Bodybuilding steroids can be classified as having two layers or levels: firstly, the steroids that assist in the enhancement of performance and physique (anabolic steroids versus other steroidal compounds), and second, those anabolic steroids that are best suited for the activity of bodybuilding itself (as opposed to other athletic endeavors). Technically, all anabolic steroids (especially those that are most commonly used) are by nature bodybuilding steroids, as they tend to be of the most benefit to bodybuilders, both amateur and professional or competitive.
Truth be told, the second and most widely applied sport/activity that anabolic steroids were introduced to was that of bodybuilding. The first athletic application of anabolic steroids was through their use in the Olympics in the 1950s, specifically in the areas of strength and speed sports. This included Olympic lifting, and quickly spread to other athletic activities that shared the most benefit, such as sprinting. It was not long afterwards before anabolic steroids found their most suitable niche: bodybuilding. Bodybuilding, although it was the second athletic activity to see the use of anabolic steroids, seems to be that which it is best suited for and garners the most benefit from anabolic steroids. This is because anabolic steroids serve not only to enhance muscular strength a great deal, but they also have a profound effect on the aesthetic appearance of the physique – something which is not necessarily ‘athletic’ by nature, but is instead a visual aesthetic characteristic. It is because of this that anabolic steroids are most widely applied to the activity of bodybuilding above all other activities/sports. This is why anabolic steroids are commonly referred to in popular culture as “bodybuilding steroids”.
The nature of anabolic steroids needs to be first understood so that the reasons why this is the case can be fully understood. While anabolic steroids enhance muscular strength, speed, and size by an impressive deal, they can and do enhance other physical athletic capabilities as well (such as endurance). However, the endurance-enhancing effects are to a much lesser degree, and although the application of anabolic steroids to endurance activities does have merit, they are much better suited for size, strength, and speed performance. When we also consider that there are other performance enhancing drugs that are specific to endurance performance enhancement, anabolic steroids drop lower and lower on the list for endurance-based and other athletic activities that are outside the circle of athletics that require strength, speed, and size. Furthermore, anabolic steroids do almost nothing in the way of enhancing other essential capabilities such as hand-eye coordination, which are very important in sports such as golf, baseball, hockey, etc. In this case, we can see that anabolic steroids have lesser application in these areas, though they can still (and certainly are) utilized for their respective benefits in terms of strength/speed in these sports.
This leaves bodybuilding, Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and American football as the sports whereby anabolic steroids are the most prominently applicable. Of course, bodybuilding remains at the number one position for how relevantly applicable anabolic steroids are to it, as it is perhaps the only activity among all listed here where aesthetics and physique appearance are as equally important as muscle size. Even strength is not an influential factor outside of the gym, and it is a non-factor on the competition stage floor.
Therefore, bodybuilding steroids are those steroids that provide the user with the greatest and most significant changes first and foremost in the physique, aesthetics, and strength performance (in that exact order of importance – greatest to least). It is also no surprise that the overwhelming majority of users of bodybuilding steroids are not professional athletes, but the average every day gym goer who places perhaps the least amount of importance on athletic performance, and the most importance on physique changes and aesthetics.
Bodybuilding Steroids Versus Other Steroids
Some basic knowledge on steroids in general is required by the reader before moving onwards. As the reader may or may not already know, there exist many different types of steroids, the vast majority of which have absolutely nothing to do with muscle growth, strength, athletics, or physique enhancement. Some steroids even serve to initiate the breakdown of muscle tissue, and serve to promote the opposite effects of anabolic steroids. Steroids are simply organic compounds that have a characteristic configuration of four six-carbon rings arranged in a particular order. Most steroids contain three six-carbon rings (cyclohexane rings) and one five-carbon ring (cyclopentane ring) in a specific arrangement and order. Cholesterol is one example of a steroid that is not an anabolic steroid, and therefore it is not a bodybuilding steroid. Estrogen is a steroid, but serves no direct or significant effects pertaining to muscle growth or strength, so Estrogen too is not an anabolic bodybuilding steroid. Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol) is a steroid, but one of its rings is broken and it is specifically classified as a secosteroid. It too is not an anabolic steroid.
