Victor Martinez and the GI crew talk about synthol and which notable pro bodybuilders allegedly used it.

In the quest to obtain the perfect body, face, or look – humans have gone to extreme measures in order to alter their physical appearance. Since bodybuilding is a sport that focuses on the aesthetic of muscle on the body, it’s not uncommon for some to succumb to to these extreme measures. PEDs are commonly used in bodybuilding and considered extreme by the mainstream public. But what happens when that is not enough? Synthol, or other site enhancement oils (SEOs), are used by some to create “artificial muscle.” Do bodybuilders on the pro level actually use it? In this week’s Generation Iron Podcast, Victor Martinez goes into detail about synthol, which pros allegedly use it, and why pros use it at all.

Synthol and site enhancement oils are likely familiar to anyone who is interested in the bodybuilding world. Typically, they gain attention from the synthol freaks – individuals who abuse synthols and SEOs to extreme degrees for a very deformed effect. These individuals often go viral online due to their shocking appearance.

However, synthol and SEOs are used more often than you might think. They are not common to use per se, but use of these substances exist well beyond the obvious “freaks” seen on the internet. While very few have openly admitted it, competitive bodybuilders have allegedly used synthol for small site enhancements on their already impressive physiques. It’s even been rumored that a small minority of pro bodybuilders have used SEOs.

While Victor Martinez has not used synthol or SEOs himself – he has known people who have and have witnessed the results of synthol in fellow competitors. That’s why this week he dives deep into the topic alongside the rest of the GI team. Let’s jump into it.

RELATED: Watch a deep dive into muscle dysmorphia, including synthol use, in the feature film documentary, “Bigorexia”

What is synthol?

Synthol is a site enhancement oil. A substance that is injected directly into the muscle in order to re-shape or build up the physical appearance of that body part. The oil itself hardens after being injected into the muscle. This is essentially how a muscle can be “shaped” by SEOs.

What happens to synthol in your body? Is it permanent?

In some cases according to anecdotal claims, synthol can slowly breakdown in your body – making the enhancements temporary. However, long term use of synthol can lead to serious complications including muscle scarring and disfiguration.

According to scientific studies cited here by “Healthline,” once synthol takes hold in muscle tissue – the changes will be permanent. It is never absorbed into the body and often leaves the muscles large and damaged. Typically in this case, the only way to remove hardened synthol or SEOs is to have it surgically removed.

Although injured muscle can be surgically removed, scarring may be permanent. If a large portion of muscle tissue must be removed, it’s possible that muscle strength and function may be compromised.

RELATED: The Anabolic Doc details what happens to synthol in your body

Why would bodybuilders use synthol?

As stated above, synthol can artificially shape and grow muscle on the body. In extreme cases, this can become an addiction that leads to sever disfiguration of the body. These so-called “synthol freaks” have a form of severe body dysmorphia. Some even desire to look exactly like a cartoon character – despite how “inhuman” the end result is.

Beyond these extreme cases, it has been alleged that competitive bodybuilders also use synthol. Typically this is done in much more discrete ways and smaller doses. Typically, the reasoning behind this is to give a small “boost” to a lagging body part. Or fill in a muscle to look more symmetrical or aesthetically pleasing with the rest of the physique.

In this case, the same dangers can occur. Muscle damage can take place and these hardened areas might require surgery in the long term. For competitive bodybuilders looking to have a career – these kinds of risks can completely derail a bodybuilders future. It’s the main reason why the substance is frowned upon (beyond also requiring no training effort to obtain). Victor Martinez advises strongly against it for this very reason.

Do pro bodybuilders use synthol?

During the conversation about how synthol works and why someone might use synthol – Victor Martinez is asked if any pro bodybuilders have used SEOs. His short answer is, yes. Though he has no definitive evidence to prove it. He mentions that Flex Wheeler has long since been rumored to have used synthol during his prime years. These rumors first started gaining traction once the internet and social media became mainstream.

Suddenly, bodybuilding fans can more easily review old photographs of legendary competitors such as Flex Wheeler. The rumors existed before this point – but reignited with the ability to easy compare photos throughout his career. Most commonly, fans point to his 1993 physique – and how it looks significantly different in 1994 and onwards. Most consider ’93 to be the best version of Wheeler’s physique. They claim you can see a significant difference afterwards due to synthol use.

Victor Martinez can’t prove it – but he seems to fall in the same camp as the fans. Martinez also draws attention to Hadi Choopan, who was accused of using synthol earlier in 2022 before his big win at the Mr. Olympia. Those rumors existed in earlier years as well – but seemed to be suddenly confirmed when his ex-manager exposed his synthol use on social media.

Ultimately, Choopan’s ex-manager didn’t have direct evidence and many saw this as a vengeful attempt to take Choopan down due to a ugly break up. The IFBB Pro league has been vocal in the past about not rewarding athletes who appear to have physiques altered by synthol. Clearly, the judges didn’t have any cause for concern as they ultimately gave Hadi Choopan the 2022 Olympia Sandow.

Wrap Up

Victor Martinez and the GI team go into significant detail on synthol, how it’s used, why it’s used, and how it affects pro bodybuilding. But they also touch upon the topic of dating and relationships in bodybuilding – discussing the unique challenges that bodybuilders in relationships face.

You can watch the full episode of the Generation Iron Podcast above. Make sure to check back every Tuesday for new episodes only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded.

Jacob Ladon is a staff writer and former amateur bodybuilder. He has been passionate about bodybuilding since he was 15 years old and discovered the joys of training in the gym. He reports and comments on all bodybuilding related matters.