Without steroids, professional bodybuilders would not exist. Well they would, the world has always revered strongmen, but they would look vastly different than they do today.
There are all sorts of reasons why bodybuilders cannot admit to using steroids, but the main one is that anabolic steroids are illegal to take, own, or distribute.
But why is that? If you look at the benefits of steroids, you’ll see improved strength, muscle size, recovery time, mood (yes that steroids = rage belief is a myth), sleep quality, and libido.
Taking steroids will give you a huge advantage in the gym, on the sports field, in the bedroom, and will generally make you more confident and happier.
In this article we will take a brief look at the benefits of anabolic steroids, then we’ll look at the negative effects, before deciding whether the illegality of anabolic steroids is the correct decision or whether an effective drug is being held back due to morality (drugs are bad kids).[toc]
What are Steroids?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the androgenic hormone testosterone. This means that they are made in a lab with the purpose of mimicking the effects of a naturally produced hormone.
Increasing your testosterone levels (or using a steroid to make your body think you’ve increased your testosterone) has many benefits.
Studies have shown huge increases in strength and muscular hypertrophy (how big a muscle grows).
In 2014 a study found that long term steroid use led to increased muscle mass, muscle fibre size, and muscular strength .
Another study also found an increase in muscle mass, it also noted that long term steroid use led to significant decreases in body fat levels too .
Anabolic steroids are often used in medicine to help treat low testosterone levels, but the levels used are much lower than those used by bodybuilders.
Anabolic steroids have been used by bodybuilders for decades and are responsible for the unnaturally large muscles that they sport. However, in recent times bodybuilders have started using other drugs to push themselves further, these can include insulin, human growth hormone, and many others.
The Benefits of Increasing Testosterone
High levels of testosterone have been shown to increase protein synthesis, this is the process where your body repairs and replaces damaged muscle fibres. When you exercise, each contraction that you make breaks down muscle fibres.
After your workout your body requires protein to repair and replace these damaged muscle fibres, muscle protein synthesis uses this protein to help you build bigger, stronger muscles.
Having higher testosterone levels means that you will be able to repair more muscle fibres, which means that you can exercise harder and get better results than someone with regular or low testosterone. Anabolic steroids can massively increase protein synthesis when taken in huge doses.
Being able to recover from exercise quicker is a big advantage for bodybuilders, but it is also useful for sportsmen and women, which is why so many have been caught taking steroids over the years.
Studies have shown that low testosterone levels can lead to bad sleep , this can cause a number of unwanted effects such as poor mood, weight gain, lack of energy, and a lack of focus. Increasing your testosterone can reverse these effects by improving your sleep quality.
The Negatives of Steroid Use
With so many benefits you’re probably wondering where you can find yourself some anabolic steroids tomorrow! But before doing so it is important to discuss the negative effects of steroids.
A 1988 study by Yesalis et al on self-reported steroid takers (elite powerlifters) found that the most common side effects were “heightened libido, acne, and increased body hair” .
Another study on weight-trained men found that 56% of steroid users reported irritability or aggressive behaviour, while 20% (4 in 20 users) reported gynecomastia (breast tissue in men) .
These are both symptoms of low testosterone and occur in long term steroid users, this is because the body stops producing testosterone naturally and increases the production of an enzyme called aromatase which converts excess testosterone in estrogen.
Men will also experience shrinking of the testicles and a reduction in sperm quantity and quality, sadly the talk of bodybuilders having small testicles is not a myth!
Studies have shown that massive quantities of testosterone can indeed lead to testicular atrophy and reduction in sperm .
The effects on women are perhaps even more extreme, a 1985 study on weight-trained women found that they had noticed a deepened voice, increased facial hair, increased aggression, enlargement of the clitoris, and a disrupted menstrual cycle .
The effects of the anabolic steroids were making them more man-like in appearance and mindset. This is not too surprising when you think that women tend to have very low testosterone levels to start with.
The main problem is that a lot of the side effects are not necessarily noticeable, while acne and increased body hair are hard to ignore, you would actually have to have blood tests to find out whether your body had stopped producing testosterone or not.
You would have to have your sperm analysed before you would know if it had affected your chances of procreating. So a lot of bodybuilders, gym rats, and powerlifters can live in denial.
What’s also interesting is that when asked, a lot of bodybuilders will say that they can accept the negative side effects, because the benefits are so good. You’ve got to understand that win at all costs mindset.
In 1985 there was a famous study by Bob Goldman where he asked elite athletes in America whether they would take a drug that would kill them within five years if it could guarantee them a gold medal, he then repeated that survey every two years.
