Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Steroids and How Do They Work?
When we say “steroid,” what we really mean is “anabolic steroid,” which is a man-made substance that has similar effects to testosterone in the body, including increased muscle growth and recovery, strength, and leanness.
Steroids accomplish this through various different mechanisms, but the net result is the same: protein synthesis rates are greatly increased or protein degradation rates are greatly reduced or both, which results in rapid muscle growth. The mechanisms whereby body fat levels are reduced or suppressed vary from drug to drug and aren’t worth diving into here, but just know that’s part of the “package” that steroids deliver.
While testosterone itself is the best known steroid, there are many others that are quite popular among athletes and bodybuilders, like…
- Deca Durabolin
Why so many different types of drugs, you wonder?
Because each have unique profiles in terms of potency, toxicity, side effects, and synergism. They, and others, are combined in various ways to create different types of steroid “cycles” for different purposes and goals.
For example, if you were a competitive bodybuilder and wanted to add 20 pounds of muscle in your off season, your steroid cycle is going to be very different than when you’re cutting for a show and need to reduce body fat while preserving muscle and increasing muscle fullness, dryness, hardness, and separation.
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How Are Steroids Given?
Steroids can be given topically (cream or ointment), by mouth (orally), or by injection. When injected, they can be given into a vein or muscle, directly into a joint or bursa (lubricating sac between certain tendons and the bones beneath them) or around tendons and other soft tissue areas.
How Do Steroids Work?
Steroids decrease inflammation and reduce the activity of the immune system. Inflammation is a process by which the body’s white blood cells and chemicals protect the body against infection and foreign organisms such as bacteria and viruses
In certain diseases, however, the body’s defense system (immune system) doesn’t function properly and is overactive. This may cause inflammation to work against the body’s own tissues and cause tissue damage. Inflammation is characterized by redness, warmth, swelling and pain.
Steroids reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals in order to minimize tissue damage. Steroids also reduce the activity of the immune system by affecting the function of white blood cells.
What Conditions Are Treated With Steroids?
Steroids are used to treat a variety of conditions in which the body’s defense system malfunctions and causes tissue damage. Steroids are used as the main treatment for certain inflammatory conditions, such as systemic vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels) and myositis (inflammation of muscle). They may also be used selectively to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, or gout.
What Are the Benefits of Steroids?
When inflammation threatens to damage critical body organs, steroids can be organ saving and, in many instances, life-saving. For example, they may help prevent the progression of kidney inflammation, which can lead to kidney failure in people who have lupus or vasculitis. For these people, steroid therapy may eliminate the need for kidney dialysis or transplant.
Low doses of steroids may provide significant relief from pain and stiffness for people with conditions including rheumatoid arthritis. Temporary use of higher doses of steroids may help a person recover from a severe flare-up of arthritis.
Why Are Steroids Injected?
Injecting steroids into one or two areas of inflammation allows doctors to deliver a high dose of the drug directly to the problem area. When doctors give steroids by mouth or IV, they cannot be sure an adequate amount will eventually reach the problem area. In addition, the risk of side effects is much higher with oral or IV steroids.
What Conditions Are Treated With Steroid Injections?
Steroids often are injected directly into joints to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or other inflammatory diseases. They also can be injected into an inflamed bursa or around tendons near most joints in the body.
Some people report relief from osteoarthritis when steroids are injected directly into swollen or painful joints.
What Are the Expected Benefits of Steroid Injections?
Steroid injections into a specific area are generally well tolerated and are less likely than other forms of steroid drugs to produce serious side effects. Also, the injections may help avoid the need for oral steroids or increased doses of oral steroids, which could have greater side effects.
How to Tell If Someone is On Steroids
It’s pretty easy to know if someone is on steroids.
If they look better than you…if they’re stronger than you…if they are making better gains…if they have more money…if their girlfriend is hotter… Steroids. 100%.
Well, that’s how the average gym bro thinks at least.
The real way to know is the more they claim natty or talk about their #dedication, the more drugs they’re on.
…I’m only half joking there. Heh.
Before we get into how to spot steroid use, let’s talk about why we should even care. Because as a general rule, I don’t think we should.
People have the right to do whatever they want with their bodies. Using steroids isn’t “cheating” if someone just wants to look a certain way or competes in a league (any sport) where everyone is on drugs (regardless of its “official” stance on drug use) or if his job requires that he be in extremely good shape, such as fitness modelings or acting.
Where I object to drug use, however, is when people use steroids to achieve a physique that isn’t attainable naturally and then claim natural to sell others on their advice, products, and services.
This is a huge disservice because everything changes when you’re on drugs. You can train a lot more frequently and intensely. You don’t have to be as strict on your diet. You don’t have to be as concerned with recovery.
And when chemically enhanced “athletes” claim natty and advise others to do what they do, these people never get anywhere near the same results. Many then assume they just don’t have the genetics to have a great physique and either give up or relegate themselves to mediocrity.
There are fake natural trainers and coaches out there that understand this difference and know how to modify routines and diets for natural weightlifters, but they’re few and far between.
So, now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about spotting steroid use.