For a lot of men, the thrill of bulking up can be overwhelming. The urge to build muscle fast is so great that taking anabolic steroids (anabolic-androgenic steroids, or AS) seems like an obvious choice. After all, all the big boys are doing it, and they’re pumped and ripped, right? Sure, but steroids also come with some nasty surprises, the kind that you don’t hear about until it happens to you.
Here’s what you need to know…
ANABOLIC STEROIDS ARE NOT REALLY ILLEGAL
The first thing that you should know is that they are not illegal in the United States if used in the right way. When people hear the word “steroids,” they immediately think of illegal use. But doctors sometimes prescribe them for patients with certain medical conditions, like delayed puberty or diseases resulting in major muscle and fat loss – AIDS or cancer, for example.
Basically, if you don’t have a doctor’s prescription, then they’re illegal, but not in all countries. In Thailand and Mexico, for instance, they are readily available. In sports, “doping” is widespread yet strictly forbidden by most sports organizations as it gives the athlete an unfair advantage.
EXPECT PHYSICAL SIDE EFFECTS
While anabolic steroids enhance athletic performance, they affect various body organs and interfere with delicate balance systems, which can be very harmful – especially in men with certain medical conditions, or when taken long-term or in excess.
Adverse effects and symptoms are common, and high blood pressure, heart disease, dangerous cholesterol changes, and liver damage are all high risks for users. Other notable effects include a weakened immune system, infertility, acne (very common), and balding. Gynecomastia, a condition in which males start to develop woman-like breasts due to elevated estradiol, is also a possibility.
EXPECT PSYCHOLOGICAL SIDE EFFECTS
Anabolic steroids are known to influence behavior. Because they mimic the effects of the male sex hormone testosterone, they trigger enhanced masculine behavior, increased sexual appetite, and aggressiveness. Though increased aggression can certainly prove helpful when training or in competition, it often leads to violence (aka “roid rage”) in social settings and everyday situations.
There are many reports of criminal activity by those who take AS. Men can also expect other side effects, like confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, and compulsive anxiety. Additionally, there is a risk for dependency and withdrawal symptoms since these synthetic steroids are drugs.
SHOULD YOU TAKE ANABOLIC STEROIDS?
Probably not. Performance-wise, they do make a difference and will most likely make you train harder, but the health and legal risks outweigh the advantages by far. And considering that they are branded a “controlled substance” in many countries, it is very likely that you will come across “homemade in the basement” varieties, which are even more dangerous.
Besides, they can be quite expensive. Ultimately, the decision to take anabolic steroids isn’t one that should be taken lightly, and there are much better ways to build muscle and improve performance. All you need is the right balance of diet and exercise and some motivation.
YOUR TURN: Have you taken anabolic steroids? What impact did it have on your body and performance? We would love to hear your thoughts. Please share your experience in the comment section below.