Supplements and Steroids

Let’s have some straight talk here, the basic problem is that what is safe and effective is not legal and what is legal may not be safe or effective.

Supplements To Gain Muscle and Lose Fat

Here are three foods/supplements that I strongly believe every bodybuilder over the age of 18 should be using:

  1. Isolated whey protein powder (or organic protein powder)
  2. Flax seed ground at home (or fish oil)
  3. Green tea (not pills, just real brewed tea – no sweeteners or whiteners)

Here are supplements that many other people think are valuable, but am less optimistic about. You need to do research and decide for yourself. In my opinion, the below supplements might give you a 5% edge – not worth the money or potential health risks:

  1. Creatine
  2. Beta-alanine
  3. Glutamine
  4. Taurine
  5. Tyrosine
  6. Multivitamins

Todays muscle mags are packed with page after page of incredible sounding supplement advertisements with amazing testimonials and jaw-dropping before & after photos. Let the buyer beware! The basic rule to remember when choosing supplements is that if it sounds too good to be true, it is! Adding muscle is a slow and difficult process, if anyone tries to make it sound quick and easy then they they are lying. Remember, pro-hormone supplements are illegal. Anything that claims to have “steroid like results” is either lying or illegal.

Most people decide what supplements to take based on what they hear in the locker room, this is stupid! Don’t waste your money and risk potential health problems for something that wont help you anyway. Learn all you can about supplements from an unbiased source free of hype, this saves you from wasting money on stuff that wont help you anyway. I can highly recommend Bodybuilding Revealed by Will Brink he reviews all the supplements without getting trapped by brand name hype. For each supplement he lists what it is, what the research says about it, and what real-life users experience. Since supplements are unregulated, “truth in advertising” doesn’t exist and wild ridiculous claims are everywhere – this book will help you be an informed consumer.

Supplements are a huge business, 26 Billion dollars a year – their advertisements have shaped the way a generation thinks. They are completely legal but can be very dangerous because they are not regulated and don’t require any testing at all. I’ve been saying this for years and finally I have solid backup from the most respected non-profit consumer advocate groups in existence, Consumer Reports -please read the September 10 2010 issue. Here are the two most important quotes from their article:

  • “Because of inadequate quality control and inspection, supplements contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides or prescription drugs have been sold to unsuspecting consumers”
  • “China, which has repeatedly been caught exporting contaminated products, is a major supplier of raw supplement ingredients”.

My anti-supplement stance is not because I don’t think there are some effective ones but because of safety concerns. Not even simple toxicity tests are required on supplements. I could legally mix aspirin, caffeine tablets, and garden dirt in my lead bathtub and sell my supplement as “megalift muscle builder 1000″. So, what can you do to protect yourself? Be an informed consumer! First and most importantly, if you can,  buy supplements with the USP Verified mark. USP Verified is a trusted, non-profit, independent testing organization that verifies the quality, purity and potency of the product.  Failing testing from an independent lab, choose a brand with a reputation you trust – this will never be the cheapest one, sorry.  Source Naturals is one brand I trust so I have recommended a few of their products above.

Let me share with you my own personal experience with supplements. After years of not using any supplement other than protein powder, I decided to see what the buzz about the new creatine nitric-oxide product was about – lots of people seem to swear by it.  I decided to give in and try it for a month, how harmful could a creatine product be?  Well, it cost me $650 in medical bills to find out.   After three weeks of using it I had a routine physical and full blood test which discovered that my liver function was 10X normal meaning that my liver was working overtime cleaning some toxic crap out of my body.  After a liver ultrasound and several other expensive tests later, the only possible cause remaining was the creatine product.  Although I didn’t go to the expense of having the product itself tested for toxic impurities, I’m convinced they are there.  Anyway, shame on my for not listening to my own advice!

Think your supplements are safe because they are from a big reputable company? Think again! Check out this press release (read whole article):

“May 1, 2009 — Fourteen Hydroxycut products, marketed as fat burners, low-cost diet aids, and energy enhancers, are being recalled voluntarily by the manufacturer after the FDA received 23 reports of serious liver injuries ranging from jaundice to death.”

