Whether you’re a professional or a hobbyist bodybuilder, we bet the thought of using steroids has crossed your mind.
But as many of our readers may already know, such compounds can cause significant changes in body composition. So, how does using steroids affect your appearance? Let’s find out in the following sections.
Table of Contents
How Do Steroids Help?
Before we walk you through the significant transformation in people who have relied heavily on steroids to achieve their body goals, let us first introduce you to steroids.
Simply put, steroids are synthetic (man-made) supplements called androgens that help the body build bigger and bulkier muscles faster than usual. They facilitate a process known as anabolism, which contributes to increased muscle mass through improved protein synthesis and insulin production.
Muscle production is generally credited to testosterone or the “t-hormone” produced naturally by the human body. Although you can increase its level by following a good diet and getting an adequate amount of rest, the improvement in the hormone remains fairly limited. And the right steroids can provide a massive boost to your testosterone levels, thereby helping you put on stronger muscles within a short span.
If you haven’t used steroids before, you may be under the impression that these supplements are used only to build muscles. However, this isn’t true as there are different kinds of steroids that serve different purposes.
For instance, Trenbolone-based steroids are used to build muscle and improve muscular strength, while Clenbuterol-based steroids help shed excess fat. You may also combine two or more compatible steroids to experience a wide range of benefits, provided they don’t render any adverse side effects on your body.
Benefits Of Steroids
Although there’s no denying that steroids help with faster muscle building, most bodybuilders understand that using steroids alone won’t meet their requirements. That’s why they combine their steroid intake with the right workout and diet regimes to receive optimum benefits.
In this regard, some of the most sought-after advantages of steroid consumption include:
- Improved protein and collagen synthesis for muscle building
- Increase in bone density
- Improvement in production of red blood cells
- Enhanced nutrition absorption efficiency by the body
- Increased nitrogen retention for low muscle recovery time
- Improved physical endurance and stamina in the gym
- Fast fat burning
How To Spot A Steroid User?
As you may have already understood, the consumption of steroids brings about physical changes in the body. But these aren’t limited to only the formation of muscles. You can easily spot a regular steroid user by looking out for some common signs like:
1. A Bulkier Upper Body
There are more androgen receptors in the upper half of your body than in the lower one. And the steroids will directly interact with these receptors to help the body build bigger muscles. Meaning, your upper body will become heavier or more muscular than its lower counterpart.
In fact, a “V-shaped” body with a broad upper half is what many bodybuilders aim to achieve through steroid consumption.
2. Male Breasts
The formation of male breast tissues, or “man boobs,” as they are commonly known, is caused due to gynecomastia. This process occurs when the testosterone from anabolic steroids enters your body and converts into estrogen through a chemical reaction known as aromatization.
3. Acne And Stretch Marks
The regular use of steroids can also affect your skin, which is why bodybuilders become prone to acne, as a sudden increase in testosterone levels can hyperactivate their sebaceous glands. However, you may not be able to spot them when the bodybuilders take the stage since they usually have a heavy spray tan on.
Aside from that, the sudden muscle formation will invariably cause the skin to stretch more than usual, resulting in the formation of stretch marks, especially on the limbs.
4. Bloated Or An Unusually Large Stomach
An unusually large or bloated stomach in bodybuilders isn’t generally a sign of anabolic steroid consumption. It’s typically caused by the overuse of insulin or the HGH (human growth hormone) and is often called the “HGH gut.” However, bodybuilders who use these chemicals are likely to use other steroids.
Bodybuilders Before And After Using Steroids
With everything said and done, it’s finally time to answer the burning question- how do bodybuilders look before and after using steroids? And for this, we have considered some of the most popular steroids used by bodybuilders all around the world.
1. Testosterone (First Cycle)
No surprises here as we start the list with testosterone, which is often used by bodybuilders during their first steroid cycle with other steroids or supplements.
Not only does this compound help users put on considerable amounts of lean muscles, but it also aids the effective burning of fat reserves located under your skin (subcutaneous fat). And keep in mind that first-time users may gain anywhere between 15 and 20 pounds during this cycle.
Enanthate and cypionate are the two most preferred esters of testosterone as they break down slower than usual, meaning you don’t need to inject them frequently. Plus, they are affordable options for beginners who are usually on a tight budget.
As far as the cycle is concerned, we strongly recommend starting with a low dose before gradually increasing the amount. This helps the body get accustomed to the compound without facing the risk of developing serious side effects.
For example, many first-time weightlifters stick to the following regime to get optimal results:
- Week 1 to 2- 200mg
- Week 3 to 5- 300mg
- Week 6 and 7- 350mg
2. Anavar (For Females)
One of the main problems with most steroids on the market is that they can cause females to develop male physical characteristics.
However, Anavar is one such steroid that reduces this risk to a great extent and is hence, a popular choice among female bodybuilders, especially for their first steroid cycle. Moreover, its potential side effects are milder than that of many of its peers. And being an oral steroid, it’s ideal for women who don’t like injecting themselves with substances.
