Anabolic-androgenic steroids (herein referred to as anabolic steroids) are the synthetic derivatives of the naturally occurring male sex hormone, testosterone.
What Are Steroids?
The words anabolic and androgenic have origins from the Greek: anabolic, meaning “to build”, and androgenic, meaning “masculinizing.” A steroid is a chemical substance derived from cholesterol. The body has several major steroid hormones, but the one most relative to anabolic steroids is testosterone.
Anabolic steroids build muscle and bone mass primarily by stimulating the muscle and bone cells to make new protein. Strength athletes and bodybuilders use anabolic steroids because they increase muscle strength by encouraging myotrophy (muscle hypertrophy). These are similar in structure to the male sex hormone testosterone. They enhance male reproductive and secondary sex characteristics and allow the strength athlete or bodybuilder to train more intensely and more frequently at any given period. (Freudenrich).
Testosterone’s natural androgenic effects trigger the maturing of the male reproductive system in puberty, the growth of body hair, and the deepening of the voice. Its anabolic effect helps to increase protein synthesis and retain dietary protein which aids in the muscular development. “Although there are many types of steroids with varying degrees of anabolic and androgenic properties, it’s the anabolic property of steroids that lures athletes, they take them to primarily increase muscle mass and strength. (Wadler)
Testosterone, produced by the testes, is responsible for the masculinization and muscle growth during male adolescence.
The Effects of Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroids are administered in the oral and injectable forms, with needle sharing occurring, especially among adolescents. All steroid hormones influence metabolism throughout the body. During steroid use, the body is exposed to massive amounts of hormones. Moreover, oral and injectable steroid hormones of various biological activity create a massive increase of testosterone in the body which causes the body’s natural production of testosterone to stop.
When any type of steroid is used, a small waterfall of actions transpire in the following order. The hypothalamus secretes Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH), which causes the pituitary gland to secrete Luteinizing Hormone (LH) & Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). The increase in these hormones causes the testes to stimulate the Leydig cells to produce testosterone (by conversion of cholesterol).
Testosterone then has the ability to undergo various metabolic processes that will inhibit GnRH, which, in turn, inhibits the secretion of LH and FSH, and that brings a halt to natural testosterone production. This is referred to as the negative feedback loop. Once testosterone has stopped being produced, it no longer sends this negative signal, and GnRH eventually begins to do its job again. (Vallejo).
The reason behind supplementing with steroids is to override the mechanism for negative feedback in order to disrupt homeostasis and continually increase the amount of testosterone being introduced to the body. Many strength athletes and bodybuilders who use steroids do not know this pertinent information. It is important for them to understand the steroids that they are interested in and be aware of their affects.
Several Different Types of Anabolic Steroids
One of the most popular steroids is pure testosterone. It is predominantly used for gaining weight, but is also used while dieting to help preserve muscle and increase metabolism. There are several different types of testosterone, which many companies produce.
The most popular form of testosterone is Sustanon 250. It is a combination of four different testosterone esters: 30 mg testosterone propionate; 60mg testosterone phenylpropionate; 60 mg testosterone isocaproate; and 100 mg testosterone decanoate. Sustanon 250 promotes muscular function, size, body strength, and nitrogen retention gains.
It improves the count of motor neurons in skeletal muscles and the level of neuromuscular transmission, and stimulates protein synthesis in the body. (IDR). The blend of short, moderate, and long esters causes many bodybuilders and strength athletes to believe that they will see myotrophic and strength gains within a couple of weeks into a cycle; but, unfortunately, this is not the case. True, this steroid derivative contains short-entered testosterone, which theoretically acts faster on muscle tissue, it takes time for the actual level of free testosterone in the bloodstream to buildup.
The short-estered testosterone gives the user an energy burst, but the longer-acting esters are responsible for the bulk. This means that Sustanon 250 gains are slow in coming, but they are incredible when they do – the user will have plenty of energy along the way. (Anabolic Co.).
A novice can easily gain 15-20 pounds in a matter of eight to ten weeks. There is a vast list of synthetic steroid derivatives that are popular for adding size and strength (dianabol and anadrol), commonly used while dieting, or “cutting” (finaplix, winstrol, primobolan, oxandrolone, and clenbuterol).
There are also a few products, which aren’t steroids, but should also be taken along with them. These products are known as aromatase inhibitors (AI). Aromatase inhibitors stop estrogen from being created by the aromatase enzyme from testosterone. This means neither natural testosterone, anabolic steroids, nor pro hormones will be broken down into the “anti-test” estrogen when taking an AI. Anastrozole (Arimidex) is an AI used to inhibit the synthesis of estrogen, which will prevent the user from contracting gynecomastia, most commonly referred to as “bitch tits”, “gyno”, or “man breasts”. If taken throughout the cycle, a steroid user does not have to worry about gynecomastia or an unwanted amount of estrogen.
Individuals who use anabolic steroids, particularly those experienced in weight training, will experience vast increases in strength and muscle significantly beyond those observed from training alone. (Hartgens). Anabolic steroids will increase strength and lean muscle mass, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-image, and much more. They are the solution to many social and psychological problems for people, whether they use them to lose weight, gain muscle, enhance performance, or increase a low testosterone count.
Why Steroids Are Bad For You
Anabolic steroids, especially androgens secreted or administered in abnormally large amounts, can cause development of male characteristics in the female and hypogonadism in the male. (Clayton). If these are not taken with precise care, many side effects may occur including jaundice, liver and kidney damage, acne, gynecomastia, aggression, and hypertension. Some steroids are very toxic to the body, while others have very little to surprisingly no side effects.
Usually, the more toxic the steroids are, the more powerful their affects are to the body.
Although anabolic steroids are derived from a male sex hormone, men who take them may actually experience a “feminization” effect along with a decrease in normal male sexual function. Some possible effects include a reduced sperm count, impotence, development of breasts, shrinking of the testicles and difficult or painful urination. On the other hand, women often experience a “masculinization” effect from steroids, including facial hair growth, a deepened voice, breast reduction, and menstrual cycle changes. (Walder).
In females, anabolic steroids have been associated with multiple adverse effects, some of which appear to be permanent even when drug use is stopped. These include shrinkage of the breasts, male-pattern baldness, and an increase in sex drive, acne, body hair, and clitoris size. Younger steroids users, both male and female, are at risk of permanently halting their linear growth, which could result in shorter stature than nature had intended. (Casa Palmera Staff). With improper use (abuse), both sexes can experience the preceding effects, which range from merely unsightly to life endangering.
Strength athletes and bodybuilders use steroids to increase lean muscle mass and enhance performance. Anabolic steroids have immediate positive effects on strength and aesthetics. They also have side effects that will disrupt the natural production of testosterone and other important bodily functions.
Anabolic steroids are usually obtained from black market sources and through prescription from a doctor. Although this paper mentioned strength athletes and bodybuilders, the use of anabolic steroids is not limited to those particular competitors. Nor is it limited to men. Females and, most alarmingly, adolescents take steroids — all linked by the desire to look, perform, and feel better, regardless of the risk factors.
Anyone who intends to use anabolic steroids should see a doctor and establish a proper plan to make the most of them with little to no permanent side effects.