- What are steroids?
- Corticosteroids and anabolics explained
- What do hormones have to do with steroids?
- The science behind anabolic steroids and the body
- Using steroids
- What types of steroids are there?
- What are the ‘benefits’ of anabolic steroids?
- What are the side effects of anabolic steroids?
- The verdict on steroids
What are the ‘benefits’ of anabolic steroids?
The term ‘benefits’ should be used loosely here as these benefits are often short-lived and a number of severe side effects are often the after effect and consequence of the said benefits.
At this point, we know the facts regarding steroids. These are:
- Steroids are vital chemical compounds that play an important role in our bodily functions. Anabolic hormones are produced naturally in our bodies and are produced in synthetic versions in labs.
- The three primary hormones that are involved in the growth of muscle tissue are:
- GH (growth hormone)
- IGF (insulin-like growth factors) – these are the primary mediators of the effects of GH (growth hormone). Growth hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland, enters the blood stream and stimulates the liver to produce IGF.
- Anabolic steroids influence the body’s metabolism.
**My Med Memo – Your metabolism consists of chemical processes that occur in your body in order for you to function and live. These processes include anabolism, this is the build-up of certain substances and catabolism, this is the breakdown of certain substances. When people use the term ‘metabolism’ they are generally referring to the breakdown of food and the conversion of this into the energy needed to function.
In order to provide insight into both sides of the argument regarding the effects of steroids, it is only appropriate that we discuss the benefits and reasons why a number of people use steroids. Bear in mind, that a number of these perceived benefits are not scientifically proven and are based on some case studies conducted on individuals rather than larger sample groups that would give a more accurate representation of the facts.
There are also several negative side effects as a result of abusive steroid use that will be discussed hereafter.
Some of the benefits of steroid use include:
- Decrease in recovery time – Those who use steroids are known to have their recovery time decrease dramatically. Earlier we spoke about cortisol and the effects that it has on the body, causing damage to the muscle tissues as well as slowing down the time it takes for the human body and muscles to recuperate. Anabolic steroids will often regulate the body’s production of cortisol when the body is under stress. This aids in the recovery time for injuries sustained and muscle trauma being sped up, thus allowing for an increase in stamina when exercising.
- Increase in muscle size – This is one of the most well-known effects of steroids as anabolic steroids facilitate an increase in testosterone levels or when the steroid is a synthetic version of testosterone, will allow for more testosterone to enter the body. Testosterone is a critical factor for muscle growth. In some cases, the muscles will continue to develop without exercise, but exercise and training will reap drastic results.
- Reduction in body fat – Steroids are able to reduce body fat which has been identified as a result of an increased metabolic rate. Some experts also believe that steroids are able to oxidize fat, this is known as lipid oxidation. This refers to using fatty acids for the production of energy.
- Steroids are used to treat several medical conditions – As previously mentioned, steroids were initially used primarily for patients suffering from muscle atrophy as a result of illness or for individuals needing extra testosterone in order to improve their loss of libido or to facilitate puberty when the individual is unable to do so naturally.
- Increase in red blood cell production – Steroids have shown to accelerate the production of red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body in order to reach all of the tissues and organs. When more oxygen can be transported to the muscles, this gives them the ability to work harder and for longer periods. Because of this, a number of endurance athletes use anabolic steroids with these effects, despite their use being illegal.
**My Med Memo - EPO (erythropoietin) is a popular steroid due to effect it has on red blood cell count (red blood cells carry and release oxygen and increased numbers of these improve tissue oxygen supply and performance during exercise). In addition to taking this drug, athletes have also started to make use of a process that is referred to as ‘blood doping.’ This is done through removing some of the individual’s own blood and freezing it in a process that is similar to donating blood. The athlete's body will then replenish the red blood cells that have been drawn, then before an event or competition, they will re-inject the blood back into their body. Therefore, creating an increase in their red blood cells and an increase in aerobic performance. However, this process thickens the blood and can lead to blood clots, kidney damage, heart disease or pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung). Thus, the side effects can be fatal.
- Increased performance – Steroids are able to enhance the performance as the user experiences more stamina and energy. They can then push themselves hard and reach new limits.
- Increase in appetite – Due to an increased metabolic rate (the rate at which your body turns certain compounds such as sugar, fat and other foods into energy), appetite is increased.