Anabolic androgenic steroids are synthetic forms of the hormone testosterone that can be used to help gain muscle mass. "Anabolic" refers to muscle-building, "androgenic" refers to increased masculine characteristics and "steroids" refers to the class of drugs. Anabolic androgenic steroids are legally available only by prescription, to treat conditions that occur when the body produces abnormally low amounts of testosterone, such as delayed puberty and some types of impotence. They are also prescribed to treat body wasting in AIDS patients, for weight gain after serious illnesses (like anemia or cancer) and other diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass. Abuse of anabolic steroids, however, can lead to serious and even irreversible health problems.
Many people use illegal steroids to enhance muscle mass and improve physical performance. Anabolic steroids are taken orally or injected, typically in cycles of weeks or months (referred to as "cycling"), rather than continuously. Cycling involves taking multiple doses of steroids over a specific period of time, stopping for a period, and starting again. In addition, users often combine several different types of steroids to maximize their effectiveness while minimizing negative effects (referred to as "stacking").
Andro supplements are over-the-counter steroid-like dietary supplements. Andro supplements include: androstenedione, androstenediol, norandrostenedione, norandrostenediol, and dehydroepiandtrosterone. All claim to be converted into testosterone in the body to help improve muscle mass.
Creatine monohydrate is a compound produced by the body that helps release energy in the muscles. It is found in protein-rich foods like meat or fish, or it can be taken as a nutritional supplement. HMB (beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid) is a chemical that occurs naturally in the body when the amino acid leucine breaks down. High concentrations of leucine are found in muscles. During athletic training, damage to the muscles leads to the breakdown of leucine as well as increased HMB levels. Creatine is available in pills, powders and many functional food bars in health food stores.
Other supplements: There are also many muscle-building supplements, many of which are unregulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Stimulants/diuretics: Many athletes use stimulants, like caffeine and the now illegal ephedra, to boost energy and suppress appetite. Diuretics are used to help change the balance of fluids in the body and lose weight.
Protein: Athletes can also bulk up by increasing the intake of protein. Many protein bars and shakes are available. They contain a high amount of protein, usually about 10-30g, and many also contain vitamins and/or minerals.
Anabolic steroids: Scientific research suggests that aggression and other psychiatric side effects may result from abuse of anabolic steroids. Many users report feeling good about themselves while on anabolic steroids, but researchers report that extreme mood swings also can occur, including manic-like symptoms leading to violence. Depression is often seen when the drugs are stopped and may contribute to dependence on anabolic steroids. Researchers report also that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.
Andro supplements: Andro supplements claim to be converted into testosterone in the body to help improve muscle mass. However, in 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared andro supplements illegal, citing safety concerns. Andro acts like a steroid once it is metabolized by the body and therefore can pose similar kinds of health risks as steroids.
Other supplements: Creatine is used to provide energy to muscles, increase their volume and help prevent lactic-acid buildup. Some evidence suggests that taking HMB supplements might signal the body to slow down the destruction of muscle tissue. On this basis, HMB has been studied as a supplement for enhancing strength and muscle mass. However, larger studies are necessary to establish whether HMB has beneficial affects.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.