Article last updated: December 2018 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
This includes actors, fitness models, bodybuilders, personal trainers, fitness authors, average gym bros, your classmate who got jacked overnight and YouTube fitness celebrities.
Arnold Schwarzenegger took a handful of dianabol each day while training to maintain his position as the bodybuilding champion of the world in the 70s.
Sylvester Stallone has been caught trying to import Human Growth Hormone into Australia back in 2007 while he was in amazing shape at age 61.
These are just two stories out of many that prove that steroid usage is completely normal among people who make their living based on how their physique looks.
Just think about the fitness and bodybuilding community in terms of numbers.
It’s one of the biggest online markets and it’s extremely competitive.
To make a great living in this market, you either have to crush your competition by having elite level aesthetics or by having a very unique story that people can relate to.
A large number of people making a living in the fitness industry opt for the first strategy of crushing their competition through aesthetics, and that often requires the usage of steroids.
In this article, I will tell you everything I know about steroid usage after spending +4 years researching them and consulting with several endocrinologists and men who have +10 years of experience taking them.
The goal of this article is to help you answer the question:
Should you take steroids to transform your body?
The article will assume that the reader is a man considering to use steroids to build a great body to have more options for sex and have people who admire him for his physique rather than a person who wants to use them for optimal health.
Furthermore, I want to make it clear that for simplicity’s sake I will use “steroids” throughout the entire article as a representation for pro-hormones, hormones, bodybuilding drugs and anabolic steroids.
Let’s get started:
(1) Steroids Are Extremely Effective
When you go to bodybuilding forums and you see steroid discussions, you often hear a statement similar to that below:
“Just because you take steroids doesn’t mean you don’t have to work as hard as natural bodybuilders! Steroids just enable you to train longer and more often and they still require your diet to be spot on.”
It all sounds good, but is it really true?
Well, the study I’m about to present below has a different take on that…
In 1996 a study was done on 4 groups of people
- Group 1: Didn’t train, and didn’t inject testosterone, however they received a placebo.
- Group 2: Didn’t train, but injected testosterone.
- Group 3: Trained, but didn’t inject testosterone, however they received a placebo.
- Group 4: Trained, and injected testosterone.
All groups had the same diet, and the two groups that trained, did it 3 times a week by using the same program. Here are the results of this study:
The graph shows the groups starting from the left 1-2-3-4.
The interesting finding in this study is that the group that injected testosterone but didn’t train gained almost twice the amount of fat-free mass as the group that trained but without testosterone injections.
In other words, testosterone users can sit on their ass and watch TV while gaining more muscle mass than the natural guy who works his ass off at the gym!
And that’s just testosterone injections which are the most basic component of a cycle.
Advanced steroid users take several compounds where testosterone is only one of them.
Therefore, a correct statement regarding the effectiveness of steroid usage would be that steroid users can train harder and more often than natural bodybuilders, but they don’t have to.
(2) Steroids Are Not Only Used To Get Big
When most people think about someone who uses steroids, they think about extremes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger rather than the muscular and shredded fitness model who is below 200 pounds.
In reality, a lot of fitness models do use steroids, because it’s extremely difficult to maintain a shredded physique year around.
As a professional fitness model you are often in a situation where you have to get ready for a shoot in a matter of weeks.
This means that you have to stay very lean throughout the entire year, otherwise they will find someone else who fits the job description better.
Unless you’re genetically gifted with a naturally low body-fat percentage (e.g. a guy who always had a 6-pack), it’s close to impossible to maintain the level of leanness needed to be a fitness model unless you take steroids and now I’ll explain why…
Steroids Are Used To Compensate For Low Testosterone Levels That Occur When Dieting Down
A study has previously been done on a natural bodybuilder who dieted down for a bodybuilding competition. The bodybuilder dieted down from 14.5% body-fat to 4.5% in 6 months.
In other words, he lost roughly 1.67 percentage point body-fat per month which is a very “safe” way to diet.
However, take a look at this excerpt from the study results:
Heart rate decreased from 53 to 27 beats/min during preparation and increased to 46 beats/min within 1 mo after competition. Brachial blood pressure dropped from 132/69 to 104/56 mmHg during preparation and returned to 116/64 mmHg at 6 mo after competition. Percent body fat declined from 14.8% to 4.5% during preparation and returned to 14.6% during recovery. Strength decreased during preparation and did not fully recover during 6 months of recovery. Testosterone declined from 9.22 to 2.27 ng/mL during preparation and returned back to the baseline level, 9.91 ng/mL, after competition. Total mood disturbance increased from 6 to 43 units during preparation and recovered to 4 units 6 mo after competition.
