If you’re a serious bodybuilder and want to take your physique to the next level, you might be considering taking a supplement, such as anabolic steroids.
Although they’re used by many athletes and committed gym rats, there are risks associated with taking steroids which need to be considered.
Here’s an overview of the factors that should always be taken into account and the dangers that steroids present.
Every anabolic steroid is different and loads the body in different ways so it’s impossible to make a statement that universally applies.
However, some steroids do put pressure on the cardiovascular system so if the user has a history of heart problems, use is not advised.
Drugs which have estrogenic effects can cause bloating and water retention, which in turn can raise blood pressure. Other drugs cause rises in total cholesterol, as well as the reduction in “good” HDL cholesterol and an increase in “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Androgenic and estrogenic effects
Although the result of raising testosterone levels in the body can produce a marked positive change in the muscles, there are problems which can be associated with it too.
Acne, an increase in body hair and for those who are already prone to it, male pattern baldness can all occur. Avoiding steroids which are based on DHT can to reduce these effects.
Androgenic effects can be a particular problem for female users as they could experience something known as virilization. This includes growth of body hair, deepening of the voice and enlargement of the sexual organs.
Some steroids are prone to react to the aromatase enzyme, which means they can be converted to oestrogen within the body. As well as causing fluid retention, excess oestrogen can result in an undesirable swelling of breast tissue in men, known as gynecomastia. If the signs are spotted early, the condition is reversible but if allowed to fully develop, surgery will be required to correct it.
Age of the individual
Anabolic steroids are tough on the body and can have a whole host of effects which need to be carefully monitored.
In older individuals, this may be managed but in younger individuals, there’s the prospect of longer term damage.
The androgen system takes some time to fully develop and become established and even though it might be legal for an individual to drink and vote, they still may have some biological maturing left to do.
Every steroid has an effect on the production of testosterone and while most adult’s men can bounce back with the proper PCT, it can cause significant problem for those whose testosterone production is not yet fully developed.
In addition, case studies have shown that when used in younger men, depression and psychological issues can be a problem. This is possibly linked to the low levels of testosterone, and the inability of the body to recover easily.
Method of administration
Some of the dangers of steroids come not just from the drug itself but from the route of administration.
Oral steroids are incredibly harsh on the liver, and can usually only be taken for a short time because of the dangers of creating a toxic effect.
The main alternative to oral administration is the injection of steroids, a more popular choice among regular users.
However, injecting drugs is not as easy as popping a pill and you need to understand the different levels of injection: intravenously, subcutaneously and intramuscularly.
Injections are intended to be delivered into the muscle; administering the steroid into the vein could cause a heart attack or other serious health problem such as a pulmonary embolism. It is possible to administer the injection subcutaneously but if you try to deliver the same amount as into the muscle you’ll be in a lot of pain!
The injection technique is not the only issue; the needles and equipment must be scrupulously clean and never shared. Dirt or unhygienic practices can cause infections and abscesses at the site of administration which can be very nasty indeed.
Reduction in testosterone production
When an individual takes an anabolic steroid, it pumps up the blood levels of testosterone which in turn has the desired impact on muscle growth.
The problem with this is that the body identifies too much is circulating around the body, and shuts down natural production of testosterone. This isn’t a problem during the cycle but once the steroid use stops, the body can take a long time to kick start production leaving the individual with some unpleasant side effects in the meantime. If steroids are abused, the production of testosterone may be permanently affected.
Following any steroid cycle with PCT to encourage the body to recommence production as quickly as possible is imperative to limit any permanent damage.
Although it’s possible that steroids can cause a whole range of unpleasant side effects which can be dangerous, many of the worst cases are caused by not monitoring the use, or from abuse.
Steroid abuse comes in different forms and could mean taking a dose which is too high, using them too frequently, for cycles which are too long or simply not allowing the body to recover.
There are dangers which can be associated with use of anabolic steroids so if you decide to go down this route, it’s imperative you do your research, understand the warning signs and never exceed the recommended cycle dose and length.
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