The truth about Anabolic Steroids

by imedical

Wednesday December 7th 2022

The truth about Anabolic Steroids-How-Anabolic-Steroids-Affect-Your-Body

There are myths and misconceptions around the side effects of steroids, from Hair Loss to Roid Rage to Women looking like Men, and it goes on.

Bodybuilders and non-professional athletes still use anabolic steroids to improve their physical performance and well-being and gain a competitive advantage.

What are Anabolic steroids?

Anabolic steroids, also known as anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), are synthetic hormones that mimic male sex hormones to aid in the growth and repair of muscle tissue. They were developed in the 1930s and have been used to treat various medical conditions and as performance enhancers.

Today, only a licensed physician can prescribe anabolic steroids for certain conditions, such as delayed puberty in males and muscle loss caused by HIV or cancer. Or documented low testosterone levels in symptomatic Men of approx under 6nmol/L. 

However, many people continue to use them for enhancement due to their effects of increasing muscle mass, anti-aging treatments and decreasing fat.

Anabolic steroids are classed as performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) and, therefore, banned by most professional sports organisations. Athletes risk a lifetime ban from competing professionally if caught using Anabolic steroids, which can be tested in a routine blood test.

Serious side effects can occur when taking anabolic steroids.

Unless they are needed for a medical condition, it is not recommended to take anabolic steroids.

If you decide to use them, do so as safely as possible and do so under medical supervision and regualr Hormone Testing. Reviewing your blood work regularly with a sports hormone check will help keep adverse side effects at a minimum.

How Do Steroids Work?

As anabolic steroids mimic Testosterone, they cause a cascade of anabolic and androgenic reactions when the hormone enters the body.

Testosterone's anabolic effect is responsible for muscle growth and repair after training and lifting heavy weights. Testosterone stimulates the body to form new muscle fibres, and taking anabolic steroids speeds up the recovery phase, allowing users to train longer and more frequently.

Anabolic steroids inhibit the breakdown of muscle tissue caused by the stress hormone cortisol, which is released during intense exercise. Furthermore, anabolic steroids increase Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), which affects cartilage, skeletal muscle and bones.

Testosterone also has an androgenic effect where it maintains male characteristics, such as the penis, testicles, facial hair, and muscle mass.

What Are the Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids?

Although the benefits of steroids appeal to users, many severe, long-lasting, and even life-threatening side effects may exist.

As the steroids are already mimicking the body's normal hormone production, it is often assumed that it's safe to use supplements with steroids. If a doctor prescribes your hormones, check which supplements you can use.

However, a substantial increase in Testosterone can cause a knock-on effect on other hormones, causing an imbalance and possibly more significant health issues such as:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability, aggression, mood swings and depression
  • Fluid retention
  • Skin changes, such as acne
  • Increased libido
  • Suppression of your own body's ability to make Testosterone.

An increase in Testosterone could lead to an imbalance of oestrogen in men; therefore, they're more susceptible to developing such issues as:

  • Reduced sperm count or infertility.
  • Testicle and penis shrinkage
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Gynecomastia - an enlargement of the male breast tissue due to Testosterone converting to Oestradiol (E2)
  • Increase in Male Pattern Baldness if susceptible to this condition
  • Elevated red blood cells

Women who take anabolic steroids may experience the following:

  • Shrunken breasts
  • Deepened voice
  • Facial hair growth
  • Irregular menstrual cycle or loss of periods

Some other health consequences may not show up for months or years, and damage can remain even when steroid use has ceased. Such problems include:

  • Liver toxicity with oral steroids
  • Impaired Glucose tolerance
  • Blood disorders
  • Kidney issues
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Cardiovascular disease

How Can A Sports Hormones Check Help?

Taking steroids is a personal choice, although many doctors advise against them. But if you choose to take anabolic steroids, the last thing you want is side effects and further health issues.

Fortunately, early disease onset may appear in specific blood tests before physical symptoms appear. Therefore, we recommend health screening and blood testing with our Sports Hormone Checks

Sports hormone blood tests consist of several different blood tests, including:

1. Inflammation

Both high-sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP) and creatine kinase are biomarkers that can signal any cardiovascular issues. A blood test can show whether these biomarkers are at normal levels. Steroid use is linked with increased CRP; when levels are consistently high, you may increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.

Note that Creatine Kinase (CK) is a typical breakdown product of muscle. So these levels may be significantly elevated in athletes and while training.

CRP is useful as a marker for inflammation. However, it won't indicate the cause of the inflammation but is a crude screening test for heart disease.

