“The lesson I learned is that we too easily deceive ourselves into thinking we’re exerting enough effort. To take ourselves over the top, enough is never enough. Only more than we ever thought possible is enough.” Often referred to as the poor man’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andreas Munzer idolized the Austrian Oak for many reasons beyond the fact that they shared Austria as their native homeland. Growing up throughout the 1960s, Munzer watched as Schwarzenegger quickly rose to fame in the United States and dreamed of making a name for himself as a professional bodybuilder like his idol. Imitating Schwarzenegger’s every move, Munzer built an impressive physique of his own and rose to fame thanks to his astonishing ability to maintain extremely low levels of body fat.
Spending most of his childhood and his teens lifting weights and training at the gym, Munzer made his bodybuilding debut at the 1986 European Amateur Championships where he took sixth place as a middleweight. The following year, he went on to compete in the World Amateur Championships and saw his hard work pay off when he finished in third place as a light heavyweight. After placing 13th in the 1989 Mr. Olympia, the Austrian bodybuilder competed in the IFBB’s World Amateur Games as a heavyweight competitor where, in a huge upset, he took home the title in a victory that upgraded his ranking to professional status.
Amid his growing success, Munzer remained humble and sincere, which only skyrocketed his popularity in the industry and among fans. The fact that he was a loyal, dedicated and hard worker also gave him a competitive edge as he constantly worked to improve himself in every aspect of bodybuilding, especially when it came to his body fat. Determined to set himself apart from his competition and taking a cue from Schwarzenegger himself, Munzer cut his body fat to extremely low levels that allowed his muscular physique to appear even more ripped. Weighing just under 240 pounds, he impressed international audiences with a 58-inch chest, 21-inch arms, mountain-sized shoulders and shredded abs.
Turning to a combination of diuretics and performance enhancing drugs to maintain and perfect his physique, Munzer was determined to return to the Mr. Olympia stage after his 13th place finish in 1989 and did exactly that over the next seven years with his highest finish coming in 1993 and 1994 at 9th place. As many fans wondered why Munzer never managed to make it into the top three, industry experts, commentators and fellow bodybuilders knew that Munzer was far too lean and had smaller muscle mass than most Mr. Olympia champions. Yet, nothing could stop Munzer from getting leaner and leaner as he went on to compete in competitions like the Arnold Classic, the Grand Prix Germany and Night of Champions.
In 1996, Munzer finished sixth in the Arnold Classic but enjoyed the highest point of his entire career when he met his longtime idol and fellow Austrian, Schwarzenegger himself. Months later, Munzer’s battle with chronic stomach pain landed him in the hospital where doctors discovered internal bleeding in his stomach. Surgeons operated to stop the bleeding but Munzer’s liver and kidneys were beyond repair and immediately went into failure, making his condition too severe for even a blood transfusion. Two days later, on March 14, 1996, Munzer died at 31 years old.
The autopsy reported that Munzer died from dystrophic multiple organ failure likely caused by the excessive use of performance enhancing drugs and potassium-sparing diuretics. The medical examiner also confirmed Munzer’s exceptionally muscular physique had virtually no subcutaneous body fat, which typically acts as an energy reserve, minor insulation and padding. But, the damage didn’t stop there. His testes were shriveled and his liver contained multiple tumors as big as tennis balls. The most shocking discovery, however, was that Munzer’s heart was almost twice the size of a normal heart, which is known as cardiac hypertrophy. While most males in their 30s have hearts that weigh between 300 and 350 grams, Munzer’s heart weighed an astonishing 636 grams.
Physicians later confirmed that Munzer’s entire system was out of balance with too much potassium and highly irregular levels of electrolytes in his blood. Discovering nearly two dozen different drugs and stimulants in his system at the time of his death, it was glaringly obvious that the Austrian’s obsession with his physique far outweighed any concern he might have had for his health, especially after he waited months before seeking medical attention for his stomach pain.
On the upside, Munzer did get to meet his idol before his death and was likely smiling down on his family and friends knowing that Schwarzenegger sent a wreath to his funeral in Styria with a personal message that read, “A last greeting to a friend.” And, while Munzer was far from being the most popular bodybuilder in the industry, he certainly was a favorite among his fans thanks to his charming personality, humble nature and passion for the sport. With his sudden death marking a great loss and tragedy in bodybuilding, Munzer will always be more than just a “poor man’s Schwarzenegger” as he serves as a reminder to all aspiring bodybuilders and athletes of the dangers of performance enhancing drugs and the importance of listening to one’s body—pain and all.