Bodybuilding & Steroids

Bodybuilding & steroids: this post tries to provide a general and practical introduction to bodybuilding using steroids. In particular on how they work, what they may do to you, and the side effects they carry. And how to reduce them.
Note: the use of performance drugs and steroids is strongly not recommended to anyone under the age of 21. They interfere with the body’s natural development and growth, carrying unexpected, long term serious consequences.
In facts, anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs has a modest impact on developing muscles. People who take hormones and steroids because they are sick don’t develop any special physique, because steroids do not build muscle on their own.

Regardless if steroids are used or not, the body will increase its muscle mass only if you:

Train properly
Rest between training sessions
Follow a specific diet

Eating the right foods at the right time in the right quantities is part of a bodybuilder’s life. Protein, carbohydrates and fats are all essential. The caloric ratios below are recommended for bulking.
Carbohydrates – main source of energy – 40% of total calories. Brown rice, brown pasta, whole meal bread, sweet potatoes, oats.
Protein – the core of muscle – 40% of total calories. Chicken, turkey, fish, tuna, lean beef, egg whites, whey protein.
Good fat – growth and energy – 20% of total calories. Nuts, oily fish, avocado, coconut oil.
These percentages can be modified depending on the goals and the training regime.

Muscles grow only if they are stressed. The training damages the muscle fibers and the natural repair process makes the muscle bigger and stronger. A training program should be personalized to fit to the athlete’s goals.
Bulking – focus on heavy resistance training
Reduce body fat – focus on cardiovascular exercise
Tone and increase fitness – combine both.
Cardiovascular training should be included in every training program.

How anabolic steroids work
Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) are created to substitute natural Testosterone. These synthetic hormones work by binding with the androgen receptors at cell level and creating protein synthesis. This generates an increase in muscle size and strength. There are other important effects associated with AAS use. The body will also:

Remain in a state of anabolism (muscle building and holding)
Avoid catabolism (muscle wasting)
Maintain a positive nitrogen balance(essential for growth)
Increase red blood cell production, so that the blood can carry more oxygen.

Excessive usage of steroids (high dosage and/or long periods of time) can led to a point where muscles don’t grow, regardless of how good training and diet are. Taking periodic and long breaks between steroid cycles is strongly recommended. Never use steroids for any more than 12 weeks in a row (8 weeks is recommended  for injectables and 6 weeks for orals). Take the same length of time or longer for breaks.

Steroids & performance enhancing drugs – doses
Before discussing the underground of bodybuilding, it is important to understand dosages and doses. You must be able to calculate the weight (in milligrams or micrograms) of a drug diluted in an oily compound you are going to inject in your muscle. Or if it’s a tablet, swallow. Micrograms (mcg) are the smallest unit of measurement. There are 1,000 mcg in 1 milligram (mg). There are 1,000 milligrams in a gram (g)
Liquid is measured in millilitres (ml). The dose of a drug is its weight per ml of liquid, multiplied by the number of ml injected. Sometimes the dose is not exactly what printed on the label. It’s better to start with smaller doses and increase.
Hormone treatments and insulin are often prescribed in “International Units” (IU). It is very important to know the total number of International Units are contained in a compound like HGH or HCG, to calculate how many IUs there will be per ml of liquid.

Injecting DO NOT
share or reuse any injecting equipment
inject in a vein, blood vessel or nerve
use more than 2 ml of oil based steroids on a site
inject into the muscles targeted for growth (spot injecting)
choose needles shorter than 30 mm
use injectable steroids for more than 12 weeks in a row

Injectable and oral steroids: doses and frequency
The list below shows the most common steroids used and related doses, for male bodybuilders. Side effects are to be expected with these doses. Higher doses are not a guarantee of better results but will surely increase the harshness of side effects.

