Anabolic Steroids – Introduction, Side Effects & Alternatives

Anabolic steroids also termed anabolic-androgenic steroids (AASs), are synthetic versions of the primary male hormone, testosterone. They can build muscle fast and improve performance, but also can have significant adverse side effects, mainly when misused.

anabolic steroids

In this article, I take a close look at the popular anabolic steroids and list their benefits, side effects, and legal alternatives.

1. Dianabol

dianabol methandienone

Dianabol is one of the many official brand names for Methandienone or Methandrostenolone. Some of the other brand names are Vetanabol, Metanabol, Averbol, Danabol, and Naposim. It’s a synthetic and orally active anabolic-androgenic (AAS) steroid which is a methylated derivative of testosterone.

Produced for the first time in 1957 by CIBA, it’s considered the first anabolic-androgenic steroid that was used by the amateur and professional athletes. Apart from that, it continues to be the most commonly orally administered steroid for non-medical purposes.

Dianabol is labeled as a controlled substance by the USFDA, implying that although it is legal to possess it, you’re advised to use it only as prescribed by your doctor.

Dianabol helps in significantly increasing the performance of athletes and bodybuilders. Sometimes, you continue working out for months and months, but still, don’t see any visible results. At such a time, you’ve two options:

  • Increase the intensity of your workouts
  • Use a steroid such as Dianabol to take your performance level to an altogether new high.

It helps athletes, bodybuilders, and weightlifters gain muscle mass quickly, averaging anywhere around 3 – 5 pounds of muscle gain per week. Its effect lasts for around five hours and must be taken at least once per day (but no more than twice).

How Does Dianabol Work?

Dianabol is among the very few anabolic steroids that were developed solely for performance enhancement. Although it did carry some therapeutic benefits at one point in time, the real reason for its development was performance.

Dianabol works in a reasonably straightforward manner. It increases the glycogenolysis, nitrogen retention and protein synthesis in the user’s body.

Protein synthesis is about the speed at which your body’s cells can create proteins, which are the essential building blocks for the muscle tissues.

Nitrogen retention, on the other hand, is critical as the majority of the muscles consist minimum 16% nitrogen, and its preservation can prevent wasting away of the muscles.

Coming to glycogenolysis, it enables the users to make the most of the consumed carbohydrates.

The above three processes ensure that the athletes, bodybuilders, and weightlifters can quickly gain more muscle mass, continuously burn body fat, and make their muscles more prominent than ever.

Dianabol is essentially a stacking steroid, implying that you can add other anabolic steroids to your workout routine as well. Its effectiveness reaches an even higher level when you stack it. What more, it enhances the efficiency of those steroids too!

Dianabol Side Effects

Although Dianabol is nowhere close to the most dangerous anabolic steroids on the market, it does put the user at risk.

As Dianabol presents a moderate level of aromatase activity, the methandrostenolone in it can get converted into methyl estradiol, thereby increasing the chances of water retention and gynecomastia in the user. This is one of the most commonly mentioned side-effects of Dianabol.

Some of the other Dianabol side-effects include liver damage, acne, deepening of the voice, increased hair loss, fluctuating cholesterol levels, clitoral enlargement and increased body hair growth.

Popular Dianabol alternatives: D-Bal, D-Bal Max, Drill Master

2. Trenbolone

trenbolone acetate

Trenbolone is a chemically modified version of Nandrolone; a hormone produced naturally inside the human body. Tren as it’s also popularly referred to as is arguably the most potent anabolic steroid available today and is widely sought by the bodybuilding professionals and athletes everywhere.

It’s five times stronger compared to testosterone and several times stronger than nandrolone, its parent hormone. To give you an idea, a 200 mg dosage of Trenbolone has the same effect as a 1000 mg dosage of testosterone!

Bodybuilding professionals and athletes participating in performance competitions and seeking increased levels of endurance, better post-injury muscle repair and a solid mass of well-toned muscles make use of Trenbolone in both their cutting as well as bulking cycles.

How does Trenbolone work?

Trenbolone is available in different forms – Trenbolone Acetate, Trenbolone Enanthate, and Trenbolone Cyclohexyl methyl carbonate.

When had in the Trenbolone acetate form, it works as a potent anabolic steroid. Its androgen properties deliver an effect of strength gains, improved metabolism, muscle hardness and in some users, an increased amount of aggression, which translates into a better urge to compete.

