*Disclaimer: Palumbosim is a serious condition. We do not recommend the use of growth hormone, insulin or any other banned or illegal substance for bodybuilding or otherwise without consultation of a doctor or medical professional.
What is Palumboism?
Palumboism is a rare condition seen in bodybuilders which presents as severe abdominal distention or “bubble gut”. It is typically seen in bodybuilders from 1990 – 2000 era.
The individual suffers from an enlarged stomach primarily from the frequent abuse of human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin. They may appear very lean and muscular, but their stomach is bloated and round – this is classic Palumboism.
The cause of Palumboism is believed to come from the individual’s sensitivity to the human growth hormone. The effect of which not only causes the muscles, but the organs of the individual to grow – the result of which being an enlarged stomach and the textbook definition of Palumboism. Some describe it as a concentrated version of acromegaly (growth hormone disorder) that sticks mainly to the torso.
The term Palumboism was first coined after Dave Palumbo – the first bodybuilder with which the condition was seen to such an extent that it was then acknowledged and named after him.
HGH Gut / Bubble Gut: Potential Causes
Also known as Bodybuilder Gut and HGH Belly. There are numerous factors that contribute to Palumboism, a few of which we have already mentioned such as:
- Human Growth Hormone Abuse – Taking HGH repeatedly for long periods of time can can cause growth in your intestines. This can cause Palumboism bulges in your stomach.
- Insulin Abuse – Insulin increases your body’s fat storage, which can lead to a bigger abdomen.
- Too Much Abdominal Muscle Mass – If you are building mass on your stomach muscles, your six-pack has nowhere to grow but outward. Combine this with accelerated growth from steroids, and it will bulge forward.
- High Carb Diets – The glyogen from carbohydrate-rich foods can cause additional water retention. This adds to the other factors and increases the overall stomach bloat.
- High Calorie Diets – When gaining muscle it’s important to eat a high calorie diet to give your body what it needs. However, this additional food will lie dormant in the stomach while it processes which increases your overall bloat.
- Excessive Carb Loading and increased Water Rentention – To look thicker, bodybuilders can deplete themselves of carbs, water and glycogen over a period of time, and then aggressively consume a lot of carbs and water. This dramatically increases water retention in the muscles, but the increased amount of food may linger in the stomach.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways a Palumboism-style stomach can be gained. With some effects being more temporary than others.
David Christopher “Dave” Palumbo is a retired American bodybuilder and the ‘father’ of the condition Palumboism.
He was the first individual to have such an extreme version of the condition that it led to the coining of the phrase.
Dave Palumbo’s bodybuilding career ran for approximately 14 years, starting in 1990 and finishing in 2004.
His contest weight was typically around 273 lbs (124 kg). This was on his 5 ft 9 frame. However, Dave went even further in some cases, here is it at 320 lbs:
Surprisingly, despite his efforts, Dave never became a pro IFBB bodybuilder. He attempted to do so at 16 competitions but never actually qualified. Regardless, he is still a renown legend in the bodybuilding community.
In 2004 Palumbo was sentenced to 5 months in prison for distribution of human growth hormone to upcoming athletes. This seemed to be his weapon of choice during his career and what led to him developing Palumboism.
Now things are different, Dave is the CEO and founder of RxMuscle and Species Nutrition and is a sucessful web interviewer and radio host. He has even recovered from his namesake condition:
Palumboism is not limited to men, there have been several female bodybuilders over the years who have also been seen with the condition.
However, these kind of cases are much rarer. You will not find many female bodybuilders that have Palumboism. The main condition they seem to get is virlization, which is the development of male characteristics such as additional muscle, body hair and deeper voices.
The additional muscle around the stomach is sometimes categorized as Palumboism – but this is not always the case.
Regardless, there are still some real cases of Palumboism out there in female athletes. Here’s another example of Palumboism in females:
Worst Case of Palumboism
“The Worst Case of Palumboism” is often attributed to “Big” Lenny Montuori of the Del Ray Misfits by internet bodybuilding communities and Reddit:
Although Big Lenny has an impressive amount of muscle mass across his physique, his stomach is clearly distended with his chest now collapsing into it.
Some internet bodybuilding forums have dubbed this as “Stage 4 Palumboism”:
The effects of this are seeming to increase with age – but Montuori is in no way insecure about it.
In the past, Big Lenny has been asked about his Palumboism and has mentioned that his stomach “is not going anywhere” and that he has at one point weighed 450 lbs and regardless of his weight his belly will always be big and hard.
If you wish to know more about Big Lenny, Beige Frequency’s “What is Big Lenny?” documentary takes a closer look:
How to Reverse Palumboism
The only way to reverse Palumboism is to stop using Human Growth Hormone. This process may take time and usually involves tapering off it, rather than going cold turkey.
Bodybuilders like Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman have successfully recovered from Palumboism by tapering off Human Growth Hormone. It may take time, but over the years and the overall symptoms of the condition may pass.
Certain issues though like an increase in bone density, head size and other symptoms of acromegaly may be permanent.
There are however, ways to help prevent Palumboism occurring during a bodybuilding career, but there is a still chance of the condition occurring and presenting itself.
How to Prevent Bubble Gut
Here are some fast tips to help prevent the chance of Palumboism occurring while bodybuilding with illegal, and not recommended substances like growth hormone and insulin:
- Taper off HGH and Insulin – Reducing the use of HGH and insulin elimates the primary drivers of Palumbolism.
- Intermittent Fasting – Not eating for longer periods of time allows your stomach to empty itself and reduces the overall bloat.
- Cut Down on Carbohydrates – A high carb diet will make you more bloated and carry more water weight exacerbating the problem.
- Time Your Carb Loads – If you are carb loading, make sure you load 24 hours before you’re needed to look your best. This way you can help clean out your stomach while still retaining the glycogen boosted muscle mass.
The main nugget of information here is taper off HGH and insulin. The other factors reduce the appearance of Palumboism – stopping HGH and insulin actually reduces it.
Palumboism is one of the strangest, and most interesting phenomenon in the bodybuilding world. Many have fallen prey to its effects throughout the years, and many more still and will do.
Dave Palumbo led the way by taking it to such an extreme, the condition was categorized and named after him by the community. Human Growth Hormone took such a hold of the industry that many more bodybuilders followed in his footsteps, and have led to a gallery of the weird and wonderful bubble gut that we see today.