Boldenone Undecanoate
Brand name: Equipoise
Market name: EQ, equipoise
Half life: 14 days
Aromatises: Yes
Dose: 200 – 400 mg per week (injections once every 4 – 7 days)

Drostanolone Propionate
Brand name: Masteron
Market name: Masteron
Half life: 3 days
Aromatises: No
Dose:100 – 150 mg (injections every other day)

Methenolone Enanthate
Brand name: Primobolan
Market name: Primo
Half life: 10 days
Aromatises: No
Dose: 200 – 400 mg per week (injections once every 4 – 7 days)

Nandrolone Decanoate
Brand name: Deca Durabolin
Market name: Deca
Half life: 8 days
Aromatises: Yes
Dose: 200 – 600 mg per week (injections once every 4 – 7 days)

Brand name: Winstrol
Market name: Winni
Half life: 1 day
Aromatises: No
Dose: 50 – 100 mg daily or every other day (injections every other day)

Brand name: Sustanon 250
Market name: Sustanon
Half life: 15 days
Aromatises: Yes
Dose: 250 – 750 mg per week (injections once every 4 – 7 days)

Testosterone Cypionate
Brand name: Many
Market name: Test C, Cyp
Half life: 12 days
Aromatises: Yes
Dose: 200 – 600 mg per week (injections once every 4 – 7 days)

Testosterone Enanthate
Brand name: Many
Market name: Test E
Half life: 10 days
Aromatises: Yes
Dose: 200 – 600 mg per week (injections once every 4 – 7 days)

Testosterone Propionate
Brand name: N/A
Market name: Test Prop, Test P
Half life: 4 days
Aromatises: Yes
Dose: 50 – 100 mg every other day (injections every other day)

Testosterone Suspension
Brand name: Many
Street name: N/A
Half life: 1 day
Aromatises: Yes
Dose: 50 – 100 mg daily or every other day (injections every day)

Trenbolone Acetate
Brand name: Finaject, Finajet
Markete name: Tren A
Half life: 3 days
Aromatises: No
Dose: 50 – 100 mg (injections every other day)

Trenbolone Enathate
Brand name: N/A
Street name: Tren E
Half life: 10 days
Aromatises: No
Dose:200 – 300 mg per week (injections once every 4 – 7 days)

Trenbolone Hexahydrobenzylcarbonate
Brand name: Parabolan
Street name: N/A
Half life: 10 Days
Aromatises: No
Dose: 152 – 228 mg per week (injections once every 4 – 7 days)

Oral steroids

4-chlorodehydromethyl Testosterone
Brand name: Turinabol
Market name: T- Bol
Half life: 7 hours
Aromatises: No
Dose: 20 – 80 mg per day

Brand name: Halotestin
Market name: Halo
Half life: 8 hours
Aromatises: No
Dose: 20 – 40 mg per day

Methandrostenolone, Methandienone
Brand name: Dianabol, Anabol
Market name: D-Bol, dianabol, anabol
Half life: 6 hours
Aromatises: Yes
Dose: 20 – 40 mg per day

Brand name: Provironum, Proviron
Market name: Proviron
Half life: 12 hours
Aromatises: No
Dose: 50 – 100 mg per day

Brand name: Anavar
Market name: Anavar
Half life: 9 hours
Aromatises: No
Dose: 20 – 40 mg per day – often a choice for women at lower doses

Brand name: Anapoloon
Market name: Oxy
Half life: 8 hours
Aromatises: Yes
Dose: 50 – 100 mg per day

Brand name: Winstrol, Stanzol, Stanozol
Market name: Winni
Half life: 9 hours
Aromatises: No
Dose: 20 – 50 mg per day

Testosterone Undecanoate
Brand name: Andriol, Anadrol
Market name: Androl
Half life: 3 hours
Aromatises: Yes
Dose: 80 – 160 mg per day

Injectable steroids side effects
For men

Increase in bad cholesterol and decreases in good cholesterol
Heart enlargement
Risk of heart-related complications
High blood pressure
Liver damage, jaundice
Pain at the joints
Mood swings
Decrease in Testosterone natural production
Male baldness
Erectile dysfunction
Sex drive changes
Development of breast tissue (gyno)
Prostate enlargement

For women

Changes in the reproductive system
Birth defects
Development of masculine traits
Breast shrinkage
Voice tone deepening

Oral steroids
The use of oral steroids is very common. Whoever dislikes injections, both experienced bodybuilders and beginners, will choose orals. Also, there is a general assumption that oral steroids are not as harmful as injectables. This is a common myth: oral steroids can be particularly harmful. Some female bodybuilders prefer certain orals as they bring less androgenic (male characteristics) side effect. Oral steroids work in a similar way to injectables,  but they must pass through the liver, sometimes with harsh effects. The most toxic steroids are C17 Alpha-Alkylated, often referred as 17-aa steroids. This means that the drug has been altered to pass through the liver more than once. 

