?
DR WENDY MORROW: There are definitely guidelines on how old you should be to take the supplements but they are guidelines.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you could just pick them up and buy them off the shelf?
DR WENDY MORROW: Yes, you could. But we would hope --
JENNY BROCKIE: But if you were 14, if you were 12?
DR WENDY MORROW: One would hope that the retail outlet where you're buying them from understands the guidelines and actually follows them and I know that that doesn't happen. And I think that, you know, there are a number of areas where we could do better than
we do now.
JENNY BROCKIE: So what could you do that you're not doing now Could there be tighter regulation around some of this stuff?
DR WENDY MORROW: The regulation needs to be clearer and there's like two major
reviews going on at the moment of the regulations but they're waiting for a higher level review to be finished before they can start. A number of these products live in an area that's very grey. You know is it a food or is it a medicine? Well if there's a food standard it can't be
a medicine. So I think that really what needs to happen, the food people need to get together with the medicine people. They need to sort out the interface between food and medicine and they need to make appropriate regulatory changes there.
JENNY BROCKIE: Supplements are legal but what about steroids? Here's a man who uses them regularly.
STEROID USER: I think steroids are totally fine. When you first start taking, like, testosterone or something, after about two or three weeks, you'll start noticing little things. Like your sex drive will be a bit more increased. You'll notice in the gym you have a lot more energy and your strength, each session, you'll go back and you'll lift a heavier weight.
I started using because I kind of hit a wall naturally. I couldn't really keep progressing. The majority of steroids are either vet-grade products or underground products. Me, passenger, I like to use vet-grade products, because I know it's at least made in some sort of, um, controlled environment.
I probably spend about $80 a week, maybe a bit less - $50 or $60 a week. I also use Clenbuterol every so often if I'm trying to lose body fat - I'll incorporate Clenbuterol. It can be taken in various forms, like liquid, gel, pills, powder. It basically works to burn more calories, and does that by a small raise in your heart rate and energy output. The side-effect would be, like, your hands may shake a bit. You may feel a bit jittery. You maybe get a bit hotter.
Additionally, with like my working out, I also do a university degree. I've just recently completed a series of internships in the city with major global financial companies. I think that having size - I think it's great for the workforce, because I mean, you walk in a room, you fill out your suit, I think. People look at you - I think you command a bit more - I wouldn't say authority, but I mean, notice.
JENNY BROCKIE: You were looking very closely at that Anthony and you told our producer that you might consider steroids when you're 18. Why?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: I don't think I said I'd consider steroids, I think I was talking about test boosters. But like I've seen the side effects, I've seen what it can do to you, especially with, one of my own experiences with the experiences that I've seen. Um, some side effects are actually pretty scary actually because the friend that used it, test boosters, he used to sit in class and he just draws a sweat or he gets hot flushes sometimes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Tell us what test boosters are?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: They increase the testosterone in your body somewhere or other. Like the regulations around here, I mean to be was I think 18 or 21 but I can't remember but a friend of mine actually went to a retails store, actually picked up one and they sold it there. I don't know what you said about the regulations here that they could be more stricter but they sold it to him.
JENNY BROCKIE: But can you imagine a time when you'd think about using steroids Anthony?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: Probably, when I've, like the only thing --
JENNY BROCKIE: I'm not suggesting you should, I want to make that really clear.
ANTHONY NGUYEN: The only reason why like I would think of it is when I've hit a wall. Like all my progress has stopped. My blood test, testosterone levels have dropped because usually when you're 21 they start to dropping down, your testosterone levels, that's the only reason I could think.
JENNY BROCKIE: But you will hit a wall at some point?
ANTHONY NGUYEN: That's when I think the supplementation could get a bit serious.
JENNY BROCKIE: Nathyn, what do you think listening to that?
NATHYN COSTELLO: First of all whilst research does show your testosterone reduces at 21, mate you've got plenty to go, let me tell you, that's the first thing. The other thing is exercise will stimulate you know, growth hormone, testosterone production in males so keep exercising will do that too.
I was asked during the process obviously organising the show about whether, I think the research that had been done, a lot of people had said well, steroids can be used safely and the question was asked to me if you know what you're doing, can steroids be used safely? I
answered honest opinion is yes but what I said was, I'd suggest that 9 out of 10 people, maybe 99 out of 100 who think they know what they're doing don't know enough. But they say they do and therefore justified.
JENNY BROCKIE: Would you think about steroids?
DAN HARTMAN: I would consider using them. I do think they can be used safely. I don't
think I know enough personally right now to be able to use them safely but I do think it can be done.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why do you think that?
