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Anabolic Steroids, or more technically accurate anabolic/androgenic steroids, are a class of drugs based on the testosterone molecule. The primary male sex steroid, testosterone is responsible for many activities in the body. Many of these actions fall into one of two groups. On one side are its tissue constructive (anabolic) properties, which include the support of bone mineral density and skeletal muscle growth. Testosterone is responsible for men carrying much more muscle mass on average than women. On the other side are its androgenic properties. These include the support of secondary male sexual characteristics such as deepening of the voice and body/facial hair growth. For a more complete discussion on the effects of testosterone, please visit the page Testosterone – Understanding the Basis for AAS.
Anabolic steroids are a very broad class of drugs. Many of these products contain synthetically manufactured copies of the testosterone molecule, which are indistinguishable from that produced natural by the body. Many others are variants of this basic hormone. Since the isolation and synthesis of testosterone back in the 1930’s, more than 1,000 compounds have been created under this category. This vast derivatization was undertaken in an effort to make new drugs with different levels of anabolic or androgenic action in relation to testosterone, or otherwise improve its therapeutic application. Much effort was also undertaken to completely isolate the anabolic effects of testosterone. In spite of this, however, no purely anabolic steroid was ever developed. All drugs of the anabolic steroids class have some balance of anabolic and androgenic activity.
Though anabolic steroids are modern medicines, they are surprisingly poorly understood in modern society. Much of this has to do with the isolated nature of their use. While there are millions of anabolic steroids users worldwide, they still represent a small minority of the population. Furthermore, the average person has little incentive to research these drugs. Most exposure to anabolic steroids comes in the form of passing mention in the media. Combine this with the salacious subject of cheating in high-level sports, and we have a recipe for rash judgment. While the abuse of anabolic steroids clearly has health risk, these are still medicines, not toxic substances. The acute (short-term) risk to health, even when abusing anabolic steroids, is low. Health concerns tend to become much more substantive with long-term abuse, and often involve the cardiovascular system. For a more complete discussion on the side effects of anabolic steroids, please visit the page Steroid Side Effects.
Anabolic.org is devoted to providing a free, open, and always well-researched platform for the better understanding of anabolic steroids. This is the anabolic steroids hub page. From here, you can access basic articles from ANABOLICS 10th Edition, or profiles of the individual anabolic steroids and related agents. You will also find a quick FAQ list (Frequently Asked Questions) below.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1) How much weight can someone expect to gain during the first cycle of steroids?
Provided dosing is sufficient, a steroid user can expect to make the most significant progress during their first cycle. Although this will vary from person to person, it is not uncommon for someone to gain 20 pounds of weight or more during a 6-8 week period of AAS use. Some of this may be water retention, although a solid gain of more than 10-15 pounds of muscle mass is possible.
2) Are the gains from steroid use temporary?
Yes, and no. Steroids can help you do two basic things with regard to muscle growth. First, they can allow you to more rapidly reach your genetic limits for muscle growth. Provided you continue to train actively, eat properly, and use an effective PCT program, you should be able to maintain at your genetic limit indefinitely. So in this regard, the early gains do not have to be temporary.
Later, steroids can allow you to push well beyond your genetic limits. It is important to emphasize this, as extreme physical development cannot be maintained long-term without the repeat administration of anabolic substances. The body will always revert back towards its normal metabolic limits once AAS are removed. In this context, some of the gains will not be permanent.
Steroids do permanently alter the physiology of your muscles by adding more cellular nuclei. With higher nuclei content, each muscle cell can manage its volume more efficiently, which allows more rapid expansion. Even after a long period of complete abstinence from training and AAS, the nuclei remain.372 This may provide a “muscle memory” effect, allowing you to reach your genetic limit (perhaps a slightly extended limit) faster than if you had never used AAS in the past. So in this regard, there are lasting benefits beyond the temporary increase in muscle size itself.
3) Can steroids make me look like a professional bodybuilder?
If you have the underlying genetics to allow for this extreme muscle growth, this may be possible with a lot of hard work and dedication. If you are like the vast majority of people, however, steroids will not be able to make you look like a professional bodybuilder. Genetics are a big factor in determining the ultimate limits to your physique, even in an enhanced state. Many people use steroids and look very big and impressive because of it, but very few users are able to make it to the stage of a professional bodybuilding show.
4) How dangerous is an isolated cycle of steroids?
Anabolic/androgenic steroids are among the safest drugs available, at least in a short-term sense. Fatal overdose is not reasonably possible, and the negative health changes such as alterations in cholesterol, blood pressure, hematocrit, and blood clotting (among other things) are very unlikely to manifest in serious bodily harm or death after an isolated cycle. There are rare deaths from such things as stroke and liver cancer in short-term abusers, but such occurrences are statistically extremely rare in light of the millions of people that use these drugs. If you had to comparatively rate the acute risks of AAS abuse, they would be slightly higher than marijuana, but far less than virtually all other illicit narcotics.
5) How dangerous is long-term steroid use?
