13 min read
A fake natty is someone who secretly uses performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to achieve their fitness goals but claims the results were all achieved without the use of stimulants. The phrase is short for “fake natural”.
Whether those fitness goals are to increase muscular size, improve athletic performance, or enhance physical appearance, a fake natty will generally claim that diet, hard work, and genetics were the only contributing factors to their results.
While the use of PEDs is nothing new to the fitness community, fake natties have become a common talking point in the industry with plenty of content discussing how to spot a fake natty and who among popular public personalities are fakers. The topic is an interesting one and outside of speculating who is doing what and who is or isn’t fake, there are merits to discussions surrounding the topic that this article seeks to touch upon.
What Counts as “Natural”?
There are two trains of thought on defining what is natural: on the one hand, there are those who define “natural” as anything that hasn’t been banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), or other global sporting organizations, and then on the other hand, “natural” is anything that your body could potentially produce on its own or can be derived from eating food sources.
To begin with, there are two problems with defining “natural” under the label of what sporting bodies ban and allow. The first problem is that substances on the banned lists can get removed as the list is everchanging while other substances that were previously unproblematic may be added. The second problem is that each organization has its own definitions and labels; some substances are allowed until a certain amount (and that amount may vary per organization), and there are other substances where one entity may not allow it but another one doesn’t mind it.
As such, because of this lack of uniformity, I prefer to go with the second definition of “natural”: that your body can produce those chemical reactions on its own, or by simply eating whole foods. However, even this has its shortcomings because there are performance enhancers that are natural, like testosterone. Therefore, to smoothen the idea of “natural” is what the body can produce by itself or through food, I also inject the notion from organizations: that a substance should not harm a person nor give them an unfair advantage against fellow competitors. This way, things like creatine (which do enhance performance) are fine because it doesn’t come with negative side effects whereas something like injecting testosterone has the side effect of shutting down one’s internal production of testosterone.
However, with all that said, the point to take away from all this is that governing what is legal and illegal, what is fair and unfair, and what is natural and unnatural is not a straightforward matter.
Why Do We Have Fake Natties?
Simply put, there’s more to gain than there is to lose by being a fake natty. Attention, popularity, money, sponsorships, endorsements, and clout are just some of the potential perks or driving reasons.
And if you still don’t get the allure of being a fake natty, let me paint you a picture: imagine that you’re rocking a physique that 99% of people would kill and pay to have or that you’re achieving athletic feats that 99% of people will never ever see in their lives – whichever of the two you are, you’re part of the top 1%; you’re in a peer group with little competition; you’re unique, a genetic outlier. You’re part of a percentile that 99% of people will look up to and even pay you to know how you did it so they can also hopefully become a genetic outlier; an elite minority. Your position is marketable, your position is enviable, your position rightly commands and draws attention, and your position opens a lot of doors to monetary benefits, but there’s just one little problem: to do it, you had to hop onto PEDs.
So, when you’re on the sauce you have two options here: either be honest about your PED usage or keep the usage to yourself. If you’re honest, your PED usage doesn’t take away from your hard work (of exercising diligently, eating correctly, and having accumulated first-, second-, and third-hand knowledge) nor does usage take away from your genetic gifts to have a good starting base for enhancements or even genetic gifts to respond favorably to enhancers – however, honesty does mean people can downplay your achievements and chalk it all up to them PEDs.
With regards to people belittling the achievements of someone of performance enhancers, the problem with this behavior is that it’s coming from a place of ignorance; not many people understand the intricacies and minutiae of performance enhancers (which is a common problem in any field), they only know the surface level stuff so they’ll think all you have to do is jump on PEDs and you’ve got a body like Chris Hemsworth’s Thor or The Rock’s Black Adam. It doesn’t work like that – performance enhancers enhance what’s already been built on (hence the name), but splicing what enhancers do, how people never truly dive deep into the topics they engage with, or how there will always be haters unwilling to give kudos are conversations for another day.
Whereas, in contrast to being open, if you keep quiet about your PED usage, no one is the wiser and no one can take anything away from you. Some people might be clued up enough to call you out, but they (importantly) lack proof. You can sell programs and routines, have large social media followings, give advice solely based on appearance, endorse products, and make monetary deals on the grounds of people wanting to look like you, perform like you, or them being inspired/motivated by you.
That being said, let me clarify that these potential perks encouraging people to be fakers are things that can still be attained as a natural lifter, but …
What if you lack the genetics to be an outlier and grab people’s initial attention? Well, performance enhancers might help get you there …
What if you’ve accumulated the knowledge and understanding to train/help people but no one is listening because you don’t look like the fitness influencers on social media? Well, performance enhancers might help fix that …
What if you got the genes but want to stand out a little more? Be a rare breed even among that 1%? Well, performance enhancers could be an avenue …
What if you just don’t have the time, patience, care, or dedication to put in months and years of work to unlock your genetic potential (or find out if you lack the genes)? Once again, performance enhancers are an option that could accelerate the process …
Hopefully, this should make the temptations look clearer. But even then, it should be noted that jumping on performance enhancers doesn’t suddenly mean you’re set: you can react unfavorably to them; your diet, training regiment, and lifestyle may be so shit that the enhancers aren’t used to their full potential; or you lack the required knowledge or discipline to go through cycles and perform them safely and smartly. PED usage doesn’t guarantee you’ll get whatever it is you want, however, having said that, having PEDs is like having an extra pair of hands in the kitchen; they can drastically smoothen the path to the end goal.
