Different people think of different things when they hear the term “steroid”. Some think of medications prescribed by doctors to help reduce inflammation and treat illness, but others think of their impact on performance, size and strength. This comprehensive guide to the different will help you better understand what they are and how they work.
Corticosteroids are the types of steroids that your doctor may prescribe to you if you have a condition such as lupus, asthma, or even a rash. They mimic the effects of hormones that your adrenal gland creates naturally. When you introduce corticosteroids in higher levels than are naturally present in the body, it has the effect of fighting inflammation, which is why it is so commonly given to patients who have different inflammatory ailments.
The most common corticosteroid is known as prednisone, but there are plenty of others. Corticosteroids come in injectable and oral forms, and you can buy some creams over the counter that contain very small amounts of corticosteroids. Many of today’s OTC nasal sprays for allergies contain corticosteroids, too.
- Oral corticosteroids – Available with a prescription only. These are generally short courses of treatment given at home to help combat inflammation that is causing pain. There are several different types and strengths available, too.
- Injectable corticosteroids – These injections are given directly in a physician’s office or in a hospital, and they serve the same purpose as their oral counterparts. However, it is possible to give a much larger dose when injected rather than taken orally. Most doctors reserve injections for patients who have very localized and severe swelling. Asthma patients are sometimes given very high doses intravenously to help them recover from acute asthma attacks.
- Topical corticosteroids – You can find these over the counter in many drug and department stores. Many people keep them on hand to treat itching and redness associated with anything from bug bites to the rash caused by poison ivy. Concentrations of 10% or less are available over the counter, and stronger topical options are available by prescription.
Anabolics, on the other hand, are the types of steroids most often associated with athletes and bodybuilders. Nonetheless, there are many medical uses for anabolics. Doctors may prescribe testosterone or other compounds to treat conditions like low testosterone in men (Low-T) or to help people who have AIDS, cancer, and other health conditions retain (or gain) the muscle mass needed for good health.
Anabolics are derivatives of testosterone, and when they bind to testosterone receptors in the body, they facilitate muscle growth, energy, strength, and stamina. Like corticosteroids, anabolics come in a variety of types. There are oral and injectable, and there are also gels, creams, patches, and pellets.
- Oral Anabolics – There are several different types of oral anabolics. Andriol, which is a pill form of testosterone undecanoate, is commonly prescribed to men to treat low testosterone. Other orals, like Anavar and Dianabol, are common among those who want to gain muscle mass and improve their overall athletic performance. For the most part, orals are known for their ability to cause significant liver damage in a short period of time. Some, such as Andriol, are very mild when compared to others, like Dianabol.
- Injectable Anabolics – These types of steroids are given in doctors’ offices or at home, and they are also common among athletes and bodybuilders. Some of the most well-known injectables include Trenbolone, Deca Durabolin, and Primobolan Depot. These do not cause liver damage like orals, but they should still be used responsibly. Taking too much for too long, or taking injectables without the proper supplementation and post cycle therapy, can lead to irreversible side effects like testicular atrophy and gynecomastia.
- Anabolic steroid gels, creams, and patches – These are difficult to find outside of a pharmacy, but they do exist, and millions of people around the world use them to help treat Low-T or muscle wasting disorders. In fact, transdermal testosterone patches are becoming increasingly more popular among men dealing with low testosterone because they are easy to use and apply. None of these delivery methods contain a dose high enough to benefit athletes, though.
- Anabolic steroid pellets – These types of steroids were originally developed for veterinary use. They are often implanted subcutaneously into cattle and other animals in an effort to increase their size before sale. Anabolic testosterone pellets for men are also available, and they are gaining popularity. Called Testopel, they are surgically inserted under the skin and allowed to release testosterone for about four to six months. Many of the oral and injectables found on the black market were prepared in underground laboratories from veterinary-grade steroid pellets, which are legal and easier to find than pharmaceutical-grade.
Types of Steroids – Anabolic vs. Androgenic
You may hear the term “anabolic steroid” used far more often than “androgenic steroid”, but this is the key difference between the ones found in athletic circles. All types used for performance enhancement are both anabolic and androgenic to some degree, but the way a particular steroid is rated will ultimately determine its effect on your body. These two types have different sets of effects, both positive and negative.
- Anabolic – The term “anabolic” is used to describe anabolism, or constructive metabolism. Essentially, it’s a term that encompasses the processes behind breaking down complex molecules into smaller ones for use by your body, including energy. For example, the breakdown of proteins into amino acids is considered an anabolic process, and it is vital to the growth of lean muscle tissue. Anabolic processes are responsible for bone and muscle tissue growth, nitrogen retention, organ size, height, immunity, and more.
- Androgenic – On the other hand, the term “androgenic” is used to define processes related to the development and maintenance of male characteristics. Testosterone is the primary androgenic hormone in humans, and it is present in both men and women. Most Anabolics are derivatives of testosterone, which means they are all androgenic to some degree. Androgenic effects within the body include the growth of the penis or clitoris, genetic hair density, voice pitch, sebaceous gland activation – things commonly attributed to puberty.
With this information in mind, a steroid that is more anabolic than androgenic can promote growth, but with fewer androgenic side effects. Ones that are more androgenic than anabolic, such as Halotestin, are known for increasing strength and muscle quality more than size, but they often have a significant risk for side effects that users must be careful to mitigate.
The chart below shows a few different common used and the comparison between their anabolic and androgenic ratings.
Steroid Anabolic Rating Androgrenic Rating
With this information available to you, it becomes simpler to anticipate what a certain steroid will provide in terms of both risks and benefits.
Wet vs. Dry
Finally, it’s important to consider two more important categories used to classify different types, and these are wet and dry. The differences between the two are simple enough to understand, and doing so can help you make better choices about the performance enhancement you want.
- Wet – A wet steroid is a compound that causes the body to retain water. Wet are estrogenic in nature, which means that your body will convert unbound hormone into estrogen. As a result, water builds up between your muscle cells. Though this process can speed the muscles’ ability to repair themselves, it also results in a loss of muscle definition. Wet can help relieve joint pain because this excess water isn’t limited to muscles; it finds its way into joints, too. Dianabol is a very popular example of a wet steroid.
- Dry – Conversely, there are some that do the exact opposite of their wet counterparts – they remove the water from between body cells. Dry are usually non-estrogenic, which means they will not aromatize and convert to estrogen. Like wet, dry ones also have their benefits; athletes tend to use them during cutting cycles to maintain lean muscle mass and promote muscular definition. The biggest drawback is the likelihood of joint pain since these compounds also pull fluid from the joints. Winstrol is the most popular dry steroid.
Of the many different types of steroids available today, testosterone is by far the most popular in the bodybuilding and athletic crowd, while prednisone is incredibly popular for treating medical conditions that result in inflammation. Each and every steroid is completely different, so it is important to understand the pros and cons associated with different delivery types before you start your regimen or cycle.