And that is from one of the most respected companies selling their most popular product! They never confessed what the problem was or how it happened but my guess is that because of lax manufacturing processes coupled with nonexistent batch testing, some heavy metals slipped into a batch and went un-noticed. If a highly profitable and well run company like that can sell toxic supplements, what do you think that all those products from no-name companies who advertise in the back of the muscle mags have in them???

Steroids

Steroids have the exact opposite problem from supplements. Like all other drugs, steroids are tightly controlled by the FDA and must undergo exhaustive tests to prove that they work and do not cause harm – sounds pretty good, huh?  I wish supplements had the same scrutiny. Once upon a time, steroids were legal but in 1970 the government came out with the Control Substance Act which classified steroids into schedule III making it illegal to possess without a valid prescription.   Doctors can legally prescribe it only under very limited situations and doctors who write too many prescriptions come under very close scrutiny by the DEA so don’t bother asking your doctor for a recreational prescription.  I’m not going to lie to you, steroids DO work, and they work well, otherwise Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire wouldn’t have used them. If you happen to live in a country where steroids are legal then you could do them under the close supervision of a doctor and it would be much safer than using untested, potentially dangerous supplement – and more effective too. Trouble is, in USA and Canada they are quite illegal. Many people make the mistake of thinking of steroids as just another supplement because they are so widely available at school and at the gym. They are not, steroids are illegal. Many gym goers don’t realize this but it IS illegal to posses even small, personal quantities - the jail term for a first time offence is 1 year. Its not just dealers who go to jail!

Assuming you were willing to take the legal risk, you could use a black market product or buy something over the internet but you will most likely end up buying something that not only doesn’t work but can be very dangerous. 90% of steroids sold are counterfeit!  If you lived in a country where steroids are legal then your doctor could prescribe known drugs with known concentrations and purity to avoid health problems and nasty cosmetic side effects but here’s the problem. With black market crud, you have no idea at all what you are taking – its very unlikely its what’s on the label. Because of this you can get some nasty side effects listed below. Its not uncommon for users of black market steroids to get life threatening infections from fake steroids that are not sterile. Of course, everybody overhears at the gym about how THEIR stuff is real – ya right. Remember my moto: Believe nothing you hear and only 50% of what you see with your own eyes. From what I understand, much of the counterfeit stuff today is so professional that only a lab can tell the difference – you are only fooling yourself if you think you can tell by looking at a bottle if its real or not. I’m not going to bore you with the health effects of steroid use, from my experience, people who take steroids are not concerned about the health problems but everyone is concerned about cosmetic side effects. Of course, not all steroids are the same just as all prescription drugs are not the same and you can’t make definitive statements like “All steroids cause …” . The side effects below depend on the person’s age, bodyweight, metabolism, the dosage, the drug used and whether it is fake or not – the side effects may be severe or nonexistent. Again, remember that with illegal, black market steroids you have no idea what you are taking so its likely you will experience one or more of the following.

Possible Cosmetic Side Effects of Steroids:

