Inside The World Of Australian Female Body Building
Australia’s female bodybuilders are not only defying physical odds and overcoming mental challenges, but they're also fighting to smash the stereotype that it’s a men’s sport.
Emma Carr was shy in high school, now she's a strong female bodybuilder.
Carr, a NSW personal trainer, said she was inspired to take up bodybuilding five years ago after seeing her friends compete.
She told 10 daily she was fascinated by nutrition and exercise science and how adopting a healthy lifestyle can transform your body.
"Bodybuilding has definitely built my confidence. I'm always trying to beat the person I was last year, I'm not necessarily in competition with the other girls," Carr said.
Carr said gracing the stage in fake tan and a bikini for the first time was nothing short of "daunting". But now she finds competing "empowering" and coaches other women for competitions.
Carr generally spends three months preparing for her moment on stage, hitting the gym six days a week and following a strict diet that shuns alcohol.
Like many female bodybuilders, Carr said she's had people criticise her body for not looking feminine enough.
"This year I did get a bit more muscly and I had random people, who didn't understand what I was doing comment about my body," she said.
"Some people were saying that I'm too muscular for a woman, which I think is ridiculous and that anybody should be able to look the way they like."
Sports and Performance Dietitian Dr Dominique Condo said while bodybuilding can have health benefits, when pushed to the extreme it becomes dangerous.
"A lot of people try different dehydration strategies in order to get that leaner, dry look up on stage, that ripped muscle look. That dehydration is the danger, if that goes wrong it can be life-threatening," Dr Condo told 10 daily.
Another concern is when there is an energy deficit, with athletes exercising without replenishing their carbohydrates. This lack of energy can affect womens' hormonal balance and impact their ability to menstruate or have children.
"Bodybuilding can quite addictive, you're feeling quite good and it's almost like a drug. What we often see is repetitive competing and you're going through these cycles of gaining and leaning up and that overtime can have some major effects as well," Dr Dominique Condo.
Samantha Flores-Beaton started bodybuilding in 2011 during a previous relationship. As a goal-orientated person, Flores-Beaton said she loves the challenge of putting in the hard work required to compete but said it can be overwhelming sticking to such a regimented exercise and diet routine.
"You still have to live your life, you still have to work a full-time job, pay your bills and do everything else as well as bodybuilding. It can be quite a selfish sport, you have the conflict of your friends wanting you to go out and eat and it can get quite stressful," she said.
The Sydney-based bodybuilder said competing has helped her to become more confident but she still has 'mental battles' every day.
"Mentally, it's very, very difficult. The way you look in the mirror compared to how other people see you, you've got to have a lot of trust in your coach and let your coach be your eyes," Bodybuilder Samantha Flores-Beaton.
While bodybuilding often appears like a ruthless sport with women in direct competition with each other, Flores-Beaton said there's a real sense of community in the female bodybuilding world.
"Before I started competing I would look at it and think the girls would be quite nasty or pretentious but it's absolutely not like that. They're so supportive and always check-in and make sure everybody's okay," she said.
Dr Condo advises people who are interested in taking up bodybuilding to ensure they work with an accredited sports dietitian and trainer to strike the right balance.
"There's benefits to it as well. If people are aware of their health and conscious of eating well and exercising that's a good thing. When you push anything to the extreme, that's when it becomes a concern."
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