So then, what are anabolic steroids? What are bodybuilding steroids? Bodybuilding steroids are anabolic steroids, and anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male sex hormone Testosterone (or simply Testosterone itself). Testosterone is steroidal in nature (meaning it conforms to the shape and properties of steroidal compounds as described previously). However, it plays a direct role in the facilitation of muscle size and strength, and serves as a chemical messenger (a hormone) that mediates and controls muscle growth, and therefore muscle strength. Testosterone is known as an androgen, hence why anabolic steroids are also commonly referred to androgenic anabolic steroids (or anabolic androgenic steroids – AAS for short). AAS are referred to as such because all anabolic steroids are androgenic by nature. That is, they are all derivatives or modifications of the androgen Testosterone, which is considered the father of all anabolic steroids. The ‘androgenic’ part of the classification denotes that in addition to the anabolic (muscle building) effects, they also carry with them androgenic (masculinizing) effects – an intrinsic property of Testosterone. Androgenic and anabolic properties cannot be completely separated from each other, and although science has attempted to do so, the farthest science has come is a distinct separation of the androgenic and anabolic effects, but not a complete dissociation of the two.
The modifications made to the Testosterone molecule allow for new anabolic steroids to come into being that possess weaker androgenic capabilities alongside stronger anabolic capabilities. Other properties and characteristics due to these modifications also arise, such as their ability to be unable to convert (aromatize) into Estrogen, thus allowing some anabolic steroids to completely avoid various side effects. Thus, the whole array of bodybuilding steroids were born. The countless modifications of Testosterone and its derivatives resulted in a long list of hundreds of anabolic steroids that are well suited for bodybuilding purposes due to the different capabilities and properties these modifications granted them. Although hundreds of anabolic steroid derivatives were synthesized, only about a dozen are well-known and commonly utilized as bodybuilding steroids. The reason for this is because unfortunately some modifications resulted in anabolic steroids that seemed too dangerous to be considered beneficial, or perhaps the modifications resulted in an anabolic steroid that was too weak to be considered useful.
A whole array and classification of different anabolic steroids were developed: Testosterone derivatives, Nandrolone derivatives, and Dihydrotestosterone derivatives. As their names would imply, Testosterone derivatives are those anabolic steroids that are direct descendants of Testosterone and tend to retain most or all of the properties of Testosterone. Nandrolone derivatives are direct descendants of Nandrolone (which is a derivative of Testosterone via a byproduct of aromatization), and tend to retain most or all of the properties of Nandrolone. Dihydrotestosterone derivatives are the direct descendants of Dihydrotestosterone (which is a reduced version of Testosterone that is normally inactive in muscle tissue), and tend to retain most or all of the properties of Dihydrotestosterone with the exception of being active in muscle tissue. The different subtypes, the derivatives of them, and which ones are the best bodybuilding steroids will be discussed next.
TYPICAL BODYBUILDING STEROIDS AND BODYBUILDING STEROIDS DOSAGES AND CYCLES
In reality, the anabolic steroids used for bodybuilding purposes are the same anabolic steroids used for the purpose of performance enhancement in other athletic sporting activities. However, there tend to be some anabolic steroids that are more preferred for the purpose of bodybuilding compared to other sports due to various advantages and disadvantages. It still stands, however, that there is a wider and broader selection among total anabolic steroids for bodybuilding purposes.
The first bodybuilding steroids to outline here would be the Testosterone family of anabolic steroids. This includes all formats, blends, and ester variants of Testosterone itself. These are most commonly compounds such as Testosterone Enanthate, Testosterone Cypionate, Testosterone Propionate, Testosterone Suspension, and Sustanon 250 (or other blends of Testosterone esters). Although there exist other variants of Testosterone (such as Testosterone Acetate, for example), they are quite rare among the market and among users themselves. Testosterone Enanthate tends to be the most popular and widely utilized ester, followed by Testosterone Cypionate, and eventually the commonality and popularity trickles down to Sustanon 250 and Testosterone Propionate. These are all esterified variants of Testosterone, meaning this is the hormone Testosterone affixed with a carboxylic acid to form an ester bond at the 17th carbon on the Testosterone molecule. This serves to promote an extended half-life and release of the hormone, depending on the ester variant in question. Testosterone Enanthate, for example, exhibits a half-life of approximately 7 – 10 days, while Testosterone Propionate exhibits a half-life of 4.5 days. Testosterone suspension is un-esterified Testosterone that is suspended in a water base, and must be administered several times per day, or at the very least every day.
