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"Steroids" you hear the word, and if you're like most the first thing that pops into you mind is behemoths with mounds of muscle stacked upon mounds of muscle. You immediately think of the horror stories you've heard of men with exploding hearts, men rampaging through the house like a scorned grizzly bear and of course and certainly not least men covered in acne with nothing left between their legs other than a dark shadow that resembles long lost genitalia. When most people think of steroids they think of anabolic steroids.

 What many people fail to realize is that the word "Steroids" is a very generic term that describes a class of hormones that is beyond massive and one in-which "Anabolic Steroids" only makes up a small portion of the class. In many ways the word "Steroids" is as generic as the word "Food." So if this is true the most obvious question is what are steroids, and we will answer that here, and yes we will thoroughly discuss anabolic steroids too, and that will be our main focus. The reasons we must consider steroids in a more general sense early on is in order to provide a more appropriate understanding of anabolic steroids, so that the truth can be seen.

What are Steroids

Steroids are organic compounds comprised of twenty carbon atoms that make up four cycloalkane rings that interlock with one another. There are literally hundreds of steroid forms found in both animals in plants that naturally occur; regardless of your preconceived notions steroids are naturally produced hormones. All steroids are formed by the cells, and while there are hundreds of plant steroids in-which we could discuss, for our purposes here we are only concerned with human beings. In the human body, there are a few classes of notable worth that define naturally produced steroids:

  • Sex Hormones
  • Cholesterol
  • Corticosteroids

In medicinal practice, it will primarily be the sex hormones and corticosteroids that are of worthy note; you will not find a physician administering cholesterol on a regular basis. Of these two primary categories, regarding corticosteroids, this refers to the glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoids hormones; the glucocorticoid cortisol is the most well-known. Of the sex hormones, it largely pertains to the androgens testosterone and Dihydrotestosterone, as well as estrogen and progestogens with a few notable exceptions such as the potent anabolic steroid Nandrolone among others.

What Distinguishes Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids, officially known as "Anabolic Androgenic Steroids" are largely defined by the name itself and the three words that encompass the three word phrase. "Steroids" itself is a class of hormones as defined above, this leaves us with anabolic and androgenic. Anabolic refers to anabolism or more specifically the metabolic process by-which simple substances in living organisms are synthesized into more complex substances; simply put building muscle. Androgenic refers to the hormones that promote the male sexual characteristics or more specifically those such as testosterone and Dihydrotestosterone; simply put the androgenic hormones.

What are Anabolic Androgenic Steroids?

Specifically, while steroids themselves are naturally produced hormones, such as Testosterone and Dihydrotestosterone, anabolic androgenic steroids refer to their synthetic derivatives. There are numerous forms of anabolic androgenic steroids, and within each form, there are often numerous types. Regardless of the form or type, all anabolic steroids owe their existence to the testosterone steroid, but even within this primary steroid we have multiple forms, not to mention all of those that are derived from this single form.

To provide understanding when we purchase testosterone we will find it alone comes in several forms; each form is comprised of the same active hormone but is distinguished by the ester that is attached or in some cases the lack thereof. Further, in some cases you'll find a specific testosterone to be a combination of different esters. In any case, the ester does not change the hormones function but does change the molecular weight of the compound, affects its total active duration as well as its initial impact time. Smaller esters will carry a lower molecular weight and will, therefore, take up less mass, whereas larger esters will extend the total active duration yet take longer to provide initial impact. To provide understanding here are the most common testosterone forms, the esters size and the total half-life that affects total active duration and initial impact.

Hormone & EsterEster FormEster SizeHalf-Life
Testosterone Cypionate Single Ester Large 12 Days
Testosterone Enanthate Single Ester Large 10.5 Days
Testosterone-Propionate Single Ester Small 3.5 Days
Testosterone-Suspension No Ester No Ester Less than 24 Hours
Sustanon-250 4 Ester Mixture  1 moderate 18 Days
Omnadren 4 Ester Mixture  1 moderate 15 Days

As you can see, while all testosterone forms are comprised of the same active hormone the ester(s) attached can affect the compound significantly. Further, as you recall it also affects the compounds total mass thereby affecting the total potency on a per milligram basis. For example, take the large ester Testosterone-Cypionate and the small ester Testosterone-Propionate; if 100mg of each is applied the difference in total active testosterone per form will vary dramatically. In this case, 100mg of Testosterone-Cypionate will yield 69.90mg of active testosterone where 100mg's of Testosterone-Propionate will yield 83.72mg of active testosterone. While we have used testosterone in our examples here these facts remain true with all anabolic steroids of an injectable nature; of course, this does not define oral steroids.

