The application, effects and side effects of anabolic steroids
The history of performance enhancing in sports is as long as the history of the sports’ competitive side- From ancient Olympic games, the athletes have been searching for ways to improve and increase their own physical capabilities.
As science advanced throughout the centuries, more and more substances were involved in sports. The knowledge about human physiology and means of enhancing certain areas of it, grew to the point where a serious push to a new era of competitive sports was reached.
What are anabolic steroids?
All anabolic steroids (AAS or AS) are derivatives of the male sex hormone- Testosterone.
Some of these substances are just compounds of testosterone, but all of them, as well as all male and female glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid hormones have the chemical structure of cyclopentanoperhydrophenanthrene.
Application of anabolic steroids
AS have a wide application in medicine:
- As a hormone replacement therapy with certain with certain diseases like hypogonadism
- It connects to the androgen receptors on the surface of the cell and activates them.
- As means of preventing the loss of muscle and bone mass during chemotherapies, heavy burns or certain surgeries.
- As an AIDS treatment
- As treatment against anemia
However, the mass use of steroids is not for medical purposes, but rather a performance enhancing in sports and acquiring more muscle mass. Often times however, people do not know how/when to use AAS, which leads to a series of health issues.
Why am I reading an article on anabolic steroids on meanmuscles?
Our goal with these articles on anabolic steroids, is not to make their use popular.
We won’t tell you how, when, how much and why you can take steroids.
The goals with this article, for our readers is to:
- Inform you what AS actually are
- Describe the effect of AS on the organism
- Describe what AS can give and take to and from your health
- Talk about myths circling around AS, and tell you the truth from our point of view.
- Show you what you can expect from the so called “garage production” of steroids- Underground AS that were not made in an approved laboratory and have no medical approval.
- Inform you how prohormones work
- Show you the effect of AS on women
What is the information in this article based on?
Everything you’ll see below, regarding the effects of the different active ingredients in AS, is based on scientific researches, done with substances meant for human use, sports specific legal substances, or substances for veterinary use that found a wide application in sports. The effects of these substances were carefully researched and described thoroughly.
We will also pay special attention to the “underground production” of steroids that we mentioned above.
Effects of Anabolic steroids
Anabolic steroids duplicate and replace the functions of the naturally produced human testosterone. They connect to the androgen receptors, turning from different enzymes to different metabolites, suppressing or stimulating glands with internal secretion. Each different active ingredient does exactly that, to a certain degree and in a different way.
Connection to androgen receptors in the cells
When it comes to anabolic steroids’ connection to androgen receptors, we can divide them in two groups:
- AS that connect well for a prolonged period of time to the AR (They stabilize the androgen receptor)
- AS that connect so weakly, it practically has no meaning for their effects.
In other words- AS that have genomic activity, and AS that have non-genomic activity.
To understand that better, and give you awareness on why and what happens when AS connect to the AR, we’ll clear out a couple of things:
- Androgen receptors (AR) are big protein molecules, made up of about 1000 amino acids, found inside the cell. When two molecules of testosterone or AS connect to the AR and if the outcome is stable, it passes on to the core of the cell and links to a certain section of the DNA. This section is then activated to re-write the information to the RNA, which therefore initiates the synthesis of a certain type of protein. The type of the newly synthesized protein depends on which section of DNA is joined by the AR+AS, which depends on the type of AS that connected to the AR.
Besides the AS+AR complex, different specific proteins connect to the DNA, which might act as co-activators or co-suppressors of the newly obtained complex. They can significantly impact the synthesis process of the new protein.
If we had to use the typical ‘bodybuilding’ language, it would be – “More protein= More muscles, bro”
- There are androgen receptors not only inside the cell, but also on the surface- The cell membrane. Some AS connect very weakly, or for a short period of time with the inner AR and practically the obtained complex cannot enter the cell’s core. However, these are the exact AS that connect to the surface receptors, which, when activated, improve the ion transport and give a signal for the synthesis of different proteins inside the cell.
- AS block the glucocorticoid receptors, preventing the catabolic processes inside the body.
- Some AS- oxymetholone, boldenone, fluoxymesterone, boost the synthesis of erythrocytes.
- Some AS- Nandrolone, norethindrone, oxymetholone and trenbolone have progestogenic activity. In other words- They connect to and activate the receptors of progesterone. This helps the recovery of the CNS, retains water and sodium in the organism and boosts appetite.
- AS increase the synthesis of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor- 1) in the musculature, and not in the liver, where IGF-1 is usually produced.
- AS intensify the process of satellite cell division in the muscles. This process is initiated by the training workloads, but when additional AS is present, the process is much more intense. Some substances are able to initiate it themselves, without the need of additional training workloads.
Interaction of anabolic steroids with different enzymes in the human body
Due to the fact AS are structural derivatives of testosterone, they interact to a different extent (depending on the structural differences) with the enzymes, which turn testosterone into different metabolites.
The most important of which, are the enzymes aromatase and alpha-5-reductase.
Aromatase turns the testosterone into estradiol. In the male organism, this is the only way to synthesize estradiol. Aromatase also turns androstenedione into estrone.
Some AS are extremely susceptible to the effect of this enzyme. Such are- Testosterone, methyltestosterone and methandrolstenolone. Others, like oxandrolone, stanazolol, oxymetholone, drostanolone, trenbolone and chlorodehydromethyltestosterone are not influenced by the effect of aromatase.
There’s a third group of AS, that can turn into estradiol, without involving the aromatase- Nandrolone, norethandrolone and ethylestrenol.
