How do anabolic steroids work? [Bonus: Health Risk Guide]
September 14, 2021
Anabolic steroids… androgenic steroids… if you’re reading this article, then you’re probably here because you are wondering what the hell they are? Are they another mis-sold product that is actually dangerous to your health? Or are they the key to achieving massive muscle gains and lean muscle tissue?
That is the question, and today our mission is to answer it.
What do steroids do?
Testosterone is one of the most important hormones in your body for muscle development. Not only does it help to increase MPS – which can reduce the effect of muscle protein breakdown in the body – it also works to activate your satellite cells which are responsible for speeding up muscle repair and minimizing tissue damage.
And this is important for anyone who exercises/weight lifts regularly. The faster your muscles can repair themselves – breakdown and rebuild – the quicker they can improve your muscle mass, performance and stamina.
You could say – the more testosterone you have; the better your muscle development and recovery time will be.
This is where anabolic steroids come in…
They can help to raise low testosterone levels and revitalize workout regimes by allowing you to return to the gym sooner.
What exactly are anabolic steroids?
Anabolic steroids – or if you want to get technical ‘anabolic-androgenic steroids’ – are basically synthetic derivatives of testosterone that have been tailored to assist athletes and bodybuilders.
You see, unlike natural testosterone which balances these anabolic and androgenic properties. Steroids are synthetically modified to minimize the androgenic effects of testosterone (the development of male traits e.g. facial hair, voice dropping, genital development, growth etc.) and instead focus on raising its anabolic capabilities (muscle building).
Its anabolic effects are what is responsible for increased bone and muscle mass in the body. By helping your muscle cells to produce more protein (through protein synthesis); when you workout you will benefit from enhanced muscle mass, strength, performance, stamina and energy. Plus it will help you to produce more ATP which will fuel your muscles to work harder.
How do steroids work?
Anabolic steroids often play a starring role for bodybuilders looking to gain mass fast. Whether they want to use it for bulking weight, or protecting their lean muscle tissues (when they cut); you will find anabolic steroids somewhere near the centre of these two cycles.
Now the tricky part comes in the way you administer them. A lot of them have to be injected directly into your muscle tissues (upper arms, thighs and butt – yes we said it, your butt) once or twice a week depending on which type of steroid you’ve opted for. These then stay in your system anywhere between 3 weeks to 3 months.
There are some oral options – and let us just say, they are much more pleasant to take as they aren’t painful and won’t irritate your muscles/scar your skin – but these usually have a shorter half-life, meaning you will have to take them daily and split this dose into 2-3 sessions (each day).
In both cases, they help to elevate your testosterone levels and ensure it stays present in your body, creating the perfect bodybuilding environment.
But so how exactly do steroids work? Here is the science part:
They consist of tiny molecules made up of carbon. Their size and atomic composition enables them to pass into your cells easier, in particular your nucleus. From here, they attach to the receptors in your cells and tell them to make different proteins.
In fact, in skeletal tissues they start telling your cell to make more of the proteins responsible for building muscle, whilst decreasing the production of proteins which break muscle down.
Ok. So what does that mean in terms of effective use of steroids? What is a typical anabolic steroid cycle?
Most bulking and cutting cycles involve 12 weeks on, 6 week off and then repeat.
Now this pattern doesn’t work for most anabolic steroids. Sustanon 250 is recommended for 8 weeks, whilst Anavar and Dianabol cannot be taken for longer than 6 weeks. Use them for any longer and you risk causing damage to your liver as it sends your liver into overdrive with producing enzymes to try break these steroids down.
How fast do steroids work?
How long steroids take to work depends on the one you choose. Some products such as Dbol claim to make visible differences in a matter days, whilst others give examples of what you can achieve in a typical bulking cycle.
Here are some popular brands:
- Sustanon 250 – 10-20lb gains per 8 week cycle (50% is usually water retention)
- Anavar – 10-15lb gains in a 4 week cycle (cannot be taken for more than 6 weeks as it is toxic BUT it doesn’t cause water retention, so what you see is what you get)
- Dianabol – 7-15lb gains per 4 week cycle (cannot be taken for longer than 6 weeks as it is also toxic to your liver). Learn more about Dianabol cycles here.
