Whether or not you decide to take steroids is ultimately your call. Steroids have a lot of advantages for athletes who want to become stronger, more resilient and leaner; but they also carry a large number of risks (plus they’re against the law!).
Whatever you ultimately decide though, the most important thing is that you know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for. What can you expect the effect of steroids to be in your own body? And how exactly do these effects work? You get stronger, sure, but what’s actually physically changing to make that happen? Let’s find out…
Steroids and Testosterone
The type of steroid that you’re most likely familiar with, is the ‘anabolic steroid’. This means that it increases anabolism – the process of building muscle and adding tissue. One of the most anabolic hormones in the human body is testosterone and as such, raising testosterone results in more muscle mass. Of course this is also the ‘male hormone’ and as such, will additionally exaggerate the secondary male sex characteristics (like hair, lower speaking voice, libido).
So if you take steroids, you increase testosterone. This is also how people get ‘caught’ using steroids – when blood tests or urine tests reveal larger amounts of testosterone than they would possibly be able to achieve normally.
The Mechanism of Action
So testosterone is what is affected, the next question is how it gets effected. And the answer to that question depends on the type of steroid being used.
Some types of steroid are classified as ‘androgenic’. This means that they work by binding to the ‘androgen receptors’. Androgens are hormones like testosterone and they work by interacting with certain points – called receptors – around the body. By binding with these receptors, steroids such as Dianabol are able to trigger an increase in testosterone and testosterone-like effects.
Another way that steroids work is by providing the building blocks for testosterone and other androgens. These are called ‘precursors’ and an example would be sustanon, which is converted into testosterone in the body. Actually, sustanon is one of the chemicals used if you receive ‘testosterone’ injections from your doctor and is one of the closest things to injecting ‘pure’ testosterone.
In other cases, the steroids provide the building blocks for another hormone: DHT. DHT is dihydrotestosterone and this is essentially a slightly different form of testosterone that is more advanced and more potent. The great thing about DHT is that unlike testosterone, the body cannot convert it into oestrogen. This means no gynecomastia and no water retention!
Most steroids work using one of these mechanisms though some do have other effects as well. For example, regulation of DHT can also sometimes increase red blood cell count which enhances both protein synthesis and fat burning.
Of course, all this carried a lot of side effects and dangers. Raising testosterone can lead to a number of unwanted side effects such as hair loss and acne while also damaging your body’s natural ability to produce the hormone. Likewise, many steroids place a serious strain on the liver. This is why more and more athletes are turning to alternative, safer means. Supplements like those from Crazy Mass also work to raise testosterone for instance but do so in a safe and healthy manner.
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