The Health Risks of Using Anabolic Steroids

Steroids can increase muscle mass and performance – but they also have potentially deadly side effects. Before you start taking steroids to fast track your muscle gains, you better learn about the potential negative side effects of anabolic steroids abuse. The desire to be the best is one of the reasons some athletes turn to anabolic steroids – performance enhancing drugs that can make them stronger and faster. But no matter what the benefits, steroids can have severe negative consequences, both physical and psychological. They should never be used unless prescribed by a physician to treat a medical condition.

Exactly what makes anabolic steroids so powerful? They are the synthetic version of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone. (Anabolic steroids have no relation to corticosteroids, used to treat asthma.) Anabolic steroids appeal mainly to the competitive athlete, from high school track runners to professional bodybuilders. These athletes use steroids primarily to improve athletic performance, enhance appearance, and increase muscle mass and strength.

Steroids allow both endurance athletes, such as long-distance runners, and power athletes, such as weightlifters, to train more frequently, with higher intensity, and for longer periods of time. They also help athletes recuperate more quickly than they would without the drugs.

Because of this performance boost, there are more than one million current or former users of anabolic steroids in the United States today. Since it’s illegal for physicians to prescribe steroids for non-medical uses, most steroid users must obtain the drugs on the black market, estimated by the Drug Enforcement Administration to result in more than $400 million dollars of sales each year. Many steroids are produced in underground laboratories in Europe and South America and smuggled into North America.

Studies show that numerous steroid users start as teenagers: As many as 3 to 11 percent of high school boys and up to 2 percent of senior girls have used steroids. Steroid use involves taking several tablets a day or many injections a week, in cycles of six to 12 or more weeks.

The long-term effects of anabolic steroids haven’t been studied, but much is known about the short-term effects. In both men and women, anabolic steroid use promotes acne, muscle mass, and secondary sex characteristics, including permanent deepening of the voice and facial hair growth, as well as increased libido. Steroids are also believed to increase aggressiveness, though there’s no strong consensus as to whether “roid rage” – sudden outbursts of violent behavior – is actually caused by steroid use.

The more serious effects of steroid use depend on the form in which they are taken. There are several types of anabolic steroids: orals, injections, gels, patches, and nasal sprays. Adolescents and less sophisticated users tend to use injectible or oral steroids. Oral steroids have more negative effects than injectible; they’re associated with liver abnormalities, as well as tumors.

After several days of oral steroid use, a person’s “good” cholesterol (that is, high-density lipoproteins or HDLs) can plummet to single-digit levels, which are dangerous and can increase risk of heart disease. (Ideally, HDLs should be above 35 milligrams per deciliter of blood in adults 20 years of age or older.) However, these problems usually disappear within a month of discontinuing steroid use.

All steroids shut down the production of testosterone by the testes in males, which stop sperm production. As a result, anabolic steroids have been tested as a male contraceptive, though the findings are still inconclusive.

Studies also suggest an association between anabolic steroid use and heart attack and stroke, probably due to increased blood clotting and spasms of the arteries. There have also been a number of cases of cardiomyopathy, an enlargement of the heart muscle where it becomes weakened and can’t pump blood efficiently, sometimes leading to congestive heart failure.

Though anabolic steroids aren’t addictive in a physical sense, users can become dependent on them. Like with any drug the user can easily become psychologically addicted.

Though using anabolic steroids may sound like a recipe for health problems, they do have legitimate medical benefits in certain cases. Anabolic steroids have been used as replacement therapy for men whose testes aren’t producing testosterone, helping them maintain their sex drive and their primary sex characteristics. They’re also given to HIV-positive individuals to increase appetite, give a sense of well-being, and maintain muscle mass.

Despite the risks, without better detection, education, and treatment, anabolic steroids will continue to be the drug of choice for athletes concerned about being the best, even when their overall health is at stake. You have to ask yourself this serious question. Is the possible performance enhancement benefits worth the associated health risk? I think not.

How To Get Six Pack Abs

You have already got six pack abs (eight if you count the two boxes between your navel and your pelvis). That’s the way your abdomen is configured. The good news is, if you’re like the majority of hardgainers, then you already have a very low body fat percentage and only need to focus on strengthening the abdominal region to show the muscles, instead of worrying about fat loss. However, this article will be an abs guide for all body types. If you want those boxes to pop, your plan of attack needs to be two fold; one, build your abdominal wall, and two, reduce your body fat so the muscles will show.

The formula for toning your abs is straightforward:

  • crunches for the upper and frontal abs (rectus abdominis)
  • rotating crunches (adding a twist), for the side abs and the waist (internal/external obliques)
  • leg raises for the lower abdomen (boxes seven and eight)
  • bicycle crunches which are one of the most effective abs exercises

Here’s a demonstration of how to do a bicycle crunch correctly:

You can work your abs with an abs machine or on your bedroom floor. The point is to work them! The more dedicated and creative you are, the better your results will be. Mix up your routines. Muscles respond to diversity and challenge. Your body will appreciate the variety and your mind will stay focused and sharp during your workouts. Three to four, 15-minute ab workouts a week, working the abdomen from all angles (upper, lower, obliques), should be enough. Don’t work your abs everyday. Days off are important for recovery and growth.

The second plan of attack for a washboard stomach is to reduce your body fat.

You can reduce your body fat in two ways:

  • burn more calories
  • improve your diet

Cardiovascular activity burns calories. Basketball, tennis, jogging, treadmills, stairmasters, swimming, anything that gets you moving around. The more you move, the more calories you’ll burn. Cardiovascular exercise will also improve your stamina, strength, overall health and longevity. Weight training is also beneficial. Muscles burn calories even at rest, so building muscle mass will mean you will burn calories at a faster rate.

Finally, to look like an athlete you have to eat like one. Eat plenty of protein; meat, fish and poultry. Between meals opt for healthy snacks; fresh fruit, salads, protein bars or nutritional shakes for extra energy. It’s more about quality than quantity. Think of your food as the fuel that powers you. You wouldn’t run a Jaguar on low-grade gas, loaded with sugar and starch, if you knew it would perform better powered by protein, fresh fruits and vegetables. If you’re determined to have a stomach you can bounce a quarter off, combining consistent and diverse abdominal workouts, with a high protein diet and plenty of cardiovascular activity is the way to go.