Steroids are not just a magical solution that just randomly adds lean muscle mass to the body. There is a lot of science behind how all steroids work and what you can do to get the biggest benefits with the fewest side effects.
To start, anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the male sex hormone testosterone. Testosterone, along with the synthetic steroids, has anabolic and androgenic characteristics. The anabolic effects are those that involve the growth of lean muscle mass and the androgenic effects are those having to do with male gender characteristics.
When you take a drug, whether it’s for a headache or another medical treatment or it’s steroids, it has two types of effects on your body. The therapeutic effects are those that solve the problem at hand (i.e. the headache or other medical issue). The other type of effect is called the non-therapeutic effect but can also be referred to as side effects.
Your cells are ready to accept drugs and help the body use them because they have what are called cell receptors. Cell receptors are like outlets that turn on or turn off an action in the body. When you take a drug, it fills the relevant drug receptor and tells the cells which activity to “turn on” or “turn off”. So, drugs don’t make the changes in the body directly, they tell the cells what to do to change biological functions.
Steroids work by filling the cell receptors that tell the cells to make new proteins. While it’s normal for the body to create new proteins, the steroids just tell the cells to create the proteins at a faster rate.
That was the short story. Here’s want happens through the process of attaching to the receptor cells. When steroids enter the body they go through several steps before the exit the body. Anabolic steroids are generally either oral or intravenous. Oral steroids need to go through the digestive system until it enters the liver the first time (called the First Pass) from where it’s absorbed into the blood stream. Injectable steroids are absorbed directly into the blood stream and therefore have a quicker absorption rate than oral steroids. Once the steroids are in the blood stream they are distributed throughout the body via the blood stream. While in the body, the steroids metabolize in the body, generally in the liver and they are toxic to the liver – this is why people who take steroids need to carefully monitor their liver and have regular blood work done to make sure they are not doing serious damage to the liver. While the kidneys are generally responsible for excretion of drugs from the body, steroids are different and are excreted through the liver, breasts, skin and lungs and this is where many of the negative side effects of steroids come into play.
Anabolic steroids do have a threshold of effectiveness and the greater the dose the higher the chance of negative side effects. The reason this is the case is because the body only has so many cell receptor sites and when they are all filled there is nothing for the extra hormones to do except be excreted from the body. Males generally produce enough testosterone to fill the majority of the cell receptors, so they don’t need all that much to fill the rest of them.