Carrying on from my previous article “Steroid Stigma” I want to give a very brief overview of various Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) and other Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED). Talking about PED‘s is still a bit of a taboo topic, but like I mentioned before the use of these drugs is rampant in both sports (tested and untested, drug tests are not hard to pass) and throughout the general population. Again I want to reiterate that AAS and other PED‘s are not miracle drugs that are going to transform you into a machine overnight. Patience, persistence and consistency are the main keys in all aspects of lifelong progression whether you are drug free or not. PED‘s will however, help you recover faster and consequently train harder and/or longer, therefore enabling you to surpass your genetic potential. Don’t get too carried away here, I’ve mentioned before that your genetics govern EVERYTHING, so while you may be able to exceed your drug free genetic potential your genetics will still dictate how well you respond to these drugs and their overall effects on you.
A Little Bit Of Science Before We Begin
To start with, PED‘s include more than just AAS. Insulin, peptides, growth hormone and Erythropoietin (EPO) are just a few examples of what constitutes as a PED, but the list is huge! AAS are lipid soluble, meaning they diffuse through cell membranes in order to bind to steroid receptors, here they then enter the cells nucleus and promote gene transcription which ultimately stimulates protein synthesis and therefore results in muscle growth. All AAS are derivatives of the male hormone testosterone that have been modified in various different ways to either enhance or dismiss certain traits. Testosterone can either be free or bound within your body. It is your free testosterone that determines the amount your body can utilize for “our” purposes.
AAS come in two forms; oral and injectable. Oral steroids must be C17 alkylated in order to bypass the liver and are therefore hepatoxic (liver toxic). As I’ve mentioned in my previous article, doing oral only cycles makes you a dick and if you’re scared of needles you have no business touching AAS. Injectable steroids must be injected intramuscularly and this process must be done with extreme caution. All in all injectable steroids are “safer” than oral steroids, with the main issues arising from injectables pertains to the environment and the level of hygiene during the handling of needles and compounds.
Steroids can affect us in many different ways, both psychologically and physiologically. Psychologically it has been found that the mere thought of being on steroids (placebo effect) has shown to increase strength levels significantly whereas the physiological symptoms are much more expected; muscle growth, improved recovery, larger error margins etc. The lasting potential for steroids is something that really interests me and it always amuses me now when people claim they’re “natural” now because they aren’t using steroids anymore or when they claim they’ve only done one cycle so they’re natural again. When you use steroids you increase the amount of myonuclei within your muscle cells. If you stop training for a while, you may atrophy (lose size) but the number of myonuclei will still be the same, so when you restart training your lasting potential is still there, so essentially it’ll be easier to reclaim that lost size and strength. This is the very basic basis of “muscle memory“.
Now, I don’t care what anybody says, all AAS use will shut down your natural production. Just because a steroid is considered “mild” in nature, it is still a steroid. To reverse this shutdown many guys will run a post cycle therapy (PCT) protocol which usually involves a combination of SERMS and SARMS (I’ll discuss this more in a future post, for now just know that it is a AAS alternative currently on the market). This is most likely where the myth of losing all your gains after coming off steroids comes from. It takes a while for your body to “wake up” and start producing testosterone “naturally” again. During this time your testosterone levels will be at an all time low, meaning sustaining muscle mass is going to be ridiculously hard. Smart planning and a solid PCT protocol can limit this, but overall you will lose some (if not all potentially) of your gains. The other option is to Blast and Cruise, and I believe this to be the “safer” route if you’re ready and able. Let me repeat that, if you’re ready and able. Blasting and Cruising means you stay on steroids forever, going through higher dose “Blast” periods where you may run additional compounds then spending the majority of your time on lower TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) levels for your “Cruise“. I personally believe most men should go on TRT in their 30s (maybe 40s) so if you’re this age then this is definitely a viable option. You must take all factors into consideration, it is a huge commitment that could possibly span for the rest of your life, however I think the guys who Blast and Cruise remain much more stable, both physically and mentally. Alternately, as stated before, you can run cycles and keep going on and off. This works for some, not for others, but believe me when I say I’ve met hundreds of guys who say they’re just gonna run one cycle to “see how it is”. It’s never one cycle, so take that into consideration and be smart. If you are thinking of doing steroids (which I neither condone or condemn) then I implore you to DO YOUR RESEARCH! Check out Dave Crossland or the book “Anabolics” by William Llewellyn to start with.
Right, now the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the drugs! I’m gonna go over what I consider the most common PED‘s that are used more frequently. There are other steroids and there are other PED‘s that I won’t be covering, but you can research them in your own time if you so desire.
