How Anabolic Steroids Work?

Testosterone Hormone: The base of all steroids

To understand the mechanism of action of Anabolic Steroids in general and in bodybuilding in particular, we need to know what the hormone testosterone is and how it acts inside the human body. Pretty much any anabolic steroid is a derivative of the male sex hormone and it exerts its effect by imitating the properties of the naturally occurring testosterone.

A regular man produces 20 times more testosterone than a normal woman. This extra amount is responsible for greater muscle development in men, as well as for the development of other sexual characteristics such as facial hair and a deep voice. Testosterone is working on it when absorbed from the bloodstream by certain cells.

Testosterone molecules put themselves in the right places inside cells, called receptors, as well as a key is part of the corresponding lock. When the right type of molecule is binding to a receptor, it tells the cell to carry out specific functions.

Other anabolic steroids will bind to the testosterone receptors and this is possible since other hormones are chemically similar to testosterone as we’ve mentioned above.

Once a certain hormone molecule has activated the receptor, several metabolic processes will start in the body that will lead to an increase in muscle tissue development. For example, in muscle cells, testosterone supports the production of protein.

Within each cell, there is a fixed number of receptors. A cell will respond poorly if only some of them are bound to the right molecule. The cell responds to the maximum level when all receptors are activated.

Anabolic hormones have two main effects on the human body, though the rate of each effect is different for each compound:

  • The anabolic action that is expressed by the support of muscle growth, lowered periods needed for recovery after an injury or a hard workout and it's also maintaining bone density.
  • The androgenic effects or otherwise known as masculinizing effects – are the development of male characteristics like increased facial hair growth, deepening of the voice, male pattern baldness, etc.

Anabolic steroids for muscle growth

A regular’s human natural production of testosterone is enough to fill some of the receptors that will allow the body to function properly and increase the muscle mass (with proper diet and training routine) to a certain level.

But this is not enough for most bodybuilders who are after bigger sizes and much better muscle definition so they need that boost Anabolic Steroids can offer.

However, by taking massive doses of anabolic steroids, as some people do, expecting even greater progress, the cells will not do more than they would do on a lower dose because the receptors are already fully packed and will not take molecules of hormones beyond the needed amount. The excess of steroids will only cause side effects to be more likely.

Do muscle-enhancement drugs cause the growth of the body and muscles? There is no evidence that extremely large doses of steroids alone will cause muscle growth only due to chemical reactions. In many animals, high doses of anabolic steroids do not stimulate more muscle growth than normal doses do.

However, there is evidence that steroids enhance muscle growth if the person works out regularly and follows a high-protein diet. Anabolic steroids bounce between anabolic and catabolic processes in the body.

Anabolism - is a creative process in which simpler substances are transformed into more complex, bone and muscle tissues. Catabolism - is the corresponding destructive process that breaks down these complex tissues and removes them from the body.

A functioning body tries to balance between these two processes, performing ongoing maintenance and replacement of tissues. Androgenic-Anabolic steroids reduce the catabolic effect, increasing the production of protein in the muscles.

It is believed that anabolic hormones penetrate the cell and bind to the free androgen receptors.The newly formed steroid-receptor complex moves to the nucleus interacting with RNA and causing replication. The development of RNA increases, causing increased protein synthesis.

Ultimately, it all leads to an increase in strength and muscle size. For the bodybuilder to accumulate muscle mass, his body must maintain a positive nitrogen balance, in other words, the body has to make more nitrogen than it releases.

During workouts, the production of glucocorticosteroids leads the body into a negative nitrogen balance. After the workout, our body is temporarily in a positive balance, in which new protein structures are added to the muscle tissues.

Then nitrogen balance goes to zero. Without the use of anabolic steroids, muscle mass is accumulated quite slowly. These chemicals neutralize the catabolic effect and this leads to a positive nitrogen balance and a more rapid increase in muscle mass.

However, maintaining a positive nitrogen balance does not last for long, about 1-2 months, even if you keep increasing the dosage of anabolics. The body tries to maintain homeostasis and becomes addicted to steroids (tachyphylaxis).

This means the body’s response to a certain drug is reduced and the effect of the drug is reduced or it no longer produces the effect it was designed for at all. An example of a homeostatic mechanism is the rise of cortisol in the blood when using steroids.

This may counteract the anabolic effect and support catabolic. To maintain a positive nitrogen balance, the athlete increases the dose of anabolic steroids, and this increases the risk of side effects.

There is some evidence that anabolic steroids can help the bodybuilder longer and more often, with increased intensity and endurance. This effect may be more important than any direct chemical effect during a steroid cycle.

Jun 1, 2023


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