The effects of using Anabolic Androgenic steroids can be best understood if we take a look at the anabolic as well as the androgenic aspects of the drugs independently.
The effects of using AAS can be both separate as well as overlapping. We will take a look at each of these aspects through this chapter. Taken literally, the term anabolic signifies cell growth and the word androgenic refers to the maintenance of muscular characteristics.
Most of the effects for which steroids have found usage and gained popularity amongst bodybuilders and athletes account for the anabolic effects of steroids. The effects include increased muscle mass owing the heightened protein synthesis by way of amino acids, stimulation of bone marrow- leading to an increase in the RBC (Red Blood Cell) count in the body, a better bone profiling and an increased appetite.
There are a number of processes (some of which we have discussed in the previous chapters) that lead to a step by step increase in the muscle mass of the body- thus leading to an increased muscular profile and strength over a period of time.
Androgenic effects of steroids are mostly centered around bringing about changes in the sex hormones of the human body. Androgenic changes are responsible for the growth of clitoris in females and penis in male children, and increased libido, an increased urge to engage in coitus, increase aggression, growth of hair in the pubis region and well as facial hair, deepening of voice due to development of vocal cords, a decrease in the production of natural sex hormones (which is the body’s way of controlling the hormonal count and maintaining the balance in the body) and a reduction in productions of sperm in the male.
The androgenic anabolic ratio of an AAS:
The preferred choice for bodybuilders would be a low androgenic : anabolic ratio. Some drugs have a high ratio and are recommended for use in androgen-replacement therapies in male. Steroids with a lower ratio are considered therapeutically well suited to treating those with a anemia and osteoporosis. In effect, however, there are very low digressions in the way a substance with low ratio acts on the human body as compared to a substance with a high ratio. Still, to be on better grounds, a substance with a low ratio is always considered to be a safer bet.
The weight gaining effects of steroids have closely been studied over the last three odd decades and it has been determined that short term AAS use can result in up to 2 to 5 Kgs of weight gain in a short span of 10 weeks. In some cases, the fat percentage was also seen to have been reduced while lean muscle mass increased. It has also been observed that the upper body is more prone to mass gain as compared to other parts of the body. The reason can be attributed to the fact that the upper body (neck, thorax, shoulders and arms) has the maximum number of androgen receptors in the body- which gives the desired effect at these areas.
The overall strength of the users is also seen to increase to about 15% to 25% of the baseline strength before the administering of drugs. This increase, however, is dependent upon the amount of dosage and the kind of steroid being taken. Besides, the increase in strength is prominently more amongst regular bodybuilders and weightlifters as compared to those who’d have recently started weight training.
Adverse and psychiatric effects of steroid usage:
Some of the most common side effects of excessive steroid usage include loss of hair in men (due to conversion of testosterone to DHT), deepening of vocal chords and development of facial hairon females, gynecomastia (development of breast tissue in males), variation in the natural levels of cholesterol in the human body- which can lead to cardiovascular diseases, heart seizure and other coronary artery diseases. Apart from these side effects, steroids simulate the sebaceous glands, which can lead to acne and other skin conditions.
Oral anabolic steroids need to be burnt down and digested by the body and this can also lead to severe liver damage if the doses are not controlled or backed up by injections. Excessive steroid usage can also lead to lack of interest in sexual activity as well as temporary or permanent infertility in case of males. In short, excessive steroid use can really tamper with the hormonal balance of the body; something that is capable of leading one onto quite a lot of complications.
The negative effects on natural testosterone production due to over-use of steroids is magnified in during adolescence. It can lead to premature stoppage of bone growth, premature puberty and certain other conditions that can really affect the overall body structure of the user. It is for this reason that it is highly recommended that people under 21 years of age should not use steroids, and even if they do- it should be under proper medical assistance.