The problem here is yet his testosterone levels dropped from 9.22 ng/ml to 2.27 ng/ml!
That’s a huge issue because testosterone is the male hormone of vitality and it is responsible for muscle gains, strength, sex drive and it regulates your mood.
Here’s a table showing optimal testosterone levels:
Source: The table is based on Declining Androgens With Age – An Overview
This table uses different units(ng/dl) rather than the ones from the study above (ng/ml), but that’s no problem because I have converted the numbers for you:
- Subject’s testosterone level before initiating fat loss diet: 900 ng/dl
- Subject’s testosterone level after dieting for 6 months and being shredded for competition: 200 ng/dl
That’s an enormous drop in testosterone levels. Going by the table, the guy went from having the testosterone levels of a young guy at his sexual and muscle building peak to levels that are the equivalent of an old man!
No wonder why his mood disturbance level increased from 6 to 43 and why he experienced drops in strength levels.
Now imagine having to maintain anything close to that body-fat percentage year around.
To do so, you can either choose to live with symptoms such as depression, fatigue, decrease in muscle mass and strength levels and close to no sex drive, but who can do that?
Who can walk around the entire year feeling like shit just so they can shoot some nice photos?
And what do you think happens when you spend years at a body-fat percentage that your body is not designed to be at? Your endocrine system goes out of whack and you may never regain the ability of producing optimal testosterone levels.
Now some of you may wonder why these fitness models don’t just follow my tips on increasing testosterone levels naturally through diet, exercise and sleep.
The answer is simple: Because I never recommended anyone to diet down to 4-8% body-fat. I recommend that people diet down to a body-fat percentage that their body is designed to maintain with moderate effort (i.e. regular exercise and a balanced diet that doesn’t require any kind of starvation). In most cases, this body-fat percentage is somewhere around 12. This is the body-fat percentage where your body will function at its best and you will feel your best which is way more important than how you look in a photo.
And that’s why a lot of fitness models inject testosterone (among other things). At a shredded body-fat percentage, they are forced to compensate for their lack of natural testosterone production through exogenous testosterone injections.
Steroids Come In Dosages
Another reason to why you don’t have to be big to take steroids is the dosage or compound that you take.
You can take large dosages and get big, but you can also take smaller dosages and go for that shredded fitness model look.
The muscular size you obtain from steroid usage is largely dependent on the dosage and your genetics.
Some guys can take all the steroids in the world, but they will never get as big as Ronnie Coleman because they don’t respond as well as he does.
There are also guys out there who will take massive amounts of steroids as a compensation for their crappy diet, training and lifestyle which involves a lot of drugs and partying.
Therefore, the tell-tale sign of a steroid user is not being big. The tell-tale sign is someone who used to carry some fat, but now he’s shredded and muscular the same time throughout the entire year.
(3) Can You Look Like A Steroid Lifter Naturally?
I often hear people say stuff along the lines of:
I’m 220 pounds at 6’2″ and 15% body-fat, so I’m only 25 pounds away from Arnold’s weight.
Well, you are 220 pounds at 15% body-fat, but just wait until you start cutting.
A lot of these 220 pounds are water weight and fat. These will be shredded, and many of your muscle gains will go too when you go below your natural body-fat percentage, leaving you at less than 195 pounds.
Another thing to consider is the huge difference in the look of a steroid user and a natural lifter.
You can have two guys with the exact same stats, say 180 pounds at 5% body-fat.
However, the two guys have physiques that are at completely different levels because one is on steroids and the other is a life-time natural.
Certain steroids can give you that 3d, skin-tight, vascular and full look that most naturals rarely have, if ever.
As a natural with average genetics you can only come close to the look of a steroid user after bodybuilding consistently for half a decade, when you are carbed up at the end of a fat loss diet, you have a tan and a good muscle pump and you stand in good lighting (and don’t forget the angle of the camera).
There are some select individuals with great, elite-level genetics who can look amazing (even without any training), but most of these guys don’t need to ask anyone if they can ever look amazing without steroids. They already look amazing and have always done so.
