Anabolic steroids are prescription-only medications, but most times, they are abused in a bid to increase performance and grow muscle mass.
They can be injected into the muscle, swallowed as tablets and also applied to the skin using creams or gels.
Before we look into how anabolic steroids grow the muscle, let’s see what happens to the muscles when growth is stimulated in them.
When the muscle fibres experience tiny tears due to weight lifting and other forms of exercise, it undergoes a natural response to repair and overcompensate for the damage by growing larger protein strands to build a muscle fibre that is stronger through the process of protein synthesis. The result of this process is known as muscular hypertrophy(muscle gain).
With time, you begin to exercise more and push yourself harder, thereby putting the process of ‘tear down and rebuild’ on repeat, thus resulting in muscle growth. The stiff feeling you get after a workout is a result of the microscopic breaking of muscle fibres or small tears.
How do anabolic steroids catalyse bodybuilding?
When an anabolic steroid is ingested into the body, the Anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) will travel through your bloodstream to the muscle tissue.
From there, the muscle tissue absorbs the steroid through the androgen receptors. Once the steroid is delivered to the muscle cells, the AAS interacts with the cell’s DNA, to facilitate the process of protein synthesis, leading to cell growth.
However, the body reacts to the AAS based on the amount and variant of the steroid used.
Other Benefits of Anabolic Steroids
Before we go into this, it is important to note that the word ‘benefits’ should be used carefully as these benefits are often short-lived and are most times accompanied by some severe side effects.
Apart from increasing muscle size, the other benefits include:
Body Fat Reduction: Steroids help to reduce body fat which results in an increased metabolic rate. Experts believe that steroids oxidize fat, through the process of lipid oxidation for the production of energy.
Steroids are used to treat several medical conditions: Health conditions such as muscle atrophy as a result of illness or for individuals that need extra testosterone to improve their loss of libido or to facilitate puberty when it becomes difficult to happen naturally.
Increase in red blood cell production: Steroids have been shown to increase the production of red blood cells. These cells are responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body to reach all of the tissues and organs. When more oxygen is being transported to the muscles, this gives them the ability to work harder and for longer periods. This is the reason why endurance athletes use anabolic steroids despite the side effects.
Increased performance: Steroids are performance enhancers. When used, the user experiences stamina and energy boost, causing them to breach new limits.
Increase in appetite: Due to an increased metabolic rate (the rate at which your body turns certain compounds such as sugar, fat and other foods into energy), appetite is increased.