Statistics suggest that between 1% and 5% of people use anabolic steroids worldwide.
These substances are especially popular among gym users as they promote muscular aesthetics and make it easier to bulk up your physique. They’re illegal in all forms of competition, including those where physical strength isn’t a requirement.
So, if you’re a casual gym user who simply wants to maximize their workout, and isn’t going to compete, you might wonder, ‘why should I use alternatives to steroids?’.
Keep reading to find out why you should rather make use of steroid alternatives than opt for the real thing.
What Are Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids are the man-made equivalent of testosterone, which is what gives men their inherent ‘maleness’. It’s the masculine equivalent of estrogen, which is the hormone that determines female characteristics.
There are two main types of steroids available nowadays, namely androgenic and anabolic steroids.
Androgenic steroids promote masculine characteristics, while anabolic steroids build tissue.
Steroids are widely and effectively used in medicine to help treat conditions like breast cancer, testicular issues, low red blood cell counts, debilitation after surgery, and delayed puberty.
You can take steroids via subcutaneous or intramuscular injection, skin patches, gels, or pellet implants under the skin. When used correctly, steroids are an effective and beneficial drug for both men and women.
The trouble starts when users start to take doses that are up to 100 times more than the doctor ordered. Some of the most often misused steroids include Durabolin, Deca-Durabolin, Equipoise, and Winstrol.
They usually go by the street names gym candy, Arnolds, juice, roids, stackers, or pumpers.
Why You Should Avoid Using Steroids
Steroid use became illegal in 1990, according to the Anabolic Steroids Control Act. This legislation makes it illegal to possess or consume anabolic steroids without a doctor’s prescription.
There are harsh penalties for contravening this act, including jail time and fines up to $250,000.
Apart from the legalities involved, studies show that introducing unnaturally-high levels of steroids into your body can have disastrous effects.
When steroids enter your bloodstream, they make their way to your muscles and organs. In large quantities, they can wreak havoc with these systems and also affect your mental health.
Some of the dangers of using steroids include:
- Stunted growth in teens
- Underdeveloped testes in young men
- Males developing breasts
- Liver tumors and cancer
- Peliosis hepatitis, i.e. blood-filled cysts on the liver
- Internal bleeding
- Heart attack and stroke
Steroid users may also become excessively violent, aggressive, and tightly wound.
Fortunately, there are other ways to bulk up if you don’t want to follow a stringent diet and exercise regime. These alternatives to steroids offer some bulking and cutting benefits with fewer side effects.
What Are Steroid Alternatives?
Steroid alternatives comprise a wide range of products for gym users. They comprise both man-made and natural substances of plant or animal origin.
Unlike testosterone-based steroids, these tonics help improve muscle tone by helping burn fat faster.
SARMs, or Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators, aren’t quite the same as steroids. Yet, they’re also banned in competitions since they can give athletes an edge.
Unlike steroids, which have a general effect, SARMs target specific areas of the body, like the muscles. This makes them less dangerous.
At one time, SARMs faced many of the legal restrictions that steroids do, but it’s no longer illegal to sell or buy SARMs in the USA, nowadays.
As with any supplement, you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and speak to your doctor about any unusual side effects if you take SARMs.
What Are Good Steroid Alternatives?
Legal steroid alternatives are widely available and available over-the-counter as muscle-building supplements.
There aren’t a lot of long-term studies surrounding these substances either, but most of them appear relatively harmless. This is especially true when you compare them with anabolic steroids.
Others are completely ineffective. Some of the most common legal steroid alternatives include:
Creatine occurs naturally in fish and meat, and it can have an effect on muscle growth and help you burn fat. Most bodybuilders buy creatine in health food stores, pharmacies, or online.
So far, the documented benefits of creatine include:
- Increasing muscle growth by up to three times when used as part of a weightlifting routine
- Improved strength and muscle mass
So far, there are no long-term negative health effects associated with creatine. Allergic reactions resulting from taking creatine usually result from extra ingredients used in supplements. So, always check the content of these powders before you buy them.
MMP (Matrix Metalloproteinase)
MMP comprises a mixture of betaine, dendrobium extract, and creatine. It’s also safe to use, but it doesn’t always result in the muscle gains advertised on the packaging.
One study surrounding MMP did show that participants who used MMP for 6 weeks or more while training experienced higher energy levels and better concentration. They didn’t report any significant muscle gains.
Keep a lookout for allergens in these supplements, too.
DMAA isn’t considered a safe steroid alternative, and the FDA has released numerous warnings against taking products containing this substance.
Some of the side effects associated with DMAA include:
- High blood pressure
- Narrowing of the blood vessels
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Feelings of chest tightness
- Neurological disorders
- Mental health issues
- Heart attack
With other, safer alternatives available, it’s simply not worth taking your chances with these kinds of supplements.
How To find Steroid Alternatives
On that dire note, it’s obvious that you should take great care when shopping for steroid alternatives. Here’s what to consider when shopping for the best ones:
There’s an overwhelming array of alternative steroid supplements available nowadays. So, before you end up confused, find out a little more about each type.