  • Stunted Growth. When teens take steroids, their vertical growth can stop permanently – even if they cease the steroids. Bone growth stops at puberty and the way the bones know they are at puberty is by all the hormones. If you artificially raise the hormone level by using steroids, the bones think its time to seal their ends and stop growth. This is a proven effect as steroids are often given to children who have undergone organ transplants to prevent organ rejection and these kids growth is stunted by feet (not inches). The question is how much steroid does it take to stop a teens growth?
  • Stretch Marks. Permanent purple, pink stretch marks in the skin. This is very, very common with steroid users. Here is a video showing some nasty stretch marks. Common places: between the pec and the shoulder, on the arms, on the quads. These stretch marks will never go away. The skin can only grow so fast and when steroids cause the muscles grow un-naturally fast, they skin just cant keep up and it basically tears causing the pink/purple lines. You can hide these stretch marks with that really dark fake-tan paint the bodybuilders paint on before contests which is one of the many reasons they use the tan-paint. As far as I know the only way to permanently get rid of these steroid caused stretch marks is cosmetic surgery, a very expensive proposition.
  • Distended Stomach. Here is a video showing the “pregnant bodybuilder” effect. This is very,very common in pro bodybuilding circles but not so common with casual users. My guess (just a guess) is that this only occurs at insanely high doses. Those steroids make everything grow, not just your muscles. All your intestines and internal organs grow too. When someone taking lots of steroids relaxes, their belly is HUGE – like a barrel or pregnant woman. Of course they can suck it in and flex it for a photo shoot but when they relax, its nasty. My guess is that this effect is not reversed when the steroids are stopped, the distension is probably permanent.
  • Acne and Blotchy skin. Purplish blotches all over the body, looks really weird. This is a very, very common side effect. The blotches can look like faint bruises or a bad zit that might be surfacing soon. The blotches are faint but noticeable. The acne is much worse than normal teen acne, it can be over the whole body in places not normally found on teens. The blotchyness should disappear when the steroids are discontinued but the acne can lead to permanent scarring. This is one of the many reasons that pro bodybuilders paint their bodies so dark with the tan-paint, to hide their horrible skin.
  • Puffy. Like a big marshmallow. One common side effect of some steroids is water retention, and lots of it. Youtube is filled with water-retaining puff-monsters. This is another reason why steroids can raise your blood pressure, but I digress, we are only talking about cosmetic effects. The puffiness goes away when the steroids are discontinued.
  • Gyno. I wont pretend that I understand the chemistry of this, and honestly, its not that important. Many steroids end up getting converted to estrogen (hormone found in high concentrations in women) in the male body. Well with that estrogen running around in the body, things start to happen that normally only happen to women. For example, fat deposits start accumulating in the nipple area – gyno. This is a fairly common, and embarrassing side effect and the only way to remove the problem is with surgery. Note, this is not to be confused with big pecs. You can have huge pecs, but not gyno. For example, here are the huge pecs of Johnnie Jackson, he does NOT have gyno. Gyno is a fatty lump that is only in the nipple area, a little breast sitting on top of your pec so to speak.
  • Hair Loss. I wont pretend I understand this one either but its the same underlying causes as gyno.
  • Fat gain. Some steroids as a side effect seem to cause increased appetite which leads to overeating and rapid fat gain. There is a reason that pro bodybuilders have an “off season” and make a big deal of their “bulking and cutting” technique. Lets not use euphemisms, ‘bulking’ is getting FAT, plain and simple. Pro bodybuilders don’t do it by choice, its a side effect of the steroids.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on steroids. My knowledge is second hand from watching experiences of those around me and from reading numerous books by the steroid guru Dan Duchaine, of course those books are now 25 years out of date. Just as a side note, Dan Duchaine died very young as was in jail for many years because of his steroid activities – his guru status came at a steep price.

Well, how do I get huge then?

What to do?  Steroids might possibly be safe when used under a doctors supervision, but that’s not possible in America and Canada because they are illegal. Supplements are legal and some give you a slight edge but most are completely untested and tainted with toxic heavy metals. So what a person to do? Give the old fashioned way a try: hard work, dedication, careful nutrition, and lots of time. If you want to try supplements, do research and find ones that will actually help then make sure that it has the USP Verified mark. If you are really bent on being 250lbs of solid muscle, I would advise moving to a country where steroids are legal and do it under the very close supervision of a doctor.

My stance on supplements isn’t going to make me popular as everyone wants that magic pill that lets you get huge and ripped in time for summer but I haven’t come across it yet.  The risk/benefit tradeoff is yours to make but gather as much information as you can before making it, become an expert and know what you are taking and why. Don’t take supplements just from anecdotal stories you hear at the gym.

Important Disclosure: I get a small referral fee from Amazon if you purchase the three supplements I recommend. I provide this website, the forum, and my videos completely free of charge, these sales help support my continued fitness work. You know I only rarely recommend the purchase of anything. If you are not 100% convinced you need something, don’t buy it! If you find better prices on any of these items anywhere, please buy the cheapest product and send me the link! Just check out the store carefully, ‘cheaper’ is not always less expensive – only deal with places that have good customer service and 100% satisfaction guarantees. I have always used amazon for my own purchases because I find them to be a great combination of good prices and top notch customer satisfaction which is why I use them here.