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Bodybuilders on Steroids

Al-Qaeda, the Nazi party, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung; ask any sane person and they'll aptly label the aforementioned list as a representation of pure evil. Of course, there are plenty of other names and groups we could easily include; we could go on and on about the validity of placing certain names and groups in the list, but if we added anabolic steroids hardly an eye would bat. Through the late twentieth and into the twenty-first century, anabolic steroids have been branded demonic substances of such evil even the devil himself shuns and shutters at their mere thought. Those who partake are forever labeled the scum of the earth; liars, cheaters, lazy, mentally inept, lunatics, and on and on we could go. Of course, while these may be the labels, even so millions upon millions risk such a label; in-fact, the number of those supplementing with anabolic steroids in the U.S. alone would blow the minds of most. Physique after physique you view with admiration; 9.9 times out of 10 anabolic steroids were in play, but such supplementation is forced to remain in secret. All of this raises some important questions, but one that's the most important of all. We know anabolic steroids are viewed extremely negatively by society as a whole, but what exactly are anabolic steroids? Have anabolic steroids earned a place in the list of the most evil substances on earth; are anabolic steroids deservingly viewed in the manner they are along with those who supplement? These are good questions, fair questions and we're going to answer them here today. In doing so, we'll go over the basics of anabolic steroids, but we'll also take an approach from the opposite direction and describe what anabolic steroids are not. This is necessary when discussing this topic, because, for a long time, myths and misunderstandings have been labeled as accepted fact without any foundation, and that simply won't do.

What are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic models of the primary male sex hormones Testosterone and Dihydrotestosterone, with testosterone being primary. By their nature, as is implied by the full name itself anabolic androgenic steroids promote anabolism and the male sexual characteristics and quite simply the very constructive nature of the metabolism. Of course, there are numerous forms and each one carries traits unique unto itself, but in the end they all trace back to testosterone. Within each form, it is largely distinguished by its total anabolic and androgenic activity, and of course, the traits by which are displayed through this activity. We'll discuss the specific traits later; for now this represents anabolic steroids but we're going to simplify it even more with one small sentence. Anabolic steroids are hormones, synthetic hormones identical to the ones you already produce, and they provide all the traits of those hormones.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:

As is with all things in life, anabolic steroids carry positive and negative traits. Below we have broken down what anabolic steroids can do and provide, with "The Good" defining their positive traits, "The Bad" represents side-effects of an internal nature, and "The Ugly" representing adverse physical side-effects that are of a visual nature. Let's take a look and see what we can find; in doing so, you'll have a more thorough understanding of these immensely powerful hormones.

The Good:

By their precise nature, anabolic steroids promote within the body ten specific traits of worthy note; while there are other traits, there are ten specific that encompass this grouping of hormones in a total sense. Every anabolic steroid does not carry each of the ten traits, but most carry the majority; further, when a steroid possesses a specific trait, each steroid carries the trait at varying levels. The ten primary traits include:

  • Increased Bone-Mineral Content: by this action, bone strength in increased thereby providing a stronger skeletal structure. Individuals who are lacking in this regard are often subject to brittle bones and severe conditions such as osteoporosis.
  • Increased Collagen Synthesis: collagen represents a naturally produced protein and the primary protein of all connective tissue. This protein largely affects the strength of ligaments and tendons but also shares a pivotal role in cartilage, bone density, among others. Collagen also plays a role within the connective tissue inside the muscles, thereby affecting the efficiency of the muscle(s).
  • Increased Glycogenolysis: Glycogenolysis refers to the relationship between glycogen and glucose by-which the conversion process takes place. Through this enhanced rate, we are able to increase the efficiency and make better use of our total carbohydrate consumption.
  • Increased Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) Production: IGF-1 is a powerful peptide hormone that is immensely anabolic in nature. Largely regulated by the release of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), IGF-1 affects nearly every cell within the human body, and with a higher release simply promotes overall greater anabolic activity.
  • Increased Nitrogen Retention: the total composition of protein, the building block of muscle tissue is comprised of about 16% nitrogen. When there is a nitrogen deficiency, this can often represent a catabolic effect, with an increase representing a total anabolic effect.
  • Increased Nutrient Efficiency: there are three primary nutrients; carbohydrates, fats and proteins. With each nutrient, our body is able to utilize each gram to a specific point; when we increase the efficiency we are able to utilize more from each gram. A good way to view this is as you would a dollar bill, and what you can receive in return for that dollar. With one dollar, you are able to receive one dollar's worth of goods and services; if we were able to increase the worth of such a dollar we would be able to receive more than a dollar's worth of goods and services with this single dollar. In short, as it pertains to an increase in nutrient efficiency, we are able to receive more per gram of each nutrient than we would otherwise.
  • Increased Protein Synthesis: protein synthesis refers to the cells building proteins, and as protein is the building block of muscle tissue as synthesis has been increased, its efficiency has reached a greater state, and this total activity is enhanced.
  • Increased Red Blood Cell Count: red blood cells are largely responsible for carrying oxygen through the body, and by increasing the count, we simply provide a greater rate of oxygenation. Through this action, total, muscular endurance is enhanced.
  • Decreased Glucocorticoid Production: glucocorticoid hormones, often referred to as stress hormones greatly promote catabolism and fat gain. In essence, they represent the inverse of anabolic hormones, and simply take the body in the opposite desired direction. This does not mean glucocorticoids don't play an important role in the body; they possess vital healing and immune related responsibilities. Even so, by reducing the total production and release, by controlling it, we are enabled to provide ourselves with a more efficient physique.
  • Decreased Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG): SHBG represents a glycoprotein that binds specific sex hormones; in our case, we're referring primarily to testosterone. By reducing the amount of SHBG in our body, we provide our body more free testosterone and simply enhance total anabolic activity.