These are the three main types of legal alternatives to steroids available nowadays:
Powerlifters favor these supplements to help them enhance their strength training. They don’t help you cut fat or increase muscle mass, but rather help you carry out more intense, strenuous workout sessions.
Supplements for Bulking
A bodybuilder’s favorite, these supplements help increase muscle mass. In this way, they enhance your physique to create a bulkier appearance.
Athletes who participate in intense sports take these supplements to increase their metabolism. These supplements give them the shredded, cut appearance best for these disciplines.
The Ingredients in the Supplement
We’ve already warned against taking supplements containing known allergens, but the ingredients featured in any supplement provide vital information about their potential uses, too.
It’s also important to make sure the ingredients in your supplement are pure, natural, and of high quality. Besides, genuinely legal supplements should always feature the best ingredients.
These are some of the most common ingredients found in steroid alternatives and what they’re good for:
- D-Aspartic acid may enhance free testosterone and boost your sex drive
- Green tea extract could boost your metabolism and help burn fat faster
- Panax-Ginseng may increase energy levels
- Fenugreek could increase metabolism and burn fat faster
- Ashwagandha might improve muscle gains and energy
- Zinc supports protein synthesis and muscle building
- Guarana extract might help burn fat and decrease body mass
- Magnesium could contribute to muscle gains
- Maltodextrin assists with digestion
- Hyaluronic Acid may contribute to bone health and muscle maintenance
- L-Carnitine could help in converting fat into energy
- Choline can speed up your metabolism
- Vitamin B-Complex is essential for energy
- Vitamin D3 contributes to immunity, as well as strength
As you can see, some of these ingredients should feature in your healthy eating plan already, so it makes sense that they contribute to athletic prowess.
How Do You Take the Supplement?
Check the packaging to make sure the dosage required is realistic for you. If you’re buying an expensive supplement that requires you to gulp down huge amounts at a time, it could work out too expensive in the long run.
Inconveniently timed or very frequent dosages could also conflict with your routine. You should also take note of any ‘terms and conditions listed on the packaging.
For instance, it’s not advisable to ingest caffeine if you’re taking creatine. This might not suit you if you dislike decaffeinated coffee.
Ask Your Peers
If you’re training under the auspices of a gym instructor, ask their advice about a good steroid alternative for you. They know your strengths and weaknesses, and they’ll also have first-hand knowledge of which ones work best.
You can also ask fellow gym-goers for recommendations, or approach someone at your gym who embodies your physical goals and ask them what supplements they take.
Online reviews are always a great source of opinions and advice when it comes to buying things on the internet. Be sure to check beyond the retailer’s website, though. They’re unlikely to post any negative reviews on their pages.
Avoid buying no-name brand supplements or shopping with an unfamiliar supplier. The best, most-established brands won’t risk their reputations by selling substandard products.
You’ll pay a little more when you buy from these giants of the industry, but it’s never a good idea to take shortcuts when it comes to your health.
Shipping and Returns
There’s no point in ordering something online if they don’t deliver to your neighborhood. Make sure you can receive your package within a reasonable time frame before you order.
Free shipping is a bonus, but it’s not the norm nowadays.
Don’t neglect to check the company’s refund policy and if they offer any guarantees on their products.
Unpacking Your Delivery
Check the packaging the moment your order arrives and make a note of any wear and tear. If the bottle seal isn’t intact when you receive your goods, send it straight back to the retailer.
It’s not worth taking a chance consuming a product that someone’s tampered with.
Check for Third-Party Testing
Make sure you buy steroid alternatives from a reputable seller that uses third-party testing to ensure the quality and efficacy of their products. These tests ensure what you see on the package matches what’s inside.
Third-party testing involves sending a product to a neutral laboratory for a thorough vetting before posting it online for sale. It’s considered best practice in the health supplements industry.
These tests involve stringent investigations into all the ingredients contained in each product, and typically involve checking for:
- The quality and integrity of the product
- Pesticide testing to ensure the safety of the contents
- Purity of the ingredients
Once the product meets all the relevant criteria, the lab issues it with a certificate to assure consumers it is what it claims to be.
Third-party tests take place in a lab to eliminate any inconsistencies associated with anecdotal claims, or bias that can creep into in-house quality tests.
Without third-party testing, retailers can manufacture and sell products that don’t work as advertised and may even contain harmful ingredients. Third-party tested products always meet industry standards and safety criteria.
Training For Gains
Thanks to steroid alternatives, you can say ‘no’ to anabolic steroids and enjoy muscle gains in complete safety.
These legal, all-natural and safe alternatives might not work as fast as the illegal kind, but it’s well worth the peace of mind of knowing you’re not doing yourself any harm.
With the right natural supplement, a healthy diet, and a disciplined training routine, you’ll have your perfect body shape before too long.
Thanks to the internet it’s easy to research your shopping choices, so you don’t inadvertently risk your health, or your freedom, in pursuit of physical perfection.
If you’d like some more good health advice, browse our health section for all the best information.