Having a hobby is good for the soul. Bonus points if your hobby is one that is healthy for your body, too. Competitive athletes, and bodybuilders in particular, put a great deal of stress on themselves to be the leanest, most muscular, strongest, fastest, most cut . . . . it goes on and on. Maintaining that physique is difficult enough through the season, but with the pressure of keeping within your weight range, diet and exercise become a tightrope balancing act.

So what does all that do to your body, and your skin especially? Competitive bodybuilding tends to be great for your body, but not so much for your skin. The lifestyle can be difficult for the largest organ of your body and skincare for athletes sometimes requires special considerations.

Tanning Beds

The sun's rays are the biggest culprit when it comes to aging effects on your skin. The UV rays don't just cause immediate damage when you spend too long soaking them in, but UVA rays are what really zap your skin where it counts. They contribute to free radical formation and damage that leads to a breakdown of collagen and elastin. The result can be leathery, dehydrated, skin with fine lines and wrinkles. That's not even bringing skin cancer into question.

Your skin produces melanin in response to the radiation in an effort to protect your skin from further damage.

A safer alternative would be to take advantage of spray tans or tan in a bottle, though the verdict's still out on the safety. Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) interacts with dead cells on the skin's surface to evoke the color change. Most dermatologists agree that DHA is safe when used properly, but many people don't use it properly. The FDA advises that you cover your lips, nose, and eyes when getting a spray tan. DHA can increase free radical formation that contributes to cellular damage and cancer.

Acne-Prone

Acne can be a common problem among weightlifters for a number of reasons. Testosterone can be labeled the culprit, but that isn't always the case. The tanning products and makeup used in competition can really wreak havoc with your pores.

To top it off, bodybuilders commonly are downing multiple rounds of protein shakes a day. These shakes are usually made with whey protein. While whey is a cost-efficient delivery for protein, your body may not agree it's the healthiest. It raises your body's insulin levels, which can increase sebum production. With more sebum being produced, your pores may wind up becoming clogged, leading to acne. Look to switch to a plant-based protein powder instead.

Acne is an inflammatory problem that can be exacerbated by many other factors: stress, poor diet, the wrong fats, or an imbalance of the skin.

Dry Skin

Winter months can be harsh for the skin as it is, but the ravages of fad diets and improper care can damage the skin barrier.

The intensive workout you put yourself through results in bucket loads of sweat. That, in itself, isn't a problem, unless you're not doing your part to rehydrate yourself again. Drinking plenty of water is about as close to the fountain of youth you can probably get. You should drink about eight ounces of water within 30 minutes of finishing your routine and continue to drink well through the course of the day.

A good moisturizer, post work-out, can help to reset your skin, locking down the skin's barrier function and providing balance.

Sweaty Skin

Speaking of sweat, a workout can really do great things for your pores, if you take care of them afterwards. Sweating helps your body purge dirt and toxins from your pores, but can cause a flare-up if you don't wash it away right after exercising.

The Good News

Unless you're partaking in any of the bad habits that the earlier days of the sport are noted for, competitive bodybuilding definitely has a positive impact on your body, and your skin as a whole. Most people turning towards the sport didn't start out as athletes. As with many, they started a workout regimen designed to help get back in shape, feel good, and increase strength. What they found was a way of life that encouraged them to eat healthier, be more vigilant about what their bodies are telling them, and to push past perceived limitations.

With the rest of the muscles, the heart becomes stronger. The skin also sees a positive change. Much of the skin's health is attributed to not only how well we care for it on the outside, but our lifestyle, as well. An athlete involved in the competitive lifestyle has no choice but to care for their body by drinking plenty of clean water, eating a diet that doesn't just cover the calorie requirements of the day, but that provides essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients necessary for the body to function at peak capacity.

If you don't take care of yourself, injuries can occur, and nutritional deficiencies can develop. Just like your trainer is a huge part of your workout routine, having a collection of health, wellness, and nutrition experts right at your fingertips can make the difference between being competitive and just being good. FitFluential is a nationwide network of health, fitness, and wellness fanatics sharing their journey, passion, and knowledge so you can find your fitness.