Distinguishing Oral from Injectable:

While the majority of steroids of the anabolic class are injectable in nature, there are several anabolic steroids that belong to the oral class. Oral steroids are comprised of anabolic androgenic hormones just as their injectable counterparts but are largely defined by their mode of administration, their initial impact time and very short half-lives. Oral steroids become active in the body much faster than injectable steroids and will provide benefits at a greater rate yet dissipate in the body much faster. Like injectable steroids orals are also largely defined by their anabolic and androgenic nature; however, when examining this nature it is often more important to distinguish how this nature translates in the body. For example, the oral steroid Halotestin carries a massive anabolic and androgenic rating but does not possess strong androgenic characteristics; we'll go more into this as we go along.

Again, to provide understanding we have provided a chart consisting of the six most commonly used oral steroids, their half-life and efficiency in time of use. While most anabolic steroids can be used successfully for any purpose many oral steroids carry traits well-suited for one purpose over the other; we're referring to bulking and cutting. The following table should help it make sense:

SteroidHalf-LifeBulking ScoreCutting Score
Anadrol 8.5 Hours 10 5
Anavar 9 Hours 1 - - 7* 5 - - 10*
Dianabol 5 Hours 10 5
Halotestin 9.5 Hours 0 9
Primobolan 5 Hours 1 - - 2* 2 - - 4*
Winstrol 9 Hours 3 9

Of course, the above is not all that distinguishes oral steroids; not by a long shot. Most all oral anabolic steroids belong to the C17-Alpha Alkylated (C17-aa) class of anabolic steroids. The C17-aa nature refers to a structural change of the hormone at the 17th carbon position. This structural change is necessary to the hormones survival, for without the hormone would be destroyed by the liver. By this structural change, the hormone is able to survive the first pass through the liver and the body in-turn receives the intended benefits of the hormone.

While the C17-aa nature is necessary, it also carries a distinct disadvantage as C17-aa steroids are toxic to the liver. How toxic; not as toxic as regular, excessive alcohol consumption and not as dangerous as many non-steroidal medications, even some of an over the counter nature; even so, caution must be applied. As most who supplement with oral steroids will administer daily, if not multiple times a day, the individual must necessarily avoid other liver stressing activities to remain healthy. If the individual can do this, while his liver enzyme readings will increase with oral steroid use they will return to normal shortly after discontinuation assuming no other stress has been placed on the liver as the liver heals remarkably well and with great efficiency. It must be noted; not all oral steroids carry a C17-aa nature; most notably oral Primobolan. As oral Primobolan does not carry this trait, the majority of it is destroyed by the liver making injectable Primobolan Depot far more efficient. Further, many oral steroids are also available in an injectable form; most notably Winstrol in its injectable form Winstrol Depot. In the case of Winstrol, both forms are of a C17-aa nature.

Anabolic & Androgenic Natures:

As eluded to before, each and every anabolic steroid carries an anabolic and androgenic nature, and as such, we can define this nature by its specific rating. The anabolic and androgenic rating of a particular steroid defines its nature in the anabolic and androgenic regard, but as discussed, what is more important is how these natures translate into action once in the body. Recall our example of Halotestin, a powerful steroid that carries a strong anabolic and androgenic rating, in-fact they are massive yet it displays very few androgenic traits. Then we have steroids like Anadrol that while it carries a modest androgenic rating and decent anabolic rating it translates into action of a higher nature regarding both.

Regardless of the steroid at hand, all anabolic and androgenic ratings of a steroid are measured against the testosterone hormone, which carries an anabolic rating of 100 and an androgenic rating of 100. As mentioned, while the translation of these ratings can vary in-terms of their actual action as discussed above, the strong majority of steroids will translate perfectly by their actual rating. Again, to provide understanding here are the most commonly used anabolic steroids listed by common trade names as well as the active hormone, their anabolic and androgenic rating and total half-life.