On average, each of these can produce 2-4lb of muscle gain per week, so you’ll see a difference by the end of week 3. You just need to remember that aside from Anavar (who has got a low androgenic rating of 24), the rest do cause water retention; meaning you’ll lose anywhere between 20-50% of these gains once you finish your cycle.
Why is it a terrible idea?
Okay, by now you have got a fair idea of what steroids are; how do steroids work and when you can expect results. But what about the bigger picture?
When you get past all the bold claims and reports of massive gains, are these anabolic steroids exactly what they claim to be?
Honestly? No, they aren’t.
Not only aren’t they legal, but every one of these big brands comes with a whole host of health risks that are just not worth subjecting your body to.
Here are their top 6 health risks, but please be warned – these are not the only unpleasant surprises they can cause to your body:
- Liver damage – yep, this is the massive down side to all of them, particularly the oral tablet ones. Whilst they boast that your liver can’t destroy them during digestion – ensuring it stays in your body and does its job of boosting muscle mass – this inability to break them down makes it toxic to your liver. This means steroid tablets such as Dbol and Anavar cannot be taken for longer than 6 weeks, otherwise they will cause severe damage to your liver. Similarly, they can cause kidney problems or worse, kidney failure.
- Testosterone suppression – this would be amusing if it wasn’t so depressing. You see, whilst anabolic steroids can provide your body with synthetic testosterone, this in turn can suppress your natural testosterone production by up to 40%. This means if you don’t do PCT after every cycle, it will do the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you are trying to achieve. Instead of increased muscle mass and fat loss. You WILL lose this muscle in as quickly as 4 weeks. You WILL put on weight. Hell, you might even develop moobs – ouch!
- Can cause virilization in women and aromatization for men – if you’ve not heard of these terms, but prepared to be astounded. Virilization is the process of taking on male traits e.g. facial hair and deeper voices, which I don’t imagine any woman wants as it can take months to rectify. Aromatization (where excess testosterone is converted into estrogen) can lead to the development of boobs.
- Can trigger negative mental effects if misused – they might not make you high, but they do linger in the brain. So take them incorrectly or in too high a dosage, and this can lead to: paranoia (extreme and unreasonable jealousy); aggression (roid rage and irritability); delusions (false ideas and beliefs); impaired judgement; mania and depression.
- Heart problems – and we don’t just mean changes to your blood pressure and cholesterol. It can also enlarge your heart; increase your risk of blood clots, and can multiply your risk of having a stroke and heart attack – even if you’re young.
- In men it can cause testicle shrinkage (say bye-bye to your manhood); reduced sperm count (and the fewer swimmers you have, the harder it will be to have kids); erectile dysfunction (if a shrinking package wasn’t enough, you might struggle to get it up), and increased risk of prostate cancer. In women it can trigger male-pattern baldness, breast shrinkage and changes to your period (they might even stop, leading to infertility).
Now, these are just a handful but none of them are good…
What’s funny about anabolic steroids is that for all the gains they boast about, their cons still dramatically outshine their pros.
It doesn’t matter how easily they can build up muscle mass; boost your metabolism; encourage fat burn, and bolster your energy, stamina and performance.
When you strip them down: they are still illegal; they are all dangerous to your physical and mental health (come on – none of the side effects listed above are worth taking the risk); their results are short-lived and temporary at best (especially if you don’t put in the effort to maintain them); they can all trigger substance abuse and addiction (no thanks), and quite often they can cause the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
So why risk it?
For that reason, if you’re serious about packing on the mass; please remember that there are safer and more legal alternatives you can choose from. Alternatives that won’t endanger your body or riddle it with negatives side effects. But alternatives that are 100% FDA approved and designed for your maximum satisfaction.
Explore more here: Best Steroids for Mass Gain and Safe Alternatives >>