Female bodybuilders and resulting masculine facial features

I was watching “Supersize She” last night - a documentary about Joanna Thomas, a British bodybuilder who was trying to win the Ms. Olympia contest.

She says she has gotten her physique through natural methods and does not use steroids. (Google <Joanna Thomas female bodybuilder> if you want to see pictures). My question is: she, and all the other female bodybuilders they showed, were extremely masculine-looking in the face. Obviously also in the body but I’m not talking about that. Their faces were very manly. Joanna would make a quite handsome man herself, and when she was shown with makeup, she and every other woman shown looked like men in drag. I was really focusing just on their faces and trying not to consider the bodies also, and they really looked manly. All of them - so you’d have to assume if it were steroids, that ALL of them take them. (Maybe they do; I don’t know.)

Assuming that she truly doesn’t take steroids, what is it about extreme bodybuilding that would cause all the women to have masculine facial characteristics? Does the female body produce testosterone when one bulks up to that extent? Is it just a by-product of having virtually zero body fat, which makes the face much more angular than normal, with a much more pronounced bone structure? Or would the consensus be that they really are taking steroids and that’s why they develop masculine features?

From what I could tell, none of them had facial hair or shadows; but their faces were manly. I would think steroids would cause hair growth, not just nominally masculine features. They did some extreme closeups of Joanna and I couldn’t see any evidence of her shaving her face.


I caught about 30 seconds of that show as I was flipping channels. The one thing I noticed which you didn’t mention is that she had a really deep voice for a woman. At first I thought it was a guy talking until I noticed that her lips were moving in sync with the voice that was coming out of the TV.

I know in a lot of other sports that if you don’t take drugs you just won’t be able to compete at the top levels, so it’s a balancing act of how much drugs can you take and not get caught vs. how much benefit you get from the drugs. Take too few and you can’t compete with the top players. Take too many and you fail your piss test.

I am definately not an expert in the field, but I’d be surprised if her features and voice were all natural.

I’m no expert either (I used to be a competitive bodybuilder, but never took any drugs), but my understanding is that taking some drugs (steroids, and especially, artificial growth hormones) can enlarge the features of the face, as in people suffering from acromegaly (picture Richard Kiel (‘Jaws’ from the James Bond pictures), or wrestler Andre the Giant). This would certainly change the facial appearance, probably to look more masculine.

And I would agree with the OP’s suspicion that obtaining really low bodyfat levels would tend to masculinize a woman’s features.

Her voice was low, as were the other women’s too. She was just so adament about not taking anything, although I can understand why she’d lie on TV. (Not saying that she did. She was a pretty good actor if she was lying.) I don’t know much about extreme training so wasn’t sure if low voice/masculine features could well be a natural result of such training, or ultra-low body fat. Hers was measured at 2.6% just before the competition, which I would not have thought possible on anyone, let alone a female.

It is probably a combination of things…but look to HGH and steroids - really, let’s be honest.

First, at the Olympia level, you cannot compete without steroids or HGH (human growth hormone). Additionally, incredibly low body fat levels and extreme am’ts of exercise can toss a woman’s hormones ‘off balance’, so to speak.

Viewed realistically, there are drugs at that level…almost impossible to even think of competing w/out them. Tell tale signs are deepening voice, male pattern baldness, hair growth on face, etc. However, like all drugs different side effects make themselves known in different degrees or not at all.

Generally, the less beefier, YET JUST AS LEAN (low body fat %) natural and tested women competitors in competitions that test for drugs are much less masculine in face and voice. So, while one might suspect body fat %'s that are very low to contribute, in contests where the demands have caused women to go below 3% AND caused the menstruation to stop, one does not find the deep voices and thickening of masculine features one finds when one looks at Olympia level female competitors.

Everyone in the body building world knows that HGH and steroids permeate the industry and are necessity to compete. It is a joke to think that Miss Olympia (and Mr) contestants are ‘natural’.

She did have somewhat of a receding hairline. I’m not sure if anyone else did.

Everyone “knows” that male bodybuilders use steroids. Arnold said he did, with no regret, but when he did it it was legal. Do the male bodybuilders now claim to be all-natural? Or do they admit using - and are there any legal steroids/additives/whatever that they don’t have to be afraid to admit using?

They deny using, but are not subjected to tests, giving them free range to all drugs. Even if they are tested now, there are ‘masking’ techniques and there are ‘designer’ drugs that cannot be detected very easily…if at all.

