You hear about them in the media when athletes are caught using them, and you might even see them on TV since pharmaceutical companies advertise them to the general public. Steroids can be used for gaining muscle, enhancing performance, and even treating a variety of medical conditions, but how? What do steroids do?
What are Anabolic Steroids?
Before answering the question “what do steroids do?” it is first important to take a look at what anabolic steroids actually are. Simply put, they are all synthetic derivatives of testosterone that have been molecularly altered to provide a specific set of benefits to the user. They have both anabolic and androgenic properties, as well. The anabolic effects of steroids include increased bone density and muscle mass; the androgenic effects include the development of male characteristics. Anabolic steroids come in injectable and oral forms, and some even come in gels or creams that can be applied topically.
What are steroids? They are compounds that allow athletes and bodybuilders to enhance their gains or burn fat while maintaining muscle mass thanks to their unique properties. Though most steroid users are men, many women also benefit from certain types of steroids, as well. These should not be confused with corticosteroids, which are completely different compounds designed to slow an immune response that causes inflammation in the body.
What they do in the Body
The primary function of anabolic steroids involves helping the body’s muscle cells produce more protein. As long as an athlete or bodybuilder eats the right diet and continues to work out, this leads to increased muscle size. Steroids do this in a number of ways.
- Steroids bind with androgen receptors in the muscle cells, where they interact with the DNA and stimulate the process of protein synthesis.
- Anabolic steroids can also block the production of cortisol, a hormone commonly called the “stress hormone”, which breaks down muscle tissue and increases fat stores.
- Steroids improve the muscle cells’ ability to retain nitrogen, which is a necessary building block in the protein synthesis process.
Different steroids do all of these things at different rates, which is why many athletes and bodybuilders work so hard to create the perfect “stack” for their needs. Some steroids are better for adding muscle, some are better for cutting fat, and some are better for improving stamina, speed, and endurance. The table below shows the most common uses of popular anabolic steroids.
Steroid Main Use Secondary Use
What Do Steroids Do for Workouts?
Sometimes, depending on the steroid, it may be possible to intensify workouts by timing your dose of anabolic steroids just right. For example, when it comes to Dianabol, which is popular for adding muscle mass, some men prefer to take the entire daily dose about 30 minutes before their workouts because it provides a tremendous energy burst. Some people believe this may facilitate gains, as well, since men who take their doses just before workouts can enjoy more power, more strength, and more intensity, allowing them to push their workouts to the very limits.
This isn’t true for all steroids, and it isn’t true for all people. Anyone who is new to steroids and who wants to know what do steroids do in the body should understand that no two people are the same, which means that no two sets of results will be the same. You may experience insane energy gains while your friend experiences none; meanwhile, your friend may gain 25 pounds while you only gain 15. This is to be expected since everything from diet to exercise and unique metabolism will play a role in steroids’ efficacy.
What Steroids Do for Recovery?
One of the biggest reasons why men and women alike turn to anabolic steroids has to do with workout intensity – and, surprisingly, workout recovery. Remember that when you lift weights or participate in any form of strength training, your muscles don’t grow during your workout. They actually grow when you rest during a time called your recovery period, and this is why natural athletes who don’t use steroids often take one or two days off after a major workout. It allows for ample growth.
However, when athletes and bodybuilders use steroids, this reduces the amount of time they need for recovery simply because it enhances the recovery process. These individuals don’t have to take as much time off because their recovery is much quicker. For this reason, they can get right back in the gym and start the process of building muscle tissue again, sometimes the very next day. Some bodybuilders who use steroids train seven days a week and only take recovery days once every couple weeks; others claim this is too much and take one or two recovery days each week, depending on their goals and the intensity of their workouts.
Steroids for Medical Necessity
Another answer to the question “what do steroids do?” has to do with their numerous uses in treating a variety of medical conditions. Medical steroids can help people gain weight after serious illnesses or traumatic injuries, they can treat certain types of anemia, and in some cases, they can even help fight breast cancer. Most commonly, though, physicians prescribe different types and preparations of testosterone to men who have a condition known as Low-T (low testosterone). Once a man reaches the age of about 30, his body no longer produces the same amount of testosterone, which can result in a variety of undesirable symptoms. Prescription testosterone can treat these, and it often drastically improves the quality of life for many of these men.
What do steroids do? It truly depends on the steroid being used. In some cases, steroids are prescribed to people who have certain medical conditions in order to help them feel better and enjoy a better quality of life. In others, athletes and bodybuilders use anabolic steroids to help them gain muscle, sustain muscle during periods of weight loss, or improve their overall performance.