Reader Question: Bodybuilding Worries

Reader Question: Bodybuilding Worries

It’s time for another reader’s question post. This time it’s all about how to remain clear while bodybuilding.

After i lost all my confidence and i couldnt look at myself, so i went to the skin doctor. I got creams – they didnt have – then i got antibiotics, for 2 months – it cleared it a little bit but it didnt help either. After all this the doctor decided to do a isotretinoin (ciscutan) therapy for 6months. Here i\’m 6months later of every day 20mg dosage, it\’s pretty much perfect. My skin is clear, i feel good again and it\’s great.

However i\’m currently bulking and i find it hard to consume around 3500-4000 kcal a day (400g c 200p 150g f) so i\’m kinda back to my protein shakes.

I\’ve been looking thru your videos on youtube and reading on your weblogs about acne and training. I did my own research aswell and as far as i can see, you can get acne when the hormones increase, how you explained igt1 > serum > acne.

I\’m wondering now what can i take? What i can\’t? I currently have a weight gainer but i\’m not \”stupid\” and i dont replace my meal, i just use a very low dosage of 100gram (75g carbs 15g protein) right after training. Thinking of adding creatine after my workout with this shake for the insuline spike, this 100g gainer – 75g carbs 15g protein 5g creatine (after the loading phase).

About the vitamins, i try not to overtake em. This 100h of gainer has b2 0.2mg b6 0.2mg b12 0.1mcg and some other vitamins.

I would really be so thankful for the answer, coz most of the doctor just say \”don\’t take it it might increase acne without any explaining).

Let’s start by stating that clear skin and fast muscle growth are somewhat opposing goals, because the hormones that increase muscle growth also make it more likely you’ll get acne. So the best we can do is to try to balance those two goals.

Here’s what I would do in your situation:

  • If you want to use protein powders make sure they are not whey or casein protein. There’s no scientific data to say which protein powder is the best for acne-prone skin, but there’s data to show whey is really bad and anecdotal reports people saying their skin got better after switching to soy or some other alternative protein.
  • I would eat far fewer carbohydrates and more fat. Your current diet of 400g per day is going to put a massive insulin load on your body. There’s data to show guys with adult acne are insulin resistant, i.e. trouble processing carbs. Of course I can’t say that you are insulin resistant, but I would treat any guy with adult acne as a possible case of insulin resistance.
  • I don’t know about the insulin dynamics in muscle growth, like do you need consistently high insulin level or is it enough to spike insulin right after work out. But if you want to spike your insulin, then I would do it right after a workout and try to maintain steady levels throughout the rest of the day. So have your carbs right before and after a workout and focus on fat and protein the rest of the day.
  • Aside from protein and creatine, I would avoid all the other bodybuilding supplements. The effect of most bodybuilding supplements is moderate at best. I’m not sure whether the few % increase in bodybuilding results you may get from creatine and BCAAs is worth increased risk of acne?

I would start with that. If you notice you start getting acne, then you can try some of the topical treatments I’ve written before. Acne-prone skin reacts to hormones differently than normal skin and that causes excess oil production and other problems. Accutane, at least to some degree, corrects these abnormalities, but you can never be sure if the effects are permanent or fade away in time. If they do fade away there are topical treatments that can help, even something as crazy as Botox.

About Me

Hi, I am Acne Einstein(a.k.a. Seppo Puusa). I'm a bit of a science nerd who is also passionate about health. I enjoy digging through medical journals for acne treatment gems I can share here. You can read more about my journey through acne and how I eventually ended up creating this.


24 thoughts on “Reader Question: Bodybuilding Worries”

  1. So it is possible to build huge muscles and still achieve clear skin if we avoid doing the above regarding whey protein and eating too many carbs?

    Regarding the carbs, let’s say that I’m not insulin resistant, would eating 400g of carbs still do a huge difference or?

    • If your body can deal with 400g of carbs per day, then no problem. I would still question how smart it is. Fat, from everything I’ve seen, is far safer for acne-prone skin. And as Marco mentioned, getting 400g from low GI carbs means eating a huge pile of food.

      • I’m not so good at calculating how much food is 400g of carbs. What would that be? A bowl of rice or potatoes?

        • You can check these things at There are 27g of carbs per cooked potato, so 400g of carbs equals to about 15 potatoes, or 9 cups of cooked brown rice.

  2. I would say, that it is pretty hard to get in like 400 grams of low gi low gl food. So when your trying to get so much carbs in i think you will end up giving up leavy greens veggies and some Fruit. Rather eat higher fat meals with olive oil flax seed oil, eggs fat fish gras fed beef with fat and stick to a big amount of veggies or low gi carbs like beans and lentils. Dont worry about your Energy levels in the gym. Im a cyclist and i haf the worst skin when i was low to no fat and 600 carbs a day. The paradox is i had the oiliest skin when i had no oils in my died. Now im on Medium carbs low protein due to vegetarianism and medium fat. Make sure you eat low gi carbs or combine high gi carbs with fiber and fat.

  3. This is a problem that I have been dealing with many times. In my experience it is inevitable not to get a lot more acne while you are bulking. As Seppo mentioned it is pretty much doomed to fail since a bodybuilder is in need of a big amount of carbs, which spikes insuline and thus causes acne. One thing I have not tried yet but something that is quite common while bulking is to take shots with olive oil. Since it is so dense with cals you dont need that much to reach your daily amount of cals. Of course you need to combine it with other foods as well. This will cerainly mess up your omega-3/6 ratio but i guess that it is still a better alternative.