DAN HARTMAN: Well, I suppose I don't have any hard evidence, just like there's not much hard evidence, well there aren't many long term studies into the effects of steroid use so a lot of what we do know is anecdotal. But I know people that have used it without suffering any ill health effects now. I know that, I mean Arnold Schwarzneger is a heavy steroid user, he's not dies yet so at least we know that they're not going to, you know, just kill all uses.
JENNY BROCKIE: Is that a yardstick, still alive?
DAN HARTMAN: Could have picked someone better.
JENNY BROCKIE: Katherine, do you think steroids can be used safely?
PROFESSOR KATHERINE SAMARAS: No, absolutely not. And I think that idea that you can
use them safely just comes from this let me throw myself in front of the guns because young men are expendable and I'm going to be a risk taker. And I think that's a very important philosophy that underlies a lot of the decisions young men make when they kind of go oh yeah, I'll use steroids. I'll take anything that will make me that bit extra and give me that extra competitive edge.
Is it okay for young men that we've invested so much in as a society, and families, is it okay for them to be expendable because they've got some pathological idea that they'll get a bit bigger and a bit better? It's a question I ask myself all the time when I'm seeing patients and I'm trying to educate them about the detrimental effects of anabolic steroids.
JENNY BROCKIE: What are the detrimental effects of them, who has used them here? Who'd like to talk about that, Jamie?
JAMIE CLOSE: Well the reason why I stopped many years was because my hair started to fall out. I went to see my naturopath. I thought jeez, if my hair's starting to fallout there's other problems, there might be other problems within my body, and she said my adrenals were locked on and I was always like walking around just like I was, like in a flight or fright response. I always felt like I was ready to fight because I was just on the whole time. And she said the health effects, if I didn't get off the steroids and rebalance my body, some pretty severe long term effects and I wasn't really willing take the risk with my body. It's my temple, I want it to last till 100 or 120, if healthy and functioning properly, not waddling around because I'm too big.
DAN HARTMAN: Do you suffer any ill effects now?
JAMIE CLOSE: No, not at you'll
DAN HARTMAN: And you use steroids for how long?
JAMIE CLOSE: It was from about - eight years.
DAN HARTMAN: And you’ve stopped, how long ago?
JAMIE CLOSE: 2008.
DAN HARTMAN: Does doesn't that mean they can be used safely?
JAMIE CLOSE: Not at all.
PROFESSOR KATHERINE SAMARAS: We can't see what's happening in the coronary artery. What happens when you use steroids is that it causes, it's a direct cardiac toxin. So a lot of the sudden deaths that happen are due to something called cardiomyopathy which is a muscle disease of the heart that the steroids cause. The other thing that they cause in the
heart is premature coronary artery disease because of all the adverse effects on blood fat levels. We know in Finnish weight lifters who use steroids, when they're followed up for 12 years later, their rate of death is about four to five times that of age matched men and most of the deaths interestingly are premature heart attack and suicide.
The reason the suicide is important is one of the side effects of coming off steroids is, as you know if you've ever used steroids, well I'm told, they're are huge upper and when you come down you come down with a big crash and it can be six, twelve, 24 months of depression. And rates of depression are very high amongst ex-steroid users, they're actually quite high in people who actually use anabolic steroids but the thing there are high rates of suicide and very high rates of depression and the depression is often what makes people go back on
JENNY BROCKIE: Dan, I just can't to get Dan's reaction. You were listening very intently to that.
DAN HARTMAN: Well more just to the physical aspect to that. You talk about the people having cardiomyopathy and so on, don't we also need to consider the other variables such as the fact that these guys are professional weight lifters, many of whom probably weigh over 120 kilograms and are eating like 7,000 calories a day, often high fat diets as well?
PROFESSOR KATHERINE SAMARAS: You tell me they're fit though?
DAN HARTMAN: No, I didn't say that, they're professional weight lifters.
PETER FITZSIMONS: What Jamie said, there'd an immutable law, if you go too far against what nature intended, nature will bite you. You said you want your body to be a temple, everything good. When you try to turn your body into a brick shit house, nature hits you. And that will be what will happen. When you use unnatural methods to go too far beyond nature it will bite you.
DAN HARTMAN: I agree.
PETER FITZSIMONS: Well don't do it – your too smart for that.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, before we just move away from steroids, Nathyn, you used them. What were they like? Side effects, what effects did you have?
NATHYN COSTELLO: Um, pretty uncomfortable. Look, I mean you get pimples on your back, you get bitch tits they're know of, that sort of stuff.
JENNY BROCKIE: Man boobs?
NATHYN COSTELLO: Man boobs, yeah, and the fact is that I mean I'm honest enough to say I take them so hopefully you'll take me on my word, I took very little and when I talked about before the show was people would take thirty times what I took. I take them for eight weeks and take twelve weeks off. They take them for 52 weeks. You talked about suicide, yeah, I know more than one person who, steroids I believe is the reason. .
