Have you ever wondered how some bodybuilders out there can gain close to 100 pounds of seemingly solid muscle?
Yet here we are, busting our butts in the gym and barely able to gain a single pound of mass.
While we can’t prove this, we would bet very good money on this being due to the fact that you are natural, and those that are 100 pounds heavier, are not.
Like it or not, anabolic steroid use is rife in the world of bodybuilding.
And in many other sports as well, and that is not going to be changing anytime soon.
It’s scary, yet amazing, to see just what a difference a steroid cycle can make on a person’s physique.
This is why today, we are going to look at how do anabolic steroids work.
Building muscle is about so much more than protein shakes, bicep curls, and meal prep.
It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to build muscle.
Which is why some people choose to use steroids to improve the results they get from the gym.
You yourself may have been tempted to use steroids, and if that is indeed the case.
You’ll need to know how they work.
Here’s a more detailed look at anabolic steroids and how they work.
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Yes, we know it’s boring, but it’s got to be said because we care about our readers.
Anabolic steroids are dangerous.
No, seriously, they’re very dangerous, and if they are abused they can be fatal.
With that said, we can not condone their use or recommend anybody use them because the risks far outweigh the benefits.
We also understand that people are going to use them anyway.
And if they are, we’d rather they understood what steroids are and how they work.
That’s why we’ve been gracious enough to compile this article looking at how do anabolic steroids work.
So, take a look, read up, and decide whether you think the risks are worth it.
We know that anabolic steroids are generally viewed as being very popular amongst bodybuilders.
But what exactly are they?
Well, while there is a lot of science involved.
We’ll try to keep things relatively simple so that we can move through everything at a decent pace.
Basically, anabolic steroids are man-made compounds created in laboratories.
That is all derived from testosterone such as Equipoise.
If you imagine aromatherapy, all essential oils start off with a base oil.
Before fragrances are added.
Testosterone acts as the base oil on steroids.
Testosterone is an androgenic anabolic sex hormone that plays an essential role in the development and maintenance of muscle tissue.
Furthermore, it can also help promote athletic performance.
Men produce large quantities of testosterone, primarily in the testes.
Though some are produced via the adrenal glands.
Women also produce very small amounts of testosterone in the ovaries, though the amounts they produce are far too small to have any real impact on muscle size and strength.
Steroids are molecularly altered in labs to enable them to function in a variety of different ways.
Some steroids are created to pile on as much muscle mass as is humanly possible.
Whereas other steroids are created to burn fat and keep the metabolism ticking over such as Winstrol, Anavar, and Trenbolone.
The types of steroids you use will depend on what you want to get from your training.
If you are sick of being a scrawny weakling.
Your goal will likely be to pile heaps of muscle mass onto your physique.
This means that powerful anabolic steroids will need to be used.
If you just want to tone up and burn 10 pounds of fat or so, a weaker, less-potent steroid can be utilized instead.
Okay, now that we know what steroids are, and that there are so many different types to choose from.
You don’t just stick a needle in your butt, or swallow a few tablets.
And suddenly gain 30 pounds of muscle in a matter of days.
The mechanisms behind how it works are highly complex.
But once you understand it, everything will suddenly make a lot more sense.
If you’re a male, you’ll remember what it was like when you went through puberty.
When adolescents go through puberty, their bodies start producing large amounts of testosterone.
This causes them to become taller, wider, heavier, more muscular.
And results in things like acne, greasy skin, a deeper voice, and mood swings.
Androgenic hormones, for example, are sex hormones and so they are responsible for sexual characteristics like sperm count, libido, penis size, testicle size, and so on.
Anabolic hormones, however, are responsible for the growth of muscle tissue, bone size, strength, red blood cell count, and so on.
Anabolic steroids, therefore, are specially created in order for them to mimic the effects of anabolic hormones within the body while mimicking the tissue-building effects of androgens while leaving out the sexual characteristics, and this is why are steroids bad.
So, just what is it about anabolic steroids that enables people to build so much muscle?
Well, steroids function by stimulating receptor molecules within cells inside the muscles.
Once these receptors become stimulated.
They burst into action and activate specialist genes which then produce muscle proteins.
Not only that, but they also work by speeding up the rate in which protein is metabolized.
This means that they enhance protein synthesis.
Which is a process responsible for generating new muscle protein tissues!
As well as that, they help to preserve the muscles by slowing down protein degradation in the muscles.
This makes steroids anti-catabolic.
Which means that they help to prevent muscle loss and wastage.
In order for anabolic steroids to work, they must bind onto the receptors located within the skeletal muscular system.
As well as muscles located in our arms, legs, and anywhere else in the body as well for that matter.