So we’ve highlighted the positives, incentives, and temptations to be a fake natty but what about the negatives?
Honestly, all you get are people questioning your legitimacy and character. Unless they can prove you’re lying, it just falls down to their word against yours. For most people who don’t do deep dives into the world of fitness (which, once again, is a recurrent habit of people in any field or profession), they’ll only know what they see and not question it. So yes, the negative image will alienate some people but the majority of people won’t be aware of this and it won’t affect the fake natty’s overall life.
Other than one’s image, the only other downsides with being a fake natty are the health challenges you’ll most likely face and the mental toll of keeping that shit hushed. Mentally, everyone’s built different and the perks may help one trudge through the lies, but physically you can’t hide the setbacks; performance enhancers do more damage the older you are and the longer you use them.
The Hellscape That Is Being a Fake Natty
Although there’s more to gain than there is to lose by being a fake natty (as we’ve established), I don’t think the mental and physical toll is worth it.
Think about all the popular fitness influencers and figures who’ve been (rightly or wrongly) accused of being fake natties: Mike O’Hearn, Simeon Panda, Ulisses World, Dana Linn Bailey, MattDoesFitness, The Rock, The Liver King, the list really is endless. What do they all have in common? They’re staunchly in the public eye.
When in the public eye, for better or for worse, there’s a lot of scrutiny. And depending on the image you’ve garnered or how you handle yourself that scrutiny can lead to notoriety (in this instance, being accused of being a fake natty is automatic notoriety).
When in the public eye, there’s no such thing as negative press, it’s all about remaining relevant and staying in front of as many eyes as possible. That’s where notoriety comes in and acts as a helpful tool. Celebrities will typically try to stay as far away as they can from notoriety because their careers don’t need it, but influencers will typically lean into it hard.
Personally, I can only begin to imagine what it’s like being a content creator on social media and people constantly harassing you about your naturalness. That hassle ain’t worth it to me, I’d be as open as I can be about my usage. However, when you’ve exploded into the public eye and are actually a fake natty, coming out isn’t easy because you risk losing your audience, current sponsorships, and possibly even future ones. This is why I, personally, don’t think being a fake natty is worth it; you singlehandedly place yourself in a lie that you’ll have to maintain until who knows when.
I’m pretty sure we can all appreciate how mentally taxing it can become to maintain a lie as time goes on; whether you’ve lied to your parents, siblings, family, friends, significant other, or coworkers – we’ve all had an uncomfortable experience that was a chore to maintain. Being a fake natty is the same shit.
At the End of the Day, Should We Care?
Well, yes and no. Unlike the pros and cons of being a fake natty, the answer to this is not that simple. Looking at the smaller picture, we really shouldn’t care what a grown-ass person does with their body; their life, their choice. As long as they’re not negatively impacting or influencing someone else’s quality of life from their actions, they’re free to live as they please.
But on the bigger picture, it matters because these events aren’t isolated; they don’t occur in a bubble, they do impact other people. Most fake natties are selling programs, taking on sponsorships, giving health/fitness advice, acting as role models, and promoting things, so they are influencing other people. What’s more, if these people are able to lie about their status as natural or not, what else are willing to lie about? Simply put, being a fake natty is dishonest and misleading.
We’ve already established that the general mass – the average person – doesn’t do extensive research unless it’s a topic that they’re intensively invested in (for example, how many of us know the work that goes into overseeing video games? Anime? Movies? Music? Businesses? Etc.), so when you have a fake natty telling people “buy my program to look like me”, “follow my social media to see how I got these results”, “I use this product for my day to day”, etc. they’re misleading and influencing other people. This is where being a fake natty is problematic; it’s damaging and it’s what makes them different from individuals who are open about their PED use.
The biggest people at risk from fake natties are beginners, teenagers, and uninformed audiences. These people are the most likely to follow a fake natty and potentially lose time, money, or health on the fakers.
People may argue that those who are open about their PED usage are also problematic as they’re giving direct information on what to use and where to get it from. This is true and it is a problem, but I think the benefits of people being open outweigh the negatives. People who are open about their usage rarely encourage others to do the same (more often than not they actually discourage people), but more importantly is that they become a source of very vital information (the pros and cons of PED usage, the right time to use PEDs, which ones to use, what amounts are safe or recommended, what’s to be expected once you get on that horse because dismounting it takes as much research as it took to mount it, etc.).
Fake natties, on the other hand, won’t dare speak about the topic because they fear any kind of association to the matter and are arguably creating a disservice to people.
Personally, I’ve never used performance enhancers and I don’t plan to use them any time soon. However, I’m in my thirties and I’m keenly aware that one’s quality of life and physical feats decline with every passing decade, so when I hit my forties, I’ll revisit this topic of performance enhancers. If I feel great, I’ll probably not bother with them but if I find myself feeling like my quality of life has diminished or that I could do with the boost and benefits that come with something like testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), I’ll happily visit a doctor, explore my options, and see where I go. Just know that if it happens though, I’ll be open about my use, perhaps even document the journey for other people who find themselves contemplating whether they should do the same or not.
I think the use of performance enhancers is a personal choice that no one can tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, but disclosing that information is of public interest. I follow a lot of people who are natural and enhanced, and I might not agree with everything that they say, but they’re transparent and have earn goodwill. On the other hand, though, I have no love nor patience for fake natties – crawl my social media, I don’t follow a single person whose status is up for debate, only people who are openly clean or enhanced.