Testosterone: Of course we had to start with everyone’s favourite! Testosterone is the hormone that enhances our masculine characteristics and so in taking in exogenous doses we are able to amplify those andogenic (typical male traits e.g. facial hair, deeper voice etc) and anabolic (muscle growth) characteristics and promote physiological changes. Almost all AAS are derivatives of testosterone. The most notable and common use/benefit of taking testosterone is to promote anabolism via protein synthesis which leads to greater muscle growth. However, other favourable side effects of taking testosterone include; fat loss, nutrient partitioning, increased bone density, increased libido, mood enhancement, improved red blood cell count and potentially improved cognition. The dangerous side effects of testosterone have, in my opinion been over exaggerated. That isn’t to say they don’t exist or pose a threat peoples health though. Most of the side effects can be minimized through diet and regular cardiovascular exercise, but some will be dependent on individual genetics and may include; water retention (leading to high blood pressure), increased oil production (that may cause excessive acne), increased risk of prostate cancer, increased risk of blood clots (due to higher red blood cell content), unfavourable altered lipid and cholesterol levels, increased risk of heart attack, gynocomastia (man boobs) and the possible onset of balding. I’ve purposely missed out testicular shrinkage as I feel this can be rectified and may not be a huge hindrance (especially if you think like Rich Piana) and I’ve also left out mood swings because from my experience this is entirely subjective. An asshole without drugs is a bigger asshole on drugs, a level headed dude without drugs will more than likely remain a level headed guy on drugs. I also think some people use steroids as an excuse to be overly aggressive and turn into an asshole which to me is pretty pathetic. Now testosterone comes in various forms and can be suspended in oil or water. Testosterone Cypionate, Enanthate, Propionate and Suspension are the four most common forms of usable testosterone and each refers to a different ester attached to the testosterone molecule (there are a few more other esters but these are the most common). An ester is basically just a chain of atoms (hydrogen, carbon and oxygen) that determines how quickly a compound is broken down and released, thus altering a compounds “half life”. Testosterone (and most other AAS) is measured in mg/ml and this also takes into account the weight of the ester. So, for example, 100mg testosterone cypionate yields approximately 70mg testosterone with the other 30mg being the cypionate ester. 100mg testosterone propionate however, yields roughly 80mg testosterone with the propionate ester weighing 20mg. This means that if one guy were to take 500mg testosterone cypionate a week he would be getting 350mg testosterone, but if another guy were to take 500mg testosterone propionate a week he would be getting 400mg testosterone. Additionally a guy taking 500mg testosterone suspension a week would be getting 500mg testosterone as this is pure testosterone without an ester. Shorter esters necessitate more frequent injections however.
Nandralone Deconate AKA Deca Durabolin: Deca claims most of its fame not from being a great mass builder, adding size or strength but for its therapeutic properties. It is a lot milder than testosterone in almost every regard. Deca is most notably known for its ability to increase collagen synthesis and increase bone mineral content and is proposed to promote joint relief and alleviate pain. Deca is still an anabolic steroid and provides most, if not all the benefits of testosterone albeit at a milder rate. The ester deconate gives Deca a massive half life, which can be its main turn off as some users will suffer impotence from this drug. The dreaded “Deca dick” can be extremely off putting to a potential user (and rightly so), but again this is subjective and can be prevented. A lot of guys would rather suffer more frequent injections and use Nandralone Phenylpropionate (NPP) as this has a much lower half life and so the onset of any side effects can be rectified much faster.
Boldenone Undeconate AKA Equipoise: Equipoise is quite disputed and kind of like steroid marmite I guess. People seem to either love it or hate it. Equipoise is a lot milder than testosterone but must be run at high doses due to its ester being one of the longest out of all the anabolics. Equipoise is praised (by those who love it) for supposedly increasing red blood cell count (more significantly than other steroids) which can result in immense muscle pumps which some masochists seem to enjoy. I think Equipoise is quite favoured by endurance athletes due to its ability to increase red blood cell count (more blood = more oxygen) but it’s also supposed to be able to lubricate joints, similar to Deca.
Drostanalone AKA Masteron: I consider Masteron to be primarily a bodybuilders drug. It is extremely mild in almost all aspects and really only used as a “hardener” when preparing for a show or for its inherent anti estrogen properties, which seem to be grossly over rated and do not compare to proper anti estrogen medications.
Trenbolone: The supposed daddy of all injectables, a steroid on steroids. Trenbolone exacerbates every potential side effect, both positive and negative, it is extremely powerful and should be treated with caution. This steroid can be used regardless of ones goals (hypertrophy, strength, fat loss etc) as the drug protects muscle tissue, increased metabolism, doesn’t cause water retention and can massively increase strength. However, with the good also comes the bad. Any side effect of steroids will be heightened with Trenbelone, but it also comes with a set of unique side effects, which may include; insomnia (Trensomnia), night sweats, anxiety, rapid heart rate and the infamous Trenbolone cough. The bottom line with Trenbolone is to really do your research before you even consider using it. If you aren’t sure if you’re ready or not then you aren’t.
