Bodybuilding and anabolic steroids

The use of anabolic androgenic steroids (EAAs) in sport is done in order to increase the performance and body composition of athletes.

Drug use that can increase performance by compromising people’s health is prohibited and is considered an unsportsmanlike act, most sports have anti-doping control, however, there are other disciplines where there is no anti-doping control, most of these disciplines have a high aesthetic component, as in the case of bodybuilding.

What are steroids?

Anabolic androgenic steroids (AEAs) are synthetic derivatives of testosterone, the male sex hormone. The term “anabolic” refers to the muscle growth that these substances promote, while “androgenic” refers to the increase in male sex characteristics. They are used in medicine legally for the treatment of diseases, where there is a deficiency of the steroid hormone, as in puberty; it is also used to treat diseases that cause a great loss of muscle mass, such as cancer or AIDS.

There are other types of steroids that cause very different effects in the body, such as DHEA, which is marketed as a dietary supplement and glucortic steroids like cortisol. Several of the anabolic steroids were synthesized in the 1950s, with the aim of optimizing protein synthesis (anabolism) by decreasing the masculinizing (androgenic) or feminizing (estrogenic) effects that occur during testosterone metabolism.

Men and women produce androgens and estrogens. In women, there is higher estrogen production and in men, higher androgen production. On average, a man produces 4-10 mg of testosterone a day, and a woman of 1-4 mg a day, meaning that men can endogenously synthesize 28-70 mg and female 7-28 mg of testosterone.

The increased production of estrogen in women, causes different effects in the body, among which are: greater accumulation of adipose tissue and lower formation of muscle mass, lower height and greater likelihood of osteoporosis with age.

Some athletes, bodybuilders and others, abuse these drugs in an attempt to improve their performance or physical appearance. Anabolic steroids can be taken orally or injected intramuscularly; others are applied to the skin in the form of cream or gel. The doses reported in the abuse of these substances, can be between 10 to 100 times more than the doses used in medical treatments.

Steroid Use in Bodybuilders

Poor diet practices for health-compromising body dissatisfaction are common in sports and disciplines that require a low percentage of fat and/or weight. Bodybuilding is a sport where a low-fat content and a lot of muscle mass is required, therefore participants may be vulnerable to developing unhealthy eating and weight management practices, as well as consuming anabolic steroids.

Steroid consumption in bodybuilders, is mainly done in order to change body composition, causing a false sense of health. Steroid use has been classified as the “silent epidemic”, as few users realize the potential health risk due to the abuse of these drugs. There is a need to examine the use and abuse of steroids, due to the potential health risks in young bodybuilders.

In 2008, research was conducted to analyze steroid consumption in bodybuilders from 4 different gyms in Brazil, with 123 male volunteers, ranging in age from 18 to 50 years. The results indicated that 48% of participants had been practicing bodybuilding for less than a year and 52% more than a year ago. 66.6% had never used EAA and 33.3% are or have used EAA, 95.1% of consumers were aged between 18-35 years and 4.8% aged 36-50. The main substances used were: Durateston (26.7%), Deca-Durabolin (19%) Hemogenin (13.7%). It was found that there is easy access to EAAs, for users of this research, the bodily changes obtained, justify their use.

In 2014, another similar research was conducted in Brazil, with 512 participants from 52 gyms, a 20.6% usage prevalence was found, 98.1% were young men, and 49.5% had been training for more than 4 years. About 81% of EAA users consumed Deca-Durabolin, Winstrol and Sustanon. In this research, the results indicate that most consumers are unaware of the side effects.

Another study from the same year, conducted in Iran, with a number of 250 bodybuilders from 5 gyms, found that 28.8% are EAA consumers, 54% of these users were 25 years of age or younger. Among the most commonly consumed substances, testosterone (66.7%), nandrolone (15.3%) was found. Oxymetalone (5.6%). Acne was the most reported side effect (18.1%).

Conclusion on steroids

There are a lot of bodybuilders who use steroids, however, the use of these substances remains potentially dangerous to health, most of the scientific research in which dosages are reported and effects of steroids are performed for the Treatment of diseases, the dosages used in bodybuilding are much higher than the recommended dosages, this also raises the possible health risks.

There are few studies that exist on steroid consumption, however, the data obtained indicate similarities, most consumers are young adults, and the most common substances are testosterone, nandrolone and Oxymetalone. It seems that knowledge of adverse effects is not a limiting to the use of these drugs. It is important that health and sports professionals can offer alternatives to doping, without compromising people’s health.