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Bodybuilder Gabriel Ayuso: “Beauty standards are not the same as they used to be”

Gabriel Ayuso posing at a competition - Photo by Daniel Gomez

A room full of very strong men, all covered in orange oil and wearing swimming trunks – whether or not bodybuilding is an actual sport is still a mystery. Although Gabriel Ayuso does say they are athletes, “because there’s a diet and exercise planning, and it focuses on performance.” Ayuso has taken part in three competitions so far within the Community of Madrid where he lives. 

“There are various categories in every federation – I participate in Men’s Physique in the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) in Madrid, at regional level.” These types of competitions were created in the search for a surfer’s appearance, but over the years they’ve also been looking for muscles and definition. As it’s a surfers’ competition, swimming trunks have to be knee length and are usually Quicksilver, Ripcurl, Curley, or Billabong, even though new brands are making trunks specially for these contests. 

Nevertheless, competitors don’t get points for the physical shape, but they are numerically graded. Only men in the Top 6 get points and enter a qualifying table. “My aim is to compete and introduce myself as a personal trainer, who can modify nutrition and plan exercise sessions”, Ayuso, who is also studying Sports Sciences and Physiotherapy, admits. Gabriel says he started seeing himself as being pretty strong and contemplated the idea of competing as he watched videos of other people related to the fitness world. 

Gabriel Ayuso in a competition. Photo by Daniel Gomez

To start competing in an event like this, you have to sign up online, always 96 hours before the start time. Each participant pays their own expenses which can add up to €210 per event, depending if you’ve hired a personal trainer or not. 

In fact, Ayuso regrets having had one for the whole time, as he could have managed on his own: “The most important part is having a person that can help you in the critical last three months before a competition, when you have to get rid of all the fat.

“I compete against myself,” says Ayuso. A competition can last for a whole Saturday morning and every round is an hour long, depending on the number of contestants. There’s the First Round, Semi-finals and the Final, where six men compete: “Normally, we eat rice cakes, biscuits, crisps… while we wait and we exercise so the muscles look nice.” 

Gabriel Ayuso performing one of the poses. Photo by Daniel Gomez

When their turn comes, the famous poses come into action. “In my category, there are four poses: looking at the judges in a semi-relaxed way, left and right profile and backwards.” 

Judges analyse symmetry, muscle tone, muscle definition and the abs of their torso. Apart from that, “they also look at your self-esteem, your smile, you having fun and authority and composure when walking around,” Ayuso points out. “Everyone has to learn to hide their weaknesses and show their strengths.”

“We also have to put on glossy liquid,” he says. The orange oil is used to match everyone’s skin colour, so muscles show up the same.

“I’ve been preparing myself for two years, with strict diet and exercise planning,” says Ayuso, who trains five days a week. This was not a problem until the last crucial months before the big day: “I couldn’t see my friends as often and I couldn’t go on summer holidays with my family, either.”

In terms of food, it also becomes even stricter in the final period: pasta and rice are reduced so the body can work on the fat, and Ayuso was eating around 1,500 calories a day, when the recommended amount is 2,500. During the last week, water intake is also varied to the point of eliminating it in the last two days. “Obviously, it’s a very unhealthy diet, because you take away lots of micro nutrients, your protein intake is increased and the changes in glucose can produce dizziness and, because of the salt, you can suffer from high or low blood pressure.”

Ayuso in back pose. Photo by Daniel Gomez.

Talking about beauty standards and how these types of tournaments have had an impact, Gabriel Ayuso admits it doesn’t appeal to everyone. “Nobody does it for beauty, but simply to like your own body. This category used to have a positive effect on women… not anymore.”

In the end, it’s not about the money because the prize is a voucher to spend on dietary supplements. Ayuso will certainly compete again, but next time internationally. “My idea is to make a name for myself in the world of fitness, nutrition and physical preparation.”

Maitane Alana Place
Maitane Alaña was born to a half Spanish and half English family, but has always lived in Bilbao, in the north of Spain. This is where her passion about football grew by playing for different teams and watching Athletic Club of Bilbao’s matches. She completed her Journalism Degree in Bilbao and started getting experience on a local radio- Uribe FM. To follow her childhood dream of becoming a sports journalist, she signed up for St Mary’s MA in International Sports Journalism.
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