Why Are Bodybuilders Using Synthol?

Vitamin D supplements don't prevent colds.
Patients taking megadoses of supplement vitamin D in a double-blind clinical trial experienced as many upper respiratory tract infections as patients receiving placebos. Photo courtesy of FDA

Bodybuilders often look for avenues to better their bodies beyond what they do at the gym. From supplements to high-protein diets to calorie-laden shakes, the bodybuilding industry remains a lucrative business for manufacturers.

Bodybuilders will shell out major dollars for any advantage in this competitive field—and Synthol is one such substance.

What is Synthol?

According to a review from the journal Polimery w Medycynie, Synthol is used by bodybuilders as a temporary implant that is injected deep into small muscle groups such as biceps, deltoids, and triceps. Why do they do this? Synthol offers immediate enlargement effects that can help them in competition.

Although Synthol is a recent trend in the bodybuilding world, this liquid has actually been on the market legally for years. The substance has seen a surge of popularity as of late due to Latin American bodybuilders in South American countries touting their Synthol usage on social media. Such posts spread the word, causing other bodybuilders to start adopting it as part of their competition injections.

Although many think Synthol is a form of steroids, the liquid is actually an enhancement oil comprised of yes, almost all oil. Synthol is often marketed online as a "posing oil" to rub all over your body and give your muscles that preferred "shine" during competition. But that's not how bodybuilders typically use it. Rather, they inject the substance right into the body.

Ingredients in Synthol

Consisting mostly of oil, the ingredient make-up of Synthol includes the following:

  • 85 percent oil built by medium-length triglyceride chains for the best effects (which is how Synthol can impersonate itself as a harmless topical product despite its potential hazards when injected into the body)
  • 7.5 percent lidocaine, a local anesthetic used to reduce pain or discomfort
  • 7.5 percent alcohol to sterilize the mixture

These ingredients have not been analyzed by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Such a lack of supervision poses major risks for use. The FDA even warns bodybuilders against using injections like Synthol for body contouring and enhancement.

Potential Side Effects

Despite its provocative, immediate effect on muscles, the substance is considerably dangerous to your health. Users will find visible drawbacks to using Synthol, such as the following:

  • Muscles can become deformed
  • Muscles can move into an unnatural shape, which doesn’t bode well for future competitions
  • Nerves can sustain damage
  • You can experience a pulmonary embolism
  • You could get an occlusion of the pulmonary artery
  • A myocardial infarction can occur
  • You might deal with infectious complications
  • You increase your rate of a cerebral stroke, as the substance can travel to other parts of the body and block blood vessels in your brain, heart, and lungs
  • You can get an ulcer in the injected muscle

Using Synthol for one competition can haunt you for years. The FDA says that such side effects could last for an undetermined amount after your injection. Often intensive and costly interventions are needed to treat the negative side effects, and you could keep needing these interventions for a long time after your initial injection.

Advice from the FDA

For bodybuilders who still are considering using injections, the FDA asks you to please consider the following advice:

  1. Never get any form of injection for body enhancement. This means to never inject a filler between your muscles, as they can be dangerous and cause a serious injury and even death.
  2. Never get any injectables from unlicensed providers.
  3. Discard any product that has strange labeling or looks different than usual.

Ways to Safely Gain Your Desired Look

There are many ways to get that "jacked," sculpted look bodybuilders desire. In short, you should spend your money on FDA-approved supplements, time in the gym, and consume a protein-heavy diet instead of dabbling in dangerous substances.

Follow a Bodybuilding Program

Rather than use a substance like Synthol to create an instant muscular effect, you should follow proper bodybuilding protocol and do it the safe way to keep your body healthy for years to come.

Get Adequate Nutrition

A May 2014 study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition says that most bodybuilders will respond best when consuming the following:

  • 2.3 to 3.1 grams of lean body mass per day of protein
  • 15 to 30 percent of calories from fat
  • The remainder of the calories from carbs
  • Eating three to six meals per day
  • A meal containing 0.4 to 0.5 grams of bodyweight of protein prior to a weightlifting session
  • For supplements: creatine monohydrates, caffeine, and beta-alanine have potential beneficial effects for contest preparation
  • Trying to dehydrate yourself for competition is dangerous and might not improve appearance

Prioritize Mental Health

Because of bodybuilders' tendency to develop body image disorders, they should have access to a mental health professional.

Have a Proper Weightlifting Regimen

You should look at high-frequency training for increasing lean mass and strength. In an April 2016 study from the International Journal of Exercise Science, researchers looked at a high-frequency training group versus a low-frequency training group. They found that working out three times per week, exercising with three sets per muscle group per session for three total-body workouts created the best results in comparison to a low-frequency training group, who performed a split routine.

After eight weeks of training, the high frequency training group increased lean mass by 1.9 percent and experienced strength improvements on the chest press by 11 percent and back squat by 21 percent.

Understand the Need, or Lack Thereof, For Multivitamins

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, multivitamins and mineral supplements aren't needed for bodybuilders as long as they follow a healthy diet and consume enough calories for their long lifting sessions. The dietary supplements of zinc/magnesium aspartate, nitric oxidate precursors, chromium, and choline don't have any scientific evidence to prove they help bodybuilders gain strength and muscle mass.

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Article Sources
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  1. Pupka A, Sikora J, Mauricz J, Cios D, Płonek T. [The usage of synthol in the body building]. Polim Med. 2009;39(1):63-5.

  2. Helms ER, Aragon AA, Fitschen PJ. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11:20.

  3. Thomas MH, Burns SP. Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training. Int J Exerc Sci. 2016;9(2):159-167.

Additional Reading
  • Helms ER, Aragon AA, Fitschen PJ. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. May 2014. 11:20. doi:10.1186/1150-2783-20

  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Bodybuilding. Updated September 2017.

  • Pupka A, Sikora J, Mauricz J, et al. The usage of synthol in the body building. Polim Med. 2009. 39(1):63-65.

  • Thomas MH, Burns SP. Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training. Int J Exerc Sci. 2016;9(2)159-167.

  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA Warns Against Injectable Silicone for Body Contouring and Enhancement. Updated November 14, 2017.