Trade NameActive HormoneAnabolicAndrogenicHalf-Life
Anadrol Oxymetholone 320 45 8.5 Hours
Anavar Oxandrolone 400 24 9 Hours
Deca-Durabolin Nandrolone-Decanoate 125 37 15 Days
Dianabol Methandrostenolone 200 60 5 Hours
Equipoise Boldenone-Undecylenate 100 50 15 Days
Halotestin Fluoxymesterone 900" 850 9.5 Hours
Masteron-Propionate Drostanolone-Propionate 62 25 2.5 Days
NPP or Durabolin Nandrolone-Phenylpropionate 125 37 5.5 Days
Omnadren Testosterone Mixture 100 100 15 Days
Oral Turinabol 4-chlorodehydromethyltestosterone 100 0 16 Hours
Parabolan Trenbolone-Hexahydrobenzylcarbonate 500 500 6 Days
Primobolan Methenolone-Acetate 88 50 5 Hours
Primobolan Depot Methenolone-Enanthate 88 50 10.5 Days
Proviron Mesterolone 125 35 12 Hours
Sustanon-250 Testosterone Mixture 100 100 18 Days
Testosterone-Cypionate Testosterone-Cypionate 100 100 12 Days
Testosterone-Enanthate Testosterone-Enanthate 100 100 10.5 Days
Testosterone-Propionate Testosterone-Propionate 100 100 3.5 Days
Testosterone-Suspension Testosterone 100 100 Less than 24 Hours
Trenbolone-Acetate (Fina) Trenbolone-Acetate 500 500 3 Days
Trenbolone-Enanthate Trenbolone-Enanthate 500 500 8 Days
Winstrol Stanozolol 320 30 9 Hours
Winstrol Depot Stanozolol 320 30 Less than 24 Hours


It's no secret anabolic androgenic steroids carry possible side-effects, but the key word is "possible" as this in no way implies guaranteed. This is the case with almost anything we put into our body, from medications to even the foods we eat. For example, most over the counter medications carry some pretty serious possible side-effects ranging from severe abdominal cramping, irritable bowls, to hallucinations, bloody stools and many more including all the way up to death. This doesn't necessarily make these over the counter medications unacceptable, but it does tell us a couple of very important things. First and foremost, proper use is always responsible use and more importantly, as we are all unique individuals we will all respond a little differently. Simply put, some can take Tylenol while others can't; some can treat a headache or fever with Aspirin while others become deathly sick if they touch the first pill. The general point; yes, anabolic steroids carry with them possible side-effects as do all medications of all types but to imply that side-effects are assured, as is often implied by many is irresponsible.

When looking at the side-effects of steroids, there are a few important things we must consider. When we take into account these factors, from the provided list below it will enable us to not only have a better understanding, but allow us to control the possible side-effects to a large degree. Absolutely, you read that correctly, the side-effects of steroids are largely controlled and often completely avoidable, if we have a simple and basic understanding of the hormones. What you need to know about each anabolic steroid regarding side-effects:

  1. What are the possible side-effects of a particular anabolic steroid?
  2. What causes the particular side-effects of a particular anabolic steroid?
  3. What is the probability of a particular side-effect of a particular steroid occurring?
  4. What factors increase probability?
  5. What factors decrease probability? Simply put what protects us from the side-effect(s)?
  6. What can we do to reverse the side-effect should it appear?

These six questions are extremely important, and can take a good while to cover thoroughly, as the actual side-effects of a particular steroid can vary greatly from one steroid to another. Further, again, there are other factors at play. Beyond the list, above other things that must be considered are:

  1. The individual response to a particular steroidal hormone
  2. The total dosing of the hormone
  3. The total duration of the hormones use
  4. The health of the individual before use of a particular hormone begins
  5. The lifestyle practices of the individual while he is supplementing with a particular steroidal hormone.

