If you’ve spent any time in the YouTube, Instagram, or even real-world fitness worlds, you’ve probably come across the term “fake natty.”
It’s often leveled at someone as an accusation — “You’re a fake natty, bro!”
But what is a fake natty?
A fake natty, short for fake natural, is a term for bodybuilders who conceal their use of steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. Fake naturals build their physique on the back of steroids, testosterone, HGH, and other drugs, but claim that they’re clean.
Let’s dive a little deeper, discuss why fake naturals are so problematic, and talk about the tell-tale signs that will help you spot them.
What is a fake natty? And why do people lie about steroids?
A fake natural bodybuilder is anyone who uses drugs to improve their strength or physique and lies about it.
While extremely dangerous and horrible for your health, steroids are a personal choice. If you choose to do it knowing the risks, knock yourself out.
(Steroids are mostly illegal. They are legitimate drugs that have medical purposes, but you need a prescription in order to use them legally. Most self-respecting doctors won’t give a prescription for anabolic steroids to help you build muscle or get cut.)
Using steroids doesn’t make you a fake natty. Lying about it does.
So why do people lie about using steroids? There are a few reasons:
They’re scared of getting in trouble
Again, steroid use is illegal.
While I’m sure there are plenty of ways to get a shady prescription for anabolics, most users probably don’t want to draw attention to the fact that they’re using prescription drugs for strength and muscle-building.
They’re selling you something
Building an awesome physique naturally takes a lot of time.
You basically have to spend years getting really, really strong on key compound lifts, bulking to add muscle, and systematically cutting your bodyfat percentage down.
It’s a lot of hard work and not everyone is cut out for it.
Steroids, however, make things a lot easier.
It’s common in our day and age for someone to cycle steroids in order to shortcut their way to an amazing and impressive body. Then, they’ll try to sell their social media followers on the amazing workout program they used, or the meal plan they followed, that supposedly helped them get their physique.
They might even sell you a different, legal supplement, and claim that it was the secret behind their gains (like a preworkout, a BCAA, a protein powder, or whatever).
Even though the steroids did 90% of the work.
The different types of steroids
If you’ve ever been sick (usually with some kind of inflammation, allergic reaction, rash, etc.), your doctor may have given you a steroid.
He or she probably gave you what’s called a corticosteroid or catabolic steroid — meaning, it’s designed to suppress your body’s immune system response and its ability to break down chemicals.
When your asthma flares up, for example, a catabolic steroid can make you feel a lot better by slowing down the immune (which is freaking out over an allergen).
An anabolic steroid, on the other hand, mimics the role of testosterone in your body and promotes the production of proteins. More protein production can easily lead to more muscle tissue.
Though there are legitimate medical uses for anabolic steroids, they’re very often abused for muscle gain.
There are too many to list completely, but some common kinds of anabolic steroids are:
- Testosterone (“Test”)
- Methandienone or Dianabol (“Dbol”)
- Trenbolone acetate or Finajet (“Tren”)
- Clenbuterol (“Clen”)
You might have seen or heard the phrase:
“Eat clen, tren hard, test yourself, dbolish your goals.”
This is, of course, a play on what would actually be great advice for natural bodybuilders: “Eat clean, train hard, test yourself, demolish your goals.”
Except, you know, in this case they’re implying that the steroids will do all of that hard work for you.
The dangers of fake naturals & hiding steroid use
So… why is it actually bad to be a fake natty?
The biggest reason is that it hurts natural lifters who try to take advice from steroid users.
The diet and training regimens that work for people on steroids will, most often, NOT work for you if you’re not on drugs.
(Steroid users are the ones who invented bro splits, by the way, or hitting each individual muscle once per week. Modern research shows they’re not optimal for natural lifters who tend to need a slightly higher frequency to optimize their gains.)
This is a problem for a few reasons. Imagine a young guy or girl wanting to get into lifting weights for fitness taking advice from a “fake natty” they found online.