Testosterone is considered an essential absolute base to any cycle due to the fact that Testosterone is the body’s natural anabolic androgen. It also serves as an all-round excellent mass building compound that is suitable for bulking and strength gaining, and can also be utilized for the purpose of cutting and fat loss as well. In order to carry results further, other bodybuilding steroids are combined with (or “stacked” with) Testosterone. Some of the most popular anabolic steroids in this regard are compounds such as Dianabol (Methandrostenolone), Winstrol (Stanozolol), Nandrolone (Deca-Durabolin), and Trenbolone, among a few others. These Dianabol and Winstrol are two examples of oral bodybuilding steroids, though Winstrol does also come in an injectable format that is chemically identical to the oral, and thus even the injectable Winstrol can be ingested orally in order to garner the same effects as the tablet format. Oral anabolic steroids are generally regarded as bodybuilding steroids that are supplementary adjuncts to a solid base anabolic steroid cycle involving injectable bodybuilding steroids (namely, Testosterone).
Depending on the bodybuilding goal, different oral steroids can be used. For example, Dianabol is generally utilized in bulking and mass gaining phases by bodybuilders due to its ability to promote rapid gains in mass and strength, as well as its ability to put on weight rapidly as well. This is due in large part due to the nature of Dianabol in causing the user to retain water weight, which is a feature that is welcome during periods of mass gaining and bulking (depending on the individual’s preference as well, of course). A compound such as Winstrol can be used to assist mass and strength gains, but due to its nature as a DHT-derivative, it will not promote rapid water weight and mass gains in the same way that Dianabol would. It is therefore for this reason that Winstrol is most likely utilized by bodybuilders in the effort to either promote lean mass without the added bulk and water retention, or (more commonly) in cutting and fat loss phases. This is due in large part to Winstrol’s ability to emphasize the ‘hard’ and ‘lean’ and ‘chiseled’ look to the physique when body fat is reduced, hence benefiting the competing pre-competition bodybuilder a great deal.
The other compounds previously mentioned as examples, such as Nandrolone (Deca-Durabolin) and Trenbolone are two injectable compounds that are also commonly stacked with Testosterone. Deca is an anabolic steroid that is more preferable to bulking and mass gaining phases of training, and is more preferred for long cycle lengths due to its long half-life. Deca-Durabolin is rarely utilized in fat loss and cutting phases, but can easily be used for such goals as well. However, the gains and physique changes resultant from Deca are reminiscent of slow and steady gains and changes due to its nature as being not a particularly strong compound, but instead one that is very reliable and steady-paced in terms of its gains and side-effect profile. Trenbolone on the other hand is an injectable compound that is extremely strong, and not recommended for those who are beginners. It is normally employed by bodybuilders who are experienced with at least several cycles in their history of anabolic steroid use. Trenbolone, much like Winstrol, does not promote any water retention at all, but unlike Winstrol, it is extremely powerful in terms of mass and strength promotion. It is therefore a bodybuilding steroid that is employed equally efficiently for both size and strength (bulking) as well as cutting and fat loss. Many competitive bodybuilders tend to implement Trenbolone in the weeks leading up to a competition, but there are plenty of other bodybuilders that enjoy implementing Trenbolone into their training well before the pre-competition phase has arrived. This assists the bodybuilder in achieving impressive size and strength, as well as the “ripped” look in the weeks closer to the competition day.
In comparison with bodybuilders, other athletes in more specialized and focused sports tend to be a little more ‘picky’ when it comes to the anabolic steroids employed. For example, large dosages of Testosterone (300mg or more per week) are not conducive to sprinters and speed athletes, where added water weight and unnecessary bulk serves to degrade performance. These athletes also avoid compounds such as Dianabol and Anadrol 50 (Oxymetholone) for the same reasons – unnecessary bulky weight that weighs the athlete down. Instead, these athletes might opt for either a low dose of Testosterone and/or a compound such as Winstrol or Anavar (Oxandrolone), which serves to enhance muscular performance without the additional and unnecessary bulk or water weight. Furthermore, athletes in these sports place far less emphasis on aesthetics and looks compared to bodybuilders, and so their selection of which anabolic steroids to use is limited by this factor. Commonly used anabolic steroids by athletes such as sprinters, fighters, etc. (as opposed to bodybuilders) would include compounds such as Anavar, Winstrol, Masteron, Boldenone (Equipoise), and similar compounds.