On the other hand, you get the best results using the Trenbolone Enanthate form. It works by providing an overall body bulking and massive strength gains. This is achieved by increasing the supply of nitrogen to the muscles and by improving the quantity of the red blood cells in the body.

Also, it works as a substance that significantly improves the absorption of nutrients in the human body.
The last effect alone can help athletes and bodybuilding professionals gain a significant competitive edge during training. Trenbolone is capable of providing even more significant gains when blended with Anadrol or Dianabol.

Possible side effects

Please keep in mind that Trenbolone may be available only at the veterinary supply stores as the US FDA doesn’t approve it for human consumption. It’s a highly androgenic drug.

Some of the commonly noticed side effects of Trenbolone usage include male pattern baldness, high blood pressure, prostate enlargement, kidney toxicity and hallucinations. You also face a higher risk of liver toxicity. Hence the seasoned Tren users always recommend milk thistle for detoxification purposes.

Furthermore, if you’re someone who is genetically sensitive to Trenbolone, even low to moderate dosages of tren could lead to significant problems. Some of the additional side effects observed with Trenbolone usage include:

  • Clitoris enlargement in women
  • Prostate enlargement in men
  • Anxiety
  • Oily skin and acne
  • Lactation and breast growth in men
  • A cough and night sweats
  • Increased levels of aggression
  • Excess body and facial hair
  • Deepening of the user’s voice

Regular Trenbolone usage is often seen to be responsible for an increase in the bad cholesterol levels in the body. However, complementing it with regular cardiovascular exercises and a healthy diet can help negate that adverse cholesterol effect.

Please note that Trenbolone isn’t generally recommended for consumption by women due to its androgenic effects. Women may experience excessive hair growth and some other side-effects as a direct result of its usage.

Legal Trenbolone Alternatives: Trenorol and Gunner

3. Anadrol

anadrol oxymetholone

Anadrol, A50, Anadrol 50, Anapolon, A-Bombs are some of the few brand names that the anabolic steroid Oxymetholone is popularly referred to as in the athletics and bodybuilding circles throughout the world.

Although it was developed primarily for medical purposes, in the beginning, it emerged as one of the most talked about and used oral steroids in the marketplace.

Due to its high liver toxicity, its initial development in the form of a compound was to help people suffering from anemia. Over the years, Anadrol main use is for alleviating symptoms associated with conditions wherein the possibility of weight loss is a significant concern. This is because Anadrol is a highly effective weight gain drug. It works by increasing the appetite of the user and by raising the red blood cell count in the body.

It’s a steroid which is consumed orally (unlike the vast majority which is absorbed intravenously via injections), that is by mouth, and also one that is readily available on the black market.

How Does Anadrol Work?

Anadrol is a derivative of DHT and is a 17aa steroid or 17-alpha-alkylated steroid. Majority of the other oral steroids are 17aa as well, as it enables them to survive the natural digestion process of the human body, to accomplish the desired effects.

Considering that Anadrol is a 17aa steroid allows it to survive the first pass through the human liver. Although it may sound like a positive to you, it’s the primary reason why it causes high liver toxicity. Eventually, as is seen in several other anabolic steroids, regular usage of Anadrol may lead to significant muscle gains.

Majority of the users of Anadrol report dramatic muscle gains in the first three weeks of its use before they reach a plateau. That’s the main reason why most of the bodybuilders and athletes indulge in a 3-week Anadrol cycle.

Even though Anadrol is a derivative of DHT, it doesn’t convert into estrogen through the aromatase enzyme. What more, Anadrol isn’t a progestin either, implying that the estrogenic side effects caused by it are still shrouded in mystery.

Anadrol Side Effects

Anadrol severely harms your liver due to its high toxicity. Apart from that, it suppresses the natural production of testosterone in the body too.

Another significant side effect of Anadrol is what it can do to your heart tissue, making it weak over a period, thus exposing you to the risk of heart attack or another kind of coronary problems in the later stages of your life.

The harmful side effects expected from regular Anadrol consumption include accelerated hair loss, hepatotoxicity, water retention, acne, and gynecomastia. Some users also report an overall feeling of being unwell, increased blood pressure, bloating and regular headaches.

Legal Anadrol Alternatives: Anadrole and Devil Dog.