- Follow a poorly designed or at least suboptimal program
- Get bad nutrition advice that’s harmful to their health
- Have unrealistic standards for their physique
- Become discouraged and turn to more and more extreme measures like starving themselves or… taking steroids
The catch is that there are some extremely experienced lifters who use steroids, and even some who have advanced certifications and training knowledge.
Those people are certainly capable of giving good advice!
But it’s the “FAKE” part of “fake natty” that really causes problems, or when someone hides the role that performance-enhancing drugs has played in developing their physique and forming their views.
How to spot a fake natural
There’s no surefire way to tell if someone’s using or has used anabolic steroids, HGH, or other drugs.
But there are a few signs you can look for.
Probably the biggest hallmark of a drug user is an inhuman combination of size and leanness. It’s simply very, very difficult as a natural to get huge, massive muscles while staying incredibly vascular, with that sharp, shredded look.
Naturals can be big, or they can be shredded, or they can be somewhere inbetween. But it’s pretty rare to find someone who can pull off both at the same time.
Here are a few more things you can look for:
Extremely rapid strength & muscle gains
Unless you’re a complete beginner, it’s not reasonable to put on 20 pounds of muscle in just a few months (and probably not even as a beginner, either).
Most people can only gain 1-2 pounds of muscle per month naturally, so a dramatic transformation from scrawny to jacked in a short amount of time should be a red flag.
Strength doesn’t match size
This is a big one.
Growing muscle on steroids is pretty easy. With just a small stimulus, the steroids promote insane and unnatural amounts of protein synthesis and muscle growth.
So when you see someone in the gym or online who looks jacked as hell, but never seems to lift heavy weight, you should be suspicious.
Bubble-gut with abs
Ever noticed how a lot of today’s top bodybuilders have really blocky abs that seem to… stick out? Like a gut, only chiseled?
It’s a phenomenon called bubble-gut, and it leads to that distended, though muscular, belly.
There are a lot of possible explanations for this, but it could be a result of taking too much insulin or HGH. While not a steroid, bodybuilders use insulin to build and prevent muscles from breaking down during exercise, keeping them full and plump at all times.
If you see a big, bloated, muscular belly on a fitness professional, it’s not a dead giveaway they’re on steroids, but it should raise your eyebrow.
(I’m just saying, not a lot of naturals have this look.)
Huge shoulders and traps
Again, you can develop your shoulders and traps very nicely as a natural if you get really strong on the right lifts.
But these are notoriously difficult muscles to develop, and it will take years to do it well.
Anyone who effortlessly has massive traps and huge, round shoulders deserves a closer look for the other signs on this list.
(You should definitely be suspicious of anyone with big shoulders and traps who can’t overhead press or deadlift very much weight.)
The guys or girls you really need to worry about are the ones who do low doses of drugs or cycle on and off them for certain purposes. The ones who maintain a somewhat realistic looking, though still amazing, physique year-round.
It can be really hard to tell with certain fitness professionals.
But a lot of the time? You know. You just know.
If someone looks like the Incredible Hulk, is impossibly lean and chiseled and veiny, and still has enormous muscles… you know something’s off.
Again, none of these are certain indicators. And it’s really crappy to accuse someone of taking steroids when you have no evidence.
But if someone shows multiple red flags from this list, it’s a good sign you should look elsewhere for your fitness advice.
So there you have it, probably way more than you ever wanted to know about fake naturals.
Remember, it’s not steroids that make someone a fraud. It’s lying about it.
There are plenty of people out there who currently use steroids, or have in the past, and it doesn’t make them bad people OR mean they can’t give good advice. But they need to at least acknowledge the role that anabolic steroids played in building their body.
Usually, fitness influencers or professionals do this to improve their body easily, which in turn becomes their marketing vehicle to sell you supplements, meal plans, or workout programs.
Don’t fall for it! Now that you know what to look for, you can go out there and find far better people to take advice from.
Hope this helps, and stay natural my friends!
(You can also check out my complete guide to more gym lingo.)