When most of us hear about ‘anabolic steroids,’ we immediately think about bodybuilders and people who take steroids to build muscle.
However, anabolic-androgenic-steroid (AAS) can also be used for several other reasons. These steroids can be used for medical purposes such as treatment for hormonal imbalances.
However, it is widely used to help build muscle and improve athletic performance.
Anabolic steroids help to boost endurance and shorten recovery times between workouts allowing individuals to work harder than ever before and become stronger in a quicker time frame.
These steroids are artificially derived from the main male hormone testosterone. This hormone is very important in promoting as well as maintaining muscle growth.
It is also responsible for developing male sex characteristics such as facial hair and deepening voices.
Although commonly used by recreational gym-goers around the world, anabolic steroids can come with some adverse side effects.
This is especially true if they are taken incorrectly. Non-medical, long-term use can lead to heart complications, increased aggression, and physical changes.
In today’s article, we will be finding out if anabolic steroids help to build muscle and, if so, whether they are safe to use.
One thing is for sure, steroids have endured a bad reputation for a long time. Let’s find out if this bad rap is deserved.
Anabolic Steroids: What Are They?
Anabolic steroids, also known through their street names such as gym candy, Arnolds, Roids, Pumpers, and Stackers, are synthetic adaptations of the hormone, testosterone.
This principle male hormone affects the body in a range of ways.
It increases muscle mass, affects bone density and strength, hair follicles, the kidneys, the liver, the blood, the reproductive system, the immune system, and even the central nervous system.
The main changes from testosterone occur during puberty.
This is when testosterone levels start to increase in males leading to the development of different characteristics such as the growth of facial and body hair, increased muscle mass and height, a deepening of the voice, and changes in a male’s sex drive.
Testosterone is also partly responsible for aggressiveness, competitiveness, and levels of self-esteem.
This is why moods and the character of an individual may differ when testosterone levels change, be that naturally during puberty or through the use of anabolic steroids.
Anabolic Steroids: Uses
Think about steroids and the first thing that usually comes to mind is their bodybuilding uses to promote muscle mass. However, anabolic steroids are used for multiple purposes due to a range of potential benefits.
A study found that the main benefits associated with anabolic steroids include:
- Increased muscle strength and power
- An increase in muscle tissue
- A decrease in body fat percentage
- An improved muscle endurance
- An improvement in bone mineral density
- A quicker recovery from injuries and workouts
- The increase in red blood cell production
While these effects vary from one person to the next, they can benefit many.
Let’s take a closer look at the proven effects of anabolic steroids when taken by athletes and recreational gym-goers.
Anabolic Steroids: Increase In Muscle Mass And Strength
Anabolic steroids are widely used in strength sports such as weightlifting and powerlifting. This is because AAS can increase strength, muscle mass, and overall power output according to one study.
To achieve the best performance possible, power, muscle strength, and size are critical in such sports.
The doses of anabolic steroids in strength sports can be considered somewhat liberal. Unlike Olympic weightlifting sports, the majority of federations do not test for AAS or other substances.
Therefore, athletes take these steroids to become stronger and more powerful in a shorter amount of time.
Of course, the higher the doses, the more potent the effects will tend to be but the higher the dose of steroids, the higher the chance of adverse side effects.
Improving Speed And Power
Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are often taken by athletes to increase strength, speed, and power. Anabolic steroids are one of the most common PEDs used.
One study confirmed that AAS can help an athlete gain strength by 5 to 20% as well as weight gains of 4.5 to 11 pounds. In turn, this can lead to a leaner body mass.
When it comes to some competitive sports, steroid use is closely monitored.
If detected, an athlete can get banned from their sport. In sports such as soccer, football, or basketball, anabolic steroids are not usually taken for the goal of muscle building.
Instead, they are used to aid in recovery after an injury or workout and speed up the process as well as increase the power output.
Although the consequences of being caught with these steroids in their systems are often dire and career-threatening, some athletes take the risk for these benefits.
ALSO READ: Is Creatine a Steroid?
Anabolic Steroids: Are They Safe?
Anabolic steroid use comes with multiple risks. Therefore, they are deemed potentially harmful for the majority of individuals.
Although they have numerous benefits, AAS can cause serious side effects. However, the severity of these tends to depend on how much and how regular the substances are being taken.
For males, some of the main side effects when taking AAS include:
- An increased risk of heart disease
- An increase in aggressive behavior
- Liver damage
- An effect on mental health and body image such as body image disorder
- The onset of gynecomastia. This is when male breast tissue swells due to a hormonal imbalance
- A decrease in the production of testosterone. This can lead to shrinkage and decreased function of the testes
- Infertility due to a decrease in sperm production
- Male pattern baldness
These effects can differ from one person to another and not everyone experiences such side effects.
AAS can also cause side effects in women. Here are some side effects that women should be aware of too before and while taking anabolic steroids:
- An enlarged clitoris
- Facial changes as well as hair growth
- A deepening of the voice
- A decrease in breast size
- An irregularity in menstrual cycles
Again, not all women will experience these side effects. But, when taken in higher doses, anabolic steroids usually come with a heightened risk of side effects.
Anabolic steroids are widely used around the world for medical purposes but also for muscle and power gain.
When not used properly, such as in the wrong doses, AAS can be potentially dangerous.
Although these steroids can increase muscle mass, power, and speed up recovery times between workouts and injuries, there are health risks.
However, these vary with the type of steroid and amount taken.
The fact that most anabolic steroids are illegal in the majority of places is a testament to the danger that lurks with taking them.
The risks tend to outweigh any benefits that come with anabolic steroids and any decision to take them should be considered extremely carefully beforehand.