These five factors are once again extremely important. As you recall from our discussion above, we are all unique, therefore, each and every anabolic steroid will affect every individual a little differently. Further, there is a strong risk to reward ratio at play with anabolic steroids. Often the higher the dose the greater the reward but at the same time in many cases the higher the dose the greater the risk as it pertains to adverse side-effects; this can also be considered when examining the total duration of use. Then we have the issue of health and the individual's general lifestyle. Those who are unhealthy before use open the door to many more possible side-effects. Further, those who live an unhealthy lifestyle while supplementing open the door to many more possible adverse effects. In short what does this all tell us? From the two list above, it tells us that healthy adults (especially men) who live a healthy lifestyle, who have an understanding of the hormones they're supplementing with, who understand the side-effects associated and how to combat them and who supplement in a responsible way can supplement in a successful way without side-effects being a concerning issue.

So what are the side-effects? As stated, the side-effects of steroid use can vary depending on the factors above and the steroid at hand. However, there is a grouping of the common side-effects of steroids that are common to the majority of anabolic steroids. Not all of these side-effects will be shared by all anabolic steroids, but the list below encompasses the majority of the possible side-effects as well as what we can do about them should they occur. By-in-large the side-effects of steroids can be broken down into four categories:


  1. Those caused by aromatase or a progestin nature thereby causing possible:
    -Excess Water Retention
    -High Blood Pressure
    -Improper Lipid Values
    *Progestin based steroids cannot cause water retention, this is a trait shared only by steroids of a strong estrogenic enhancing nature.
  2. The Genetic Factor: Largely at play with Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) based steroids but others carry them too:
  3. Testosterone Related:
    -Natural Testosterone Suppression
    -Testicular Atrophy
  4. Liver: The effects of the liver are largely discussed in the oral steroids section above.

What can we do about the common side-effects of anabolic androgenic steroid use? One of the most useful tools we have at our disposal is an Aromatase Inhibitor (AI) as it will combat the aromatase effect thereby enabling us to prevent and protect against estrogenic and progestin based side-effects. If issues surrounding hair and acne are a concern, avoiding DHT steroids will help you, but there is something you might be interested in understanding. Hair-loss and acne are largely genetically based; simply put, if a particular steroid causes you to lose any hair you were going to lose that hair to begin with, the steroid simply sped the process up. The same can largely be said of acne; the more sensitive you are to acne the greater the probability of acne occurring with the use of certain steroids.

Then we have the testosterone based side-effects and these are the only two side-effects that are absolutely 100% guaranteed. When we supplement with anabolic steroids, even testosterone, our natural testosterone production is suppressed. This suppression in-turn causes are testicles to atrophy as testosterone production occurs in the testicles and has now been slowed down or completely suppressed. For this reason, most who supplement will always include testosterone in their cycles as the testosterone hormone is essential to our health; not to mention a fantastic anabolic steroid. While testosterone suppression may sound scary, there is some very good news. If you supplement with testosterone and provide your body the amounts it needs you will not have any issues, and once you discontinue all anabolic steroid use, and the hormones have cleared your system your natural testosterone production will begin again, and your testicles will return to their normal size.

What this tells us is by supplementing with adequate amounts of testosterone, using AI's where needed and avoiding strong DHT steroids if the genetic factor is a concern or simply accepting the facts associated we can largely supplement successfully but again there are other factors. As we have discussed side-effects we keep talking about responsible use, and while that's all well and good we need to define responsible use. Responsible use means keeping the doses reasonable, avoiding activities that promote bad health especially those regarding blood pressure, cholesterol and the liver and certainly not least responsible use means supplementing in an educated fashion. In the end, we can largely define responsible use as any use that does not cause you bodily harm. If you are supplementing with success, and not causing yourself any harm, we can aptly call this responsible.

The Bottom Line:

On the surface, steroids can be hard to understand, but when we look at them closely we can see they are not nearly as complex as we probably once believed. As it pertains to anabolic steroids, the same can be said, simply by looking at what they truly are, how they function, and their very nature, we are able to see that what we've been told, is in many cases, to put it mildly a little untrue. In the end, this leaves us with a question; are anabolic androgenic steroids for you? Unfortunately, this is a question we cannot answer as it is a personal question that requires a personal answer. If you are a healthy adult male, the odds of success are strongly in your favor, if you are educated on the hormones themselves and that is where we'll leave it.