Bodybuilding 101: How Effective Are Steroids?

One question that often plagues bodybuilders is whether or not to use steroids. They want to know how effective steroids actually are compared to staying natural. Also, they are concerned by the risks. By reading this, you’re taking an important step to educating yourself prior to answering this question for yourself.

HOW EFFECTIVE ARE STEROIDS?

Simply said, a “steroid” is an “anabolic steroid” which is a man-made substance that has similar effects to the body as testosterone, including increased muscle growth, strength, leanness and recovery.

While testosterone itself is the best known steroid, there are many others that are quite popular among athletes and bodybuilders, including:

  • Nandrolone
  • Stanozolol
  • Trenbolone
  • Oxandrolone
  • Deca Durabolin
  • Dianabol
  • Methandrostenolone
  • Boldenone
  • Oxymetholone
  • Drostanolone

Each of these have unique profiles in terms of potency, toxicity, side effects and synergism. They are combined in various ways to create different types of steroid “cycles” for different purposes and goals.

As I heard one popular bodybuilder say, “It takes a lot of hard work to build a top-tier physique, but it also takes a lot of drugs.”

The fact is that you can only build so much muscle and get so lean naturally.

One scientific study performed at Maastricht University found that during a period of 10 weeks, individuals who practiced resistance training while on anabolic steroids gained 4 to 11 pounds of lean muscle mass. Individuals who did weight training while using anabolic steroids gained 16 pounds of lean muscle mass in just 6 weeks.

There have been numerous studies on steroid use. The below graphic shows the results from a study at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

43 men were divided into 4 groups
Group 1: Placebo with no exercise
Group 2: Testosterone with no exercise
Group 3: Exercise only
Group 4: Testosterone with exercise

All of the men were given a standardized diet to follow and the exercising subjects squatted and bench pressed three times per week for a total of twelve sets of six reps, with varying amounts of weights lifted in each workout. Muscle size was measured by MRI and strength was determined by actual one-rep maxes.

After 10 weeks, here’s what happened:

bodybuilding

As you can see, the men who took testosterone and exercised gained 3x the amount of muscle mass compared to the men who exercised only.

As a sidenote: the men used 600 mg of testosterone per week, which is a moderate dosage by today’s standards.

RISKS OF STEROID USE

Steroids may not be as dangerous as some people think, yet anyone who uses steroids and thinks they are safe and harmless is “whistling past the graveyard.”

Some side effects of steroid use are reversible and some are not. Permanent damage is definitely possibly.

For example, reversible changes include testicular atrophy (shrinking), acne, cysts, oily hair and skin, elevated blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol levels, increased aggression and lowered sperm count.

Irreversible damage includes male pattern baldness, heart dysfunction, liver disease and gynecomastia (breast development aka “man boobs”).

Another downside of steroid use is the risk of biological and psychological addiction. 30% of steroid users develop a dependence syndrome. This occurs due to the “invincible” feeling while on a steroid cycle, opposed to the “low” they get on an off-cycle.

Some people argue that you can mitigate or even eliminate the risks of steroid use if you properly manage your drug cycles and health, but that is wishful thinking.

Every time you inject or swallow steroids, you put a lot of stress on your body and there’s a chance something can go very wrong.

In the end, the choice is yours.

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