If you’re curious about the huge difference steroids can make for a guy with average genetics, take a look at the video below showing Bostin Lloyd’s 1 year steroid transformation:
(4) The Dark Side of Taking Steroids
After reading this you may wonder… Why stay natural if there are so many benefits to taking steroids?
There are many reasons, and I have listed some of the most important ones below:
- Steroids are illegal. If you travel a lot like I do you will have to stop doing that unless you got a legal prescription for your steroids. Also, there’s always the risk of getting busted and having to pay huge fees or going to jail. Or, just imagine if you only have access to one steroid dealer and he suddenly bumps up the prices. What can you do then?
- Steroids are addictive. A lot of people don’t consider the financial effects of using steroids. When you take steroids you need to pay for them. Beginner cycles are relatively cheap, but how many people do one cycle? How can you go back to training naturally after doing a steroid cycle that gave you massive muscle gains that you didn’t think were possible? Most people who take steroids become addicted to getting bigger and more shredded. They constantly need more steroids to satisfy their needs and the costs add up. Most bodybuilders spend more money on steroids than they win in prize money.
- Steroids can be expensive. Assuming that you’re like most people and you get addicted to getting bigger and bigger, you will also find that your steroid usage takes a significant chunk of your pay-check. Why do you think that professional bodybuilders do gay for pay? They don’t make much from bodybuilding and they need to finance their massive steroid usage somehow…
- Steroids are cheating. If you take steroids to build your physique you will never feel the sense of pride that I and other natural lifters felt building our physique. You will never be able to say that it was YOU working hard at the gym, consistently fitting your meals into a busy schedule and doing bodyweight training while travelling. Unless you already maxed out your natural gains after a decade or more of hard work at the gym, you took the easy way out to speed up the process.
- Steroids can have serious side effects. Issues such as gynecomastia (man boobs) and erectile dysfunction are not a joke. If you don’t have basic knowledge of the endocrine system and the effects and dosages of various steroids, don’t have access to pharmaceutical drugs and you don’t do regular blood work you’re gambling with your health.
- You never know what you get. Unless you get your steroids legally through a doctor or pharmacy, you never know what you get. What if the shit was made in a dirty bathtub by dirty kids who haven’t showered for days? Do you really want to inject that into your body?
The bottom line here is that unless you know what you’re doing, you’re doing regular blood work and getting your steroids legally from a pharmacy to treat a health problem under the supervision of a professional, you are gambling with your health.
(5) Example of Alleged Steroid Usage in the Fitness Industry
Recently, I looked through some threads on BodyBuilding.com and found a thread about a popular user called ViperGQ. Here’s a link to the thread:
The guy achieved a GREAT physique and currently has an instagram with about 30K followers.
He praised natural training on bodybuilding.com, opposed steroid usage, and claimed that everyone who can’t do what he did is “lazy” or an “underachiever”.
Well, guess what… The thread above has very convincing evidence showing that he posted about a steroid cycle on a steroid forum.
Did that stop apparel companies such as Gymshark from sponsoring him? Nope:
I’m not using this example to say that all people who make money in the fitness industry are steroid users.
I’m not even saying that ViperGQ is a steroid user. I’m just pointing out that there is some very convincing evidence that he might have used them in the past and now he’s representing a major fitness clothing company and coaching people online. (Disclaimer: This article is only written for entertainment purposes…)
There are plenty of people who train naturally, give good advice, genuinely love to help and inspire people and who make 100% of their living through the fitness industry.
You just have to keep your eyes open and stop believing everything you hear.
(6) Lying About Steroid Usage To Gain Followers = Sociopathic Behaviour?
After reading the example above it should be clear that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.
It doesn’t matter if someone has 50,000 followers on instagram and is a certified personal trainer.
There are people out there who will build a great physique on steroids, then tell everyone else how much they hate steroid users and that you’re lazy if you can’t build a physique like they have.
The same people will later sell you a product and claim that you can build a similar physique without using steroids.
So, how can they lie about their steroid usage with a straight face and sell you something?
Either they rationalize their actions by thinking “steroids enable me to inspire more people and I don’t take as much as other people so I guess that’s OK…” or “I only took a mild cycle a few years ago, so I’m natural now.”
Or, they have zero empathy for other people.
When you lie to someone about your steroid usage, sell a product or service to them and give them false expectations and thereby make them feel inadequate because of their lack of progress it means that you don’t give a shit about other people.
The fitness guru gets paid while the client is left feeling inadequate and hopeless because he doesn’t achieve anything near the results that his guru achieved on the same program.