One might be curious as to why a compound such as Trenbolone might not necessarily be included here. This is due to the fact that Trenbolone is indeed known to impair respiratory efficiency (though this effect is indeed dose dependent) and therefore athletes such as sprinters and especially long-distance endurance athletes would elect to avoid it. This is interesting considering the plethora of advantages that Trenbolone brings to the table for the athlete, though some might still select this anabolic steroid and merely run a low dosage of it (perhaps 100 – 200mg per week), thus garnering all of its benefits whilst minimizing the negative temporary effects on respiratory efficiency.
SIDE EFFECTS AND RISKS OF BODYBUILDING STEROIDS
Most individuals are well aware of the general and common side effects associated with anabolic steroids. Rather than re-cap on these, we will instead quickly take a look at the risks inherent in the use of the typical bodybuilding steroids that are used. Bodybuilding steroids side effects are important to understand because the truth is that not all anabolic steroids carry the same risks, or the same degree of risks and side effects.
First and foremost, because most bodybuilding anabolic steroids are generally geared towards bulking and rapid mass gaining (something that athletes such as sprinters are not concerned with), bodybuilding steroids such as Dianabol, Anadrol 50, and even large dosages of Testosterone carry with them intense implications on the body as a whole. When rapid weight is gained, it can often be a shock to the body, and fluctuations in weight up and down if very frequent can cause severe strain on the cardiovascular system as a whole. Furthermore, the weight put on by these compounds is often in the form of water weight, which can increase blood pressure to critical levels. Furthermore, peripheral edema caused by the water retention can be uncomfortable and a further strain on the body’s cardiovascular system and other organs. The root cause of this issue is often another issue all together: Estrogen. The majority of the bodybuilding steroids that tend to promote rapid weight gains do so in the form of rapid water retention, which is caused by the aromatization of these compounds into Estrogen. Anadrol 50 is an exception to this, but it too is still notorious for this problem due to the fact that (although not currently well understood), its metabolites and perhaps the compound itself interacts with Estrogen receptors in the body.
Elevated Estrogen levels well beyond the normal physiological range carries some important side effects and risks that users must be aware of. First and foremost of these side effects is the cosmetic issue of gynecomastia, which is the development of breast tissue on men. Though it is not life-threatening, it is perhaps the most undesirable side effect of Estrogen. Rapid aromatization into Estrogen is also responsible for some other issues, such as the exacerbation of acne as well as the increased risk of prostate problems. Furthermore, Estrogen levels well above normal physiological ranges does contribute to the suppression of the HPTA (hypothalamic pituitary testicular axis), which would further serve to make post-cycle hormonal recovery a continual struggle for the user.
It is also worth noting that in general, bodybuilders tend to utilize anabolic steroid dosages that are well beyond the dosages that would be utilized by other athletes. This in and of itself is a large concern. For example, the required doses for an athlete such as a sprinter to make significant increases in performance is not what would be considered high by a bodybuilder’s standard. For example, 25 – 50mg per day of Winstrol would serve very well for such an athlete. However, it is not uncommon for bodybuilders to load up on bodybuilding steroids such as Winstrol in the range of 50 – 100mg per day, and this is not taking into consideration any other compounds that a bodybuilder might be stacking on top of the Winstrol. In contrast, a sprinter or a speed athlete would not be stacking nearly as many compounds as a bodybuilder would, and thus their probability of encountering side effects and complications is far lesser than that of a bodybuilder who might, for example, engage in a cycle of Testosterone Enanthate, Winstrol, and Deca at dosages of 500mg, 350mg, and 400mg (per week), respectively.
These factors should always be considered at the forefront of one’s mind whenever deciding to utilize bodybuilding steroids for whichever purposes one deems necessary, and safety should always come first.