What Does Natty Mean in Body Building? Is It Good or Bad?   

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Suppose you spent any amount of time in the bodybuilding community. In that case, you’ve undoubtedly discovered it doesn’t take much to spark some heated debates. 

And sometimes even flat-out arguments about almost anything and everything related to lifting heavy things and putting them down.

In gym culture, “Natty” is a short form for “natural.” It signifies that a person has attained their fitness objectives without the help of performance enhancing drugs, such as steroids or other synthetic drugs. The term natty underscores natural, drug-free bodybuilding and fitness achievement.

Nothing, though, sparks debate more in the bodybuilding world than questions about whether or not someone is natty or gaining more than a little bit of a competitive edge by running gear.

To folks in the bodybuilding community, these terms are part of the terminology you pick up pretty quickly. But to folks outside the bodybuilding world, it can come across like a Martian language.

What Is Natty Anyway?

  • Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
  • Is there any way to tell if a bodybuilder or athlete is natty or not?
  • Does it matter?
  • We dig into all of that – and then some – below!

What Does Natty Mean in Body Building?

In the “normal” world, the phrase natty can mean dozens and dozens of different things, sometimes even referring to a particularly cheap brand of beer that lots of folks crushed by the case back in college.

In the bodybuilding movement and fitness, though, the word natty is very serious for some and means something very specific. So throwing this around, especially accusing someone of being not natty or not, is often not taken lightly.

That’s because “natty” in bodybuilding refers to bodybuilders and athletes building their physiques naturally, without the help of any extra hormones, like steroids, for example, and other performance enhancing drugs.

Natty bodybuilders prefer to be recognized for doing things the “right way.”

I’m making some generalizations here, and I am sure someone will want to poke me in the eye for it. Keep in mind that this is just my perspective. I’ve also based this on what I’ve learned from other natty bodybuilders.

There are certainly those who don’t give a damn what anyone thinks. And I fall into that category. So I say Each to his own. 

But some natural bodybuilders look down on people that are running gear to enhance their performance or build muscle as quickly as possible.

They frown on what they see as a shortcut. I don’t care.

What Does Not Natty Mean in Body Building?

It seems like there would be a pretty obvious break between natty bodybuilders that don’t use any “gear” at all and non-natty bodybuilders. 

But it needs to be clarified in the bodybuilding community because there is no concrete definition of what makes a natty.

Some think that natty bodybuilders are athletes who only fuel their bodies with “regular” foods. 

Even if that sometimes means wolfing down half a dozen eggs, pounds of steak and gallons of milk like zero regular people would. 

Also, some believe that using any supplement, over-the-counter or not, makes someone “not natty.”

When you get down to it, the definition of natty or not becomes a personal and subjective definition that you must get right with on your own.

It’s like modern art or adult entertainment that is next to impossible to define in a way that everyone is happy with. But you certainly know it when you see it.

Can a Body Builder Be Natty?

Lavie Kafra - Natural Bodybuilder

Lavie Kafra – Natural Bodybuilder


In fact, right up until the early part of the 20th century, every single bodybuilder throughout history was a natty athlete (at least compared to modern bodybuilders running gear, anyway).

Just look at any ancient Greek or Roman statues of legendary figures. And you’ll see incredibly well-defined physiques, cut muscles, and representations of strong men and women with bodies that looked to have been trained intentionally.

Look at the Strongmen, like the ones that entertained in circuses and in vaudeville shows all over the world. Performance enhancing drugs didn’t exist at the time. And they were able to build bigger muscles and strength naturally.

They were lifting heavy, eating tons of protein, and spending much more time moving their bodies than most of us do in our sedentary modern lives.

Even today, building a strong, solid, and reasonably stout body is possible without using any chemical cocktails for assistance.

However, you might not be able to bulk up as big as Ronnie Coleman without dipping your toes into the gear world (you know it’s true).

But you’ll be able to build a rock-solid, muscular, and aesthetic physique that would look pretty good on any fitness magazine without the help of steroids, too.

Does It Matter If a Body Builder or Athlete is Natty or Not?

 When trying to answer whether or not it matters if a bodybuilder or athlete is natty or not it really comes down to a matter of individual perspective.

Some folks are very serious about keeping the bodybuilding world as natty as possible, as “pure” as possible, and as honest as possible.

These folks can be committed to performance enhancing drugs testing. And significant fines and punishments (even banishments) for athletes that violate these rules. 

They often waste absolutely zero time naming and shaming bodybuilders that claim to be natty but are discovered not to be later down the line.

Other folks, though, are perfectly fine (like me) with people experimenting with chemical cocktails and modern science to see how far they can push the limits of the human body.

These folks are cool with anyone and everyone running gear, usually so long as they are open, honest, and transparent about the fact.

sustanton 300 anabolic steroid

Sustanton 300 Anabolic Steroid – popular among performance enhancing drugs

They don’t think there should be a stigma attached to those willing to push their bodies further and harder than anyone else, even if it comes with a little cocktail boost.

At the end of the day, you’ll usually find that most folks in the the fitness industry and bodybuilding world fit somewhere in the middle of these two perspectives.

Some people absolutely hate the idea of non-natty bodybuilders competing against natty bodybuilders in competitions, whether or not money is on the line. That’s a pretty reasonable and understandable perspective.

It all comes down to your personal goals, ethics, morals, and how you feel about chemical assistance versus building your body to its full genetic potential alone.

Is Creatine Natty?

The overwhelming majority of folks in the fitness world agree that creatine use is perfectly Natty.

