All About Steroids
First lets get this out of the way. Steroids are illegal pretty much in any country where there is internet access so if you are reading this, steroids are probably illegal where you live. So what are we talking about here? The words “Steroids”, “PEDs”, “TRT”, and “Pro-hormones” are often used interchangeably when the distinctions are actually rather important. For a male, the normal range of testosterone is 270-1070 whereas in a woman its like 50-100. High levels of testosterone make it easier for hard, intense workouts to be rewarded with strength gains and muscle mass gains. By “high levels” I mean 5x-10x the normal range – stratospheric testosterone levels that would never be reached normally.
- Testosterone, the hormone in your body that makes it easier to build muscle. Normal level for male, 270-1070.
- Anabolic steroids – drugs used to raise the testosterone level 5-10x normal, levels 5000-10,000
- TRT, Testosterone Replacement Therapy – a treatment plan where a man with testosterone levels below 250 is bumped up into the normal range (270-1070)
- PEDs, Performance Enhancing Drugs – these can be anything. As Lance Armstrong made famous, the drugs and treatments he did enhanced his ability to intake oxygen (EPO). Anything that improves performance that is not allowed by the rules is a Performance Enhancing Drug. In some sports, Advil, the over the counter pain reliever could very well be considered a PED.
- Pro-hormone supplements – A product designed by a really smart chemist to get around legal restrictions on selling steroids. Once consumed it is converted into steroids in your body and raises testosterone to stratospheric levels just like anabolic steroids. Despite the fact that pro-hormones are labeled as supplements and sold at “health food” stores, make no mistake, they are anabolic steroids and have all the risks associated with steroids.
Are Steroids Cheating?
Thats a moral question that you have to answer for yourself but in my book, it depends on the situation. If someone has quietly taken steroids for three years allowing them to gain muscle very rapidly then turns around and starts a YouTube channel selling their $49 eBook “secrets to fast natural gains” then not only are they a cheater in my opinion but the scum of the earth for deceiving people into thinking that they could possibly get steroid gains naturally. On the other hand, if its a 320 pound IFBB pro bodybuilder then although it is illegal, even my mother knows that these guys are on steroids and that to even be allowed to compete in the sport you have to do steroids. So for an IFBB pro, its not cheating, its expected.
As far as it being cheating because you are getting muscle without working for it, that is not the way steroids work. Perhaps you get a small amount of muscle gain simply from taking the steroids but the idiots who expect this end up with acne-scared skin for life and still look like a DYEL. Steroids work by allowing people to train harder, longer, and more often without suffering from overtraining. Two guys training side by side, one on steroids and one not, the steroid user will gain massive amounts of muscle while his natty training partner will *lose* muscle mass from over training. So steroids are really not cheating in this sense, it just allows users to get results from their excess work.
Signs of Steroid Use
Most of these signs, are just that, signs. Any one of them by itself is no indication of steroid use but when many of the signs are seen in combination, it can be a reliable indication of steroid use. In the human body, things typically change very slowly so when rapid changes occur, that is a good indication of steroid use. For example, someone who has been lifting for 5 years gaining 5 pounds of muscle a year suddenly gains 25 pounds in a year and gets a horrible case of backne and stretch marks on their biceps – might as well get a tattoo on their forehead that says “STEROIDS”
- Yearly muscle mass gain above what is normal, please see my muscle gain expectation calculator! This is the only reliable indication of steroid use! Except in very rare circumstances you cannot tell if someone has used steroids in the past by simply looking at them, you have to know how fast they gained the muscle. If someone gained 30 pounds of muscle in 8 years that is a completely different situation than if they gained it in 1 year but from the photo you cant tell that!
- Muscle mass over what is achievable naturally (FFMI). If someone looks like Jay Cutler then you do not need to know how fast they gained their muscle because its clear that they are WAY over the naturally possible FFMI limit of 26. On the other hand, be careful. Just because someone looks like a DYEL does NOT mean they are natty, it could just mean they are a lazy juicer. Another caution. The FFMI does not take frame size into account. The maximum natty LBM one can achieve has a lot to do with how big your wrists, waist, and knees are and FFMI does not take these into account. I know some Tongan men who come close to FFMI 25 and they don’t even workout that hard. If a guy with a wasp-like waist, tiny wrists, and tiny knees has a FFMI of 26 then they are probably juicing. Remember too that its *really* hard to know someones FFMI. Many men’s physique competitors and bodybuilders are embarrassed about their height and hold their weight as a closely guarded secret as well so determining their FFMI accurately is very difficult.