If oral steroids are to be used:

Keep your dose low
Keep your cycle length short (6 weeks max)

Signs of liver damage
Warning signs indicating liver issues usually appear in the following order, from less serious to very serious:

Reduced appetite
Swollen abdomen
Feeling sick with mild fever
Yellow eyes or skin
Amber colored urine

Aromatase Inhibitors (AI) and Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs)
These drugs are commonly prescribed in the treatment of breast cancer. Essentially their role is to control or reduce estrogen, as  some steroids convert to estrogen very easily. Estrogen is a female hormone that may lead to larger breasts in males. This is called gynaecomastia. An high estrogen can lead to water retention and sexual dysfunction. To preventing these side effects, bodybuilders add AIs and/or SARMs to their steroid cycles.
The enzyme responsible for the conversion of Testosterone into estrogens is called aromatase. Testosterone users take an aromatase inhibitor to stop this process. Unfortunately, these drugs remove an unhealthy amount of natural estrogen from the body. Another way to deal with high estrogen levels is by taking Tamoxifen, commonly referred as Nolvadex, which blocks the estrogen’s effect. Nolvadex is universally used in Post Cycle Therapy (PCT).

The most common AIs and SERMs are:

Anastrozo (AI)
Brand name: Arimidex
Market name: Arimidex
Half life: 3 days
Dose: 0.5 – 1 mg every other day

Exemestane (AI)
Brand name: Aromasin
Market name: N/A
Half life: 24 hours
Dose: 12.5 – 25 mg every other day

Letrozole (AI)
Brand name: Femara
Market name: Letro, Femara
Half life: 2 days
Dose: 1.5 – 2.5 mg every other day

Tamoxifen (SERM)
Brand name: Nolvadex
Market name: Nolva
Half life: 5 days
Dose: 10 – 20 mg daily

Post Cycle Therapy (PCT)
The system that regulates Testosterone production is called the Hypothalamic Pituitary Testicular Axis (HPTA). Parts of the brain (hypothalamus and pituitary) are involved in this process. Taking anabolic steroids for more than a few weeks may lead to a shutdown of HPTA, as the body detects that there is a high enough level of Testosterone and shuts down its production. The firs sign is a shrinking of the testicles. But the main issue start when the steroids leave the system and it is left with unnaturally low levels of Testosterone. To fix this imbalance, bodybuilders enter a PCT phase after or during he last weeks of their steroids cycles.

HPTA shutdown symptoms:

feeling low, tired, weak;
loss of sex drive;
erectile dysfunction;
muscle shrinkage;

Bodybuilders use the term “steroid crash” to describe HPTA shutdown.

Post Cycle Therapy describes a cycle of drugs taken to restart natural Testosterone production after a cycle. However, PCT is not essential, as in most cases the body will go back to its normal levels after an period of time without steroids. Although bodybuilders have been using PCT for decades, not all agree to its effectiveness. The majority of the drugs used for PCT are not licensed for this purpose.

The most used PCT drugs are:

Clomid: influences the release of Luteinizing hormone(LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
Brand name: Clomid
Market name: N/A
Half life: 5 days Dose: 100 mg every day for 30 days (50 mg morning, and 50 mg evening)

HCG: helps bringing back the testicles to normal size
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)
Brand name: HCG
Market name: HCG
Half life: 4 days
Dose: 2000 IU every other day for 20 days. HCG is often cycled at a dose of 250–500 IU every 4 or 5 days.

Tamoxifen: taken to block the effect of estrogen on the HPTA.
Brand name: Nolvadex
Market name: Tamox
Half life: 5 days Dose: 40 mg every day for 45 days (20 mg morning, and 20 mg evening).