The right use of Anavar can help women shed both stubborn abdominal and subcutaneous fat while enabling them to put on 10 to 12 pounds of healthy muscles. Additionally, it can aid the improvement of the overall body composition of users for a defined, leaner, and fuller-looking body.
A typical Anavar cycle usually involves the following doses:
- Week 1- 5 mg per day
- Weeks 2 to 5- 10 mg per day
If you aren’t a professional bodybuilder, you may want to follow such low doses to prevent the risk of developing masculine features or appearance during the cycle. However, professionals may well increase the dose to put on bulkier muscles in exchange for a loss of their feminine features.
3. Anavar (For Males)
Anavar can also be used by men as an effective substitute for testosterone during their first cycle. But remember that in this case, it will help more with fat loss rather than helping put on sturdy muscle mass. In hindsight, Anavar for men can serve as an important component of the cutting phase for increased fat burning and moderate lean muscle formation.
Male users (even beginners) generally need stronger doses of Anavar due to the naturally high testosterone levels. As such, they can start with 15 mg per day of the compound for the first three weeks and increase it to 20 mg per day for the next three weeks.
For the unversed, Winstrol is a stanozolol-based (androgen) steroid that produces similar effects to that of Anavar. However, it’s primarily categorized as a “cutting steroid” that serves the dual purpose of building lean muscles and reducing body fat.
One of the main characteristics of Winstrol is its diuretic property. This means the regular consumption of this steroid can increase urine production to get rid of excess fluid from the body. This results in more defined or “chiseled” muscle shapes. But remember that your muscles may look deflated at times due to the absence of water.
Beginners are generally recommended to avoid using Winstrol as it’s stronger than Anavar, especially in terms of side effects like liver toxicity and increased cholesterol levels. Likewise, women may develop male characteristics while using this steroid, which is why they shouldn’t take it in high doses exceeding 5 mg per day.
We bet budding bodybuilders have already heard of Dianabol, which is easily one of the most wanted steroids out there today. Nicknamed the “grandfather of all anabolic steroids,” Dianabol has been used since the 1970s by popular public figures like Arnold Schwarzenegger to build desirable bodies.
You may also be surprised to know that it can help put up to 50 pounds of muscle mass when used in multiple cycles and paired with other strong muscle-building steroids.
There’s no way we’d miss out on mentioning Trenbolone while talking about the most powerful bulking steroids! But what really makes it stand apart from many of its peers is the versatility on offer, meaning you can use it for building muscle mass or burning stubborn fat. The latter can be credited to its androgen receptor stimulating lipolysis, which helps lose fat cells effectively within a short period.
Moreover, the lean muscles you put on while using Trenbolone will initially appear shredded and dry during the initial days as it draws out water from the body due to diuretics. But with regular use, the muscles will look juicer and fuller, especially around the shoulders. Not only that, but your whole body may look photoshopped, as the veins will invariably pop up more than usual.
Among the most notable side effects of this steroid is the temporary pinkening or reddening of the skin caused by a sudden increase in the blood pressure level. You may also experience a rise in your cholesterol levels. Hence, much like Winstrol, this compound, too, should be avoided by beginners for their first cycle.
7. Deca Durabolin
Deca Durabolin is one of the milder steroids that work best when combined with other potent bulking steroids like Dianabol and Testosterone in the off-season. This is because it doesn’t really contribute to the enlargement of muscles when used individually.
On its own, Deca Durabolin can boost the fluid levels on the intracellular level and promote your anabolic process. For example, it can help with faster muscle recovery time, increase endurance, increase the natural production of RBCs, etc.
Clenbuterol, albeit not a steroid per se, is a very effective sympathomimetic drug or stimulant compound that assists rapid weight loss when combined with androgenic steroids during the cutting phase. Such is its potency that many users have been successfully able to burn stubborn belly and arm fat by using this compound for a short cycle of only 2 to 4 weeks.
This compound taps the central nervous system faster and more effectively than any other steroid. Hence, it speeds up your metabolism for optimum calorie and fat burning. But naturally, you won’t notice any muscle transformation unless you’re using a muscle-building steroid.
Given Clenbuterol’s interaction with the central nervous system, it doesn’t come as a surprise that it can cause palpitations, an overwhelming feeling of nervousness, or irregular heartbeats. So, you’d want to be careful with the dose when pairing Clenbuterol with other strong steroids.
When it comes to putting on muscle mass for a bulkier look, Anadrol is one steroid that stays on the must-have list of most bodybuilders. Unlike some other steroids on the list that are essentially diuretic in nature, Anadrol is estrogenic, thereby causing more water retention by the muscle cells.
Whether you’re using Anadrol in tandem with other bulking steroids or on its own, the muscle transformation on offer will make you look practically unrecognizable in a matter of weeks. Hence, we’d strongly recommend against using it during the cutting stage when you’re actually trying to look more defined and lean.
Additionally, Anadrol paired with a high-calorie diet for bulking (especially with foods rich in sodium) can cause excessive bloating.
