DISCLAIMER: I do not condone, endorse or otherwise advise the use of steroids unless under direct prescription and administration from your doctor.
The public has a lot of misconceptions about steroids, what they are, how they work, and what they do. Often times people use the term steroids and Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) interchangeably even though they are not the same thing. While steroids are a performance enhancing drug, not all PEDs are steroids. Other types of PEDs are drugs that help you lose body fat, make you more durable, help recover from injuries, stimulants, etc.. In simplest terms, steroids are a synthetic version of the hormone testosterone that we all naturally produce. Typically when someone takes steroids, they are taking quantities greater than the amount of testosterone we would produce on our own.
Most of the public thinks that steroids are only used by people who lift weights, and steroids are only for making your muscles bigger. While many people who compete in strength based sports use steroids, and there are some steroids that will help you get bigger muscles, steroids are also useful for four other things:
- Improving maximal strength
- Improving endurance
- Improving recovery time
- Improving body composition
Before we dive into each of those four points, let’s first take a look at some sports where athletes have been caught taking steroids or drugs to help support steroid use. This list was derived from USADA.org. Please note that some people on the list have had their names removed.
Stirley Jones (sprinter)
Ty Kurth (cycling)
CB Dollaway (MMA)
Chris Creveling (Speed Skating)
Leonardo, Pires Nogueira (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)
Nia Williams (Rugby)
Tara Hebert (Baseball)
Wayne Odesnik (Tennis)
Damian O’Hara (Judo)
Shannon O’Keefe (Bowling)
Sloan Teeple (Triathlon)
Joseph Hall (Shooting)
Hope Solo (Soccer)
Pamela Spuehler (Field Hockey)
John Lorenz (Wrestling)
Barney Reed (Table Tennis)
Bob Sled and Skeleton
In many instances there were several, if not dozens of people from these sports who had been caught taking steroids or steroid support drugs.
The Primary Function of Steroids
So if steroids’ primary function is to make us stronger then why do athletes who compete in non strength sports like swimming, basketball, and ice skating take them? Because these athletes know something that many good strength and fitness coaches also know: Strength is the foundation for all other athletic endeavors. Rarely will improving your maximal strength have a benign effect on your sports performance, even if your sport isn’t considered a “strength sport.”
That means if you’re a team sport athlete, an endurance athlete, or any kind of athlete, it is very likely that you can benefit from getting stronger, and there is a great way to do that without taking steroids: Strength training! This is a big reason why strength training is the foundation of our programs here at Arkitect Fitness, and why we’re one of the most sought after gyms in Concord for athletes.
Secondary Benefit: Recovery
Another big benefit that steroids offer to users is faster recovery from training sessions. But for the natural athlete there are a few other great recovery methods, primarily adequate sleep and nutrition. This means that having excellent recovery is well within your ability. And most steroid users would likely tell you that the drugs won’t even have much effect if things like your sleep and your nutrition aren’t dialed in. That means the natural factors that are within in your control are actually the most important ones. While many people may be looking to supplements for a quick fix, or even flirting with the idea of licit drug use, the things that make the biggest impact are the things that are available to all of us: Resting and eating well.
Sleep helps your muscles recover from strenuous workouts, and proper nutrition including high protein diets can also aid in muscle repair and building. Another benefit is neither of those things have “side effects” like steroids do, with the exception of maybe being late for work if you sleep in too long.
Secondary Benefit: Body Composition
Because steroids help build and retain muscle mass, athletes often use them to reduce body fat without having to sacrifice any muscle. There are only a few situations where an individual can lose fat and build muscle at the same time, which are:
- The trainee is new to strength training
- The trainee is coming back to training after a long lay off
- The trainee is using steroids
But there are things you can do to minimize muscle loss while you lose body fat. Those things are…strength training and high protein intake! This is again why so many of our programs are rooted in strength training and “lifting weights.” Lifting weights is not just for getting bigger muscles. In reality steroids only provide extended results on top of natural and legal means that are already available to us.
In reality, steroids are just another “supplement” albeit an illegal one. The very definition of supplement is “something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.” Sure steroids or even legal supplements may enhance your results, but have you exhausted the other means available to you? There really are no shortcuts when it comes to fitness and performance. But there are things we can learn from professional athletes. And ask yourself: If they’re willing to risk getting caught cheating in order to get stronger, perhaps getting stronger yourself through strength training is the secret you’ve been missing all along.