2. Cholesterol levels

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that circulates within the blood after being manufactured in the liver. High levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and a decrease in HDL (good cholesterol) in the bloodstream can cause hardened arteries, increasing the risk of heart attacks and heart disease.

Taking steroids has been known to interfere with cholesterol. Therefore, these biomarkers are certainly ones to watch.

3. Kidney function test

High protein intake, increased muscle breakdown and anabolic steroid use put extra stress on your kidneys. High muscle mass can also place an additional load on your kidneys. Our sports hormone tests will measure your electrolyte, minerals, and glucose levels.

Bodybuilders are generally not at higher risk of kidney and liver disease than the rest of the population, but with chronic steroid use, these should be monitored.

4. Liver function test

The liver is the body's main metabolic organ, and most steroids are broken down here. Steroid users are prone to higher levels of ALT, AST and other enzymes. Usually, it is heavy weight training that will elevate AST/ALT as these enzymes are released in the bloodstream from muscle breakdown.

There are other markers that a Dr will take into consideration to assess liver damage, such as GGT. And in late-stage liver disease, the body's ability to clot blood may be affected, which will reflect in abnormal coagulation factors.

5. Hormone profile

An increase in Testosterone can lead to an imbalance of other hormones. The body typically works in hormonal feedback loops and taking external hormones, including Testosterone, can upset this delicate balance.

Therefore, it is crucial to understand how anabolic steroids affect your health. Excess testosterone can covert (aromatase) into Oestradiol (E2) Excess E2 in men can result in Gynecomastia (growth of breast tissue)

Keeping track of the following is necessary:

  1. Testosterone,
  2. Free Testosterone,
  3. Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH),
  4. Luteinising Hormone (LH),
  5. Oestradiol (E2)

With Testosterone use, FSH and LH levels will be suppressed, usually at or near zero. Why?

The brain will signal that there is enough Testosterone and therefore shut down the natural production of these hormones.
In Men LH stimulates testosterone production and FSH stimulates testicular growth

FSH/LH may return to normal after ceasing steroid use, which may take a few months or more.

6. Full blood count

A full blood count is incorporated into our sports hormone check to give you a broader insight into how anabolic steroids may affect your health.

Conducting a red blood cell count will show your levels of hematocrit and hemoglobin, the key biomarkers in assessing the risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Testosterone-induced polycythemia can arise when these key biomarkers increase, causing the blood to thicken, and leading to blood clots.

5 Myths about taking Anabolic Steroids:

1. Roid rage

A general myth, steroids do not make people change into another persona and suddenly become an enraged Monster at the slightest provocation!

It is more likely that if someone is disagreeable and aggressive, taking steroids will accentuate this behaviour. It will exaggerate their existing personality. Users of Trenbolone should tread lightly here. Anecdotal evidence is this particular steroid can be a handful with agression issues. 

2. Steroids are not addictive

In a physical sense, nicotine is far more addictive than anabolic steroids, but steroids can be psychologically addictive.

A person can be hesitant to stop taking steroids. Feeling unwell, losing gains, libido or becoming depressed can have a diminished psychological sense of power over one's health. Gains shouldnt be lost if training doesnt differ to the normal routines. Wellbeing issues should return to normal once normal Testosteone levels return.

3. Steroids make your testes smaller

It can decrease testicular size.

Taking anabolic steroids long term will suppress the body producing Testosterone naturally, causing this well-known effect on the testicles. Once ceasing the use of steroids is done, the testee will return to normal in most cases.

4. Steroids will make me huge and bulky

Untrue! Steroids assist with the main difference that comes from the work. Steroids on their own will do very little. What makes all the difference is proper and consistent weight training, a correct and clean diet and rest.

5. Steroids can cause baldness

This one is true! Taking large doses of the male sex hormone can exacerbate male pattern baldness in people predisposed to this condition.


A sports hormone check is integral to optimal health if you use anabolic steroids. Our extensive tests allow you to track your biomarker levels over time and spot any abnormalities that could indicate underlying health issues. You'll also benefit from understanding how your biomarkers relate to your athletic performance and identifying areas for improvement.

If you decide to take supplemental Testosterone or other Steroids, do so as safely as possible to minimise harm.

As helpful as they are, tests cannot replace a medical professional's supervision. Blood tests should be utilised and followed up with your doctor if any symptoms or concerns arise.

We can also advise you through our Dr tele-health service if you are unsure about the significance of the results.

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