What is Palumboism (bubble gut) causes and the worst cases!

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: November 22, 2023

Palumboism is a rare condition seen in bodybuilders and weightlifters caused due to the distension of the oblique muscles of the abdomen resulting in a round, protruded belly.

This condition was commonly seen amongst bodybuilders during the 1990s to early 2000s associated with the usage of Human Growth Hormone (HGH).

This condition was given various names such as :

  • Bubble gut
  • -Steroid or roid gut
  • -Human growth hormone or HGH gut
  • -HGH bloat
  • -Bubble gut
  • -Insulin gut
  • -Body builder belly
  • -Muscle gut

Origin of Plaumboism

The term “Palumboism” was coined to describe this condition after the famous Dave Palumbo in whom this condition was quite evidently noted.

Dave Palumbo was a well-known and respected name in the American bodybuilders circuit, is also the founder and CEO of RxMuscles and species nutrition.

Dave “JUMBO” Palumbo was infamously called so due to his massive 320 lbs body in a 5’9” frame who participated in several body building competitions but unfortunately never made it pro.

Palumbo was also sent to prison for having sold HGH to other athletes.

Palumbo was the first person in history to have shown characteristic “Bubble gut” related to HGH overuse. Later several other factors were also considered causative for Palumboism.

  1. Use of Human Growth Hormone.

Excessive and uncontrolled, un-prescribed use of HGH has been the main cause behind development of Plaumboism. 

HGH brings about growth of tissues and organs, in this case especially the intestines which grow in size and pushes the stomach giving it a round belly appearance. This is more evident after consumption of food.

  1. Insulin abuse

HGH and other performance enhancing drugs or steroids are taken along with insulin. Insulin causes build-up of fat in and around the stomach called visceral fat causing visible bulging of the midsection.

  1. High Calorie consumption

Bodybuilders require more calories as compared to the rest of us leading to large amount of food taken up which may lie dormant in the stomach for long periods of time causing gut distension and bloated appearance.

  1. Carbohydrates-rich diet

The diet of bodybuilders consist of large amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and lesser fat. The carbohydrates consumed are stores as glycogen in liver and muscles. 

This glycogen requires water along with it to be in a storable form. Hence more glycogen gives rise to more water retention causing a distended, full gut.

  1. Higher abdominal mass

All the rigorous exercises in addition to the supplemental steroids and exogenously supplied hormones cause growth of the Rectus abdominis muscle which gives you your “six-pack” has no place to grow causing it to protrude from your midsection giving a blocky appearance and gut distension.

Related Post  Unveiling the Truth: Does Probation Test for Steroids?

How does HGH cause Palumboism?

Although experts haven’t been able to come up with an exact mechanism for the occurrence of Plaumboism, it is suggested that the condition occurs as a result of hypersensitivity to the HGH.

 The HGH has receptors on all organs and tissues of the body, causing growth of these organs when HGH binds to these receptors. 

This multi-organ effect of HGH brings about organomegaly, that is enlargement of visceral internal organs, such as the stomach resulting in its protrusion through the body wall and hence the condition.

HGH abuse has also been reported to the incidence of cardiomegaly, enlargement of heart muscles leading to a variety of cardiovascular related health issues, even resulting in fatality as a consequence of heart failure and arrhythmias.

Famous bodybuilders with Bubble Gut WE BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT!

41-year-old seven-time Mr.Olympia winner Phil Heath, 45 year old professional body builder, artist and trainer Kai Greene and the very famous G.O.A.T Ronie Coleman who won Mr. Olympia a record 8 times in a row have all suffered from this Bubble gut complication arising due to HGH use.

kai greene bubble gut

Worst case of Palumboism

The worst case of Palumboism has been attributed to “Big” Lenny Montouri rightly called due to his massive muscular build, has even be labelled by the bodybuilding communities as “ Stage 4 of Palumboism” owing to his massive distended abdomen, although Lenny doesn’t shy away from such comments and in fact has made it his identity.

Treatment for Palumboism

The only documented “cure” for this is to slowly wean off HGH under medical supervision. The effects are usually reversible and returns back to normal over time.

There is no specific medication available, doctors suggest resting the body from physical training and steroids, HGH will reverse the condition over time. If a person suspects they may have symptoms of Palumboism, it is suggested to consult a sports injuries and rehabilitation specialist or muscle specialist at the earliest.

How can Palumboism aka Bubble gut be prevented?

The most obvious answer is to stay off HGH and Insulin, steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. 

Our bodies are inherently capable of increasing mass and size with proper clean nutritious diets and strict exercise regimen. 

There are many body builders who have naturally amasses their muscles and ended up with ripped physique. Hence staying away from drug-dependant ways to build up one’s body isn’t the only way nor the right way.

Related Post  Can You Use The Same Syringe Twice For Steroids? Know Here

Side effects of using HGH and Insulin

  • Joints and muscles pain
  • Fluid retention in extremities causing swelling of hands and feet
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Increased risk of heart failure due to cardiomegaly
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, strokes
  • Decreased blood sugar
  • Liver damage
  • Increased growth of hands and feet (acromegaly)
  • Mood swings, psychological issues, dependency
  • Growth of tumour and/or tumour-like masses

The following are recommended to prevent the occurrence of Palumboism:

  1. Taper off HGH and Insulin

The first step is to taper off HGH and insulin gradually and not rapidly cut them off, that could lead to complications as well

  1. Intermittent fasting

Another suggested remedy is to time your meals and have adequate time in between

Meals for your body to go into a state of fasting for a few hours. This method has shown to reduce bloating as it allows ample time for your stomach to empty its contents into the intestines.

  1. Carbohydrates downsizing

It is common knowledge that more carbs means more weight and bloating due to retention of water. Hence cutting down your carbs intake will help reduce the occurrence of Palumboism.

  1. Timing your carbs intake

It has been noted that it is best to load on carbs 24 hours before you turn up on stage for it gives enough time for your stomach to unload while maintaining the glycogen loaded muscles in good condition and not making it look dehydrated.


To wrap it up, HGH-induced abdomen distension called Palumboism is a reversible and avoidable condition that has now been almost completely eliminated from the bodybuilding communities.

Dave Moffat

Hi, I'm Dave Moffat the founder and Chief Editor of steroidsourcetalk.com and certified International Personal Trainer and Certified Nutritionist. My passion has always been bodybuilding but with 15 years' experience in weight loss programs too, it's hard not to mention all that when you're working at your fitness level fullest (I hope). When Im not in the gym or spending time away from my family i often think about what advice would help others achieve theirs goals just like these inspired mine.