Bodybuilders' accounts of synthol use: The construction of lay expertise online

J Health Psychol. 2016 Sep;21(9):1939-48. doi: 10.1177/1359105314568579. Epub 2015 Feb 2.


Synthol is an injectable oil used by bodybuilders to make muscles appear bigger. Widely available on the Internet, it is reported to carry a wide range of health risks and side effects such as localised skin problems, nerve damage and oil-filled cysts, as well as muscle damage and the development of scar tissue. Given the tension between health risk and quick muscle enlargement, how lay users explain and justify their synthol intake becomes an important question. Drawing on discourse analysis, we focus on how lay expertise is worked up by users in the absence of available specialist knowledge by invoking medical and pharmaceutical discourses as legitimation, providing novices with support, gaining trust through positive personal narratives and thus gaining credibility as experts. Results have clear implications for health promotion interventions with bodybuilders.

Keywords: body image; discourse analysis; health; masculinity; synthol.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Doping in Sports / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Oils / toxicity
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / administration & dosage*
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / toxicity
  • Risk
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*


  • Oils
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances