If you’re new to using anabolic steroids, starting with an injectable drug may seem like a massive step, and one that you’re not yet prepared to take. However, what many newbies don’t realize is that injectables can actually be far gentler on the body than oral steroids, despite the trickier route of administration.
So here’s the lowdown on both orals and injectables, with the pros and cons of each…
Orals typically come in either liquid or tablet form and are undeniably much simpler to take than an injectable: simply pop a pill or gulp down the liquid and you’re done. Unfortunately, though, there’s much more to consider than just that.
Firstly, what oral steroids are not. They aren’t necessarily cheaper, stronger, weaker, easier to obtain or safer. The individual characteristics of each drug aren’t determined by whether it’s an oral or an injectable, but the type of steroid it is.
However, as a general rule orals are much tougher on the liver. This is because when a steroid is taken by mouth, it is normally metabolized by the liver, with very little of the actual drug ever reaching the bloodstream.
In order for oral steroids to have any bioavailability, they must have their chemical structure altered to get past this initial breakdown. By adding a methyl group to the 17th carbon, something known as a C17-alpha alkylation occurs and this is resistant to being broken down by the liver.
A steroid which has become C17-alpha alkylated will largely survive the first pass through the liver, enabling it to become bioavailable. Unfortunately, the same process means that it also becomes very toxic to the liver too.
For this reason, liver enzymes must be monitored closely when taking oral steroids, and each cycle must be relatively short. Orals taken at a high dose for a long time have been associated with extreme side effects such as liver cancer.
The hepatotoxicity of orals has other effects too, in particular relating to cholesterol levels within the body. Because cholesterol is largely processed by the liver, the knock on effect of taking orals is that the unhealthy LDL cholesterol level within the body rises, while the “good” cholesterol HDL drops.
However, some individuals do prefer to take oral steroids, and there are advantages of doing so, such as the avoidance of painful injection sites. If oral steroids are taken the cycle should be restricted to no more than 6-8 weeks. In an ideal world they should only be taken to supplement injectable steroids, such as kick starting a cycle.
There are three different ways to inject into the body: intravenously, intramuscularly and subcutaneously. The method most often chosen for anabolic steroids is intramuscularly and very rarely subcutaneously. Steroids are never injected intravenously.
Injecting steroids requires the user to rotate their injection site and to leave at least 1-2 weeks before they return to the same site. This doesn’t normally cause any problems as there are 34 suitable intramuscular injection points on the body including the glutes, biceps, triceps, deltoids and pecs.
Some users don’t like the pain associated with injections but this can be reduced by icing the delivery site. In addition, if the steroid is suspended in oil, running the syringe under hot water will warm the solution and make it smoother to administer.
The other risk is that if the steroid is not injected properly or if the equipment is dirty, bleeding, pain, numbness or infection could arise. It’s therefore essential to keep everything clean and not to share needles.
Although injectables can be more complicated than orals, at least to start with, they aren’t as toxic to the liver because they don’t need to go through the process of C17-alpha alkylation. This means that they don’t typically have problems with cholesterol to the same extent either. And because of this it’s possible to run much longer cycles, getting more benefit from the steroid.
The other advantage to injectables is that many are long acting because an ester is attached. This reduces the frequency of the injections required, minimizing the inconvenience.
What to choose?
Everyone is different and ultimately what you choose is down to your personal preference. For most people, orals aren’t a good idea to run solo because the body finds them much harder to tolerate. Getting used to administering injections can take a bit of a while but if you’re able to master the technique, you’ll have a much greater choice for your steroid cycles in the future.