Anabolic Steroids: Decide for yourself?

Anabolic Steroids, The good the bad, You decide…

One of the articles I recently posted was on natural (everyday substances) testosterone masking agents. Wine, green tea and white tea, were found to have some masking abilities when tested. As mentioned, the breaking news of Lance Armstrong using steroids and being stripped of his 7 titles has headlined sports news and the effects are even more damaging.

The topic on Steroids has been brought up often in the past 10 years. It seems each year a new sports figure is found using them. Commercials, informing the public, of the dangers of using steroids have become more popular but share only the worst case scenario. Before I continue, keep in mind, I believe in getting results naturally, without the use of steroids or any other performance enhancing drug(s). However, I also believe a person should have accurate information and then have free choice on how to act. If you have a strong diet, challenge yourself every time you train and live a healthy life style, results will come to you. There is no greater feeling than not only reaching your maximum potential but then sustaining it! However,  Let’s better define the process and affects.

Steroids Defined:

Anabolic steroids are the synthetic (man-made) derivatives of the male sex hormone, testosterone. Anabolic steroids are used to increase muscle size, body mass, strength, and speed of recovery. Corticosteroids are mistaken for anabolic steroids when they are actually used to buffer overactive immune responses and reduce swelling. Both men and women naturally produce testosterone. If testosterone is taken or injected in its natural state, rapid degradation occurs making them mostly ineffective. For this reason, anabolic steroids must be chemically modified for the most effective anabolic and androgenic response.

Who uses them?

First dramatic reports of anabolic steroid use came during the 1954 world lifting championship. By 1960 use of anabolic steroids spread to other Olympic sports. Presently, hype and drama of steroid use is pervasive in professional sports. However, steroids are also used by many who are outside of organized sports. A national survey was conducted among high school seniors. The survey showed that 7% of respondents were using or had used steroids. One-third of the admitted users were not involved in school sponsored sports and more than one-fourth were using to improve appearance as opposed to athletic performance.

How they are used:

Most people who use anabolic steroids do so in a cyclic pattern of several weeks or months alternated with periods of discontinued use. The dosage is usually increased throughout the cycle. On average, a typical cycle lasts about 5-10weeks. Often, other anabolic drugs are introduced concurrently. This process is referred to as a “stacking” regimen. “Stacking” is believed to increase the potency of the anabolic agents. The most effective delivery method is intramuscularly injection (usually through the gluteus). There are some versions of the drug that can be delivered orally but these are less effective. Depending on the type of injectable steroid being used, it may stay in circulation approximately one day (Testosterone propionate) to a few months (Testosterone Buciclate) after a single injection.

Adverse effects further explained:
There are many negative effects but the majority of them are temporary if all protocols are followed. One or two cycles should not cause many of the listed side effects. However, those with an addictive personality, skewed personal body image, lacking proper guidance on the matter, or do not realize the presence of the aforementioned conditions can end up getting into trouble.  In most cases, the really damaging effects occur when people do not properly cycle or begin to rely on the anabolic agent too heavily. Many don’t realize that the majority of people will never be happy with their body. Each person believes they can look a little better. What starts off with one cycle, many times becomes several more cycles thus leading to serious adverse effects.

Benefits further explained:
The short term use of steroids, may have a few more benefits since the adverse effects  are not as prevalent. However, in short term use, the concern is more on will the person be able to only complete 1 cycle? When hormones are out of balance, mental stability can be more vulnerable.
The draw backs of Long term steroid use can be in some cases so debilitating that they should never be used. However, in the competitive world of sports the potential benefits of steroid use can be difficult to forego. Athletes have to train and compete day in and day out. Reducing the amount of time the body is in a catabolic state (breaking down) by decreasing cortisol levels allows for a maximum anabolic state (building of) by increasing testosterone levels. In short, the body is able to train at a higher intensity for a longer duration of time as well as recover in a shorter amount of time. Of course, in the end this leads to increased muscle size, performance and strength.

Athletes have a financial stake in their performance. Though steroids are illegal, the need to compete and excel in pursuit of glory and wealth make steroids extremely attractive. The potential negative effects of sustained use on the body, to reputation, and the possibility of incarceration can seem like acceptable risks. If this is a realistic dilemma, make sure to discuss and conduct quality research on the topic and understand there are short term as well as long term consequences which affect each individually differently.

 Kirill Vaks
Fitness and exercise specialist
BA, CSCS, ACSM-cpt, NFPT-sns 




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