4. Deca Durabolin

deca-durabolin nandrolone decanoate

Deca Durabolin is an anabolic androgenic steroid that is widely used by athletes and professional bodybuilders all over the world. It is the brand name for the injectable version of Nandrolone Decanoate. Although there are other similar anabolic steroids available on the market, for example, Nandrolone Phenylpropionate, this one has wider acceptability due to its cost-effectiveness.

Looking at its composition, it’s just one carbon atom away from turning into pure testosterone, and that’s the reason why it’s known as the next-best injectable steroid after testosterone.

Deca Durabolin is a Schedule III drug having an active life of around 14 to 16 days, detectable over a period of 16 to 18 months.

Its oral bioavailability is 2.24% and exhibits higher affinity towards the androgen receptors inside the muscle tissues and binds with them far more effectively compared to testosterone.

How Does Deca Durabolin Work?

At first, the Deca Durabolin primary function was to treat individuals suffering from muscle wasting diseases, as it can improve the muscle growth and bone density.

This steroid works by dramatically increasing the production of the red blood cells inside the human body and curing the joint problems usually experienced by the bodybuilders and athletes during/after intense workout sessions.

It works on the muscle tissues, increasing their mass and helping the connective tissues store water. This is how it helps alleviate the joint pains during workout routines. It also helps the body in synthesizing collagen and increasing the mineral content inside the bones, results which are very important for professional athletes and bodybuilders.

Deca Durabolin also delivers its results by retaining more nitrogen in the muscles. Better muscles nitrogen retention facilitates overall muscle building and strength during intense training sessions.

As Deca Durabolin is a steroid which gets released slowly inside the body, you can keep a healthy time gap between the injections. One injection of Deca Durabolin may carry you through 2 or 3 weeks.

Deca Durabolin Side Effects

Deca Durabolin if had in low dosages is generally tolerated well by the user’s liver, provided the person is healthy. Its estrogenic effects, in this case, are comparatively lesser than the other synthetic steroids. However, some male users may experience erectile dysfunction and reduced libido.

Please keep in mind that Deca Durabolin suppresses the natural production of testosterone, and hence the supplementation of the latter is recommended. Studies have revealed that even a single 100 mg Deca Durabolin dosage can have such suppressive effect.

On the other hand, higher dosages of Deca Durabolin may cause severe side effects including androgenic side effects such as increased hair loss in men who’re vulnerable to male pattern baldness, acne, and excessive body hair growth. Higher doses of Deca Durabolin may also have a negative impact on the good cholesterol levels (HDL) in the body.

In the case you’re a woman, you may experience virilization, the symptoms of which include clitoral enlargement, deeper voice, and excessive body hair growth.

Popular Deca-Durabolin Alternatives: Decaduro and Enduro.

5. Sustanon

sustanon 250

Sustanon is the name used for different oil-based blends of injectable esterized testosterone compounds. Typically, unless otherwise stated, Sustanon and Sustanon 250 are used interchangeably and contain a combination of four different esterized testosterone compounds as follow:

  • Testosterone Propionate (30 mg)
  • Testosterone Phenylpropionate (60 mg)
  • Testosterone Isocaproate (60 mg)
  • Testosterone Decanoate (100 mg)

Sustanon 300 and Sustanon 100 are the other similar blends that have different proportions of the above-listed compounds. However, it’s Sustanon 250 which is the most popular of the three.

Why there are different variants of testosterone in one single drug is because the esters (Propionate, Phenylpropionate, Isocaproate and Decanoate) combined with testosterone provide sustained and slower release of testosterone into the bloodstream, delivering a long-lasting effect (you experience higher testosterone levels in your body for a more extended period).

How Does Sustanon Work?

How Sustanon works will depend on several different factors such as your age, lifestyle, goals, exercise routine, and diet.

When used by bodybuilders, it works as a means for better muscle growth in a short period, for higher testosterone levels and the overall enhancement of the stamina and physical endurance.

A single dosage of Sustanon 250 can cause a spike in the total plasma testosterone levels in the body, with peak levels in the vicinity of 70nmol/l (Cmax).

Sustanon Side Effects

Please note that Sustanon can be particularly dangerous if consumed alongside alcohol.

It’s essential to weigh the benefits of Sustanon use against its possible harmful side effects before you start its consumption. Some of the adverse side effects that you may experience with regular Sustanon usage are:

  • Excessive production of red blood cells
  • Ejaculatory disorders
  • Excessive fluid retention
  • Unwanted and frequent penile erections
  • Changes in the basal metabolic rate (BMR) and the cholesterol levels
  • Painful and prolonged penile erections
  • Possible risk of high blood pressure
  • Interference with the sperm production, possibly leading to infertility
  • Deterioration of the skin condition, for instance, acne and constant itching

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has strictly banned the usage of Sustanon because of the severe health risks it poses.

