This episode is supported by hims.
With over three million Americans having used steroids,
the desire to bulk up is strong
But what even happens to your body when
you take steroids and are there major risks to performance-enhancing drugs?
Every time you pump a weight
at the gym your muscles experience damage,
but the body recovers
by forming new muscle protein strands to repair the muscle fibers.
Over time these strands increase in thickness and number and
ultimately if muscle protein synthesis is greater than muscle protein breakdown
your muscles will grow.
The degree of growth is largely regulated by testosterone, which increases protein synthesis.
It’s why, generally,
men have larger muscle mass than women as they have higher levels of testosterone.
Now steroids are any compound with a specific 4-carbon ring structure,
so the term
steroid actually includes some chemicals that can be used to
treat fever and headaches and even sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone.
But the type
of steroid we’ll be looking at actually mimic natural
testosterone with the intention to enhance
performance and are used by more than
15% of gym-goers.
Within a single day of taking steroids the expression
of your genes will begin to change.
Steroids easily enter your cells and bind to the androgen receptor.
At this point they can move
into the nucleus and attach to your DNA,
which activates hundreds of genes to increase protein synthesis, while slowing protein breakdown.
In the end,
people who take steroids can have three to five times more nuclei in some muscle cells.
Steroids can also stop the differentiation
of fat stem cells and decrease a person’s body fat.
Days in and your quickly increasing muscle size and strength,
while also protecting muscle fibers against damage,
making steroids ideal for exercise tolerance and recovery as well.
But continue to take them and your behavior may start to change.
Because steroid receptors are found
in parts of our central nervous system like the forebrain,
hypothalamus and pituitary gland, steroids can lead to the classic roid rage.
A study of athletes taking steroids showed
20% developed higher manic and depressive scores than non-users.
Mice given steroids over ten weeks also become
more aggressive towards other mice put in the same cages.
Male mice also become more dominant and are
more willing to compete for sex with female mice.
But that sex drive may not translate to better sex.
For female users
steroids can interfere with the estrus cycle and may decrease sexual drive.
Masculinization can occur as well
with female users gaining deeper voices and starting to grow more body and facial hair.
Male users may experience sperm cell abnormalities and decreased sperm count.
Steroids also decreased natural production
of hormones that are necessary for maintaining testicular size,
meaning your balls will shrink.
And since most steroid users follow a cycle
of on and off dosing periods
natural levels of testosterone can be quite low
at times causing erectile dysfunction and decreased libido in males.
40 % of male users also developed enlarged breast tissue,
as steroids break down into estradiol,
which stimulates the growth of mammary tissue.
Finally steroids can cause a high level
of acne in almost half of users and
increase the risk of heart disease and stroke
So yes, steroids will make you bulk
up faster and improve your athletic ability,
but as with most things,
comes with a set of risks and side effects that you’ll likely experience as well.
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