There are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding the use of steroids. If you are curious about the side effects of steroid use then it is probably time to set the record straight.
Steroid side effects have been the topic of much debate over the past few decades and this has unfortunately been accompanied with some misinformation.
When people debate the issue of steroids they immediately jump onto the worst case scenario band wagon without having the real facts presented to them properly. Conversely there is a lot of ‘Bro-Science’ being thrown around the internet about the side effects of steroids and it is now time to debunk the myths. Here goes:
Do they block natural hormones?
The inhibition of the natural hormones is probably the most common side effect that is associated with steroid use.
In fact in most cases taking steroids will send a message to your endocrine system to stop creating natural hormones. Theoretically your brain wants the body to remain in a balanced state (homeostasis) and this ensures the body doesn’t have too many or not enough hormones in your blood stream.
When you administer anabolic steroids the brain signals to your testicles to stop or slow down the production of testosterone. This mechanism happens when any kind of hormone is added to the body and the type of steroid taken can have a varying impact.
These range from a total shut down of testosterone to a mild reduction where hormones are still being produced and circulated.
Fortunately research has indicated that your testosterone levels do go back to their original after you stop the use of steroids. However, the amount of time this can take is dependent on the individual.
Does steroid use cause liver damage?
Many articles that you read on steroid use and their side effects identify liver toxicity as the main issue associated with their use.
Steroids that are ingested orally pass through the liver to be metabolised and filtered back into the bloodstream and off to the skeletal muscle. During this process the enzymes that are involved in breaking down the steroids are used a marker of their toxicity and they will obviously be raised because of this.
Does this increase in the enzyme markers equate to your liver being damaged? In the long term probably ‘yes’; however much of the research within this area has used very high doses of steroids on their subjects and have mainly focused on liver activity and not damage.
Do steroids increase my cholesterol levels?
In terms of cholesterol steroid use does lower your high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) and increase your low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Some steroids differ in the severity of lowering of your HDL level and increasing your LDL levels but ‘Why is this significant?’ HDL are important because they help to mop any cholesterol within the arteries and this is then broken down by the liver – this is the main reason why they are regarded as the ‘good cholesterol.’
On the other hand the LDLs can stick to the side of your arteries and cause blockages. This is the main rationale why steroid use has been linked to many cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure.
Can you develop man boobs?
The scientific term for man boobs is ‘gynecomastia’ which is the enlargement of breast tissue in men.
This condition is possible with the use of anabolic steroids because there is an increase in estrogen within the body via the process of ‘aromatization’. This occurs when androgens are converted into estrogen. An increase in circulating estrogen levels then binds to the breast tissue to form man boobs.
Therefore developing man boobs via the use of steroids is in fact ‘true’ and not a myth!
Can steroids use harm my kidneys?
The use of certain steroids can place an additional burden onto your kidneys because they are involved in the filtration and excretion processes.
Many steroids such as ‘Tren’ can cause your kidneys to work overtime and this is evident with the dark brown urine that many bodybuilders omit after taking this particular steroid.
A solution is to drink plenty of water or cranberry juice to flush out your urinary system. This should be the case for taking any supplements regardless whether they are steroids or not!
Can steroids make me bald?
Yes taking steroids can cause you to go bald if you have a genetic predisposition towards it. The balding gene resides in your ‘X’ chromosome and steroid use can exacerbate the balding process further by the scalp reacting to the dihydrotestosterone levels.
This unfortunately does speed up the balding process if it is in your genetics.
A top tip is to check out your mother’s side of the family and see how many males members are going thin on top!
Can steroids give me ‘roid’ rage?
There is an increase in aggression associated with taking steroids because of the synthetic increase in testosterone levels.
However, only 5% of steroid users actually have bouts of roid rage, increased violence, aggression towards others, mania and/or psychosis. This is still a risk and everyone does react differently to taking steroids.
Can steroids give me water retention and reduce my sterility?
Some of the medium and longer steroids have an increased rate of aromatization and this can cause water retention. Therefore these types of steroids are used in the bulking cycles and not during the cutting cycles.
Typically shorter ester steroids don’t cause water retention and/or bloating. In terms of sterility long term use of steroids does lower the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which is required to produce sperm.