The long-term use of steroids for nonmedical reasons can be a significantly unhealthy practice. It has been difficult, however, to quantify the exact risk. The main issue is the fact that AAS abuse can promote heart disease, the number one killer of men. Heart disease is a slow progressive disease, which may build for decades without symptoms. Steroid abuse may accelerate the silent process of plaque deposition in the arteries, and also induce other changes in the cardiovascular system that can increase susceptibility to stroke or heart attack. If death finally occurs, however, it will be difficult for a medical examiner to pinpoint AAS as the cause; too many variables play a role in the etiology of cardiovascular disease. The vast majority of deaths where AAS have contributed go unreported for this reason. The exact mortality rates of long-term steroid abusers have, likewise, been difficult to calculate. According to one population-based study, steroid abusers had a 4.6 times greater risk of early death from all causes including suicide compared to non-users.373 It is unknown, however, how applicable this number is to the full steroid-using population. It is especially important to closely monitor cardiovascular disease and other health risk factors if long-term steroid use is a practice you will follow.
6) Can steroids be used to enhance an athletic career safely?
The nonmedical use of AAS by definition cannot be defined as a safe practice. However, it can be argued that anabolic/androgenic steroids can be used with high relative safety, even over a period of many years. The guidelines of steroid harm reduction are important to minimizing the negative health effects of these drugs. Provided an individual follows these guidelines and is careful with drug selection, dosages, and durations of intake, follows a diet low in saturated fats, cholesterol, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, actively trains with both resistance and cardiovascular exercise, and uses cholesterol support supplements such as fish oils and Lipid Stabil during all cycles, it may be difficult in many cases to argue high tangible health risks. It takes a great deal of involvement and planning to use AAS in this manner, which is always advised.
7) What are the safest steroids for men?
Testosterone, whatever the form, tends to be the safest steroid for men. When the dose remains within the moderately supratherapeutic range (such as 200-400 mg of an injectable testosterone ester per week), alterations in cardiovascular risks factors are noticed, but not extreme. Some of this has to do with the beneficial cardiovascular effects of estrogen in men. Also considered fairly safe are the common injectable steroids boldenone, nandrolone, and methenolone. Isolating your use to these drugs is recommended over using the full spectrum of oral and injectable steroids.
8) What steroids will not cause hair loss?
For those with a genetic predisposition to hair loss, all anabolic/androgenic steroids are capable of accelerating the process. Slowing the onset of this during AAS use requires a focus on reducing relative androgenicity in the scalp. This can be accomplished with the use of predominantly anabolic drugs such as nandrolone, oxandrolone, or methenolone. Alternately, moderate doses of testosterone can be used with finasteride, a drug that reduces DHT conversion (and androgenic amplification) in the scalp. Still, those genetically prone to hair loss can have problems with any steroid, and are always advised to limit dosing, drug intake durations, and monitor effects on the hairline closely.
9) What are the safest steroids for women?
Women are generally most concerned with the virilizing (masculinizing) effects of anabolic/androgenic steroids. The least virilizing agents are those with the highest relative anabolic to androgenic effect, such as nandrolone, oxandrolone, and methenolone. Care must always be taken, however, as all AAS are based on male sex steroids, and as such can cause masculinizing effects in women.
10) Should I rotate my steroids every few weeks to prevent receptor downregulation?
No, this is not necessary. Anabolic/androgenic steroids all work primarily by attaching to and activating the same receptor. As such, you do not gain anything by switching to a new compound that works via stimulating the same receptor. If tolerance were induced by one AAS compound, it would be extended to all compounds. The plateau effect that is noticed 6-8 weeks into most cycles is poorly understood, but likely related to the new metabolic limits placed on muscle cells under the influence of a certain AAS dosages, not insensitivity to AAS. Classic downregulation does not occur with these drugs, and even if it did, rotating steroids would not prevent it.
11) How likely am I to find real steroids on the black market? Does it matter?
Although exact figures are difficult to calculate, real pharmaceutical anabolic/androgenic steroids are estimated to represent half or less of the products commonly circulated on the black market. In many regions this figure may be below 25%. The majority of products sold presently are counterfeit copies of real AAS, or products made and labeled by underground laboratories. It does matter, because the quality of nonmedical AAS cannot be ensured. These products are generally not advised for use. Given the potential issues with drug safety, it is worthwhile to spend the extra time and money on steroid products you can be assured came from legitimate pharmaceutical channels.
12) What do the anabolic and androgenic reference numbers under the profile for each steroid mean?
These numbers come from early studies measuring the effect of each steroid on certain muscle and sex organ tissues of animals, usually mice. These numbers are useful for assessing the relative anabolic to androgenic balance of each drug in humans. They are not as accurate at assessing the total muscle building potential of each steroid, however, and should not be taken as absolute ratings of potency.
372. Anabolic Steroids Withdrawal in Strength Trained Athletes: How Does It Affect Skeletal Muscles?,” Anders Eriksson and Lars-Eric Thornell. American Physiological Society. The Integrative Biology of Exercise V, Sep 24-27, 2008 Hilton Head, SC.
373. Increased premature mortality of competitive powerlifters suspected to have used anabolic agents. Pärssinen M, Kujala U, Vartiainen E, Sarna S, Seppälä T. Int J Sports Med. 2000 Apr;21(3):225-7.