Goldman reported that half of the elite athletes questioned said that they would take the drug .
In 2012 this study was repeated and the researchers found a much smaller amount of athletes that would be willing to take such a deal, which either means that attitudes have changed or that Goldman may have exaggerated his findings .
Either way, there is still a percentage of people who would literally die for success, which is why steroids can be such a dangerous drug. Some users are prepared to take levels that could kill them, all in the pursuit of a better body.
Arguments for the Legalisation of Steroids
There are plenty of drugs out there that are more dangerous than anabolic steroids, alcohol and tobacco kill many more people.
Alcohol, in particular, leads to many of the negative effects that anabolic steroids are saddled with, but to a more extreme degree. Gynecomastia, heightened libido, aggression, and irritability are all side effects of alcohol, but its use is completely legal almost everywhere in the world.
Steroid use, when properly managed can have a lot of benefits too. Increased muscle mass, increased strength, improved cognitive abilities (problem-solving etc), and improved sleep could all make huge benefits to men in particular. Making anabolic steroids legal could help current users get more information, and prevent them from making silly mistakes.
Yes, there will be people who take it too far, just like there are people who take alcohol too far, or who overdose on painkillers, or smoke 60 cigarettes a day and die. But the majority of users (particularly new ones who avoided them when steroids were illegal) will use them sensibly and see lots of benefits.
Arguments Against the Legalisation of Steroids
There is an ever-growing number of men who have very low testosterone levels, if these men go to a doctor they will receive anabolic steroids to help top their levels up.
This is known as testosterone replacement therapy and it is an excellent way to get the right amount of testosterone to enjoy all of the benefits of having healthy testosterone levels.
What bodybuilders, powerlifters, and an ever-increasing number of gym-goers are doing is taking doses that are massively higher than they are supposed to.
While this can lead to huge increases in muscle size, it can also forever alter your physiology. There aren’t many legal drugs that can do that. It’s already too easy to get anabolic steroids, and the state doesn’t want to make it easier still.
One thing that has become abundantly clear is that many anabolic steroid users cannot be trusted to use the correct dose.
Even if there was a legalised way to take the doses necessary for huge increases in muscle mass, people would still find ways to work the system.
Bodybuilding already has a massive problem with body dysmorphia, and the increase in steroid use has made it much worse.
In a time when the media is finally accepting some of the blame for the unrealistic expectations that have been heaped on women over the decades, why would we put the same pressure on men?
Steroids should be used for medical purposes, and administered by trained professionals, not guys named Brad who operate out of a gym locker room and didn’t study medicine at University.
Increasing your testosterone levels is one of the best things that you can do to improve your health.
The improved libido, sleep quality, mood, strength, and recovery that high testosterone levels offer will seriously benefit you. But you don’t need anabolic steroids to get that.
There are many ways to improve testosterone naturally that you should consider.
Anabolic steroids are absolutely necessary if you plan to become a world-famous bodybuilder, but if you just want to look a bit bigger, and sleep better then they are unnecessary.
Ask yourself if risking huge changes to your body for a bigger chest is really worth it. Why not try to achieve your best physique naturally first? Instead of trying to find a chemical shortcut.
Eat a higher fat diet, lift free weights regularly, eat more red meat, try to sleep 8 hours each night, purchase some effective natural testosterone boosters, and look at ways to reduce stress in your life.
All of these methods can help you to maintain a healthy testosterone level and none of them will lead to you growing a pair of breasts!
On the whole anabolic steroids could be an effective way to improve your health, but only when taken at the correct dose for your needs.
They are a banned substance for a reason, and anyone who takes them is taking an unnecessary risk with their health.
Safe Alternative to Anabolic Steroids
Now that you know why steroids are illegal you may be looking for a safe and legal alternative.
Our suggestion would be the range of products offered by Crazy Bulk.
One of their more popular products is D-Bal, which is an alternative to the banned anabolic steroid Dianabol.
It contains many muscle and strength building ingredients including various BCAAs, Whey Protein Concentrate and Tribulus Terrestris. These ingredients are shown to boost nitrogen retention resulting in an increase in protein synthesis.
Benefits you can experience include:
- Increased muscle and strength
- More endurance, allowing you to workout longer
- An increase in nitrogen retention
- Extra blood flow; meaning more oxygen is sent to your muscles
If you are concerned that D-Bal is not as effective as claimed you simply need to visit the Crazy Bulk website to read countless positive reviews from real customers.