We’re all curious about that guy at the gym who’s super ripped and muscular, the powerlifter benchpressing 450+, the bodybuilder claiming to be ”natural” or your baseball teammate who all of a sudden hits 500-feet bombs like it’s nothing.
Well my friend, there’s a decent chance these guys are on steroids. It’s not that we’re trying to find excuses as to why these guys are ahead of us. These days anyone with a pulse can get access to anabolic steroids and tons of people are using them. I’m not just babbling stuff I head in the media here.. I play a lot of competitive sports, go to the gym, got some friends.. and let me tell you steroids use is rampant.
You don’t have to be a Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler to use steroids. Hell I’ve seen occasional 150-pound gym goers try a cycle or two, and I’ve seen people use them thinking they’d hit more homeruns in their coed league softball! It’s not always easy to discern what is legit and what is not, but it’s doable.
My position on steroid use
People can do what they want with their bodies and what they shoot themselves with in the butt is none of my business. If you want better results faster and are taking steroids for the sole purpose of looking better that’s fine with me. I wouldn’t do it but you do what you want.
Steroids can be used relatively safely if you know what you’re doing and are under the supervision of a doctor. Add a good diet plus healthy lifestyle habits and you should be good to go. But don’t come cry to me if you F-word’ed it up and ruined your health because I won’t have sympathy for you my friend. You get the benefits but you must accept the risks also.
***Where I think it’s not ok to use roids : Look, using roids to gain a competitive advantage in a sport where the substance is prohibited is just plain wrong. If your competitors are drinking protein shakes while you’re on the vitamin S, then it’s just not fair. That’s cheating, and I hope you die in a fire.
That being said I have competed in the past against steroid + other drug users fully knowing they were using them and I didn’t cry about it. Unless it’s powerlifting or bodybuilding there’s always something you can do to beat them anyway so no worries.
So here we go :
How to recognize a roid user
1) The famous ”big gut” or distended stomach
Here are some examples of bodybuilders with big bellies :
Bodybuilder Markus Ruhl with a big belly
Bodybuilder with protruded stomach
A BB’er with the so-called ”GH Gut”
What looks like Ronnie Coleman on stage with a big gut
Random muscular guy with big belly
What causes the big guts seen in the above pictures is not necessarily caused by anabolic steroid use. These pro bodybuilders take a LOT of difference supplements, including insulin and human growth hormone (HGH), which are most likely to have caused the so-called ”GH Gut”.
One thing you can be sure of : if someone uses HGH and/or insulin, you can be pretty sure that person is also on steroids and who knows what else.
2) Disproportionate development of upper body muscles
A steroid user’s upper body muscles (traps, shoulders, neck, pecs, back and especially lats) are often disproportionally big compared to his lower body counterparts. This is due to the fact that upper body muscles have more androgen receptors than other muscles and respond better to resistance training. This is why new steroid users see their shoulder, traps and back explode very fast in the first few steroid cycles. Of course, leg and torso muscles grow as well but never as fast. This is what causes the ”V-shape” in roid users who normally wouldn’t have the genetics to produce a wide shoulder/thin waist body.
- Some of us are born with incredibly good genetics
- Some of us only train upper body and never do legs
3) Gynecomastia or Bitch Tits
Here’s a couple pictures of bodybuilders with gynecomastia or the slang version ”gyno”
Random gym goer with a mild case of gynecomastia
Bodybuilder with serious gyno
Rather small but ripped guy with fat accumulation around the nipples
Bodybuilding with beginning signs of gynecomastia
What looks like the growth of female breasts in the above picture is due to the exogenous testosterone (from anabolic steroids) entering the body and converting to estrogen, estradiol through a process called aromatization, thanks to the enzyme aromatase.
***For those who don’t know the basics, testosterone is the predominant hormone that give men their sexual characteristics, while women get their from estrogen (and progesterone). Both sexes have these 2 hormones running through their veins but in different concentrations. Men have on average 20 times higher testosterone levels than women, while women have 5 times more estrogen than men.
The process of aromatization happens to all of us at difference intensity thoughout our lives so this is all fine and good; men do need the estrogen hormone for normal functioning. What happens with the introduction of exogenous testosterone in our bodies, is that aromatization continues to do it’s job. A portion of the enormous amount of testosterone entering the body gets converted to estrogen and one can end up with considerable levels of estrogen in his body. This is then what causes development of breasts or ”bitch tits”.
Ronnie has it pretty bad in this picture ;-(
4) Skin problems caused by steroid use
Steroid use can cause skin problems such as :
- Stretch marks
Dennis Wolf with some damage on his back
Levels of hormones such as testosterone play a significant role in sebaceous glands and potentially can cause acne outbursts, especially on the back. Although many professional pretend to have it all figured out, acne is now well understood yet but it is well accepted that testosterone plays a role.
You won’t notice much acne on pro bodybuilders, especially on stage. They do use a lot of fake tan to cover their skin for that might explain. I’ve also heard the used accutane to permanently stop acne outbursts. There’s even people theorizing that bodybuilders remain healthy because they have very good livers cleaning all the shit they take.. but that’s totally broscience here 😛
Stretch marks are not a direct side effect of roid use. During the first few steroid cycles and user goes through, diet and sleep staying in check, he will experience very quick muscle growth. The skin may not adapt quickly enough to this change therefore causing permanent stretch marks. Normally they appear in the upper lats (on the sides), on the sides of the pectorals and sometimes on biceps. Probably better to have stretch marks from muscle than from fat but anyways.
Examples of battle scars :
Stretch marks on the side of the pectorals and shoulders
On the shoulder this time
5) Sudden increase in muscle mass after years of stagnation
If you’ve been going to the same gym for while you get used to the same guys hitting the same machines everyday without making any gains besides their initial gains when they started training. Then all of a sudden they lose all their fat and gain 25 pounds of muscle in 3 months. On top of that they can train for two hours without getting tired or falling victim to overtraining.
Don’t get me wrong here massive change is doable, but on a very long period of time. That’s just no way such transformation could occur in course of a couple months without the use of a little something called vitamin S.
Five good ways to recognize a steroid user :
- Big guts or distended stomach;
- Preferential development of the upper body muscles, especially lats;
- Gynecomastia or bitch tits;
- Stretch marks and/or acne;
- Unreasonably fast body transformation.
Ok that being said, before we get ahead of ourselves and start calling everything that moves a steroid user, let’s keep in mind that we can never be 100% sure who’s on roids and who’s not. Some are gifted with phenomenal genetics. Others have stellar work ethic, good training programs, perfect diet, good lifestyle and sleep habits. Some have 10-15 years of training experience under their.
Fitting only one of the criteria above might be proof of anabolic steroid usage, but when you have three or four then you can make a case. The goal of identifying roid users is not to call them on shit, but it’s to prevent yourself from getting ripped off by training programs promising stellar results when your know the results were attained with illegal substances.
Update. : Somewhat related, here’s a great video I just found on how to spot fake natural bodybuilders. Very interesting