No book on modern bodybuilding can be considered complete without a discussion of the problem of anabolic steroids. Steroids have become used in many sports, so bodybuilding is no exception. However widespread the use of these drugs is, they continue to be the subject of considerable controversy.
How dangerous are steroids? To what extent do they increase the strength and volume of muscles, their performance and return on training? We still do not have exact answers to these questions. There appears to be much more effort being put into trying to ban stimulants than finding answers. One thing we know is that they seem to help some people in certain cases, and most bodybuilders are convinced that steroids are necessary to rise to the heights of the international level.
In fact, there are two sides to the problem of steroid use. It is one thing to use them, even for a long time, it is another thing to abuse them. By “abuse” I mean taking drugs in too large quantities, constantly and for a long time, or in the wrong combinations. In any of these options, immediate, serious, and possibly fatal results can be expected.
What are anabolic steroids?
Anabolic steroids are a group of powerful synthetic chemicals that resemble natural male sex hormones. Hormones are the body’s chemical regulators that govern or participate in a wide range of processes, affecting tissue growth, development and specialization, the reproductive cycle, and many aspects of behavior.
Cells are made up primarily of protein. Therefore, one of the most important factors that determine the possibility of growth is the production or synthesis of a new protein. The hormones that enable cells to produce a new protein are mainly androgens, that is, the male hormone testosterone and its chemical analogues. Testosterone is present in varying proportions in both men and women.
Male hormones have two different types of effects on the body: anabolic, which stimulates growth, and androgenic, which enhances male sexual characteristics. Anabolic steroids are synthesized in such a way as to maximize the anabolic and minimize the androgenic effect. Although the various types of steroids vary in the extent of these functions, they are all designed to induce growth with minimal impact on the genital area.
Steroids are substances with complex molecules that are carried by the blood and play a binding role. There are thousands of tiny steroid receptors in cells, and steroid molecules carry many “messages”, the most important of which is the command to increase protein and creatine phosphate synthesis. Depending on the type of steroid, either one or both of these “messages” are sent in various combinations.
Creatine Phosphate is a fast energy restorer, thanks to which the muscles can contract not just for a few seconds, but for a longer time. The more creatine phosphate, the more muscle work you can do. The more work you do, the harder you train and the more muscle mass you build.
Steroids and bodybuilding
Bodybuilders discovered the effects of testosterone and began using it to stimulate muscle growth and increase the intensity and intensity of their workouts in the late 40s. The first synthetic anabolic was created in 1953. Its effectiveness was 3-5 times higher than testosterone, and the level of androgenicity was 3 times less. In the 60s, new types of anabolic steroids appeared, and their use by bodybuilders and representatives of other sports, despite scientific studies that questioned their effectiveness in building strength and muscle tissue, was becoming more widespread.
At the 1972 Olympics, a large number of different athletes were interviewed about their drug use, and a total of 68 percent admitted to using anabolic steroids.
Most competitive bodybuilders use or have used anabolic steroids. They believe that steroids help to become more powerful and stronger. They love the aggressive feeling that comes with using these stimulants as it helps them train harder. And we should not forget that athletes take drugs also because they are dominated by the spirit of competition and they do not want to give up their positions.
Many aspiring lifters hear about the use of steroids by champions and decide that they too can achieve huge success if they use stimulants. However, research does not support this.
Steroids have the greatest impact on size and strength only when the athlete is in a state of “plateau”, that is, he has already achieved everything he could, without the use of stimulants. Trained people respond much better to steroids than untrained people. The results increase even more if you continue to train intensively during the period of steroid use.
Steroids allow you to increase the intensity of training. However, this is not so necessary for an athlete who does not count on winning a prestigious competition or has not exhausted his possibilities without using stimulants yet. The health risks are the same in both cases. A novice athlete is exposed to the same risk as a higher-level athlete, but receives much less benefit from steroids. The ratio between the degree of risk and the possibility of winning is very unfavorable.
Steroids and the liver
The liver is the largest and most important organ in the human body. One of its functions is to inactivate, detoxify, and remove a range of substances, including anabolic steroids. However, depending on the chemical structure of individual steroids, the liver processes them at different rates. Some steroids are completely removed within 24 hours – this puts a lot of stress on the liver and can lead to complications in its activity, while others can remain in the body for many days and weeks.
Anabolic steroids are administered in two main ways – by ingestion (orally) or by injection. Oral steroids, such as dianabol, are rapidly broken down by the liver. Since they are destroyed so quickly, they must be taken in very large doses to achieve the desired effect. This, in turn, increases the toxic effects on the liver.
Steroids given by injection bypass the liver directly into the bloodstream. This means that the effective doses as well as the toxic effect can be much smaller. Injectable preparations are usually formulated with an oil base. Since it takes about three days for them to work, the load on the liver is not so great. Therefore, injectable drugs are considered much safer.
However, although both oral and injectable drugs stimulate protein synthesis, the former generally promote creatine phosphate synthesis, while the latter do not.
After interacting with steroid receptors on cells, steroid molecules again enter the bloodstream and are used again and again until they are destroyed by the liver. So if you are injected with 200mg of a stimulant that is chemically formulated to last 17 days, your body will destroy 12mg daily. As a result, on the first day, all 200 mg are present in it, on the second – about 188, on the third – 176, on the fourth -164, and so on until the entire dose is destroyed. The daily destruction of such a relatively small amount of steroid means that the load on the liver is not very large.
The situation is different with oral steroids (for example, dianabol), which have a short lifespan. When taking a 200-milligram dose of such a drug, the liver processes all 200 mg during the day, which gives it a huge load.
Injectable preparations are also water-based. They act on the body much faster.
When an anabolic steroid enters the body, some of it is converted into estrogen, the female hormone. When this happens, larger and larger doses are needed to maintain the effect. Thus, in addition to possible complications with the liver, an increase in the level of estrogen in the body can have other side effects: for example, an increase in fat, water retention in the body, and sometimes gynecomastia – the growth of the mammary glands in men.
Steroids and teenagers
Boys should not take anabolic steroids to build volume and increase muscle strength. At this age, the body is already in the most “anabolic state”, because it has an excess of testosterone. It is completely unnecessary to add synthetic anabolics at this age.
Most young athletes (with the exception of rare cases) are still far from the state of “plateau” (stagnation). I was no exception. Having won the title of “Mr. Universe” at the age of 20, in subsequent years I was able to achieve much more, that is, I was still very far from the top of my possibilities.
In addition, steroids can accumulate at the ends of growing bones. A young man who has not yet reached maximum growth may find that steroids slow down his growth, so that the effects of taking anabolic steroids may become irreversible.