What Are Anabolic Steroids?

There is constant talk about the use of steroids, especially among athletes. But, not many people know what these drugs do and why people use them. This article will try and answer the question, what are anabolic steroids? What is important to note from the onset is that steroids have been around for years and they are not only used by athletes as doctors can also prescribe them to patients suffering from various disorders and diseases as well. It is also interesting to note that anabolic steroids are the most common among users.

Basically, steroids occur in the body naturally. However, anabolic steroids are the synthetic version of male hormones or testosterone. The reason why athletes take these drugs is because they hope to gain strength, weight, speed, aggressiveness, power and endurance. That is why you will find that the drugs are mostly used by athletes that do field and track events, American football and weight lifting.

How the drugs work

The male hormones, in particular testosterone, are partly responsible for the developmental changes that happen during adolescence and puberty. These hormones are known to have anabolic and androgenic effects. The changes that occur in primary and secondary sexual characteristics are known as androgenic effects. Examples include voice changes, increased aggressiveness, penis and testes enlargement and hair growth on the genital, axilla and facial areas. On the other hand, examples of anabolic effects of androgens are improved neural conduction and the accelerated growth of bone, muscle and red blood cells.

The anabolic types are also manufactured to improve the tissue building of androgens as well as to lessen the androgenic or sex linked properties. But, no steroid has removed the androgenic effects as the androgenic effects are in essence anabolic effects tissues that are sex-linked. The steroid that has the most potent anabolic effect is also the one with the most androgenic effect.


Steroid hormones function by stimulating receptor molecules in the muscle cells. This activates certain genes to produce proteins. The hormones also have an effect on the activation rate of enzyme systems that have to do with protein metabolism. This inhibits protein degradation and improves protein synthesis.

Anti-Catabolic effects

There are many athletes who state that anabolic steroids assist them to recover quickly as well as train harder. Without the drugs, they say that it is hard to make progress. So, these drugs might have an anti-catabolic effect. What that means is that they may inhibit muscle catabolism which usually comes with intense workout training. However, this has not been proven fully.

The drugs may also obstruct the effects of certain hormones like cortisol which have to do with the breakdown of tissue when you are exercising and afterwards. They might also inhibit tissue breakdown after an intense exercise. This can also quicken recovery. A hormone such as cortisol causes the breakdown of protein and it is secreted when you are exercising. This improves the use of proteins for fuel, as well as suppressing inflammation which is linked to tissue injury.

The drugs may also obstruct the binding of cortisol to receptor sites. This would inhibit muscle breakdown and improve recovery. However, as much as this might be advantageous when you are taking anabolic steroids, this can backfire when you stop taking them.

The above is a summarized answer to the question, what are anabolic steroids?