The world of bodybuilding and fitness can be extremely competitive. For some, working out can become more than just a hobby or recreational activity: it can become a lifestyle. While not overtly risky or dangerous on the surface—in fact it’s quite the contrary since physical exercise poses great benefits for your overall health—it can cross over into unhealthy territory very quickly.Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) can be the holy grail for many frustrated gym rats and physical fitness enthusiasts around the world and right here in the United States who are just not seeing the results they want quickly enough. But while, at face-value, steroids may seem like the answer to your unanswered fitness prayers, a more insidious truth lurks beneath the surface of the glitz and glam of the fitness elite.
More About Steroids: Facts and History
Anabolic Androgenic Steroids, such as testosterone, have been around for decades. Originally synthesized in the mid 1930’s, testosterone was one of the first AAS available on the market. The original purpose was to treat hypogonadism in aging men whose typical symptoms consisted of depression, impaired memory, fatigability, and loss of sexual vigor.
Fast forward to present day, AAS have an entirely new purpose among their users. Mainly used by young men, the purpose for abusing these steroids is to add on substantial muscle mass in a short period of time without going through to proper nutritional and physical steps to achieve these results. A shortcut to a ripped body, steroid use is actually seen among average people far more commonly than the bodybuilding community.
This is all due to the fact that the typical user will need to use 4-5x the amount of steroids than a professional body builder would in order to achieve the same results. That’s because, while the desired effects may be seen, nothing can actually substitute for a proper diet. Usually, professional bodybuilders understand the importance of nutrition when it comes to building muscle.
Beyond the Bulk: Negative Effects of Abusing Steriods
While steroids will definitely provide the shortcut their users hope for, there are a number of very serious drawbacks to this “method” of bulking up. Most steroids are derivatives of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone or DHT. These directly impact your hormone levels and whenever you “cycle”, or use steroids, without proper medical supervision, you leave yourself susceptible to a number of nasty side effects.
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Not to mention, if you attempt “post-cycle therapy” or PCT, which is an attempt to get your hormone levels back to where they were prior to undertaking steroid use, you may find that you lose most, if not all, muscle mass gained as a result of the steroids. It basically all becomes for nothing. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
First and foremost, of course, your fertility is at stake. Many men who use steroids and cycle themselves find that it has a serious impact on their sperm count. Men on steroids may find themselves suffering from Azoospermia, or lack of sperm in semen.
Common Symptoms Of Steriod Abuse
This could potentially be a permanent side effect of steroid use. Another terrible side effect is hair loss. If you already have a predisposition to male pattern baldness, use of steroids may speed up this process which is permanent hair loss. Tampering with the delicate balance of hormones may also result in:
- Oily Skin
- Testicular atrophy
- Hair growth (body hair)
- Kidney, heart, and liver disease
- High blood pressure
- Gynecomastia, or developing breasts
- Excess facial hair or body hair as well as a deeper voice in women
- Stunted growth in teens
- Increased chance of viral or bacterial infections from unsterile injections
One thing that you don’t have to worry about is “roid rage”. A popular myth perpetuated by television and film, it is the condition of uncontrollable anger due to steroid use. The explosive temper tantrums can sometimes be depicted as potentially dangerous to the steroid user and others. Again, this is luckily a myth.
Increased exogenous testosterone can result in increased aggression. However, it varies on an individual basis and in 9.9 out of 10 cases, this anger is controllable. Roid rage is more likely associated with pre-existing mental illnesses as opposed to the actual substance.
If someone you know is abusing steroids, it may be time to stage an intervention to help them get off of AAS once and for all. But, prolonged use of steroids comes with a price as well. Withdrawal symptoms from AAS can also be pretty nasty.
Mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, steroid cravings and depression can all be seen when stopping steroid use. Depression is by far the most dangerous withdrawal symptom, as sometimes overwhelming ideations of suicide can be present.
Natural And Safer Alternatives to Steroids (That Produce Results)
Now that you (hopefully) understand the dangers of steroid use, it’s important to look at different alternatives you can use as opposed to AAS to achieve that washboard stomach.
1. Proper Nutrition
Nothing can replace proper nutrition in importance and effectiveness when it comes to any exercise routine. Without the correct fuel, our cars would not run, or at least not optimally. This is the same basic principle behind maintaining proper nutrition for our bodies.
Many people have nothing more than a basic understanding of how imperative proper nutrition can be. They may think that they just need to eat a lot of food to gain or are just eating enough to lose, when in fact they are completely off base for whatever their desired fitness goals are. Consulting with a fitness coach or personal trainer may be helpful if you are unsure of the macronutrient protocols for your goals.
2. Exercise Protocols
Getting your ego out of the way is crucial to your success in the gym! Everyone has to start somewhere, and many men may have hard feelings if they can’t bench the heaviest weight there or do as many reps as the biggest guy in the room. Thus, they feel their only option is to turn to steroids in order to reach those limits.
Understanding that it doesn’t happen overnight and being willing to put in the proper commitment and effort towards achieving these results naturally are the best means to get to where you want to go.
3. Natural Supplementation
If commitment to your exercise routine and maintaining proper nutrition for your body just don’t seem to be doing it, you can always try supplementation! Different shakes and smoothies (such as Red Smoothie Detox) can help you meet your macronutrient goals. They are also good for a quick protein or carb boost after a hefty workout. You can also consider preworkout supplements (such as these) before you get to the gym.
Different additives such as creatine and glutamine can be awesome as well since they can help you add muscle size and recover from your workout quicker. L-caritine can be super useful whenever attempting to shed excess fat. If you’re looking to use fat burners, be wary and never use any with a concentration of ephedra greater than 50mg as it can have some nasty side effects on the body as well.
In the end, there are plenty of options out there that will do you and your body good. Turning to steroid use is not only terrible for your body, but also not legal. So, if you’re looking to bulk up without sacrificing your hair or freedom, taking these alternatives to steroids to heart may be the better choice for you!
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