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What are steroids?

What are steroids?

The term "steroids" refers to a class of hormones with a classic poly-phenol ring structure. There are two types of steroids and they are often confused: Anabolic and Catabolic. These two steroids serve different medical purposes.

Anabolic Steroids

A synthetic steroid hormone that resembles testosterone in promoting the growth of muscle. Such hormones are used medicinally to treat some forms of weight loss and by some athletes and others to enhance physical performance.

Use of anabolic steroids can have side effects which include:

1. Acne and cysts

2. Breast growth and shrinking of testicles in men

3. Voice deepening and growth of body hair

4. Heart problems, including heart attack

5. Liver disease, including cancer

6. Aggressive behavior


Catabolic Steroids (glucocorticoids)

A group of steroid hormones produced in the adrenal cortex or made synthetically. They have various metabolic functions and are used to treat inflammation.


Glucocorticoids are utilized to treat:

1. Arthritis

2. Asthma

3. Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis

4. Skin conditions such as eczema and rashes

5. Some kinds of cancer

Side effects of glucocorticoids can include fat gain (particularly trunk), muscle atrophy, weakened bones, and cataracts.

Are they dangerous?

The general consensus is that if used properly, in conjunction with blood tests, AAS can be used safely. However, the potential side effects can be extreme if they are used incorrectly. Most commonly, a lipid profile imbalance which favors plaque deposition in the arteries occurs. The strict diet of most bodybuilders means this is minimized by a low fat intake.

Liver problems can occur, particularly with the use of orals. Oxymetholone (Anapolon), is known to be particularly liver toxic. Rare cases of hepatis peliosis (blood filled cysts in the liver), more commonly known as a liver cancer, have been associated with oral AAS'. While these cases have been rare, it emphasizes the need for blood testing during a cycle.

Gynocamastia can occur as a result of high levels of testosterone being partially converted to estrogen, the main one being estradiol. The enzyme responsible for this conversion is aromatase, and can be inhibited by a class of drugs called Aromatase Inhibitors (AI's). However, Nolvadex (not an AI) is also used because it blocks the estrogen receptor, rather than the enzyme.

 How do anabolic steroids work?

There is generally considered to be three mechanisms of action of AAS.

Firstly, by binding to the androgen receptor located in the cytoplasm, AAS' stimulate protein synthesis in the muscle. Secondly, they bind to the glucocorticoid receptor, blocking the catabolic actions of cortisol on muscle (protein breakdown). Last, psychological effects include increased motivation and aggression, leading to increased training intensity.


Are there any long term effects?

AAS' have been used in humans to improve performance since the 1930's. This was a crude extract from male dog urine. Nazi paratroopers were thought to be the first to take testosterone for performance. In the fifties, Ciba developed Dianabol, and the race was then on to find the best steroid in terms of anabolic/androgenic dissociation.

The long history of use by many thousands of people has shown that if used reasonably, most people do not experience any long term effects. However, there is a distinct lack of research in this area, with the occasional case study in the medical literature. The mass media likes to sensationalize the death of any past steroid user.

The fact is, the most likely problem would be an increase in arterial plaque deposition as a result of an unfavorable blood lipid levels. This does not effect all users, hence another reason for blood testing.

Should I begin taking anabolic steroids?

The generally accepted criteria for starting the use AAS' is as follows:

1. Research and obtain a very good understanding of what you are considering putting in your body PRIOR to your cycle.

2. If you are under 25 years old it is possible to incur permanent damage from a cycle; there is also a greater risk of unwanted side effects.

3. Do not run a cycle without having a PCT and an AI on hand. If you "can't afford" either, then you can not afford to run a cycle.

4. The best first cycle is a simple first cycle. As more experience is gained and you learn how your body reacts to gear, cycles can become more complex. Adding two previously unused elements to a cycle makes it impossible to know which thing may be causing issues. Grow into your dose.

5. Steroids are magic. But just like any spell, this magic doesn't work without the right incantation. That incantation, in this case, is a very good exercise program and a diet. With these two in place, keep your expectations reasonable and you'll be happy.

6. For your cycle duration, remain aware of how your body is reacting both physically and emotionally. If something feels "off" or "not right", and it's not a known side, it probably isn't right. Typical beginner cycles make people feel very good overall.

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