JENNY BROCKIE: Anthony, would you consider taking them?
ANTHONY FARAH: In the past I did but with body building you need to, if you want to progress in the sport you need to listen what people tell you. At my gym, you know, Brent here trains at my gym and he's natural, he's a great inspiration. He's huge, I'd love to look like Brent. He competes, you know , I look up to him when I see him in the gym because I know he puts in his hard work, puts in the effort. And for that reason I know that you don't need to take steroids but if you want to do something, you know?
JENNY BROCKIE: Anthony, are steroids easy to get?
ANTHONY FARAH: Yes, steroids are very easy to get. You know, you can make one phone call, you can have steroids.
JENNY BROCKIE: So how do you make those connections, where do you make those connections?
ANTHONY FARAH: Just, you know, through people, you just, you will know someone that knows someone and then, you know, you'll meet that someone and you'll realise it's that easy to get. You know, they'll - it's hard to explain and you know, I don't really need to. I shouldn't say but it is, it's very easy to get. Just a phone call away.
JENNY BROCKIE: Brent, you're a personal trainer in a gym. Are steroids easy to get ?
BRENT KOBOROFF: I think if you want them, pretty much any gym you're going to be able to get them. It doesn't really matter. Like you'll find once you go to a gym, you'll see people who take them, there's people who don't.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you just ask around?
BRENT KOBOROFF: Well I guess you do because you see people who do whatever they do, but you know they've obviously chosen that path.
JENNY BROCKIE: And what age are you seeing people using them?
BRENT KOBOROFF: Well I've seen quite young guys there, you know, 13 upwards even.
JENNY BROCKIE: 13?
BRENT KOBOROFF: Yeah. I mean obviously they shouldn't be in a gym anyway at 13. But I mean if you get to talk to them, you'll probably find their got their brother's student card or something like that and they're coming to the gym.
PETER FITZSIMMONS: What did the police say when you told them?
BRENT KOBOROFF: I wouldn't know, I wasn't talking to the police.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, Peter says you should be talking to a cop. We've got a Detective here from Victoria's Drug Taskforce. Where do you think people are making the connections to get steroids at the moment?
DET. SNR. SGT.DALE FLYNN, DRUG TASK FORCE, VICTORIA POLICE: Well most, the statistics would indicate most steroids are imported through Australia Post or through the mail. 90 percent of the steroids come into the country are through that mail system. Just ordered over the internet and there's a number of different ways you can beat detection through that.
There are commonwealth areas where you can get it within the Commonwealth. Veterinary areas, people in the animal industry are also targeted for people to get their steroids from as well.
JENNY BROCKIE: And are there more steroids around do you think?
DALE FLYNN: We are starting to see an increase over the last few years. There's been significant detections at our border with steroid detections. I know within Victoria we are charging more people with steroid possession and steroid trafficking than we have in the previous few years. And in my own area, the area I work out we're coming across
steroids more often.
JENNY BROCKIE: We're going to have to wrap this up. Rocco, what do you think? And how, the extreme end of this that you described earlier, the dysmorphia, the seeing muscles in a different way to the way everyone else sees them, seeing your own body in a different way to the way everyone else sees them, how treatable is that when people get into that zone?
DR ROCCO CRINO: Look, it's a very difficult condition to treat primarily because of the perceptual distortion. So first of all people don't attend for treatment because they don't recognise that there's anything wrong with them. Partners will drag their husband in and say
look, I can't get him to do anything, we're just about to get divorced, he refuses to go out, et cetera, et cetera, all of these sorts of interpersonal issues that are secondary to the primary problem lead the individual to treatment.
JENNY BROCKIE: Anthony, can you imagine a day when you get up, have a bit of a run, eat three meals, pretty ordinary meals?
ANTHONY FARAH: Yes, I do take rest days and they're pretty somewhat similar. Like we went up, I went to schoolies with a mate, with the boys about two months, a month ago back in December and that was it. I didn't train up there, I couldn't, I could barely eat, you know, my normal meals. You know, I was there drinking every say so it was, it was like a holiday.
JENNY BROCKIE: But what did you eat when you were up there? You ate tuna, didn't you?
ANTHONY FARAH: We had tuna.
JENNY BROCKIE: Everyone else ate other stuff and you ate tuna?
ANTHONY FARAH: Tuna. We had kebabs as well, we got kebab plates all the time. I probably got about three or four a day actually. So --
JENNY BROCKIE: Did you eat bread?
ANTHONY FARAH: It's about balance.
JENNY BROCKIE: Did you eat the bread?
ANTHONY FARAH: No, I didn't actually.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, thank you all very much for joining us. Thank you to everyone here for talking tonight. It's been a really interesting discussion and that is it for this week. But do keep talking on-line, go to our website, Twitter or chat with our guests on our Facebook page.