So many guys and girls are taking steroids nowadays. But how do we decipher between natty bodybuilders and those on the sauce?
We all like to compare ourselves to our fellow gym rats. But how can we be sure that all of these jacked dudes in our gym and online are actually natural? Below are some signs that can give away whether someone is on the juice or in fact “natty”!
Note: A natural guy in rare cases could have 1 or 2 of these. However, multiple occurrences of several of the below symptoms definitely points to steroid-use (aka a fake natty).
Steroids vs Natural: How to Tell the Difference
The following side effects are caused by steroids. Bodybuilders can lie about their natural status, but certain signs on their body often give them away.
“Gyno” is an unfortunate side effect of anabolic steroids. Gynecomastia occurs when high levels of the female hormone, estrogen, are present in a male’s body. Consequently, this hormonal imbalance results in the accumulation of breast tissue (as shown in the left picture below).
Steroid-use causes testosterone levels to increase to an unnaturally high level. In an attempt to keep in a homeostasis, the body regulates testosterone back within a normal range. It does this by raising estrogen levels, which in turn lowers testosterone.
Why doesn’t every steroid-user have gyno? Gyno essentially is determined by the aromatase enzyme. Aromatase is responsible for converting testosterone into estrogen. Depending on a person’s genetics, this conversion may be high or low.
Those that have more aromatase enzyme activity on average are at risk of developing gyno during a steroid cycle. An anti-estrogen can be used to combat this, however anti estrogen supplements can also lead to a spike in blood pressure (I explain the correlation between testosterone/estrogen and blood pressure in the next steroid symptom – flushed skin).
Such estrogenic steroids which can cause gyno are: testosterone, anadrol and dianabol.
2. Flushed skin
Flushed/reddish skin can be seen in some steroid-users. This indicates a higher than average body temperature. A high body temperature can represent an irregularity in the blood. It is almost certain that steroids will spike an individual’s blood pressure, being the cause for such an irregularity.
But why do steroids raise blood pressure? Steroids enhance testosterone levels (the male hormone) to extremely high levels. When testosterone rises, LDL cholesterol levels also rise. LDL levels are considered the “bad” cholesterol type, because when these go up, so does BP.
This side effect can be particularly noticeable when taking bulking steroids, such as anadrol, dianabol or trenbolone. This is because these compounds are harsh and thus produce significant strain on the heart. However, bodybuilders seldom avoid them, due to their incredible muscle-building properties.
3. Exceptional trapezius muscles
The below image is a good contrast between a bodybuilder on steroids vs a huge natural bodybuilder. On the left is Mr Olympia, Phil Heath (known to be on steroids), and on the right is lifetime natural bodybuilder Shane Raymond.
Shane is a member of Team Grenade and is drug tested at random times each year. His sheer size is a testament to hard work and exceptional genetics.
The muscle receptors in the traps are a lot more responsive to growth during a steroid cycle, due to them containing more androgen receptors compared to other muscle groups. Both athletes (in this picture) look to have similar proportions, yet Phil Heath’s traps are considerably bigger.
Steroids like trenbolone will make the traps pop like this. Such a ‘blowing up’ of the traps is very rare in natural bodybuilders.
4. Bloat (Face/Stomach)
Steroid-users with an extremely low body fat % typically have large waists, due to bloating caused by water retention.
Steroids causing water retention is mainly due to high estrogen levels. When this female sex hormone peaks, your absorption of sodium salts increase. This means that after a salty meal, you will retain a lot more water than usual due to this hormone abnormality. A tip to reduce water retention (if any steroid-users are reading) is to increase your water intake and reduce sodium/salt intake on a daily basis.
Despite estrogen being a factor in retaining water, water retention is common for any dangerous compound entering the body. It will process added testosterone/steroids as a potential threat to your system. Thus, to nullify this your body releases cortisol (a stress signal), enabling you to retain water and dilute the threat so it is more easily manageable.
When taking androgenic steroids, they cause the sebaceous glands to release oils in the skin. If the type of androgen is a particularly powerful one (i.e. trenbolone which has an androgen rating 500 times greater than testosterone), then acne can turn quite severe and even result in red blemishes forming.
It is common to see acne on a steroid-user or scarring. This can be especially prevalent on the back, often being referred to as ‘bacne’.