- Unexplained changes in rate of muscle mass gain. If someone has been lifting a long time gaining 15lbs a year the first two years as they get their newbie gains, then 10 pounds a year for the next three years, that is a pretty normal progression. If the next year though they suddenly crank it up and get 20 or 30 pounds of muscle gain then THAT is a pretty clear sign they are poking themselves. Do not bother asking them if they are juicing because I can guarantee you they will make up some lame excuse about “working harder” or crediting all their gainz on some hot new supplement. Its a jail sentence for getting caught using steroids in most countries so they are not going to tell you the truth, they might not even tell their best friend the truth.
- Shoulders and traps over-developed when compared to the rest of the musculature. Don’t ask me why, but these muscle seem to respond more to steroids than other muscles in the body. If somebody has huge traps and bowling ball shoulders and small pecs and lats then that should give you pause.
Gynecomastia (gyno, man-boobs, moobs) – Again, not a indication of steroid use but one possible sign. It is fairly common for teen age boys to have moobs without steroid use, but this is not gyno. Some people who are overweight just have the misfortune of storing fat on their chest but this is not gyno either. Huge pecs are also not gyno, well wtf IS gyno then? Glad you asked its like a volcano on top of a pec – a cone of fat about the size of a silver dollar. That is gyno. If someone who doesn’t look like they workout has true gyno, its probably not from steroids. If someone has a killer lean muscular physique … except they have cone shaped Madonna tits over their big pecs – THAT is steroid gyno :)
- Stretch marks on the biceps or between the pecs and the shoulders. Stretch marks are commonly occurring in normal folks but stretch marks in the aforementioned areas is rare under natty conditions so if you see stretch marks here, its a good indication to take into account. Remember once again that this is just one sign. Many people have stretch marks who have never lifted a weight in their lives.
Nasty skin – oily and deep purple blotchy subterranean zits. Remember though, this goes away when the steroid cycle is done so its only an indication if they are currently using. Once again, just a sign. There are about 100 million teen guys who have horrible acne and none of them are on steroids. On the other hand, if its someone over 25 who has clear skin for years gets a horrible case of bacne, you should start to wonder.
- Hair-loss – By age 50, 85% of men exhibit signs of male pattern baldness. Losing hair in old age is not a sign of steroid usage but rapid hair loss at an earlier age can be. Again, just one sign. There are a lot of men who go completely bald in their 30s who have never lifted a weight or taken one scoop of protein powder.
Steroid Legality and Safety?
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 offense 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. 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 motto: 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 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 really taking.
Problems with steroid use
In addition to the above listed signs of steroid use, there are other bad things that can happen that are not so visible to the casual observer.
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?
Mental problems. Most people do not touch on this but from what I have seen, the health and legal problems of steroids are insignificant when compared to the mental issues. So many guys tend to just mentally fall apart when they come off their cycles and its not hard to see why. For 12 weeks they are gods. They have superhuman strength which gets stronger every single week. Every week they get noticeably bigger and even formerly baggy shirts become stretched to the ripping point. For 12 weeks they are invincible … and then its all gone. Crashed to the pits of nattiness but without functioning testes, so sub-natty. Every week they are weaker and smaller. How depressing … and many of them get depressed which is why some users never and go off the steroids or just leave the gym forever. Everything in life is a risk/benefit analysis. When you are weighing the risks of steroid use, be sure to be honest with yourself about your mental ability to handle the adverse circumstances you would encounter when going off steroids.
Health problems. Lots of things that can go wrong here but I wont bother to go into too much detail because you have heard it all before. These problems are very dosage dependent and drug dependent. Enlargement of the heart is probably the biggest problem. Although enlarging your heart sounds like a good thing, its very, very bad and is what leads to heart attacks in young bodybuilders. Damaging your kidneys and liver is another relatively common problem as the body works overtime to filter out stuff that it doesnt want. Then there is the problem with natural testosterone production being shut down.
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.