These represent the primary traits of anabolic steroids, and through these traits, nearly every attribute and goal imaginable can be reached. It must be noted; how one lives will significantly determine the total outcome; for example, the rules of nutrition do not go flying out the window simply because anabolic steroids are in play. If we want to grow, we must eat to grow, and if we are trying to lean out we must burn more calories than we consume. At any rate, by the above traits, anabolic steroids can provide all of the following:

Primary Physical:

  • Increased Muscle Mass
  • Decreased Body-Fat

Performance:

  • Increased Strength
  • Increased Endurance
  • Increased Rate of Recovery

Secondary Physical:

  • A Harder Physique
  • Increased Vascularity

Total Effects:

  • Increased Metabolic Activity
  • ncreased Rate in Lipolysis
  • ncreased Rate of Recovery
  • nhanced Tissue Preservation
The Bad:

As Aspirin carries possible side-effects, so do anabolic steroids. As vitamins carry possible side-effects, as do certain foods such a peanuts and milk so do anabolic steroids. Even so, by-and-large the side-effects of anabolic steroids can be controlled if we hold to some fundamental rules and notes:

  1. Children should not supplement with anabolic steroids; such use has been purported to stunt growth by prematurely closing growth plates; this has never been proven outright, but it is a real possibility. However, such use will damage a developing androgen system, enhance the rate of puberty beyond a reasonable means, and further, can be horrific mentally post use. With a high influx of hormones being present and then taken away, as the child will now have a damaged androgen system his body will be found lacking in the primary androgens, and this will have a negative effect on his mental disposition. Such use can lead to severe depression, and all the possible consequences of such a condition.
  2. Supplementation of anabolic steroids should only be undertaken by those who possess a medical condition that can be improved upon by such supplementation or for the purpose of enhancing performance in individuals who are already in a healthy state; of course, we're referring to adults and adults only. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a damaged liver you should not supplement. If you have a heart condition, or any other serious ailment anabolic steroids are probably not for you.
  3. We must always follow the primary rule of anabolic steroidal supplementation, and that is responsible use. There are many definitions of responsible use depending on who you talk to, but there is only one that makes any sense. Responsible use can be aptly defined as any use that does not cause you harm. If you're causing yourself harm, you're not being responsible; conversely, if no harm is done then enjoy your supplementation.

As for the side-effects themselves, we have broken them down into two categories; "The Bad" representing internal side-effects, and "The Ugly" representing visual effects. "The Bad" is as follows:

  • Decreased HDL Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Increased LDL Cholesterol
  • Liver Toxicity
  • Natural Testosterone Suppression

To combat such effect, the use of Aromatase Inhibitors (AI's) can be extremely useful, as can simply following a diet that promotes a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. AI's will keep estrogen levels low, as an increase is common due to the conversion of testosterone into estrogen that occurs via the aromatase enzyme. Further, you are encouraged to avoid excess alcohol consumption when supplementing with anabolic steroids; especially oral steroids as they can be harsh on the liver; in-fact, we'd probably avoid all alcohol. If you're supplementing for performance and if you desire a healthy you, alcohol shouldn't be part of the equation in the first place. If you can do these things, if you're a healthy adult "The Bad" will largely be avoided. Then there's testosterone suppression; when we supplement with anabolic steroids our natural testosterone production is suppressed; it is inevitable. The total suppression will vary depending on the steroids being used, but it will occur nonetheless. For this reason, some form of exogenous testosterone is advised, as a low testosterone condition is terribly unhealthy. There are many forms of exogenous testosterone, many options, but all that matters is you provide the body with what it needs and in doing so, you will garner success.

