Let’s talk Performance Enhancing Drugs…
By no means am I an expert in the field of pharmacology, biology, or chemistry. I do not claim to be an expert, but I do have experience and acquired knowledge over the years on this specific (and controversial) topic which can provide a little insight to share, and hopefully point people in the right direction when they make their own decision whether or not to use performance enhancing drugs (PED’s).
I will also aim to provide answers to questions such as, ‘Are Steroids bad for you?’ ‘What are steroids?’ and ‘How do they work?’
This article is inspired by a comment I recently heard referring to the use of PED’s, “Powerlifting is a short-lived sport; you might as well get as strong as you can as quick as you can”.
Firstly, the fuck? This is one of the dumbest statements I have ever heard, and believe me I have heard some dumb shit in my time.
There are a vast range of PED’s that someone can use including; Anabolic Steroids, Peptides, Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Insulin, Beta-Blockers, stimulants and more.
For this article, we are going to be focusing on anabolic steroids as they are the most prevalent in the sport.
There is no denying it, PED’s in sport has been a thing for as long as ‘sport’ has been around. Athletes are forever in the pursuit of trying to be the best they can possibly be, finding that edge to win. The athlete mindset is a very tricky mechanism to even try and unfold.
Are Anabolic Steroids Bad?
Maybe? I’ll let you make your own decision for yourself. I’m not going to tell you what to think. All I will say is that they serve a purpose, and if that purpose aligns with what you truly want to do than by all means, go ahead, just make sure you have the facts.
The first thing to know is that in Australia, steroids are a Class 1 drug and are ILLEGAL. This does mean that you can potentially face jail time if you are caught using steroids! I am not going to downplay the huge risk you take here.
It is no denying, there is a huge negative stigma amongst society about people who use them. This truly is saddening as it does stem from idiotic people abusing PED’s with careless thinking of application, and a lot of the stigma is not based on misconceptions (addressed below). Also, opinions of cheating come into play, however, if you are within a sport where it is an unspoken allowance, then you cannot claim it as cheating. If you are using banned PED’s in sports where it is strictly not allowed then yes, those people are not people you want to be around.
Let’s take a closer look at what anabolic steroids are.
Anabolic steroids are synthetic, or man-made, variations of the male sex hormone testosterone. The proper term for these compounds is anabolic-androgenic steroids. “Anabolic” refers to muscle building, and “androgenic” refers to male sex characteristics, i.e. hair growth, sex drive increase & deepening of voice to name a few. They are available as oral tablets, injectable, or gels to be rubbed on the skin.
They work by binding to certain muscle cell receptors that stimulate the growth of muscle tissue production.
What was discovered was that by modifying these hormones in specific ways they could alter the drugs to create new ones with different side effects to preference an athlete’s specific needs; i.e. wanting more size, or strength, fat loss or even more neural pathway stimulation.
So, all anabolic steroids are derived from the synthetic male sex hormone testosterone and then manipulated to create different outputs.
There are 32 types of commonly available anabolic steroids, some fast acting esters and slower acting esters, simply meaning some go quick into the body and leave faster than others.
Steroids do not have the same short-term effect on the brain in the same way that recreational drugs stimulate a ‘high’. There is no chemical dopamine response in the brain either, which is why most recreational drug uses become addictive.
But misuse of PED’s, specifically anabolic steroids, and I must stress MISUSE, can influence negative mental effects such as;
– Paranoid Jealousy (extreme & unreasonable)
– Extreme Irritability and Aggression
– Delusions – False Beliefs or Ideas
– Impaired Judgement
Again, these are the negative mental side effects linked with misusing PED’s.
Steroids are used commonly to increase performance output through directly aiding an athlete’s ability to increase muscle size and mass, increase strength, increase cardio output and most importantly increasing the athlete’s ability to recover.
But with this does come some short and long-term impacts if again MISUSED.
– High Blood Pressure
– Kidney Problems
– Liver Problems
– Shrinking of Testicles in men
– Development of Gynecomastia (Development of Breasts)
– Fluid Retention
Some Specifically to Females
– Growth of Facial Hair and Excess Body Hair
– Enlarged Clitoris
– Deepening of voice
– Baldness (in Men or Women)
– Reproductive System Failure (in Men or Women)
– Joint Aches
– High Blood Pressure
– Kidney Problems
– Liver Problems
It is believed that anabolic steroids effect the heart. This is indirectly true. Specific PED’s i.e. Growth Hormone may cause significant growth of the heart. Anabolic Steroids have been shown to not directly affect the heart. However, due to the increase in muscle size, the heart does have to work harder to pump blood around the body, which can cause extra strain to the heart muscle and may lead to other problems long term.
