Use for muscle building
Almost everyone has stumbled across the term anabolic steroids in connection with muscle building or bodybuilding. They are currently unsurpassed as a doping preparation for muscle building and are therefore the first choice despite their huge range of side effects. Anabolic steroids belong to the fat-soluble hormones.
They are therefore able to be transported to the muscles by being attached to water-soluble molecules in the blood. They then penetrate the cell membrane of the muscle cells and cause an increased production of proteins in the muscle cells. It is these muscle cell-specific proteins that are multiplied when we speak of muscle building.
Whether the number of muscle cells can also be increased is currently still the subject of research. It is true that anabolic steroids function as doping agents even without additional muscle training. However, the effect of steroids can be maximised if the muscles are given additional growth stimuli, i.e. they are trained and thus stimulated to grow. Here you can find more information about muscle building: Maximum strength training and muscle building.
Application in medicine
In medicine, anabolic steroids are mainly used in cases of inadequate male development in boys during puberty and in cases of increasing cachexia (emaciation) in patients. In addition, anabolic steroids – in the majority of cases in medicine these are testosterone preparations – are used to stimulate the male libido. Anabolic steroids help the body to develop male sexual attributes and characteristics.
A deeper voice, the growth of the sexual organs and increasing body hair can be induced by the administration of hormone preparations during puberty when the body’s own hormone levels are insufficient. The steroids are prescribed to men with generally low testosterone levels in order to achieve a normal level, just as they can be used in cases of a lack of libido, more often in older men. Often such preparations are also used after sex reassignment surgery to help the former woman look more masculine by stimulating the above-mentioned processes.
In cachexia as a symptom of various diseases, such as AIDS or cancer, anabolic steroids are used to stimulate the appetite of the patients and thus boost a higher calorie intake to counteract the emaciation. In the past, anabolic steroids were also used to treat reduced body growth or bone marrow depression. Here they were used for bone growth and to increase the synthesis of blood components in the bone marrow. In the meantime, however, other hormone preparations are used, so that anabolic steroids only play a subordinate role in these areas.
Use in doping
Steroids, as one of the most important classes of doping substances, have become an integral part of modern performance and strength training, but also of leisure sports today. During the Second World War, anabolic steroids were developed to help exhausted and starving soldiers regain their strength. After the end of the worldwide conflict, competitive sports discovered the substances for themselves.
Until the ban on performance-enhancing drugs and the introduction of doping controls in the 1970s, these substances were often used to improve performance. Nowadays, the term anabolic steroids is probably mainly associated with bodybuilding. A lot of muscle growth in as short a time as possible is the declared goal here.
And it works: various studies show an increase in muscle mass of up to seven kilograms within 10 weeks with hard training at the same time. In the same study it was also shown that muscle gain of up to two kilograms was possible without additional training, just by taking a more than physiological amount of anabolic steroids. (The effects of supraphysiologic doses of testosterone on muscle size and strength in normal men, by Bhasin et al., 1996) The emergence of recreational sports is related on the one hand to our social way of thinking, in which a well-trained athletic body is regarded as ideal, but on the other hand also to the fact that the anabolic steroids are relatively easily available in tablet form and are therefore also very easy to consume.
It is estimated that up to a fifth of recreational athletes more or less regularly take anabolic steroids. Mostly they get to the anabolic steroids via dealers, as a purchase in a pharmacy is subject to prescription. The steroids are usually taken in different cycles, also called “cures” in professional circles.
The athlete has a phase of steroid consumption which is replaced by a steroid-free phase, after which a period of steroid intake follows. This procedure can be used very well, particularly in relation to announced urine tests for doping detection, as the testosterone level in the urine returns to its physiological level after discontinuing the anabolic steroids. Furthermore, different types of steroids are often combined in order to address as many different steroid hormone receptors in the body as possible and thus maximise the effect. In professional circles this is known as stacking.