When somebody talks to you about steroids.
What’s the first image that jumps into your head?
For most people, steroids are synonymous with bodybuilding.
And so they envision hulking great bodybuilders with veins like hosepipes, flushed red skin, and arms bigger than most people’s waists.
To others, however, steroids are considered purely medicinal.
And so they think of doctor’s surgeries and hospitals prescribing steroids and similar medications to treat a variety of illnesses.
So, who’s correct?
Well, both sets of individuals are because there are so many different types of steroids available for people to select from.
If you’re looking to get big and jacked, androgenic anabolic steroids can be very effective.
Though they are dangerous, as we’ll be finding out later.
If, however, you’re suffering from something as seemingly common as mild arthritis.
Steroids can also be prescribed by a doctor and used to treat the condition.
So, does this mean that arthritis sufferers are suddenly going to gain 20 pounds of muscle in a week!
And start chugging protein shakes and talking about ‘gains’ and ‘anabolic windows’ like there’s no tomorrow?
No, it doesn’t.
There are many different types out there to select from.
And each type is very different from the last.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the steroid types currently in existence.
Table Of Contents
Before we start looking at the differences between the types out there.
First, we need to clear something up.
Androgenic anabolic steroids, or AAS, like those used by some bodybuilders.
Are very dangerous, including Synthol.
They can disrupt hormone levels, elevated blood pressure.
Put a strain on your major organs, and much more besides.
Medicinal steroids, like any other medication, can also be dangerous if abused.
We, therefore, do not condone the illegal use of steroids.
Nor can we recommend it.
Even if you do want to build muscle!
We are also not here to cast judgment upon those that do use them.
As the aim of this article, today is simply to inform you about the key differences.
Right, now that that’s us covered legally.
Let’s make a start.
The word ‘steroid’ is very general, as there are a number of different types currently in existence, as we are going to be looking at later.
The word ‘steroid’ is actually of Greek origin.
As it is derived from the Greek words ‘Stere’ – meaning solid, and Eidos – meaning three-dimensional form.
To make matters a little more confusing, when you put them together.
They form the word ‘Stereoiedes’ which means ‘solid organic compound’.
Translate this into English, and stereoiedes becomes steroids.
Now, in terms of what steroids are classed as.
They are defined as organic compounds which are also soluble.
Comprising of not one, not two, not three, but four Cycloalkane rings.
These rings are comprised of over 20 carbon atoms that function by joining them together with one another.
It sounds technical, but don’t worry, it will soon all become much clearer.
Now, out of these four rings, three of them are known as Cyclohexane ring.
Which contains 6 unique carbon elements.
But what about the fourth ring?
Well, the fourth ring is a Cyclopentane ring, which contains 5 unique carbon elements.
Steroids can be injected, they come to be swallowed orally in tablet form.
Or they can even be consumed orally in powdered form.
You can check more about all kinds of PED on Oral VS Injectable steroids.
People use them for a number of different reasons.
Some do indeed use them to build muscle, burn fat, and improve athletic performance.
Whereas others are prescribed them by a doctor to treat a wide range of ailments.
Steroids can be exogenous or endogenous.
Endogenous steroids include things such as cholesterol.
Which is actually a type of steroid believe it or not, as it is derived from the nucleus of a steroid itself.
Testosterone is another steroid.
It is this sex hormone that forms the basis of all AAS currently used by bodybuilders and individuals looking to increase muscle mass.
Other steroids provide anti-inflammatory properties.
It is these which are used for medicinal purposes to treat conditions such as arthritis.
Vitamin D is also actually a steroid, which many people don’t seem to realize.
Endogenous steroids are produced internally within the body.
Whereas exogenous steroids are typically artificial versions of endogenous steroids which are created in a lab.
Exogenous steroids such as Dianabol.
Are designed to mimic the function of testosterone which is produced naturally.
So, now that we know what steroids are, and what some of the main differences are between the types.
We can now take a look at how different steroids are classified.
More often than not, people hear ‘steroid’ and think of building muscle mass.
While this is true for some steroids.
For others, it’s simply not possible because of their molecular structure.
Steroids come in all kinds of forms and can be found in the most unlikely of places.
Steroids can be found in the human body, in animals, in plants, herbs, and even fungi.
So, does that mean that you should go foraging through the woods eating any mushrooms, herbs, and plants you come across in order to build muscle and burn fat?
No, most certainly not.
As we said, not all steroids work by increasing muscle mass, strength, size, and function.
In fact, some have the exact opposite effect!
To help make the different types out there easily identifiable.
We can classify them into two categories.
These are Androgenic Anabolic Steroids, and Corticosteroids.
Basically, one category for muscle growth and athletic function.