Pro-bodybuilding can’t police itself, because it would be shutting itself down. Why kill your business voluntarily? Any body building authority that didn’t test would have the heavyweights, and would put down anyone else that tested. People want the monsters.

They won’t admit to taking steroids, but they won’t admit even taking a steroid precursor, as even they have been deemed illegal. Before precursors were illegal, many admitted using them.

Did they show any pictures of her before her bodybuilding days? If she didn’t have masculine features then, she’s definitely a user. The fact that she’s competing at a high level suggests that she’s on drugs, but it’s not proof.

Steroid use in bodybuilding is pretty much an open secret, but very few bodybuilders would want to admit it in print because it’s illegal. I don’t doubt that there are legal substances they claim help them out, but that’s not all the top pros are using.

When I wrestled in high school, I knerw some wrestlers who took weight-loss to an extreme (to wrestle at a low weight and thus have some advantage) and grew up with very guant looks. I know of a very good woman athlete in her 50s who looks young for her age but she has the same guant look which makes her look a bit masculine to me.

I don’t doubt the drug use. Body building always seemed like a weird “sport” to me anyway. No doubt these people are exercising alot, but also dieting a lot, and the kind of exercise they do makes me wonder if they are even generally more fit than your regular frequent-gym-attending jane or joe.

She started bodybuilding at 15; they did show pictures of her as a little girl (and she looked totally like a regular little girl). Then there was a clip of her at her first win, and she did have a bit of a masculine look then too but nowhere near as pronounced as current day. (Her body was also much less developed than current day.) I’m not sure how old she was in the clip - possibly 16-18 or so.

According to the show, when it’s just before competition they are not only at their weakest, but bordering on becoming dangerously ill. This is because of the crash-dieting combined with extreme training they do for several months beforehand, which lowers their body fat to concentration-camp-victim level. Joanna had been subsisting on protein powder and dried meat for a few months before the competition. Then they fast (no solids or liquids) for the day before the competition, and then stuff themselves with sugar right before going on stage, because it makes their veins pop out. I can’t imagine any of that can be good for maintaining a healthy body. It might look “healthy” but it probably isn’t.

You also need to consider that the women who are drawn into this sport and who excel will tend to be more masculine anyway. Those women with hormonal conditions or simply with high levels of testosterone will be ahead of the field before they even begin to participate and thus more likely to begin to participate.
It’s a bit like asking whether pro basketballers take drugs to make themselves taller. It’s theoretically possible but mostly it’s just that kids who get into playing basketball seriously will tend to be those who were taller naturally. Similarly girls who get into body building will strongly over-represent masculine women anyway. It’s not like naturally petite 4’9" women will get involved or excel in the sport if they do participate.

Could it be the other way around? Perhaps only women with more natural “masculine” hormones (and appearance) will reach the top levels of bodybuilding - so the more feminine ones are the ones we never see.

My sister-in-law’s a championship power-lifter, and I would be very surprised if she used steroids - she’s completely paranoid about what she eats and puts in her body. I just can’t imagine that a women who won’t drink a glass of orange juice would take steriods. (And I’ve asked her outright and she says no.) But she’s more manly looking than my husband, frankly.

A near simultaneous posting with the guy above you. I love it when that happens. Great minds think a like.

That’s what I get for not previewing!

Tabbed browsing is really nice…but when you’ve had a tab sittin’ up there for 10 minutes before you read it, previewing is really essential!

I guess you have to grab needles and jam them into the asses of various folks who are trying to get into the pro-ranks. Walking around with needles filled with Sustanon, decadurbolin, test, Equipose and Winstrol is all the proof I need.

I’ve injected steroids in past Mr. America contestants and a winner , a Mr. Pennsylvania contestant or two, and have watched the exchange of sale between body builders and people running the shows. I have no first hand knowledge of the woman featured on the show (I watched it) and I cannot speak about Olympia contests.

Steroids are used right up to the point where people try to turn pro, but I am supposed to suspend my belief and assume they don’t take them because I should operate my mind like the US justice system??? NO!

Making conclusions based on everything I know: You cannot be a pro and be ‘natural’. To anyone ‘in the know’, it’s laughable. The women are the most blatant users, since the impact of introducing HGH and testosterone-like drugs turns them into men-ish freaks. Their voices deepen, their their faces square off, and they get electrolisis to remove hair, and they watch their hairline recede. They reach maturity as women, get into the roids and turn into something in between.