For long-term health and fitness, please resist the temptation to “juice” for fast results!
Bodybuilding is a sport/activity in which many people choose to take steroids in order to reach maximum muscle growth, sooner rather than later. I’ve competed in the past, and I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed by the sight of the perfectly muscular and super lean physiques of the champions. It’s easy to dismiss all the hard work you may have put into your physique, whether it’s months or years of training. For this reason, I advise people to compete with caution if they decide that’s what they want to do. Bodybuilding is a subculture. And as with many subcultures, there are practices that leave many outsiders scratching their heads. Similar to the tattoo subculture in which people go to the extreme of inking their whole bodies and faces, many people in competitive bodybuilding take things to the extreme via steroids. Even amateurs know that steroid use comes with negative side effects, but to someone hoping to become a pro bodybuilder or the next fitness model sensation, only one benefit matters — muscle growth, and, maybe, increased strength and performance.
There are many reasons why you should resist the temptation to take steroids. One of the most obvious reasons is for your good health. If you care about long-term health, and not short-term attention from your muscular physique, stay away from steroids. If you don’t, in the long run, those lazy people who only hit the gym annually and sit on their butts all day, eating chips, may out live you — “the fitness freak.” That’s a twist, right? Below lists how this could happen, along with other undesirable side effects of steroid use.
Undesirable Steroid Side Effects for WOMEN:
- Enlarged clitoris: the enlarged or lengthened clitoris and/or a confused and erratic menstrual cycle.
- Increased bone density in the face, creating a masculine or transvestite-like look: caused by an overabundance of male hormones. Ladies, you won’t be fooling anyone if your face has become masculinized and you swear you haven’t juiced. No secret there.
- Coarse skin: caused by an overabundance of male hormones. This decreases the natural fat in the face that creates a youthful look, and instead creates a more aged, hard appearance. If preventing facial aging is a concern, stay away from steroids.
- Excess facial and body hair: caused by an overabundance of male hormones
- Deepened voice: large amounts of testosterone sending male signals to the brain, the control room for hormone production, and the various glands that manage the hormone output. Steroids play havoc with the entire system.
- Balding: baldness in female steroid users is caused by the body’s confused over-production of DHT- a hair inhibitor enzyme, which generally affects both sexes similarly.
The story of 1990s Female Bodybuilding, Beauty Denise Rutkowski:
Undesirable Side Effects for MEN:
- Balding: baldness in male steroid users is caused by over-production of DHT- a hair inhibitor enzyme, as with females.
- Enlarged prostate
- Gynecomastia (“man boobs”):
When the body converts the additional testosterone into estrogen and other female hormones in the male body, female breast tissue is sometimes formed.
- Shrunken testicles: due to an outside source of testosterone being introduced to the body, the testes slow down testosterone production and shrink.
Undesirable Steroid Side Effects for Both Genders:
- High blood pressure
- Possible liver damage/liver malfunction
- Increased cancer risk
- High or increased aggression (“roid rage”)
- High cholesterol: steroids change the levels of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol in the blood. Steroids, particularly oral steroids, increase the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL – bad cholesterol) and decrease the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL – good cholesterol). This increases the risk of atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty substances are deposited inside arteries and disrupt blood flow. If blood is prevented from reaching the heart, the result can be a heart attack. If blood is prevented from reaching the brain, the result can be a stroke.
Undesirable Long-term Side Effects:
- Trouble losing body fat (ironic huh?): steroid abusers who stop using often deal with atrophied muscle mass. Many former users report a problem managing weight gain or losing excess flab and soft tissue that occurs when the muscles are no longer being fed high doses of testosterone.
- Ligament and joint injury: caused by possible overexertion of muscles due to increased energy, but unprepared muscles
- Stunted growth: studies have shown that adolescents who abuse steroids are at risk of being short for life.
- Liver failure: peliosis Hepatitis, a condition in which blood-filled cysts replace liver and spleen tissue, has been reported in patients receiving long-term anabolic steroid treatments.
- Neurological issues: studies have confirmed steroid abuse has a long term effect on the neurological pathways of the brain.
- Possibility of contracting HIV: intravenous needle sharing, combined with a heightened sex drive and libido function can be a very dangerous combination.
- Complications with high blood pressure
- Possible liver damage/liver malfunction
- Complications with increased cancer risk
- Enlarged clitoris in women
- Increased hair growth in women
- Increased facial bone density in women
So, what should you choose? The natural way or the short-lived, quick way?
As with any sport, genetically gifted people are more likely to win a bodybuilding contest. You can train hard and diet just right, but it might take you years to reach the level of the competitors who win frequently. Be mindful that you also may not know how the winners got to where they are. For example, as a personal trainer, I trained myself for the competition I did in 2009; my first and only contest. I wrote my nutrition plan trained 6 days per week, cut and met with an adviser leading up to the show. I was proud of my progress. As a competitor in the Figure category, against most of the other competitors, I stood a chance at getting decently placed. But the woman who took home first place — in just about every category, had extraordinary, comic book superhero-like quads. To get quads like hers it would take years of work. She also had a team; consisting of a nutritionist and a trainer, along with a personal tanner, and who knows what else. Other competitors used med spas to aid in fat loss, and others, of course, used steroids.
I didn’t look so great next to the overall winner at my contest. And some girls also had well-developed traps, something I later improved on. Either way, many people walk away from a competition feeling inadequate and feeling deflated and dejected, they ultimately turn to that magic “juice” aka, steroids.
Ultimately, the people who choose steroids are not concerned with health, they’re concerned with image. A person concerned with health would not look at the above list of well-known, easily searchable side effects and go through with using the substance. Steroid use is incompatible with long-term health. Anything worth having, especially for the long run, usually takes time and hard work to achieve. In the end, you can enjoy it while others who may have got more easily, lose it, and struggle to get it back.
If you take proper control of how you nourish your body, you can reach your goals faster. Put an emphasis on pre, intra and post-workout nutrition, and think of food as fuel. I think the doctors who wrote Nutrient Timing said it the best. Some food for thought:
“In the last few years, we have seen sports nutrition dominated by the use of illegal drugs and supplements. However, the many studies we have cited show that Nutrient Timing gives us a tool which will enable athletes to safely achieve gains in strength, power, and performance with the most basic of all tools — the food they eat” – Nutrient Timing
“What Causes Prostate Cancer?,” anonymous, eHealthMD, October 2004
“Steroids: Anabolic.Androgenic,” anonymous, Focus Adolescent Services, 2005 “Dr. Delgado’s Gynecomastia FAQ,” Dr. A. Delgado, Gynecomastia.org, January 2007