If you are thinking about using anabolic steroids to help you gain mass, cut fat, or even build strength and stamina, you should be aware of the typical anabolic steroids side effects that often can and do occur.
The good news, though, is that you can mitigate most of these side effects with responsible use.
Common Anabolic Steroids Side Effects
Though most of the major anabolic steroids side effects can be mitigated with responsible use, there are some that almost everyone will experience to some degree or another. It’s important to remember that different types of steroids will cause different side effects, too.
It’s important to research the specific steroid you use, as well. Even those that fall within the same category, so to speak, can have a wide variety of steroid side effects. Some of the most common include the following:
- Oily skin and/or acne. Many of the people who use anabolic steroids – including men and women alike – will experience oily skin with or without acne. This is due to the hormonal changes going on in the body, and for many people, these side effects will resolve on their own over time. In the meantime, medicated face and body washes can help keep oil at bay or treat steroid acne. You may also experience an oily scalp; a good clarifying shampoo can resolve this, as well.
- Gastrointestinal side effects. Some people experience digestive or gastrointestinal issues; it’s one of the most common anabolic steroids side effects, particularly among oral steroid users. They can cause stomach pain, heartburn, acid reflux, gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation from person to person. Again, for most people, these side effects resolve on their own over time. You can treat symptoms as they arise with over-the-counter medications.
- Male pattern baldness. The notion that male pattern baldness is one of the direct side effects of steroids is a myth. Steroids themselves do not cause male pattern baldness, but they certainly can accelerate it in individuals (men and women) who are genetically predisposed. There is nothing you can do to prevent these side effects of anabolic steroids, so if you are concerned about hair loss, or if you are already experiencing male pattern baldness, you may want to avoid steroids altogether.
- Bloating and water retention. Certain steroids (namely wet steroids used for bulking, like Dianabol) are notorious for causing water retention. This is often most noticeable in the hands and feet, and some people experience a phenomenon known as “moon face” due to water retention in the face. Sodium can play a big role in this, so try to consume fewer than 2000mg of sodium each day. Though it may seem counterintuitive, staying hydrated can also reduce bloating since it helps to flush excess sodium and other toxins from the bloodstream.
- Joint pain. Just as some steroids cause water retention, others can do the exact opposite – remove water from the body. Winstrol is the compound known for causing these anabolic steroids side effects more than any other, too. This may not resolve over time, and for some people, it may actually get worse the longer your cycle. Over-the-counter pain relievers and glucosamine supplements can help.
One of the most serious anabolic steroids side effects that you can experience is liver damage. Most oral steroids are alkylated, which means they have been altered at the molecular level in order to make them orally bioavailable, and alkylated steroids have an adverse effect on the liver.
Some people develop benign tumors that, while not cancerous, can rupture and cause bleeding in the liver. Over time, this may lead to another condition known as cholestasis, which occurs when bile cannot filter throughout the body properly and instead leaks into the bloodstream.
Keeping cycle lengths short and supplementing with milk thistle may ward off liver damage, and alcohol should be avoided.
Sexual Side Effects
Because steroids are derivatives of testosterone, it comes as no surprise that many of the anabolic steroids side effects are related to the male reproductive system. Men may experience hypogonadism, which leads to a variety of side effects usually attributed to low testosterone.
These include but are not limited to lack of libido, significant mood changes, depression, anxiety, and even the inability to get or maintain an erection. Supplementing steroids with testosterone and planning post-cycle therapy with products like Clomid or Nolvadex, which stimulate the natural production of testosterone, can help keep these side effects at bay.
Many of the anabolic steroids side effects that are of the greatest concern are those related to the cardiovascular system. Steroids have an impact on the production of red blood cells, which can increase blood pressure significantly.
This can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. What’s more, several clinical studies have shown that anabolic steroids can have a tremendous impact on cholesterol levels. Not only do they lower good cholesterol, but they also increase bad cholesterol. Eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated fats and trans fats can help, as can taking fish oil supplements.
Most of the social stigma that surrounds the use of anabolic steroids has to do with “’roid rage”, which is a term coined to define aggression and other similar behavioral changes that occur in individuals who use steroids regularly.
This typically only occurs in individuals who do not use steroids responsibly and who fail to plan solid post-cycle therapy. Without it, individuals feel they must continue to use steroids in order to feel “normal”, and this prolonged use can have some detrimental effects.
To ward off these behavioral effects, which can include aggression, anxiety, and insomnia, it is important to use steroids responsibly, at the right doses, and for the recommended cycle lengths.
Long Term Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids
Many people are concerned with the immediate anabolic steroids side effects, but fail to truly consider what may happen months or even years down the line.
The long-term side effects of anabolic steroids haven’t been studies as much as the short-term effects, but there have been some observations.
These side effects include cardiovascular damage, testicular atrophy, low testosterone, irreversible liver damage, and more.
However, as the tips above point out, you can mitigate these anabolic steroids side effects with responsible use. To further avoid long term steroid side effects, be sure you take breaks between your cycles, and limit the number of steroid cycles each year to two or three.
Anabolic steroids side effects can be quite severe in nature, but using them according to established guidelines and taking precautions against liver damage, cardiovascular issues, sexual side effects, and behavioral problems can keep them at bay.