What happens to your body on steroids?

Check out Khalid’s transformation where he gained a whole load of muscle.

muscle-transformation-muscle-growth-before-and-after

What happens inside your body when you take steroids? Find out all the benefits and side effects of steroid use in this post.

Whether you’re trying to learn more about anabolic steroids or the effects that large doses of testosterone and SARMs have on your body, you’ll find more information in this article.

If you’re wondering if you lose muscle when you stop taking steroids or testosterone injections, this article is for you.

Things to know about steroids

Steroids can help you build a massive amount of muscle, increase your strength, and drastically speed up your recovery.

But they can also come with some severe side effects, especially for many beginners that rush in without knowing what they’re doing.

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So I want to go over exactly what happens to the human body on steroids based on science.

Before we jump in, I want to mention that I don’t personally have any first-hand experience with steroids.

However, I have spent countless hours researching the topic, so I’ll do my absolute best to give you a non-bias science-based summary of the effects that steroids have on your body.

#1: All steroids are different

The first thing you have to know is that not all steroids are the same. The term steroid refers to

“a biologically active organic compound with four rings arranged in a specific molecular configuration.”

4-ring-molecular-configuration-steroids

Corticosteroids, while considered relatively safe, are steroids because they have the same four-ring structure as other steroids.

They’re even routinely prescribed by doctors to help lower inflammation caused by things like swelling due to an injury, allergic reactions, and even asthma.

Although many of you already know about corticosteroids, it may surprise you to learn that both cholesterol and estrogen are also considered steroids because they have the same four rings.

steroids-estrogen-cholesterol-same-4-ring-structure

But for the rest of this article, when I say steroids, I’m referring to the type of steroids that are mainly used for enhancement purposes.

#2: Anabolic steroids improve protein turnover rate

These are known as anabolic-androgenic steroids. This is a type of steroid that mimics the effects of testosterone in your body.

In an average healthy male, the testes produce between four and nine milligrams of testosterone per day.

But by taking synthetic testosterone, you’ll vastly increase the amount of testosterone that flows through your veins.

Your body then treats that exogenous testosterone in the same way as if it were your own testosterone.

steroids-increase-testosterone

So the testosterone enters your cells and binds to androgen receptors. From there, it binds to the nucleus of the cell and attaches to DNA.

This process activates hundreds of genes involved in stimulating protein synthesis and reducing protein breakdown.

As a result, your muscles are more likely to stay at a positive protein turnover rate.

steroids-protein-turnover-rate-positive

This benefits muscle growth because to build muscle more protein needs to be built up compared to the amount that gets broken down. And this is how steroids assist with muscle growth and why they’re so popular amongst bodybuilders.

steroids-more-protein-built-than-broken-down

#3: Anabolic steroids increase the nuclei in muscle cells

Aside from improving protein turnover rate, anabolic steroids also increase the number of nuclei found within muscle cells. Those nuclei, which are called myonuclei, happen to be the control center of each muscle.

Having more nuclei is beneficial because the number of nuclei you have within a muscle is one of the primary factors that determine your growth potential.

To put it simply, the more myonuclei, the bigger the muscle can become [1].

amount-of-nuclei-determines-muscle-growth

This is actually one reason why some people have better muscle-building capacity because they naturally have more myonuclei, whereas others don’t [2].

The nuclei in your muscle fibers are limited to a maximum region of the cell that they can control. This is an area known as the myonuclear domain.

Once the growth of a particular muscle fiber exceeds this domain, the only way to further grow is to add new nuclei to that cell. And that process is called myonuclear addition.

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The problem is that typically, it takes a lot of time to add new nuclei to a muscle. That’s why you can’t gain 20 pounds one month, for example.

But by taking steroids, you can gain muscle much faster because it significantly increases the speed that your body can add new nuclei to muscle tissue.

And once it’s there the new nuclei remain in your muscle tissue for the rest of your life.

steroids-long-term-effects

Will the new nuclei stay in my muscle tissue if I quit using steroids?

The answer is yes.

We can see this play out in studies in which steroids were given to mice.

Three months after stopping the use of steroids, the mice had their muscle mass return to normal, but the extra nuclei stayed there [3].

That’s why taking steroids not only increases muscle mass in the short term but can also increase the amount of muscle that you can build and maintain for the rest of your life.

So even if someone who once took steroids stopped taking them, they would most likely lose some mass, but their muscles would still have a higher number of myonuclei. This means that they would still have a higher potential for growth than they did before they took the steroids.

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This is actually why some people in the sports world believe that if an athlete who participates in a drug-free competition gets caught using steroids, they should be banned for life because they would have an unfair advantage that would still exist even after stopping the steroids.