The Ugly:

The following represent the visual side-effects that can be caused by anabolic steroids, and in many ways, the most commonly associated side-effects. Such effects include:

  • Excess Water Retention
  • Gynecomastia
  • Acne
  • Hair-Loss
  • Testicular Atrophy

The use of an AI will largely protect against water retention and Gynecomastia, which refers to male breast enlargement; however, there are some important notes. If you are overeating, even if you're supplementing with an AI you're going to hold a lot of water. It's common for some performance enhancers to bloat and blame the steroids, when in-fact the problem is actually their diet; particularly an overabundance of carbohydrates. Then we have acne and hair-loss, and by-and-large these are genetically driven. The only people who will lose any hair are those predisposed to male-pattern baldness; further, this is normally caused by the use of DHT based anabolic steroids. If you are not predisposed you won't lose any hair but if you are and you do it's important to note you were going to lose your hair any way; the DHT steroids simply sped it up. Largely the same can be said of acne; those who are acne sensitive will be the first to have a problem; those who aren't will rarely have any issues. In any case, keeping your skin extra clean and ensuring your products are pure will serve you well. Now we're left with testicular atrophy; a side-effect that petrifies many men. As discussed above, the use of anabolic steroids suppresses natural testosterone production, and as testosterone is manufactured in the testicles, now that its been suppressed the testicles shrink. The good news is once use has been discontinued, and all anabolic steroids clear your system your natural testosterone production will begin again, and your testicles will return to their normal size. A note; testicular atrophy simply means the testicles lose some of their fullness, and by no means implies they disappear. Further, contrary to the belief of some, anabolic steroids have absolutely no effect on the rest of the genitalia.

Females:

Females can supplement with anabolic steroids, but they must exercise a little more caution than men. Females are simply far more sensitive to the hormones, and due to the androgenic nature of anabolic steroids virilization can occur. When virilization occurs, it can destroy a woman's femininity by deepening her voice, causing body-hair growth, as well as clitoral enlargement. To avoid such issues, females must only supplement with steroids that carry low virilizing rates, and further, only supplement with low doses; fortunately, it won't take a large dose to garner the desired end. In any case, if virilization begins to occur for any reason, if use is discontinued immediately the symptoms will fade away rapidly; if they are ignored this is when they can become problematic.

What they're NOT:

On just about any other topic on earth, this wouldn't be necessary, but anabolic steroids have taken such a beating there's simply no way around it. Below we've mentioned and briefly discussed some of the most common myths and often outright lies regarding these hormones that are either an outright impossibility, thought due to a lack of education or used to promote an anti-agendum. In any case, some of this will overlap with the above, but there's no way around this:

  • Anabolic steroids are not foreign substances to the body; you already produce Testosterone and Dihydrotestosterone, and many of the other hormones that are found in the steroid family.
  • Your body cannot reject anabolic steroids any more than it can reject the hormones you naturally make; once in the body, the body makes no distinguishing difference regardless of its point of origin
  • Anabolic steroids are not hallucinogens; they're not mind altering narcotics; they do not display or carry any form mental dependency nor do they affect the mind in any way regarding ones decision make process.
  • Anabolic steroids do not provide any type of high or anything of a nature that might be associated with recreational drugs.
  • Common purported side-effects of anabolic steroids that carry no validity include: cancer, heart disease or heart
  • attack, hepatitis, epileptic fits; hepatitis could be caused by using a dirty needle, but this is not the steroids fault.

Making Sense of it All:

Anabolic steroids are truly remarkable hormones; they are abundantly powerful and demand your respect, but when such respect is given successful supplementation can be enjoyed. The key to it all is rule number three discussed at the beginning of the side-effects discussion that revolves around responsible use. If you're supplementing and causing your body harm, this is not successful supplementation; if no harm is done then success cannot be argued; well, it can be and often is, but it's an idiotic argument. In any case, the above information provided is only the beginning; there is still so much more to say regarding these hormones, but hopefully your appetite has been increased, and you will continue your education.