There’s no way that someone can do that and sleep well at night, unless they’re a sociopath or lie to themselves through rationalization.
Being a sociopath essentially means that you aren’t able to feel empathy.
According to The Sociopath Next Door, 1/25 people are estimated to be sociopaths and many of them are found in top positions in their industries including the fitness industry.
It’s hard for most of us to imagine a life where you can lie, steal and abuse others without feeling even a little bit guilty because we have empathy.
The reason to why I’m telling you this is that I want you to keep two things in mind:
- There are people out there who will lie to you about their steroid usage and give you false expectations without feeling any kind of guilt. Many of these people are the top of the fitness industry. Often, these people will be very charismatic and convincing, therefore you need to be extra critical about what kind of information you believe.
- Taking the “easy” way out largely determines the type of person you become in the future…
(7) What Kind Of Person Do You Want To Become?
After reading the two sections above, you should have a good idea of the type of people that the fitness industry attracts.
Now ask yourself if you want to be that type of person?
Do you want your whole life to be based on a lie?
Steroids will speed up your physical transformation, but how about the transformation of your mind?
What about the character building and pride that comes from going through the struggles of a natural bodybuilder?
You will miss out on these essential things.
I can safely say that while it was nice to transform my body, the biggest benefit was the transformation of my mind.
I saw the transformation of my body as the biggest obstacle in my life and I was close to giving up many times throughout the years, but in the end I’ve surpassed all the goals I set out to achieve in training.
This has given me massive amounts of confidence in other areas of life. I believe I can do anything I put my mind to now.
That wouldn’t be the case if I took the easy way out and used steroids to build my body.
(8) You Don’t Need Steroids To Get Laid
Now some of you may think that this doesn’t apply to you if you don’t want to work in the fitness industry or be an athlete, but that’s not the case at all.
If you don’t want to work in the fitness industry or be an athlete, that’s an even stronger reason to stay away from steroids.
The people in the fitness industry or athletes who lie about steroid usage at least get some kind of additional income from doing that.
They take on a risk and are dishonest to their fans to increase their income.
You take on a risk to get a better body, but for what?
Do you really think that you need steroids to get laid or feel good about yourself?
Look at hollywood actors such as Ryan Gosling and George Clooney.
They have no characteristics of a steroid user, yet I can guarantee you that they have way more sexual options than the average guy who takes steroids.
Huge and ripped bodies attract a very niche market which consists of women who are into bodybuilding.
Most women want an athletic guy that is in shape with broad shoulders, some muscle definition and a flat waist.
Steroids are not needed for that!
Don’t believe me? Then see the pictures below…
Logan Rando who used my program recently sent me this 12 week progress picture:
He achieved these results with basic bodyweight training and a balanced diet plan. He doesn’t look like a fitness model or a pro bodybuilder, but he has a better body than most guys and that’s really all you need.
And here’s one of myself showing the kind of change you can make over a longer time-period if that’s what you want:
If you believe that you need to be a massive 220 pounds at 5% body-fat to attract beautiful women, you are wrong.
Doing It The 100% Natty Way
When training naturally, it will take years to transform your body and you will never look the same way as a steroid user, however, you will build pride, character and stay true to your values.
Does that mean you have to “suffer” for years to “make it” and feel good about yourself?
No… You will never “make it”. There will never be a time in your life where you look at yourself in the mirror and think “I’ve made it, now I can relax and eat pizza. My body is perfect.”
If you train naturally, there will always be body-parts you can improve and sculpt more. I’m +5 years into training and there are still several areas I know that I can improve on for the next many years.
The way you feel about yourself will improve as your physique improves, but it’s also largely dependent on how you decide to feel.
You can decide to make the most out of your day today and live in one-day-compartments and maximize each day, or worry about the past and the future.
You can look for problems that don’t matter today or for solutions to the problems that are most important to fix starting from today.
You can look for positive traits of your physique (everyone has at least one!) or at the negatives.
So should you take steroids to transform your body? The choice is yours, so what’s it gonna be?
Be proud but stay hungry,
– Oskar Faarkrog
Photo credit: Flickr
Disclaimer: I never took steroids myself and I don’t plan on taking them, but I know about their effects from years of research, talking with people who have taken them and consulting with endocrinologists. I don’t advocate steroid usage to anyone and the article was only written for entertainment purposes.