Without this process of action, steroids will not function as they were designed to function.
In each cell in our muscles, we have a nucleus.
The nucleus is like the battery for that cell, as that is what is responsible for the energy needed for the cell to function.
Once steroids get into the system, they then make their way into the nucleus of each muscle cell.
Which then alters the total amount of proteins that can be generated.
Proteins, you see, play a pivotal role in the production of muscle tissue.
The proteins which are being utilized for muscle-building purposes are basically boosted so that more of them are produced than usual.
To make things even better, the proteins which cause muscle tissue to break down, are actually reduced, so muscle tissue is preserved.
When it comes to muscle wastage, cortisol is a hormone that plays a very important role in the breakdown of muscle tissue.
Cortisol is a stress hormone, which we produce and secrete in times of stress.
Now, although exercise is viewed as being very beneficial.
The downside is the fact that exercise is viewed by the body as being a primary cause of stress.
When we exercise, the body thinks that it is ill/suffering/under attack.
And so it produces elevated amounts of this stress hormone.
Cortisol binds to receptors in the muscles, which then causes muscle catabolism.
Ironically, this means that by training intensely and for prolonged durations.
You are actually causing your muscles to break down and suffer.
The problem is that if the cortisol is not working, the body then produces more cortisol to try to rectify the problem.
Which causes more problems like a suppressed immune system, muscle wastage and breakdown, fatigue, lethargy, depression, and more.
When you are taking steroids,
It is all well and good.
But once you come off cycle, cortisol levels may stay elevated for quite some time.
Which is when problems arise.
Testosterone, as mentioned, is the primary sex hormone in men, though it is also found in women.
It helps to regulate sexual health and function in a variety of different ways.
To begin with, it helps regulate the amount of sperm produced in men, and how many eggs a woman produces.
It helps to boost libido, it causes the breasts in women to develop, it increases the size of the testicles in men, and much more besides.
It also helps to prevent the natural synthesis of luteinizing hormone and FSH.
Or follicle-stimulating hormone, which is needed to form fit and healthy sperm.
When anabolic steroids are utilized by men, one of the main problems is that luteinizing hormone levels.
And follicle-stimulating hormone levels, both drop dramatically.
This means that sperm volumes decrease drastically.
The fact that a man produces less healthy sperms when he is on steroids means that steroids can potentially lead to infertility.
Which will cause all kinds of relationship problems if he is trying to start a family with his partner!
You may also have heard people talking about how steroids cause the penis to shrink.
If anybody says that to you.
You may wish to politely correct them and talk about the fact that, actually, steroids do not shrink the penis at all.
What they do shrink, however, is the testicles.
Testicular atrophy in steroid users is a very serious problem, and the changes in size can be quite shocking in all honesty.
You would think that the testicles would expand and increase in size when in reality the exact opposite happens.
You get bigger, but the testes get smaller.
Testosterone also aromatizes when there is too much in the body.
This means that steroid use causes build-ups of Estrogen in the body.
Estrogen has feminizing effects on a man, and it causes him to develop breasts.
It slows the metabolism.
It interferes with hormone production and regulation.
And it can result in mood swings.
Furthermore, it also lowers the sex drive.
So, we’ve looked at how do anabolic steroids work, but what we haven’t looked at yet is the legal usage of steroids.
We know that the steroids taken by bodybuilders are primarily illegal and are typically created in underground labs, which is normally a kitchen, basement, or garage.
Legal steroids which are prescribed by doctors, however, are used by people every day, for all kinds of reasons.
Well, the steroids you get prescribed by a doctor are not the same as the anabolic androgenic steroids that bodybuilders use to enhance their physiques and performance in the gym.
Legal steroids are utilized to treat a wide range of ailments, ranging from common infections to hormonal imbalances.
Some men are diagnosed with abnormally low levels of testosterone.
They can receive testosterone replacement therapy via their doctor.
This is where they are injected with pure testosterone to help keep test levels in a healthy range for where they should be.
Some bodybuilders have to receive prescription shots of testosterone after running steroid cycles because the steroids can shut down the natural production of testosterone.
This means that as they aren’t producing any.
It has to get into their bodies somehow, and an injection is the only way.
There are also natural supplements that are referred to as legal steroids.
As they mimic the actions of illegal steroids.
Despite being all-natural and completely legal.
They aren’t generally as potent or powerful as anabolic steroids.
But they certainly make a difference.
Reda is an ACE Certified Nutritionist, Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt and bodybuilder with 11 years of experience. He's been published on many influential websites such as lifehack.org, Wealthy Gorilla, Good Men Project and more.