Popular Sustanon Alternatives: Testo-Max and Trooper.

6. Somatropin

somatropin hgh

Somatropin is the generic term for Human Growth Hormone (HGH). The pituitary gland, a pea-sized gland situated right below our brain, produces this hormone. Our bodies produce maximum amounts of HGH during the puberty, and its production decreases gradually with age.

Mostly it is a hormone that regulates the growth and development of the human body. Adults are often administered synthetic forms of HGH for growth hormone therapy, to help them rebuild muscle mass. Somatropin has the potential to reduce fat tissues.

Somatropin is a form of Human Growth Hormone, a prescription drug for treating growth disorders in children and growth hormone deficiency in adults. In the United States, you can purchase Somatropin only with a prescription.

How Does Somatropin Work?

Our bodies produce HGH or Somatropin as a reaction to heavy sleep, exercising, hypoglycemia and protein ingestion.

Somatropin works for various conditions in both adults and children. When used on developing children, Somatropin’s results can impact multiple aspects of their physical growth, mental maturity and sometimes even delay puberty.

In adults, HGH or Somatropin production is necessary for the maintenance of healthy muscle and bone mass.

Synthetic injections of Somatropin can help adults diagnosed with deficiency of growth hormone, by facilitating better bone strength, proper brain functioning, tissue repair, tissue healing, cellular rejuvenation and replacement, protection against damage from free radicals, immune system strengthening, and enzyme production.

Somatropin Side Effects

As applies to any steroid, you need to think twice before starting Somatropin or HGH supplementation.

While some of the Somatropin side effects are annoying and mild, others can be pretty serious. Some of the commonly noted side effects with Somatropin usage include dry hair and skin, muscle pains, joint pains, bloating of the face, hands, and feet, cold sensation in feet and hands.

The more severe side effects include fluctuation in urine output, anxiety, blurred vision, slower heartbeat, and jitteriness.

Popular Somatropin Alternatives: HGH-X2, Klicks, and General.

7. Winstrol

winstrol stanozolol

Winstrol is the brand name under which Stanozolol, a synthetic anabolic steroid is sold. It is a derivative of dihydrotestosterone or DHT and was developed in 1962 by Winthrop Laboratories (Sterling Drug). The United States FDA has also approved Winstrol for human consumption. However, it isn’t actively manufactured and sold in the US. Nevertheless, you may be able to buy it in an injectable form known as Winstrol Depot.

Although Winstrol had been in use among the performance athletes for a long time, it came into limelight in 1988 when Ben Johnson, the Canadian sprinter tested positive for Stanozolol.

Winstrol has a reasonably high absorption rate, which enables it to survive the first-pass liver metabolism post ingestion, making it work pretty well. Both genders can effectively use Winstrol as its anabolic effects are far more prominent compared to the androgenic effects, though, some users may experience virilization and masculinization.

Its active life is anywhere from 8 to 9 days. While oral Winstrol is detectable within a time span of 3 weeks, the injectable version can be detected even up to 8 to 9 weeks.

How Does Winstrol Work?

Stanozolol or Winstrol is an anabolic steroid which is quite similar to testosterone, however, is structurally altered to improve its efficacy.

The first modification is in the form of introduction of a pyrazole group attachment at the A-ring which replaces the 3-keto group (officially classifying Winstrol as a heterocyclic steroid).

The second change is through a methyl group addition. This structural change happens at the 17th carbon position, giving Winstrol an official classification as a C17-aa (C17-alpha alkylated) anabolic steroid.

Winstrol finds its medical application in the form of an anabolic steroid which works reasonably well in the treatment of health conditions like hereditary angioedema and anemia. It is even employed for improving the production of red blood cells in the body, muscle growth, appetite stimulation and for increasing the bone density.

As I mentioned earlier, it works extensively as a useful training supplement for bodybuilders and performance athletes as it helps them increase their agility, strength, and speed. When used during cutting cycles, it helps them in retention of lean muscle mass and optimum utilization of the fat tissues, thereby delivering the perfect beach-ready physique!

Winstrol Side Effects

The harmful side effects of Winstrol may vary from person to person, depending on the age, dosage, and sensitivity to steroids.