After all, creatine supplements are precisely that; supplements. They are not considered performance enhancing drugs because they are mostly natural.

Creatine supplements are designed to help add to the amount of creatine you’re consuming in red meats (and your body is producing all on its own).

On top of that, governing bodies like the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Association have zero problems with their athletes using creatine. 

That’s not something that can be said about stronger PEDs.

Use creatine without worrying about being called “not natty” because of it.

If you want to know more about creatine, look at this article about how to dissolve creatine. It will help you eliminate that gritty consistency before using the supplement.

Are Pre-Workout Supplements Natty?

The overwhelming majority of pre-workout supplements will help you keep your natty status just the way that creatine would.

Unless you are fooling around with anabolic steroids, steroid cocktails, SARMs, or other performance enhancing drugs for muscle growth, you would be considered a natural bodybuilder.

At least as far as natty or not-natty designations are concerned.

A little bit of caffeine, a little bit of nitrogen, glucose, BCAA’s, and maybe even a punch of creatine or protein doesn’t push you into the not-natty category.

Are Steroids or PEDs Natty?

You’ve likely crossed the line from Natty to Non-Natty if you use any steroid or anything that could be classified as a PED–banned substance.

You’re now sitting squarely in the camp of bodybuilders that run gear to build a bigger, stronger, faster body with as much help from modern chemical cocktails as possible.

I’m not suggesting that this is wrong, that this is bad behavior, or that this is anything to be ashamed of. 

As I mentioned earlier, there are likely millions of bodybuilders around the world that are running gear right now, this very moment. And if it makes them happy, then great.

It’s not always visible in front of us. Still, we know that plenty of fitness models and professional athletes use steroids and performance-enhancing drugs to give themselves every competitive advantage possible.

If it works for you, and if you’re comfortable with the risks, there’s nothing to be ashamed of – so long as you aren’t trying to pass yourself off as a natty bodybuilder any longer.

How Do You Tell If Someone is Natty?

Trying to figure out if someone is natty, short of seeing them compete in natural bodybuilding contests, is a bit of an uphill battle.

Because you’ll never really know for sure short of them taking a blood test or popping positive for the use of performance enhancing or-enhancing drugs in a sanctioned competition where those substances are banned.

That said, there are a couple of tell-tale signs that’ll let you know that someone is likely to be running gear and not natty.

How To Tell If Someone Is Using Steroids To Build Muscle?

  • Bodybuilders and athletes that are almost comically or cartoonishly large and lean at the same time.
  • Bodybuilders and athletes have almost superhuman strength, especially compared to peers around their exact size.
  • Bodybuilders and athletes that have experienced exponential growth, transforming from relatively small and scrawny to big and brawny in a fraction of the time it “should” take.
  • Bodybuilders and athletes that are shredded and “dry” with very obvious muscle separation and delineation.
  • People who show rapid muscle growth and appear unnauturally large
  • Simply ask if they’ve neem using muscle enhancing drugs to increase their muscle mass.

And, of course, you should look for obvious signs of bad acne (especially on the back or chest), new patches of baldness, and things of that nature, too. But, outside of someone admitting to using performance enhancing substances for increased muscle growth all of this is no more than a guess.

Who cares anyway, some people in bodybuilding culture are split for or against using drugs to promote muscle growth. But at the end of the day, it’s their choice.

Closing Natty Thoughts

Whether or not a bodybuilder or athlete is considered “natty” all comes down to if they train with or without the help of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Natural athletes that steer clear of the “gear,” relying instead on over-the-counter supplements and strict diet, and a solid training regimen, are considered as natural bodybuilders or natty.

Folks who run gear like steroids and banned substances to promote muscle growth would fall into the non-natty bucket.

Whether or not that makes a difference – and whether or not it should be frowned upon or embraced – is only something you’ll be able to figure out for yourself!

Leave your thoughts below. Let’s discuss this.


What does it mean to be natty?

Natty means using only legal supplements and natural methods to promote muscle growth.

Is natty better than on roids?

This is a quest that has been something gym bros talk about a lot. The reality is that muscle gains can made with both legal supplements and dodgy anabolic steroids. Natural methods and legal supplements are best for those who want to stay clean and play it safe.

How can you tell if someone is natty or not?

You can’t be 100% certain someone is a natural bodybuilder or not. Short of asking them or knowing that they’ve failed drug tests, speculation won’t prove anything.

What is considered not natty?

The use of and reliance on steroids to build muscle mass. Using a substance that would result in failed drug tests is a sure sign that you are not a natural bodybuilder.

What Is The Natty Meaning In Bodybuilding?

The natty limit stands clearly on natural methods to build muscle. The natural bodybuilder relies on over the counter legal supplements and healthy eating. Natural bodybuilders avoid illegal performance enhancing substances.

How do you know if you are natty?

You are natty if you use only certain legal supplements, such as creatine, BCAAs. whey protein and other over-the-counter products.

What does half natty mean?

There is no such thing when you consider all that we’ve described as the natty meaning. People in the fitness community generally agree that natural bodybuilders avoid human growth hormone supplements. Instead, they rely on natural anabolic hormone production.

Citations and Sources

MH;, A. M. (n.d.). Effects of sustanon on the distribution of satellite cells and the morphology of skeletal muscle fibers during maturation. Pakistan journal of biological sciences : PJBS. https://pubmed.ncbi.nih.gov/24199455/

WebMD. (n.d.). Branch-chain amino acids: Uses and risks. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/branched-chain-amino-acids-uses-risks

Jeff Carpenter

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