The alpha-5-reductase enzyme turns testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, which is linked to the androgenic side effects of it- Hair loss, or excessive hair growth, prostate increase.
A part of AS is not influenced by the effect of alpha-5-reductase (oxandrolone, chlorodehydromethyltestosterone, stanazolol, oxymetolone) and others interact with it (testosterone, methyltestosterone) and turn into different metabolites.
17 beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and 3 beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase
These are the next enzymes, that play an important role during the effect of AS upon the organism.
These two enzymes turn DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) into androstenedione (3-beta-hsd) and androstenediol (17-beta-hsd).
The 17-beta-hsd and 3-beta-hsd on their side, turn into testosterone, as this reaction is bidirectional- they also turn the testosterone into androstenedione.
Some AS strongly interact with them, like the oxandrolone. The received metabolite practically has little to none effect on muscle growth, which is why the dose of this substance is supposed to be higher than that of a structurally close AS with similar effects.
The last enzyme, that regards AS intake is the esterase. Its main task is to separate the ester into alcohols + organic acids. In other words- Separating the testosterone (which, chemically, is a type of alcohol) from its tail that it’s attached to for importation in the organism. That’s how testosterone practically enters the blood flow, and the type of ester used, determines how long it will take for that to happen, the peak concentrations, when they will be reached and how often injection will be required.
These specifics can strongly differentiate the use of different esters of the same substance (in our case, testosterone, or for example the nandrolone) according to the goals, and in some cases, according to the sensitivity and peculiarities of the given individual.
Interaction with SHBG
This interaction does not involve enzymes, but rather a specific protein- SHBG (Sex-Hormone Binding Globulin). SHBG is a protein, that links to the testosterone and makes it inactive.
Some AS link to it, leading to an increased level of free testosterone. Besides that, for one part of them, the received complex has an additional effect on its own- It connects to the androgen receptors on the surface of the cell and activates the
High doses of AS during a steroid cycle, lead to an increase in the levels of SHBG. This way, the organism strives to achieve balanced state, balancing out the effects of the high levels of androgenic-anabolic steroids in the body.
Side effects of anabolic steroids
Just like every other medicine, AS have their own side effects. All the interactions of AS and the difference in their activity levels and effects upon the organism, have a vital meaning on their own side effects.
Natural hormone production suppression
AS intake in doses big enough to have an effect on sport results, leads to a change in concentration of all sex hormones in the blood and gives a signal to the organism to decrease or completely stop their natural production.
There are very few substances that practically have no effect upon the natural testosterone production, or make it negligible, when taken in a dose that improves the physical qualities of the individual.
Anabolic steroids and the cardio-vascular system
Contrary to popular beliefs, AS has little to none side effects upon the cardio-vascular system of individuals that have no previous background of cardio-vascular issues.
Some AS increase the blood pressure, which is linked to the increased retention of water and sodium in the organism. AS rarely worsens the lipid profile of the user.
Effect of anabolic steroids on the liver
Due to the fact, almost all oral substances have a structure that hinders their breakdown in the mouth, they load the liver, making it work at a higher intensity, especially when a couple of substances in high doses are combined.
The levels of liver enzymes change. Some AS can seriously damage the liver, even if it’s a short-term cycle.
Effects of anabolic steroids on the kidneys
AS have a highly negative effect upon the kidneys, when combined with clenbuterol or diuretics in high doses. The combination of clenbuterol and AS is extremely dangerous and has a nephrotoxic effect.
Steroids and prostate increase
Some AS, that are susceptible to the effect of alpha-5 reductase, can cause prostate increase.
Anabolic steroids addiction
AS do not cause a physical addiction, but there are a lot of cases of psychological dependence. This is mainly because of personal peculiarities of the user, as well as the positive effect upon the physical capabilities that leads to a higher self-esteem.
One of the dangers of AS, when used by women.
With the exception of a couple of substances, in low doses and certain schemes of use, all AS lead to virilization.
Another danger of AS, when used by men.
Anabolic steroids, susceptible to the effects of aromatase, and taken in high doses (which of course are required if you want consistent results in competitive sports, where you compete against other enhanced athletes), as well as steroids which have their own estrogenic activity and/or progestogenic activity, cause gynecomastia (Gyno).
A very important note here, is the individual sensitivity to AS of the user.
Water retention and steroids
Water retention is linked to the estrogenic and progestogenic activity of the substances.
Balding and anabolic steroids
Balding is possible when the substances taken are strongly androgenic AS. However, it is strongly dependent on the levels of alpha-5 reductase of type 1 in the organism.
Anabolic steroids and acne
Acne is an unpleasant side effect of anabolic steroids, and is mainly linked to the increase in the estradiol and dihydrosterone in the organism.
Use of AS under certain medical conditions
We will remind you that all side effects are completely normal when the AS intake is high. A part of the available anabolic steroids, were developed for the soul purpose of treating certain medical conditions.
- Treating a retarded sexual/physical development in kids (Testosterone and nandrolone)
- Hormone replacement therapy for adults, treating andropause symptoms in men.
- Loss of muscle mass or bone density in patients with AIDS
- Loss of muscle mass after chemotherapy
- Used to treat high-degree burns faster (oxandrolone)
Now that you are familiar with the essence of anabolic steroids, as well as their effects and side effects on the human body, you can move on to our second article on anabolic steroids, where we will talk about common misconceptions and myths about anabolic steroids.
In our second article, we will answer often asked questions like “Will I lose everything I gained after I stop taking steroids?” and “Can I achieve good results without steroids?”