Bodybuilders Injecting Themselves With Cooking Oils Now Apparently a Thing

Doctors are warning that a little-studied trend among bodybuilders who inject natural oils into their muscles requires more study. Tom & Dee Ann McCarthy/Getty Images

In our endless pursuit of physical perfection, we'll will try all manner of fad diets, makeup, creams, chemical peels, supplements, and cuckoo stuff like powdered pangolin scale tea. We'll even inject things like botulinum toxin and hyaluronic acid into our faces to keep our skin looking young, plump and devoid of emotion, and bodybuilders are famous for maintaining their hulking physiques through the use of anabolic steroid injections.

But sometimes we inject things with the intention of making our bodies healthier and more beautiful, and things go horribly, horribly wrong.


Take the case of the 25-year-old bodybuilder in the United Kingdom who was hospitalized after experiencing a lot of pain and loss of mobility in his right arm over the course of a few months. When he showed up at the hospital, an ultrasound revealed several cysts in his arm muscles, and a rupture in his right tricep — an injury that's exceedingly uncommon in young patients, and requires surgery.

The man, who had been bodybuilding for four years and working out about three times a week, was a mess. He admitted to the overuse of protein supplements (which had inflamed his kidneys) and to using injected steroids, insulin and vitamin B12 (which resulted in a bacterial infection). But he also revealed he'd been injecting something kind of weird: coconut oil. Because injecting oil into your muscles is evidently A Thing These Days.

According to a new British Medical Journal case report, natural oils including coconut, sesame, walnut oils and paraffin, are sometimes used by bodybuilders to plump up muscles. That's precisely what this man did after he had to stop taking unprescribed insulin injections because they were giving him seizures. The use of injected natural oils seems to be most well known in Arab and Middle Eastern bodybuilding communities. However, it's a practice so uncommon that little medical literature exists. That means doctors may not even consider the possibility that when someone comes into the hospital and an MRI reveals bizarre-looking "proteinaceous lesions" in his arm muscles, it could be because he injected cooking oil into his muscle.

"The few cases of natural oil self-inoculation formally reported are likely to be the tip of the iceberg," the authors of the case study say in a press release. "We need to be aware of these cases to enable correct clinical diagnoses and also to recognise other self-abusive and potentially life-threatening practices which may be seen in conjunction."

This bodybuilder, was, of course very lucky he didn't miss the muscle and inject oil into his vein instead, which probably would have killed him. As far as the doctors know, however, the man has continued his unsafe body enhancement techniques — all to keep looking swole.