And another category for medicinal purposes.
Things, of course, are not quite that simple.
So here are some different classifications of steroids for you to familiarize yourself with:
We’ll begin by looking at Corticosteroids.
Which are actually the most common type of steroid currently in existence!
The reason they are natural is that our own bodies produce them after the natural steroids boost.
They are produced just above the kidneys.
Via the adrenal cortex and they include natural steroidal hormones responsible for optimal health and function of the body.
Corticosteroids can actually be divided into two classes.
Which are mineralocorticoids and Glucocorticoids!
Mineralocorticoids are a variant of corticosteroids.
Which function by helping to ensure everything internally remains as it should.
In particular, they help to ensure that sodium levels within the body remain fully balanced.
There are many different mineralocorticoids but it is Aldosterone.
Which is considered the primary one.
This steroid is produced via the adrenal glands and helps to function on the kidneys and ensure that they function correctly when it comes to the active absorption of sodium.
Why is this important for the body though?
Well, the reason it’s important is because sodium plays a key role in a person’s blood pressure.
Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure.
Which can then result in a wide variety of different medical conditions and health issues – some of which could be fatal!
Up next we have glucocorticoids.
Glucocorticoids are also steroid hormones.
Which plays a vital role in the active uptake of macronutrients within the human body.
Glucocorticoids help to regulate a person’s metabolism and influence how we process fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
On top of that, however, they also provide anti-inflammatory benefits for the human body.
Plus! as you may have guessed from the name.
They play a vital role in determining how efficient the body becomes at metabolizing glucose.
In particular, pregnant women can benefit from glucocorticoids because they are thought to play an important role in the growth and development of the fetus.
Especially when it comes into the lungs.
Not only that, however, but they can also have therapeutic effects on the body.
And can help improve cognitive health and function.
Cortisol is a glucocorticoid, which is a stress hormone that bodybuilders fear greatly.
This is because cortisol has catabolic effects on the body and can result in muscle breakdown and wastage.
We produce cortisol in times of stress, though it doesn’t cause stress like some people wrongly believe.
It is designed to help relieve stress.
But the problem is that some of the side-effects do include muscle catabolism.
Now we’ll talk about corticosteroids, which are used for medicinal purposes.
As mentioned, some of the different types out there are used to treat a variety of illnesses and ailments.
And these are known as medicinal corticosteroids.
You see if your body is unable to produce adequate amounts of endogenous hormones.
Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to help restore the balance of things and to treat illnesses and ailments.
Though it may sound complex if you think of corticosteroids as strong anti-inflammatory drugs.
That’s basically what they are and how they function.
They are used to treat respiratory illnesses and conditions such as asthma.
As they help clear the airways and passages to the lungs to assist with healthy breathing.
They can also ease inflammation and swelling.
Which is why they are so useful for arthritis sufferers and individuals with similar conditions.
On top of that, they can be prescribed to help treat auto-immune conditions in which the body’s own immune system works against itself.
Basically, if you discuss medicinal corticosteroids with your doctor.
They will be able to put your mind at ease and tell you what you need to know.
Now we’re talking about the steroids that most of you are probably familiar with – anabolic steroids.
These steroids are the steroids that you read about in newspapers.
And see on the TV, being portrayed in a very negative light.
Anabolic steroids are the steroids used by bodybuilders and athletes that are looking to either increase their muscle mass, burn fat, improve their strength or athletic performance, or maybe a little bit of everything.
These steroids are in no way similar to corticosteroids.
Other than they have the word ‘steroids’ in there.
These are man-made compounds that are artificially created in a lab and are designed to mimic the effects of testosterone.
In fact, every anabolic steroid out there is a derivative of testosterone and is designed to function in a similar way to how testosterone functions in the body.
These steroids help to assist with the retention of Nitrogen within the muscles.
Helping to maintain a positive Nitrogen balance.
Why is this important?
Because in order for protein synthesis to occur, the body needs access to plenty of Nitrogen.
Protein synthesis is a natural process in which the body creates new muscle protein tissues to repair and replace existing muscle tissue that became damaged when you worked out in the gym.
When we lift weights, we create tiny rips and tears in our muscle fibers.
And we therefore actually build muscle when we rest.
When the body repairs this damage and builds even more muscle to attempt to prevent further damage.
The next time we train, we break it down.
And the process repeats itself and we become bigger and more jacked with each session.
Testosterone is the primary anabolic steroid in the body.
And it is produced naturally within the testes and adrenal glands.
It is the dominant male sex hormone and it plays a vital role in the growth and development of muscle tissue.
Common testosterone steroids used by bodybuilders including:
Each of these three different types of steroids is highly anabolic and play essential roles in muscle growth, size, and strength.
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.