6. Gaining large amounts of muscle mass fast (without fat accumulation)
There was a study done on sumo wrestlers, testing their fat free mass. Researchers concluded that several sumo wrestlers carry as much muscle mass as steroid-induced Mr Olympia’s. Thus it is possible to gain huge muscles naturally in some rare cases, however it is unheard of for a natural athlete to gain such muscle mass without initial fat gain. So, rapid lean muscle gains is a sure sign of a steroid-user.
Note: It is also possible to gain large amounts of muscle mass without fat gain, however this would happen over a long period of time, via the principle of progressive overload.
Summary on Spotting Steroids vs Natty
If a bodybuilder shows multiple signs of steroid-signs (listed in this article), they almost certainly are juicing.
It is extremely rare that a natural bodybuilder will have any signs of steroid-use, however it is possible. Such as acne scars during puberty or gynecomastia developed during their childhood years.
Now you know what to look for when trying to work out if someone built their physique naturally or not.
But Which Route Should YOU Take? Natty Vs Steroids.
With bodybuilding, as popular and as mainstream as it has now become, unfortunately there is a certain stigma attached to it that simply will not go away, and that stigma in question is the use of anabolic steroids, hormones, and various other illegal, and potentially harmful compounds.
As dedicated to bodybuilding as an individual may be, most members of the general public will take one look at a muscular guy and immediately brand him as being a steroid user.
Now, make no mistake about it, steroid use, and indeed steroid abuse for that matter, is rife in gyms all over the globe, in people of all ages, genders, shapes and sizes, from all walks of life.
If you take bodybuilding seriously and work out in a commercial gym, the chances are that you’ll see a few regular faces in there that seem to be packing the muscle mass on every single week.
If they are, unless they were blessed with amazing genetics, there’s a very strong possibility that they’re using steroids, or various other hormones help them with their gains.
You yourself may have even been tempted to “join the dark side” as steroid users tend to call it, and if you have, we’ll be taking a look at bodybuilding natural Vs steroids to provide an open, honest, and unbiased POV from both sides.
With natural bodybuilding, you are basically committing to build your body up naturally, I.E without the use of drugs, hormones, or other similar compounds.
You’re committing to building muscle and burning fat the natural way, with consistent training, a healthy diet, and legal supplements.
Many bodybuilding competitions and organizations actually have natural divisions, in which competitors will be drug tested to ensure that they are indeed, not using illegal and dangerous compounds.
Benefits Of Natural Bodybuilding
There are a number of different benefits associated with natural bodybuilding, so before we get onto the downsides associated with natural bodybuilding, let’s first look at the benefits:
One of the main benefits of building muscle the natural way, is the fact that it is much, much safer than if you were to use steroids, hormones, or anything else.
Providing you’re eating relatively healthily, are training regularly, and are supplementing smartly, on the whole you will be much safer than if you choose to use illegal drugs and compounds.
Another benefit of going the natural route is the fact that you will have a clear conscience as you won’t need to worry about the law, you won’t have to hide your drug use from friends and family, and you won’t need to lie if people ask you outright whether you’re “on gear” or not.
When you bodybuilding the natural way, you will still build muscle and will therefore improve your physique as a result.
Granted the results may take much longer to become noticeable, but with persistence and consistency, the results will come.
Now we’ll look at the disadvantages of natural bodybuilding:
Less Impressive Gains
It can be a little demoralizing to have been lifting weights for years, to see a relatively small guy walk into the gym, and two or three months later, have him even bigger and more ripped than you because he’s using steroids, but unfortunately that’s the way it works.
You will never even come close to building as much muscle as pro bodybuilders if you choose to stay natural, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still pile on some pretty impressive size.
As we’re looking at bodybuilding natural Vs steroids, let’s now get down to the down and dirty side of things and look at steroids.
If you choose to use steroids, you MUST do as much research as you possibly can, you must ALWAYS buy from trusted and reputable suppliers, and you should get regular blood work done with your doctor to keep an eye on your health.
Above all else, you must make sure you use them as they’re designed to be used and that you don’t abuse them.
Benefits of Steroid Use
As frowned upon as steroids may be, we did say we’d provide an honest, open, and unbiased POV of both aspects of this article, so here’s a look at the benefits of using steroids.
