What Are Steroids?
With all of this talk about ‘legal steroids’ going around online, a lot of people may be wondering exactly what they are.
Of course, legal steroids are a bit different from actual ‘steroids’, though in this article we are going to focus more on real steroids and discuss, in a general sense, what they are and what they do.
According to the dictionary, steroids are “any of a large class of organic compounds with a characteristic molecular structure containing four rings of carbon atoms (three six-membered and one five). They include many hormones, alkaloids, and vitamins.”
So this is a very literal definition – though not one that will make much sense to those of us who are not chemists. There are actually a lot of different compounds, hormones, and products that technically fall under the realm of the word ‘steroid’, though when most people are talking about steroids they are actually referring to synthesized hormones called anabolic steroids. These are usually artificially-produced, and are generally very similar in composition to androgens – which are sex hormones. The most powerful of these hormones is testosterone, therefore it is the hormone most commonly synthesized by anabolic steroids.
What do they do?
Steroids were originally developed to treat different medical conditions. Anabolic steroids in-particular are used to help with problems related to late onset of puberty, muscle loss due to diseases like AIDS or cancer, and for other less-common conditions.
Basically, steroids speed up muscle growth. Whenever we lift weights or work out, we actually create small ‘tears’ in our muscles. These heal over time, though the muscle grows a bit bigger every time it happens. This is what builds muscle, makes us stronger, and makes the muscles larger.
Testosterone is the primary hormone that regulates this muscle re-growth, which is why anabolic steroids are sometimes abused by athletes and body-builders. The extra testosterone introduced into the system through anabolic steroids enhances this natural re-building, and also makes it faster. Anabolic steroids also work to block cortisol, which is the body’s stress hormone and one of the main causes of muscle reduction.
Why doesn’t everyone use anabolic steroids?
Anabolic steroids are actually regulated in the UK, and therefore are illegal to use unless they are prescribed to you by a doctor. One of the main reasons for the regulation of anabolic steroids is the fact that they can cause some pretty dangerous side effects. There is a long list of negative effects that can be brought on by unsafe steroid usage. For men, these include the following…
- Liver tumors
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- idney tumors
- Shrinking of the testicles
- Fluid retention
- A reduction in sperm count
- And many more.
Women can also experience negative side effects from anabolic steroid use. These are some of the most common…
- An increase in facial hair
- Changes or even cessation of the menstrual cycle
- A deepening of the voice
Most health professionals agree that steroids are not safe to use unless they are prescribed by a doctor for specific medical conditions – which is why their use is illegal and discouraged among athletes and body-builders.
Are legal steroids the same?
Not all steroid-type products are illegal. There are some compounds, ingredients, and supplements that still produce an anabolic-type atmosphere within the body in an attempt to replicate some of the effects of real anabolic steroids, and can do so without requiring a prescription. Nowadays, there are actually an increasing number of ‘legal steroid supplements’ available that are completely legal, though they don’t truly contain ingredients that fall under the ‘anabolic steroid’ label.
These supplements use other natural ingredients intended to raise hormone levels within the body to aid in muscle growth and workout recovery.
Many of them are advertised as ‘side-effect free’ products – though the only way to be sure that what you are taking is going to be safe is to either consult your doctor or to at least educate yourself by reading reviews before using it. Many of these supplements contain such small amounts of the key ingredients that side effects are not much of an issue – which is likely why so many of them are able to advertise their products as completely safe.
Often, these products are marketed and taken in ‘stacks’, or ‘cycles’ to maximize their effectiveness. Since they are a bit dialed back on active ingredients to keep them safe, they work best when they’re used in conjunction with other ingredients that help to elevate other natural hormone levels in the body. In doing so, these supplements can ‘complement’ each other, and give you better results than you would get if you were to take just one of them on their own.