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The Science Behind Anabolic Steroids

Author: Harry Yoon

Editors: Chiara Chen and Hwi-On Lee

Artists: Kevin Lin

Anabolic steroids are banned in every international competition due to their capacity to enhance the performance of athletes who use them rapidly. These steroids allow the user to manipulate the production of muscles in the body by introducing different chemicals to body systems. But before we learn how steroids alter the systems we operate by, we first have to take a deeper look at the process behind building muscle.

Our muscles consist of fibers and proteins bundled together, similar to wires. When subjected to a certain amount of stress, these muscles begin to tear. In response, our body produces a chemical called cytokines to facilitate the repair of the tissue damage in our muscles. The new muscles the cytokines build on top of the tear are bigger and stronger. As our muscles grow, the required stress to strengthen them further increases. A common misconception is that lifting weights leads directly to muscle growth. However, it is not the action of lifting weights that generates new muscles, but the rest and recovery in between that makes the individual stronger. This is why many weightlifters target different muscles on different days, allowing them to concentrate on one set of muscles while the others recover and rebuild.

Our body’s ability to produce these muscle-building chemicals depends on various factors, including age, genetics, and most importantly, sex. Testosterone, the male hormone, helps produce proteins that add to muscle mass, a significant factor in why men tend to have greater innate strength than women. Anabolic steroids have a similar chemical composition to testosterone; thus, when they come into contact with the muscle cells, they signal the DNA to produce protein and grow the muscle cells. This artificially tricks your body into creating new muscle. However, the use of anabolic steroids can lead to serious health issues, like increases in blood pressure and a higher risk of heart disease, which are due to the effects that they have on the hormone levels of male and female users.

Due to the unfair advantage they provide and the associated health risks, anabolic steroids are banned in professional sports and are highly regulated in pharmacies. Opting for natural methods that allow the body to recover and rebuild itself is considered the safest and healthiest approach to gaining muscle.



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