Methandrostenolone AKA Dianabol: Probably the second most famous steroid after Testosterone. Dianabol is primarily used as a bulking agent, most guys will get big and strong pretty quickly with Dianabol, there will be a significant amount of water retention though. The side effects of Dianabol will correlate with all AAS, but since it’s an oral there will also be the risk of liver damage. All oral steroids are C17 alkylated, as previously stated, meaning they put excessive stress on the liver and therefore shouldn’t be used for extended periods of time.
Oxymetholone AKA Anadrol: Big daddy Drol! Similar to Trenbolone, this steroid goes big and hard but with increased risks. For size and strength, there’s nothing like anadrol, although it is important to remember there’s going to be a lot of water retention and a massive stress on your liver and overall health.
Oxandrolone AKA Anavar: Often referred to as a “woman’s steroid” due to its mild nature but I believe Anavar is completely misunderstood. The majority of Anavar out there is fake, it’s an expensive drug to produce and s it’s much easier for labs to substitute it with something else (like Tbol or Winstrol). Real Anavar has been shown to increase collagen synthesis, promote fat loss, yield decent strength gains with very few side effects. It’s also fairly mild on the liver too. It will still shut you down though, do not forget that.
Stanozolol AKA Winstrol: I consider Winstrol to be a bit of a “dirty” steroid and, again, primarily a bodybuilders drug. Winstrol is kind of like a poor mans Anavar with more negative side effects. It has the ability to increase strength without considerable size/weight gain (good for athletes in weight categories) but it’s notorious for “drying out” joints which can lead to all sorts of undesirable injuries.
Fluoxymetholone AKA Halotestin: Basically what almost everyone who settles for Anavar or Winstrol REALLY WANTS! Very rare and very expensive. The main selling point of Halotestin is that it can promote massive strength increases with very little weight gain. Now, while I mentioned earlier that I didn’t really believe in “roid rage” I might change my mind slightly when it comes to this steroid. Halotestin is known for promoting huge surges in aggression. Now the only issue with aggression is what you do with it. Take it to the gym and take it out on the weights, fine. Take it out on the streets or keep it home with your family and friends, probably not fine.
Mibolerone AKA Cheque Drops: The effects of this horrible beast are so pronounced that it is the only steroid to my knowledge to be taken in mcg rather than mg (for reference 1mg is 1000mcg). I’ve only ever heard of this steroid being used as a “pre workout” type during competitions and I don’t think anyone in their right mind would take it otherwise. Its primary purpose is to increase aggression, and it does this extremely well.
Turinabol: I’ve not heard much about Turinabol in the past few years and I’m not sure if anyone uses it much anymore. It’s considered another mild steroid similar to Anavar. I think strength and size gains are generally mild and maintainable and I think of all the orals available this is probably the dullest.
Non Steroidal PEDs
As I mentioned before, steroids aren’t the only type of PED used by athletes. In fact there are many over the counter items you can buy that fall into the category of a PED, caffeine for instance. The other types of PED’s I’ll be listing below won’t be the types you can buy down your local ASDA however. Again I want to reiterate that the following list is far from complete, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of PEDs out there. So without further adieu, let’s continue;
You might be surprised to find Insulin at the top of this list and probably only consider Insulin as something diabetics take. Insulin is one of the most Anabolic and Anti-catabolic hormones you can take and definitely not something to be messed around with. Insulin halts catabolism, signals glucose uptake, aids in amino acid uptake and protein synthesis and more, it is the ultimate muscle building drug if used appropriately. Alas, as usual with the good comes the bad. While steroids and other PEDs have inherent side effects the problem we face with Insulin is the potential risk of death. Yes, messing with Insulin can be that serious. You’ll never hear of anyone overdosing on Testosterone, however, if taken incorrectly Insulin can be FATAL! Insulin also comes with a huge list of potential sides, however they all pale in comparison to death in my opinion. Furthermore, due to the nature of Insulin, one must maintain a ridiculously strict diet in order to prevent excessive fat gain and to prevent hypoglycemia. I see Insulin as something only pro bodybuilders (you know, the guys that actually make money, not your buddy down the road entering a local show) should consider, because let’s face it, for most of us lifting is a hobby and I for one am not willing to die for the sake of being a little stronger or looking a little better.
Very often mistaken for a steroid. Clenbuterol is a beta-2 agonist and bronchodilator meaning it is used to increase body temperature (boosting metabolism) and open up airways. Clenbuterol does have some Anti-catabolic properties, but they shouldn’t be confused with Anabolic abilities. It is primarily used as a fat loss drug and again I view it more as a bodybuilders drug. Thinking about it, anything that stimulates your heart to beat at a heightened rate (at rest) brings its own risks such as heart scarring and high blood pressure.
