To obtain a more complete view of their general health and health care habits, 27 bodybuilders (19 men and 8 women) competing at the 1988 National Physique Committee's Junior USA Bodybuilding Championships participated in this study. Data pertaining to demographics and pre-competition nutrition, training, health, and drug abuse practices were collected by self-administered and interview surveys and records. Anthropometric and blood pressure measurements and casual blood samples were collected on -site at the competition registration. Multi-drug abuse was reported by 15% to 40% of the subjects, and 20% to 40% of subjects left the drug use questions unanswered. Severe fluid restrictions and dehydrating practices were reported by all subjects. Eleven men and two women agreed to have blood drawn. Plasma glucose values were at the low end of the normal fasting range. Hemoglobin levels were elevated, indicating hypohydration; magnesium levels were slightly low. Percent body fat, estimated by seven-site skinfold measures, was low for both sexes (men, 6.0 +/- 1.8; women, 9.8 +/- 1.5); 75% of the women reported normal menstrual cycles. The men reported high-protein, low-fat hypocaloric diet patterns. Women had a moderate zinc intake and a remarkably deficient calcium intake despite an adequate energy intake. This research demonstrates that bodybuilders partake in a multitude of practices that may place them in high-risk health categories. It is essential that health care workers in contact with bodybuilding athletes intervene and educate them about healthy dietary and training alternatives.