GUEST POST by Vikesh Dhayaram who shares his honest advice about steroids and bodybuilding in this article.
It’s pretty much impossible to hear a discussion about sports without the issue of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) arising these days. As recent Olympic contestants and popular professional athletes are caught or even accused of using steroids, the public takes more of an interest in this “sub-culture” of sports.
STEROIDS AND BODYBUILDING
The reason being is because it is just like any juicy piece of gossip and drama you will hear from social media or the gyms. The problem lies with the fact that most of the media hardly know anything about anabolic steroids or the effects (good and bad) of them. Even some supplements such as creatine and whey protein are thought to be steroids by many people because they are predominantly used by Bodybuilders.
I think that before anyone develops an opinion on steroid use in sports, they must look beyond what is told to them by the media, and what the real issues are. I agree with the majority in the sense that steroids should absolutely be outlawed in any sport. I believe that the dangers of steroids lie not within the dangers of the drugs themselves, but more so the extreme competitive natures of the athletes who might be tempted to use them, and ultimately abuse them.
It is well documented that most dangers of steroids are absolutely avoidable if dosed, cycled and used correctly. The problem is that athletes naturally want to gain every advantage they can. An athlete can notice results and be blinded to the dangers. They can overdose trying to gain that much more advantage.
Sports which require extreme strength exertion are the ones which I feel steroids are the biggest concern. Sports such as gymnastics, powerlifting/Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, track and field, and football. The reason is that steroids give these athletes the greatest benefit out of any sport. I mean honestly how many times have you ever heard of marathon runners or skeet shooters taking steroids?
HOW DO STEROIDS AFFECT THE BODY?
Steroids rapidly increase size with the right training which is why it is super popular among the muscle seekers and pro bodybuilders. Steroids also greatly increase strength which is why track athletes such as Carl Lewis, a multi-gold medal winner in the 100 metres, used steroids because one needs incredible strength to run 100m in 9-10 seconds.
If you look at the guys entering competitions as novices, the widespread use of AAS is evident in their conditioning. To a certain extent, competitive bodybuilding and AAS go hand in hand and it’s even more important to an athlete wanting a Pro Card.
Currently, the only Bodybuilding Federation in South Africa that is Drug tested is INBA (International Natural Bodybuilding Federation) which South Africa has received affiliation since 2013. INBA has its headquarters in the USA.
SHOULD I TAKE STEROIDS TO BUILD MUSCLE?
Discipline and dedication are principles that you are going to have to master if you are serious about bodybuilding or any sport in general. Being consistent with your diet and training will help you succeed in achieving your goals. Don’t have tunnel vision in thinking that you will only build muscle if you are taking AAS.
Majority of the top sportsmen, sportswomen, models and in particular competitive bodybuilders will have used or contemplated using a performance-enhancing drug be it to lose a bit of flab or to gain some lean muscle, just to get that added advantage over another competitor/athlete. That is the human nature of the competitive spirit.
Easy access to information on social media from fellow athletes, internet and actual online purchasing of AAS adds to the problem of abuse etc. In the bodybuilding world, you will spend a lifetime or a few trying to obtain a Pro Card the Natural route unless you are affiliated with a drug-free federation such as INBA/ABA/PNBA. Unless you are blessed with super freaky genetics, this is not going to happen.
HOW TO TAKE STEROIDS SAFELY
When asked by athletes on relevant cycles to use etc. I often ask them to show me their training and nutrition journal or at least verbally give me a breakdown of their training routine, sets, reps, exercises and most important, kilograms being used. Then I require their nutritional intake for the day and specifically the pre and post workout feeding regimens. These are generally my concerns/findings:
- The most common mistake and I quote the Legendary Bodybuilders of the early 80s, David and Peter Paul AKA The Barbarian Twins is “UNDER EATING AND OVERTRAINING”.
- Here is a young adult male spending 2 solid hours in the gym trying to put on MASS on a 700 calories a day.
- Weight being lifted is too light ( or you too weak because of inadequate training and nutrition guidance) eg an 80 kg adult male Bodybuilder in good health training for around a year still battling to bench his body mass or at least squat two thirds their body mass is a grave matter of concern for me.
- Rest, recovery, Nutrition, injuries etc are often neglected and not attended to with proper care and rehabilitation.
ADVICE TO ANY ATHLETE CONTEMPLATING THE USE OF STEROIDS
Explore Your Natural Potential
In humans the endocrine system is not fully functional until around mid-20s, thus using AAS at too young an age could result in permanently damaging your HPTA and you could also end up with symptoms of andropause and HRT for life.
Train Hard First
You need a few years of hard training before even considering taking any kind of AAS. Athletes who use AAS too soon without having some quality years of lifting experience,( and I mean you need to be at least lifting heavy in the compound movements like squat, bench press, deadlift, close grip bench, barbell curl etc), will end up with injuries.
It takes time to develop your connective tissue, tendons, nervous system, ligaments etc to adapt to heavy overload training. Build a solid foundation for muscle tissue to grow and further development will be far greater than without it. Workouts should be mainly focussed on basic movements with an emphasis on overloading the muscle, increasing strength and ability to lift in proper form.
Learn Proper Nutrition First
Younger bodybuilders do not know how to eat. Researching and understanding how your body responds will help get you to your natural potential. Explore eating different types of healthy foods and their effects on your body.
Understanding the importance of macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and fats and also paying specific attention to your micronutrients- vitamins/minerals/anti-oxidants will only yield positive muscle building results.
Learn How To Properly Cycle Steroids
Once you are on a supervised cycle of AAS always remember that PCT ( Post Cycle Therapy) is crucial if you want to outsmart your body and stand any chance of holding on to your gains.
Do Blood Tests
Blood work is very important if you are looking at longevity in bodybuilding. Do not neglect any blood tests that needs to be done to monitor your vitals eg kidney, liver, cholesterol (both HDL and LDL levels), any abnormalities in heart growth with specific examination of the left ventricle and systolic function, test levels and glucose.
Depending on the type of AAS you are cycling, your coach should be able to advise you on the most important tests.
NB: Remember there are also psychological issues when using AAS and unfortunately behaviour of some athletes can land them behind bars from domestic violence issues to hard-core criminal acts of violence.
About the author
Vikesh is IBFF Judge,SAPS Bodybuilding provincial chairman for KwaZulu Natal, KZN SAPS Head Coach, owner of Body Image Personal Training, Supplements SA KZN Franchisee, and past WPF Judge.