You might recognize this drug from the whole Lance Armstrong fiasco. EPO or Erythropotein is a hormone that controls Erythropoiesis (the production of red blood cells). Red blood cells carry oxygen and so an increase can absolutely enhance an athletes endurance capabilities and recovery. Again though, using EPO is not without side effects. Increased haemoglobin (a protein that carries oxygen within red blood cells) beyond a reasonable measure can cause heart attacks and/or strokes, so again proper measures must be taken to reduce these risks.
The use of Synthetic Thyroid Hormones is commonly used to aid in fat loss. The two main drugs available are T3 and T4 (note that the popular fat burner T5 has nothing to do with thyroid) and these hormones are primarily involved in protein synthesis, increasing basal metabolic rate, nutrient partitioning, regulating protein and increasing carbohydrate metabolism. T3 is the main active Thyroid hormone and T4 is converted to T3 during hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels). Using Thyroid Hormones obviously poses the risk of hyperthyroidism, meaning potentially excessive levels of T3 which can be extremely Catabollic as thyroid rarely discriminates, it is overall a weight loss drug rather than a direct fat loss drug.
Ephedrine is a powerful stimulant from the same family as Clenbuterol. However, unlike Clenbuterol, Ephedrine is an alpha and beta adrenergic agonist, essentially meaning is causes the release of Noradrenaline (which is similar to adrenaline). Due to its adrenergic nature, Ephedrine causes an increase in metabolism and core temperature, it is also a very potent appetite suppressor which is why it is used similarly to Clenbuterol, for fat loss. As a powerful stimulant we can expect possible side effects such as shakiness, insomnia, tachycardia and dizziness as well as increased blood pressure.
Human Growth Hormone
Again, whilst often mistaken as an AAS, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) does possess Anabolic properties but it is in no way comparable to an Anabolic steroid. HGH should be considered as a jack of all trades drug in the sense that it promotes metabolic actions, stimulates connective tissue growth, can increase the size and number of skeletal muscle cells, promotes lypolysis (fat metabolism), signals gluconeogenesis and increases insulin resistance. Additionally, HGH use has also been proven to increase the quality of sleep, increase bone and joint strength, improve mood, improve skin quality and increase energy. Used in conjunction with other PEDs such as AAS, it creates a synergistic effect.
From here I’ll be moving onto peptides, these are starting to gain a bit of traction and popularity which I think is only going to increase in the coming years. IGF-1 stands for Insulin-like-growth factor and as the name suggests it is structurally similar to Insulin and belongs to a family of growth factors. IGF-1 seems to share some similarities with both HGH and Insulin, however I don not think it compares to either one and carries a list of side effects that wouldn’t make it worthwhile in my opinion.
GHRPs and GHRHs
The following two PEDs are relatively new emerging “supplements” known as peptides, these mimic and promote the release of certain growth hormones and can be branded in two categories; Growth Hormone Releasing Peptides and Growth Hormone Releasing Hormones. There are various different types of these two peptides but I’ll only be listing what I believe to be the most popular two, however for more information on these peptides check of this article.
Now GHRPs release a pulse of growth hormone (GH) and GHRHs release and amplify this pulse. Using both of these in conjunction creates a powerful synergy that will amplify both of their abilities. The most common preferred GHRP is GHRP-2. GHRP-2 can promote lean mass, reduce fat mass, increase collagen synthesis, improve sleep quality, improve recovery and strengthen bones. The main side effects being water retention, tiredness and potential carpal tunnel syndrome.
The most popular GHRP is CJC1295 w/o DAC or MOD GRF. As previously stated, the combination of the two drugs creates a synergistic effect that produces far superior results than using either alone. You create a pulse of GH and then a bleed effect that slowly spikes GH over time. You can use GHRH on its own but you’d be taking a big risk. GHRH peptides only work in the presence of the GH somatostatin and you will never be aware of when this is elevated. Taking a GHRP causes this GH to be released and therefore sets the stage for GHRH to act.
So this was just a very brief overview on popular steroids and PEDs, but if you are interested in learning more then check out Dave Crossland‘s website and Youtube channel (UCtheFreak) where he discusses steroids in a lot more depth. You can also check out William Llwelyns book “Anabolics” which I think is probably the gold standard of text books on anabolics currently. Again I don’t advise anyone to take steroids or PEDs, this is merely for educational purposes only. If you are thinking about taking these drugs then I urge you to consider every possible outcome, do your research and do not go into it blindly and additionally check the laws in your country. As a signing off note I’d also like to state, as I did in my previous article that if you plan on running “oral only” cycles because you are afraid of needles then you have absolutely no business doing steroids and should remain drug free indefinitely.
Lift Strong and Conquer!