Steroids; The Good, The Bad, and The Friggin’ Busted

Markus Ruhl; Pro Bodybuilder.  Miiiiight have taken steroids at some point.  Maybe.

I also have to say, while I’d never want to look like this myself,

I think he looks kind of cool

and I respect the unbelievable work it took to make this physique.

Few topics are as controversial in the fitness industry as anabolic steroids.  Steroids, as most people know, are drugs which mimic the effect of the male sex hormones, allowing for greater and faster gains of strength and muscle mass.  While the use of steroids without a prescription is illegal, the drugs are used both by recreational and professional athletes (most famously in the recent past by several professional baseball players).  And while the public is aware of steroids being used by athletes for a performance edge, the bulk of steroids in America are consumed by weekend warriors looking to achieve an aesthetic ideal that their personal genetics (or crappy training or nutrition) may not allow via natural means.

But are steroids as inherently dangerous as the media makes them out to be?  Well, as in many realms of life, the answer is more complicated than a clear cut yes or no.

We do know that steroids will help provide faster and greater gains in strength and muscle mass. And we know that steroids can have undesirable effects including but not limited to liver damage, acne, and gynocomastia (bitch tits), particularly with long term use and excessive doses.  We also know that many of the side effects women experience seem to be irreversible (deeper voice, facial hair, etc.).  And perhaps no potential side effect is more controversial than the psychological ones; “‘Roid Rage” is a term used for wild mood swings and increased aggression.  And while there is a lot of anecdotal evidence (I personally know people who feel that steroids definitely caused some roid rage symptoms), once again there’s no hard science proving it exists. We’re left to wonder if steroids make people into roid raging dicks, or if people with roid raging dick tendencies are more likely to use steroids.

The Governator has been open about using steroids during his bodybuilding career.

He looks hyooooge in this picture.

I think we can agree that using steroids as an athlete when they are explicitly banned by the governing body of their respective sport is unethical.  But when we discuss recreational use, things get a little trickier.  It’s illegal to use steroids; but is it immoral for a 40 year old stockbroker to use modest doses of steroids to be more muscular and get more out of their workouts?

I encourage you to be mindful of the cost to benefit ratio of any choice you make in your fitness journey (and life for that matter).  You may be surprised to find that while I don’t personally use steroids, I don’t condemn others for taking steroids if they so choose.  Its not something I’d recommend to clients, mind you, but I don’t think its inherently evil and I respect each person’s right to weigh their various choices on the path to their fitness goals.  As always my wish is for people to analyze the pros and cons of their choices and make good decisions that will serve their long term health and well being.

For a thorough and balanced look at steroids in American culture, do yourself a favor and watch Chris Bell’s EXCELLENT documentary, Bigger Faster Stronger.


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