Some of the commonly noticed side effects are: increase in the bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, reduction of the good (HDL) cholesterol levels, joint pains, excitation, changes in libido, insomnia, increase in the frequency of erections, liver dysfunction, irregular menstruation, clitoral enlargement, decreased glucose tolerance and male pattern baldness.

Legal Winstrol Alternatives: Winsol and Winger.

8. Anavar

anavar oxandrolone

Anavar, Lonavar and Oxadrin are some of the brand names associated with the anabolic steroid Oxandrolone.

It’s a mild anabolic steroid that doesn’t have the same extreme side effects associated with steroids.

Oxandrolone was released for the first time in 1964 under the trade name Anavar, in the United States by Searle Laboratories (Pfizer Inc.).

As mentioned above, oxandrolone is the main ingredient of Anavar. However, there are some inactive ingredients such as magnesium stearate, Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, lactose, and cornstarch. Anavar is available in 4 different forms: creams, injections, capsules, and pills.

How Does Anavar Work?

Anavar is a structurally altered DHT or dihydrotestosterone hormone. The DHT receives an extra oxygen atom, which replaces the carbon-2 in the A-ring. Such modification significantly improves the anabolic activity of the hormone and also prevents its metabolic breakdown.

Another alteration is at the 17th carbon position, through the introduction of a methyl group which enables easy oral ingestion, making Anavar a C17-aa anabolic steroid. Without this alteration at the 17th carbon position, the steroid may die before finding its way into the bloodstream.

Anavar is more kind to the liver and causes little to no increase in the liver enzymes. Nevertheless, it is always best to avoid mixing Anavar and alcohol.

It starts working as soon as it reaches the bloodstream. As it has a reasonably short active life varying from 8 to 12 hours, you may require more than one Anavar injection per day to see its benefits.

What makes Anavar highly appealing to the bodybuilders is the fact that it’s a type of non-aromatizing androgen, implying that it’s a male hormone which doesn’t transform the testosterone hormones in the body into estrogen. This ability of Anavar protects the users from experiencing drastic changes because of the excessive estrogen in the body.

Anavar is mostly used during cutting cycles and helps with muscle production and weight loss. An Anavar-only cycle is an excellent choice for everyone wanting better muscle size and definition, without ending up with puffy and bulky muscles.

Anavar Side Effects

Some of the Anavar side-effects you may experience are oily skin, acne, change in libido, vomiting, skin color changes and headaches. However, most of these will disappear once you stop using the steroid.

Anavar Alternatives: Anvarol and Alpha.

9. Clenbuterol

clenbuterol hydrochloride

Clen or Clenbuterol is one of the most commonly used fat burners by competitive bodybuilders. It’s a bronchodilator and is also referred to by other names such as Astralean, Ventipulimin, Spiropent, Dilaterol and “Size Zero” pill.

Even though it has been conventionally in use for treatment of breathing disorders such as asthma, Clenbuterol has never gained the approval of the US FDA and continues to be amongst the illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Clenbuterol does its job very differently compared to other popular steroids. Your body gets into a thermogenic state soon after you take Clenbuterol. Many bodybuilders use Clenbuterol before competition to enhance their cuts.

How Does Clenbuterol Work?

Clenbuterol works by targeting the sympathomimetic nervous system and stimulates the part connected to metabolism and breathing problems.

Rather than actively burning the fat deposits by attacking the fat cells, it stimulates the user’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) by increasing the body temperature. Once your body heats up to an appropriate level, you start experiencing fat loss at a higher speed.

Please keep in mind that Clenbuterol works as a stimulant first and as an anabolic steroid later. Clenbuterol can be very powerful as a stimulant; in fact, some people may experience side-effects such as jitteriness, shaky hands, something that’s similar to what you might experience after having 5 cups of coffee. Majority of the users experience increased sweating.

Clenbuterol Side Effects

Misuse of Clenbuterol may cause some side effects. Some of these adverse side effects are:

Short-term side effects: insomnia, dry mouth, hypertension, palpitations, vomiting, breathing difficulties, headaches, tremors, restlessness, anxiety, increased heart rate and sweating.

Long-term side effects: higher risk of bone fractures, enlarged heart, and worsening of any existing heart conditions.

Legal Clenbuterol Alternatives: Clenbutrol and Colonel.

Want more? Not a problem. Learn more about the most popular legal steroid alternatives here.