Steroids DO NOT make your penis smaller. It can affect the size of your testicles but penis size remains the same.
Steroids DO NOT cause cancer.
Post Cycle Therapy (PCT)
A very common idea you will hear in the average gyms circles is that you must immediately run PCT after finishing a ‘cycle’. The idea behind this is great, but the effects of steroids last for another 6-8 weeks post last injection. Meaning that anything you use to bring up your natural production again will be useless.
At the 6-8 week mark you may wish to look at certain compounds of PCT to restart your natural production of testosterone.
MORE IS NOT BETTER
A huge misconception is that the more you add in the more benefit it must have. This could be the furthest thing from the truth. While adding in different compounds may be beneficial, running super high dosages of compounds will have no effect at certain points. It takes roughly 6 weeks for the drugs to build up in the system and then be maintained at a constant level. Anything more is money down the drain.
Dosages are based off milligrams of the drug in ratio to your bodyweight. Mg/Kg
‘MY RECEPTORS ARE FRIED’
Many will claim that they need to increase dosages as they feel the muscle cell receptors are clogged and need more, however they do not get clogged or fried. The only time we increase dosages is because dosages are based off bodyweight and over time as you use these drugs and gain lean mass you will need to make small increments and changes. But not because the receptors are fried.
I do not wish to scare you into never using steroids, but I do believe before a decision can be made of going down this path that all the facts, or at least the ones I can pass on, have to be made aware. Ultimately there are risk factors, and often these are overlooked.
So, you may now be scratching your head asking yourself, ‘well what are the benefits?’
The main potential benefits associated with anabolic steroids are the following;
– Increases in muscle tissue due to enhanced protein synthesis
– Decreased body fat percentage
– Increased muscle strength and power
– Enhanced recovery from workouts and injury
– Improved bone mineral density
– Increased Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) Production
– Increased Nutrient Efficiency
– Increased muscle endurance
– Increased red blood cell production
– Increase in appetite
– Decreased Glucocorticoid Production (Stress Hormone)
My best advice is to be consistent with health markers and get checked regularly. Speak with your GP or a Dr first (yes, they will advise you against it, but be open and explain to them why and that it is your choice), and ask for blood test looking at specific hormones’ function as well as kidney and liver function as base starting point, as knowing your these results prior, during, and after steroid use will aide in maintaining your health. I recommend getting a full check up on your health before pursuing this path as your genetics may increase certain risk factors as well.
Steroids enhance every part of a person from performance output in a good, or bad way depending on some key factors.
If your physical health is bad prior to using steroids and you don’t change anything other than steroids; we can assume it will worsen.
Same with your mental health, if you are depressed or anxious, look honestly, don’t use them. Speak with your Dr and Psychologist and seek the help first to deal with the issues before using PED’s, if you so choose. In my experience, I have seen many who neglect this and their mental state worsens during PED use.
Now, let’s get back to the original statement that inspired this, “Powerlifting is a short-lived sport; you might as well get as strong as you can as quick as you can”.
Powerlifting is a sport that doesn’t have a retirement age as seen in the masters records each federation holds. The best in the business don’t peak until their mid 30’s to 40’s.
And yes, in the deep and grand schemes of our life, we are on a rock spinning around the sun and our lives are a speck on the infinite timeline of the universe… but this does not mean we should spend it trying to shorten that speck. As we know from above, using an abundance of PED’s in large amounts in a short term will cause long term damage, especially if you neglect important health markers, both physical and mental along the way.
Smaller, safer doses over longer periods have shown greater reward long term (in regards to results), as opposed to stacking multiple compounds and blasting them at ridiculous dosages.
These drugs affect our skeletal muscle tissue rapidly but fail to bring up the connective tissues i.e. tendons and ligaments at the same rate. The chances of injury sky rocket as we rapidly increase our muscle mass and weights being moved with the use of steroids. The importance and greater emphasis of looking after ourselves needs to be placed on all aspects of health.
– Training (Mobility, Stability, Flexibility, Programming, Nutrition, Cardio)
– Mental Health
– Physical Health
The main point I am trying to make is that there is a safe and proper way to use and administer these PED’s.
There are many out there who are doing what they can to educate and provide great information to those seeking the correct way to do it. Broderick Chavez of TeamEVIL Genius, a sports performance, biology and chemistry expert, is probably the most well educated and known person in this field. I do urge all serious lifters to follow his work.
I will conclude, that used properly anabolic steroids and PED’s can be very beneficial to an athlete in the right sport… a sport that does not strictly ban them from use.
If you would like further information or have any questions please do not hesitate to contact myself – firstname.lastname@example.org