Enhanced Muscle Mass
If you’re looking to pile on muscle mass fast, chances are you’ve been tempted by steroids, and for good reason too.
Steroids, as dangerous as they are, will provide dramatic increases in lean muscle mass in a relatively short amount of time.
The results will actually be pretty startling as you will pile on some huge size in weeks rather than months or years, as is the case with natural bodybuilding.
Improved Athletic Performance and Recovery
Another benefit of steroids is the fact that they will improve recovery rates and rates of athletic performance, which is another reason why some athletes *cough* Lance Armstrong *Cough* will illegally use them to improve their performance.
Now we’ll look at the not so pleasant side of things:
One of the biggest downsides to steroids is the fact that in many countries they are illegal, so if you’re caught using or possessing them, you could be arrested and could face legal charges.
Even if you’re careful and use them as instructed, steroids are still extremely dangerous and could potentially kill you, not to mention destroy your organs, and much more besides.
Nasty Side Effects
Another downside to steroid use the side effects, which are pretty nasty.
Typically, you may find yourself becoming spotty, growing breasts, experiencing shrinking of the testicles, becoming infertile, suffering a stroke, suffering a heart attack, experiencing mood swings, suffering from low testosterone levels, experiencing organ failure, and more.
Want to know the secrets to natural bodybuilding?
Well, they aren’t exactly secrets – more like nuggets of common sense. But with that said, by the time most natural bodybuilders learn them, they’ve already spent years spinning their wheels.
The 4 secrets to natural bodybuilding are: FBSC…Fast Start, Bulking, Sleep and Creatine.
Fast Start. The first year of training is the best, and can never be rivaled. You will make amazing progress in both strength and muscle mass gains. To maximize these gains, remember the follow:
Routine. It doesn’t matter what routine or training split you use. Pick one and stick with it. Your muscle mass and strength gains hinge on 2 factors, and 2 factors alone: progression and overtraining.
Progression. Always, always, always, always and always try for more reps and more weight during each workout. No excuses. Progression of weight accelerates the anabolic growth process, and will help you maximize muscle gains.
Overtraining. Because most training routines work for new lifters, there is no point in killing yourself. If you’re lifting progressively heavier weights, make sure you are getting out of the gym in an hour. More is not better. More is actually worse.
Bulking. The 2nd secret to natural bodybuilding is bulking. If you are unwilling to eat enough, there is not point in trying to gain muscle – you are short-changing your returns. Here are 5 tips to maximize natural bodybuilding bulking:
Whole Milk. Drink 3 large glasses of whole milk each day. Whole milk is an easy way to add bulking calories to your diet. Notice I did not say 2%, or skim milk.
Almonds and Nuts. You don’t have to stuff yourself with junk food to eat extra calories. Almonds and nuts are rich in nutrients, and – of course – calories.
6-pack. Forget your 6 pack for a while. If you maximize muscle mass gains while bulking, you’ll have years to shed off a few extra pounds of fat.
Post-Workout. After your workout, eat like a hungry sumo wrestler at a buffet table. Eat whatever you want, and don’t worry if it’s not perfectly healthy. Your body is a sponge post-workout, and is craving calories. Feed the need.
Cycles. The best way to bulk is to eat 4,500 to 5,000 calories for 2 weeks, and then eat normally for 2 weeks. The body is very anabolic during bulking periods, but these growth factors receed after 2 weeks. Backing off from the table for 2 weeks allows your body to bounce back and pack on muscle mass again during your next bulk.
Sleep. This secret to natural bodybuilding isn’t rocket science. If you’re lifting like a madman, and eating like a madman, you need to be sleeping like a madman. Make 9-10 hours a day your goal. The body becomes a growth hormone factory during sleep. Rest, and repair. And if you didn’t get enough sleep last night, take a nap during the day.
Creatine. Creatine is a powerful supplement for natural bodybuilders. Purchase more creatine monohydrate, and give it a test run for 6 weeks. It will make you bigger, and stronger. But the gains from creatine are finite. Creatine doesn’t work like steroids. But it will give you a noticeable boost, and is therefore invaluable.
After your 6 week experiment with creatine, back off for a month. If all went well, and your body experienced no side effects (creatine side effects are very rare), cycle back on creatine.