10. HGH (Human Growth Hormone)
HGH is similar to Clenbuterol in the sense that it isn’t an anabolic steroid. It’s broadly categorized as a synthetic peptide hormone that aids in faster fat burning and some degree of muscle tissue enlargement. The latter is especially evident in users who have taken some type of testosterone-based steroid but have had low HGH levels.
In terms of appearance, the long-term use of HGH can cause a distended-looking midbody (or “pregnant belly”) due to visceral fat accumulation. This happens due to HGH’s interference with insulin production- it makes the body less sensitive to insulin, thereby increasing insulin resistance. Hence, combining HGH with insulin requires utmost care.
Aside from that, users may experience a sudden explosion of muscles near the shoulders or traps. The combination of HGH with other steroids can also result in larger waists as opposed to small waist sizes in bodybuilders of the 1960s.
On the bright side, regulated amounts of HGH can boost the natural collagen found in your skin for noticeable anti-aging benefits. Moreover, it can increase tissue size, which is why your nose may look longer after taking HGH for some time.
What’s The Best Way To Cycle Steroids?
If you haven’t used steroids before, you may be wondering what “steroid cycles” actually mean and what’s the right way to implement them. Hence, we have gone the extra step to include this section in today’s guide.
In simple words, a steroid cycle is the period for which you use a particular steroid (or a combination of steroids as required by your body). While this span is called “on-cycle,” the gap between two steroid cycles is called “off-cycle.”
First-timers are almost always recommended to use some form of testosterone-based steroid in their first cycle and stack it with other mild steroids if at all required. Likewise, they should start with the lowest recommended dose and continue the cycle for no more than 4 to 8 weeks. Similarly, follow the cycle with some form of post-cycle therapy to help stabilize your hormone levels.
Changes Post First Cycle
While the exact changes will depend on factors like the type of steroid used and how your body responds to it, here’s a brief overview that will give you a good idea of what to expect.
Generally, most first-time steroid users experience enlarged muscles, a boost to their overall energy levels, and faster recovery times, which helps them perform better in the gym. Moreover, the steroid stack may make your muscles become stronger than usual with the same set of exercises.
Users also get improved blood flow to the muscles with more water retention, making the “pump” more defined than ever. Besides, some steroids help enhance your sexual performance.
However, there may be some initial decrease in the levels of testosterone and HGH. Hence, it’s important to allow an “off-cycle” period similar to the “on-cycle” one. For instance, if your steroid cycle lasts for 4 weeks, then ensure that you’re off the steroid for the same period, if not more. This is a great way to let the hormone levels stabilize on their own.
Changes Post Extended Cycle
First-time steroid users are advised to follow a couple of 4 to 6-week cycles with adequate off-cycle time in between to help their bodies get accustomed to the different compounds. After this, they may extend the cycle to 8,10, or a maximum of 12 weeks if required.
Once the 12-week cycle is complete, users can see significant improvements in their muscle strength and size. Depending on the steroid and its dosage, you may even put on up to 6 pounds of muscles at the end of the cycle! Likewise, you will achieve better strength gain through bench presses, squats, and deadlifts.
1. How Fast Can Steroids Work To Give You The Desired Body?
The exact time taken by the steroids to show the desired results will largely depend on their type. In this regard, they can be categorized on the basis of their esters (or their primary chemical compound), viz., short-term and long-term.
While short-term esters show faster results, they will not be as long-lasting. Some of the popular names in this category include Dianabol, Winstrol, and Anadrol, among others.
On the other hand, long-term ester steroids like Anavar, Deca Durabolin, and HGH take more time to render the desired benefits, but they are likely to last longer.
2. What Is The Half-Life Of A Steroid?
The half-life of a steroid refers to the time for which the steroid lasts in the body of the user, which depends on the particular steroid and your body composition.
Generally, the half-life of steroids is more for people who don’t work out regularly, are aged, overweight, or have existing medical conditions. Another thing to note here is that oral steroids have shorter half-lives than the injectable ones.
For instance, Dianabol stays in your body for about 8 hours if taken orally, whereas it can last up to 3 days (72 hours) when injected.
3. What Are Some Common Side Effects Of Steroids?
Many users during their first cycle have noted some or all of the below-mentioned side effects:
- Thicker skin
- Lean face (during cutting cycle)
- Round face (during bulking cycle)
- Redness near the nose, forehead, and cheeks
4. Are Steroids Legal In The United States?
Anabolic steroids are illegal in almost every country of the world, but doctors may prescribe certain “steroid-dominant” compounds to stabilize hormonal imbalances. However, you will find legal steroid alternatives on the market today, many of which are made from natural ingredients to reduce the risk of side effects.
At the end of it all, you may be asking, “do steroids give permanent results?”
Well, once you stop using steroids, your muscle mass and size will start decreasing, the rate of which will depend on the type of steroids used. However, the muscle cells will retain the muscle-building memory, meaning you can build muscles faster if you start working out again.
Before signing off, we’d strongly recommend consulting a doctor before using any type of steroid to ensure you don’t harm your health.