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Bodybuilding With Bipolar Disorder

Posted on February 15th, 2012 by Lucy

Like most mental illnesses, bipolar disorder is particularly hard to live with. A shoulder injury, you can adjust your training routine and do some physio. A testosterone imbalance, you can take either prescription medication or bodybuilding supplements. But a mental disorder strikes right at the heart of what makes us into ourselves! Add the fairly extreme medication regime to a serious identity crisis and some major disruptions to personal relationships, and your diagnosis can understandably feel like a massive roadblock. Today we check out some guidelines for bodybuilders with bipolar disorder – there are plenty of ways for you to achieve your goals.

Bodybuilding supplements

Please note that all advice in this article assumes that you have a confirmed diagnosis. Don’t self-diagnose – it can be dangerous!

Bipolar Medication Effects for Bodybuilders

There are several types of medications used to treat bipolar disorder. Your doctor will likely start you on at least one, and may add others depending on your reaction to them. Each of them will affect your metabolism and bodybuilding supplement routine in a different way:


This and other medications based on lithium can cause low thyroid function. You might find that you put on weight easily, don’t have the energy for workouts, etc.

Valproic acid:

This bipolar medication can boost testosterone levels; especially noticeable in females. Apart from the anabolism, females taking valproic acid risk polycystic ovarian syndrome.


These medications include olanzapine, aripiprazole, quetiapina and risperidone. Their major side effect is lack of energy, but you might also get a rapid heartbeat, dizziness when you change positions and some blurred vision.


Antidepressants act in very different ways and have very different side effects. Yours might cause sexual function problems, nausea or agitation.

Bodybuilding Supplements for Bipolar Sufferers

It is essential that you stop taking all your bodybuilding supplements while your medication regime is being refined.

Once you have been taking the same medicines with positive effects for 3 months, you can begin your bodybuilding supplements again. Here are some guidelines for setting up your stack again:

  • Given that many bipolar medications cause drowsiness and lack of energy, you might want to add a pre-workout supplement to your stack
  • Go light on weight-gaining bodybuilding supplements if you’re on lithium, or any medicine which causes low thyroid function
  • You might get nausea with some pre-workout supplements especially. Try switching to a different brand if this occurs.
  • If valproic acid is part of your medication regime, check with your doctor before taking testosterone boosting bodybuilding supplements.

Bodybuilding Training Guidelines for Bipolar Sufferers

You’ll also need to take some extra care in the gym and modify your routine a little. Because of the side effects of your medications, you should try to:

  • Use machines rather than free weights, because of the potential for injury if you get blurred vision or dizziness with motion.
  • If cardio is part of your routine, keep it light. Add heavy cardio to a medication which causes a rapid heartbeat and you may well have a heart attack.

Try to stick to a routine for your training – this will help with managing sleep disturbances which both bipolar and the medications to treat it can cause.

Be Prepared for Intolerance

Bodybuilding can be one huge boys club, and sadly some of the typical reactions to hearing that you have bipolar disorder will include:

  • It’s all in your head, you just need to get over it
  • Start doing things that make you happy and you’ll be happy
  • Your diagnosis is made-up because the pharmaceutical companies want to make money out of you
  • You’re actually just missing some vitamins and minerals
  • You’re a wuss for even thinking about being depressed

Obviously, every single point you read above is untrue, misinformed or conspiracy-theorist. If you haven’t told anybody about your diagnosis yet, be very selective about whom you tell. People have no innate right to know unless you want them to, especially if they ain’t gonna try to walk a mile in your shoes.

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