And with all that said, it’s pretty obvious that steroids are very effective at stimulating muscle growth.

How effective are steroids?

We can see exactly how effective they are by looking at a ten-week long study, where 43 men were divided into four groups [4].

Group one was not given any steroids and did not exercise at all for the duration of the study. As expected, they experienced no changes in muscle mass.

Group two also didn’t exercise but they were given 600mg of testosterone every week. They gained seven pounds of muscle.

Group three wasn’t given any testosterone, but unlike groups one and two, they lifted weights. They gained an average of four pounds of muscle.

Finally, the fourth group was given 600mg of testosterone each week while also lifting weights. They experienced 13 pounds of muscle growth [5].

steroids-exercise-study-effect-on-muscle-growth

The bottom line…

So to summarize, taking testosterone combined with working out produces over three times more muscle growth in ten weeks than training without it.

#4: Steroids help you burn fat

Aside from boosting your body’s ability to build muscle, steroids can also help you burn fat.

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While researchers don’t conclusively know how steroids assist with fat loss yet, there are three ways that steroids might help:

  • They might boost your metabolism.
  • They could increase the rate that fatty acids are released from your fat cells and boost fat oxidation as well.
  • The third possibility is that steroids might help prevent the creation of new fat cells.

steroid-use-boosts-metabolism-rate-fatty-acids-prevent-new-fat-cells

The effects of steroids on fat loss

We can see the effects of steroids on fat loss in action when looking at a randomized, double-blind study [6].

The scientists blocked the natural testosterone production of healthy young men with something known as a GnRH agonist.

But don’t worry about the name, the point is that it was used to cause the men to stop producing natural testosterone.

From there, the men were treated with one of five doses of testosterone enanthate—an anabolic steroid.

Those doses were either 25, 50, 125, 300, or 600 milligrams per week. And the results were particularly interesting.

anabolic-steroid-dosage-per-week

There was a close correlation between the amount of testosterone given and the changes in body fat over 20 weeks [7].

While the low-testosterone group gained fat, those who received high amounts of synthetic testosterone significantly reduced their total body fat percentage, especially the amount of fat they had around their waist.

In other words, steroids significantly boost both muscle growth and fat loss.

study-steroids-testosterone-muscles

The risks of steroid use

But even with those benefits, there are a couple of crucial things to understand about steroids and what they can do to your body.

1. Steroids can cause infertility

Taking synthetic testosterone shuts down natural testosterone production, which can cause your testicles to become smaller.

Not only might that be unpleasant from an aesthetic perspective, but it can also impair sperm production and have a significant impact on your fertility.

Professor Allan Pacey, the head of andrology—a medical science focusing heavily on male reproductive health—said in an interview that more steroid users are likely to become infertile than you’d think. He estimates that around 90 percent of steroid users will become infertile [8].

And even though quitting steroids can reverse the effects in some men, it isn’t the case for all men. Sometimes, steroid use can cause permanent damage to fertility.

steroids-can-cause-infertility-in-men

2. Steroids can cause serious health problems

On top of that, steroids can also negatively impact your body in other serious ways, such as by causing cardiovascular health problems.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse points out that steroid use is associated with:

  • high blood pressure;
  • a decreased function of the heart’s ventricles; and
  • serious life-threatening issues like heart attacks, artery damage, and strokes are possible even in athletes younger than 30 [9].

The belief is that steroids contribute to the development of heart disease by increasing LDL or (bad) cholesterol and decreasing HDL or (good) cholesterol while raising the chance of blood clots forming.

bad-cholesterol-increases-good-cholesterol-declines

Another issue is that steroid misuse can lead to liver damage.

That liver damage can cause jaundice, or what’s known as the yellowing of the skin and eyes [10].

When steroids are misused, it can also lead to tumors and a rare condition where blood-filled cysts form in the liver.

And the cysts can eventually rupture and cause internal bleeding and even death in some rare cases [11].

3. Steroid use stimulates aggressive behavior

Aside from those more serious side effects, steroids may also stimulate more aggressive behavior for some people.

steroids-increase-aggression-studies-show

Some people won’t be impacted at all. But studies show that up to 60 percent of anabolic steroid users experience increases in irritability and aggressiveness [12].

4. Steroid use can cause skin problems

Steroid use can also lead to skin problems. For example, it can cause acne, oily skin and hair, hair loss on the head, and the formation of cysts.

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5. You may get infections

And steroids are usually injected, so you may also get infections or experience pain and tenderness around injection sites [13].

6. You might get ‘man boobs’

Another big fear that many bodybuilders have to deal with is the possibility of stimulating gynecomastia, also known as man boobs. This is a common adverse side effect of steroid use, with about 37 percent of users having gynecomastia [14].

steroids-cause-man-boobs

Men that take steroids are more likely to experience gynecomastia because their body converts some of the excess testosterone that they’re taking into estrogen.

Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone that stimulates the formation of breast tissue.

7. Sometimes the damage is permanent

And if you ever decide to stop taking steroids, it might take months or even years before your natural testosterone production returns to normal. But in some people, the damage is permanent.

This means that after quitting steroids, you’ll probably lose a lot of the muscle that you built and regain much of the fat that you lost.

And you might also end up with other symptoms of low testosterone. Examples include:

  • depression,
  • low energy levels,
  • poor memory,
  • low self-esteem and
  • erectile dysfunction.

steroids-can-cause-symptoms-of-low-testosterone

So, yes, steroids do come with the risk of some serious side-effects that might not make it worth your while.

And that about wraps it up. And the good news is that it is possible to build plenty of muscle and get super lean with or without steroids.


If you need any help along your journey, my team and I can help. We’ve helped over 15,000 people make dramatic transformations, changing their lives for the better.

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References

[1] The number of nuclei you have in a muscle is a primary factor that determines the potential for growth. The more myonuclei, the bigger the muscle can become.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3170710/

[2] One reason that some people have good muscle-building genetics is because their muscles contain a lot of nuclei, compared to others that have a tougher time putting on mass.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18436694/

[3] When mice were briefly treated with steroids the muscle mass and the number of nuclei increased. The drug was subsequently withdrawn for 3 months and the muscle mass returned to normal, but the excess cell nuclei persisted

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3892473/

[4] Experiment:

● Group 1: were given no steroids and did not exercise.

● Group 2: were given 600 mg of testosterone enanthate each week and did not follow a progressive weight lifting routine.

● Group 3: were given no steroids but followed a progressive weight lifting routine.

● Group 4: were given 600 mg of testosterone enanthate a week and followed progressive weight lifting routine.

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199607043350101

[5] See table 4 for results:

● Group 1 (natural, no exercise): no significant changes in fat-free mass (muscle)


● Group 2 (steroids, no exercise): gained 7 pounds of fat-free mass (muscle)


● Group 3 (exercise without steroids): gained 4 pounds of fat-free mass (muscle)


● Group 4 (steroids with exercise): gained 13 pounds of fat-free mass (muscle)

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199607043350101

[6] To see those effects in actin, consider a randomized, double-blind study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14764787/

[7] There was a close correlation between testosterone and changes in body fat after 20 weeks.

See figure 1A, 1B, and 1C.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14764787/

[8] “I would say more anabolic steroid users are likely to become sterile than you would think – 90% probably.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-48396071

[9] “Steroid use has been associated with high blood pressure; decreased function of the heart’s ventricles; and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, artery damage, and strokes, even in athletes younger than 30.”

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/steroids-other-appearance-performance-enhancing-drugs-apeds/what-are-side-effects-anabolic-steroid-misuse

[10] “Anabolic steroids can also produce jaundice, or yellowing of the skin or eyes, as a result of damage to the liver.”

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/steroids-other-appearance-performance-enhancing-drugs-apeds/what-are-side-effects-anabolic-steroid-misuse

[11] “Steroid misuse has been associated with liver damage, tumors, and a rare condition called peliosis hepatis, in which blood-filled cysts form in the liver. The cysts can rupture, causing internal bleeding and even death in rare cases.”

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/steroids-other-appearance-performance-enhancing-drugs-apeds/what-are-side-effects-anabolic-steroid-misuse

[12] “Studies have shown that nearly 60% of anabolic steroid users experience increases in irritability and aggressiveness (Pope and Katz, 1994; Silvester, 1995).”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3827559/#!po=82.5000

[13] “Steroid misuse can cause acne, hair loss on the head, cysts, and oily hair and skin. Users who inject steroids may also develop pain and abscess formation at injection sites.”

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/steroids-other-appearance-performance-enhancing-drugs-apeds/what-are-side-effects-anabolic-steroid-misuse

[14] “Gynecomastia is a common adverse effect associated with anabolic steroid use. Research has demonstrated a prevalence rate of 37% in anabolic steroid users”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3827559/?report=classic


My passion for fitness began when I was 14 years old. I naturally fell in love with training and haven’t stopped since. At 18 years I acquired my first personal training certification from ACE after which I opened my first of 3 transformation studios in 2011. I love to share my knowledge through personal training, my online courses, and youtube channel now with over 3,000,000 subscribers! I can happily say that we've helped over 15,000 people get in great shape over the years. I'm always here for my customers so if you need help don't hesitate to send your questions to support@gravitychallenges.com

Founder // Gravity Transformation, Max Posternak