      • But that is different from person to person right? I mean.. Every time I work out, I don’t really notice an increase of acne.. AT least, not one that is noticeable right away..

  4. It does not happen over a couple of hours. Last time I was bulking I started to discern an increase after one and a half week aprx. You are right about that it does not affect everyone but I would say that you are in the danger zone if you have a fat complexion. Since you have been on accutane I guess that you dont have problems with that anymore. I would still be careful if I were you and perhaps exclud gainers and try to eat more food instead. Gainers were worst in my opinion. It is pretty much like asking to get acne. Good luck!

  5. Hello!
    First of all, thank you very much for the info. I am a Spanish bodybuilder and i was realy worried about my acne, but i couldn’t find any answers in the Spanish Web. So i was looking for info and i found this web. The information is really accurate.
    Let me introduce my problem. As i have said, i am a bodybuilder. I eat per day 3700 Kcal ( 515 grs of carbs , 222 prot and 80 gr fat) . I have noticed that during my bulking time, my acne increases a lot. It appears mostly in my face and back. I am worried about my face but i don’t know what to do . To Stop eating isn’t a possibility. I read about green tea lotion but i think that it doesn’t exist in Spain. Actually im taking Doxycicline, but i haven’t noticed many improvements
    I can assure that the problem in the gym isn’t the workout, It is the diet. When im cutting ( eating less carbs and less calories ) The acne disappear mostly.
    Also i had to change my protein powder ( from whey protein to beef protein ) and my acne improve a lot, but didn’t disappear ( I post this last information for anyone who is interested)

    I have to add that my acne is moderate ( but is cystic acne) and it is very unaesthetic.

    Sorry for my english and I appreciate your work!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience! And your English is just fine 🙂

      During bulking phase you could try eating more fat and less carbs. That should help your skin a bit.

    • hey man i find your case really intersting, coz we are really similar
      my macros are almost same as you, and when im bulking i also got a lot of cystic acne, when i cut i got no problem!
      add my facebook and let us discuss! my facebook name is LSCtimothy

      cheers 😉

  6. hi everyone, just trying to get people who are similar to me to look for solutions of our acne!
    throughout my 4 years of bodybuilding journey, i had half year of acne free period.
    since i record everything i do including my diet, here are my macros per meal

    acne free period:
    100g chicken breast
    ~60g uncooked WHITE rice
    fat- minimum
    supplements: none

    severe acne period:
    use of whey protein
    during this time i tried literally all over the counter products that are skin related, including salycyclic acid, benzoyl peroxide, various herbal toners, moisturizers, everything! but none of them works

    moderate acne period:
    100g chicken breast
    ~80g uncooked BROWN rice
    fat- as less as possible
    supplements: multivitamin and fish oil from vitacost, whey protein from ON, creatine from ultimate nutrition, agmatine from AI sports

    quite severe acne(now)
    175g chicken breast
    ~130g brown rice
    fat- as less as possible
    supplements: i am trying to narrow down the supplements that caused me acne coz im very sure that whey protein from ON gives me acne, i have took all supplements off except fish oil. i am wishing my skin will clear soon so that i can experiment supplements 1 at a time to know what i can take. i had been taken off all supplements for more than 2 weeks now but my skin didnt clear like it did before!

    i am now supplement free so i am suspecting that i grow acne(cystic) becoz of the unbelievable amount of carbs that i ate (although it is brown rice). during this period i also gained unbelievable amount of muscle mass(~25 pounds of solid muscle in about half year)

    please leave a comment if youre alike! this is really annoying me and i hope i can gather some people to have experiements on our diet together to narrow down the problem!

    btw i am now 185 pounds 11% bodyfat at 177cm height 🙂

    • about my training style, becoz im so obsess with bodybuilding, basiclly its the only thing i do other then studying.
      currently i train 4 times a week, i train hard and heavy. and no matter what it takes to make gainz ill do.
      im also a very hygenic person, i shower 3 times a day including 2 warm showers and 1 cold shower right after workout. i only use a face cleanser from nature republic(a korean brand) at night

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Timothy. Eating a lot of carbs can indeed aggravate acne. It’s the worst macronutrient group as far as acne is concerned. Fat is the safest.

      Regarding BB supplements, the most likely culprits are whey protein, BCAAs and mass gainers. Soy protein can also be problematic for people with gut problems. I have no problems taking whey protein but soy gives me constipation that shows up on my skin.

  7. Did you check Creatine’s effect on acne? I guess it’s safe to use it since you’re not against it?

    • There’s no data to say either way. My guess is that it has no effect on acne. I don’t think it has any effect on the underlying mechanisms behind acne. But I’m not an expert on creatine, so can’t say for sure.

          • Right, well either way. If you could do a post on creatine that’s just like the one you did on Whey protein that would be grand.

          • Sorry but there’s not really anything for me to write about. I mean without data it would be pure speculation. Conclusion of which is that creatine most likely has no effect on acne.

  8. Well alright, could you then write a post on a low dosage accutane treatment? I’ve been considering taking accutane but only the lowest dose since I mainly struggle with oily skin and maybe a few blemishes at this point

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