It’s Not Candy: Understanding Oral Steroids
The fact that steroids are very effective at helping bodybuilders and athletes realize significant gains in both strength and size isn’t really up for debate – that question was settled a long time ago, and the answer is a resounding yes. There are steroids that help you bulk up, slim down, enhance your definition, build your strength, and speed your recovery times.
It’s no wonder, then, why so many athletes and bodybuilders make the decision to use steroids to achieve their goals. But for many new bodybuilders, the idea of using injectable steroids is pretty intimidating. A lot of people don’t like getting shots, much less giving themselves one. And if you don’t give yourself the shot, who else will give it to you? And where does it go? And what happens if you mess it up?
Because of those kinds of questions, many new bodybuilders opt instead to try oral steroids, thinking that they’ll be easier and safer than injectable steroids. But oral steroids are really no safer than injectables, and in some ways they can be more dangerous.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try oral steroids, only that you should understand the risks and side effects so that you can approach using them the right way, and minimize side effects as much as possible.
Most steroids can’t be ingested orally. That is, you could ingest any steroid you like orally, but the steroid won’t survive the digestive process, and it’ll do a lot of damage to your liver in the process. Most steroids, in order to be take in oral form, require significant modification to survive the process of digestion, and only three steroids – Andriol, Primobolan, and Proviron – can survive digestion without modification. If testosterone is taken orally, for example, so little of it survives digestion that it doesn’t reach the muscle cells in any useful amount.
Modifying the molecular structure of the steroid, however, allows it to survive the digestive process known as hepatic metabolism, when the steroid is made ready to enter the bloodstream. This modification allows the steroid to survive that process and enter the bloodstream on its way to the muscle and bone tissues, among other areas.
While steroids can be modified to be taken orally, it usually comes at a price. And for most users of oral steroids, that price is liver damage caused by a condition called hepatoxicity. Hepatoxicity actually manifests itself in more than one way, with one of the most common forms being a condition called cholestasis. Cholestasis occurs when a blockage occurs in the liver, caused by the steroids passing through it, causing a buildup in bile salts and bilirubin. As this build up increases, it begins to kill hepatic cells in the liver, which can lead to eventual shut down of the liver.
The amount of hepatoxicity created depends on a lot of factors, such as the type and amount of steroid used, the duration of use, and any other drugs that might be consumed during the same time. Hepatoxicity can be very serious, with severity ranging anywhere from relatively mild to life threatening. In most cases, discontinuance of the steroid in question will allow the liver to heal, and it can recover over time, again depending on the type, dosage, and length of usage of the steroid(s) in question.
Cholesterol and Oral Steroids
Because oral steroids are typically (not always, but typically) very hard on the liver, and cause hepatoxicity, using them almost always causes high cholesterol as well. To be fair, all steroids cause high cholesterol, because the steroids themselves inhibit HDL (the good cholesterol), which leads to an increase in LDL (the bad cholesterol). But oral steroids are even worse about this, because of their effects on the liver, weakening it and its ability to regulate LDL.
The liver is the body’s primary organ that deals with cholesterol levels and regulation in the body. So once its function is impaired due to hepatoxicity, the levels of cholesterol, specifically LDL, are even worse than they already were due to steroid use. The liver, in its weakened state, is unable to keep up with the LDL levels in the blood, and those levels continue to rise, eventually leading to arteriosclerosis and heart issues.
Oral Steroid Effectiveness
Quite simply, if there is only one thing learned from this article, it’s that oral steroids should only be taken as part of a stack involving injectables, and that you should NEVER use oral steroids only. The reason for this is twofold: one, oral steroids are not very effective without a base steroid such as Testosterone to work with; and two, oral steroids are very hard on the body. So, when you take oral steroids in sufficient quantities to be effective, it leads to significant damage to your liver, damage that your body might not recover from.
Legal Oral Steroids
Oral steroids for bodybuilding purposes aren’t of the illegal kind, such as Dianabol, Anavar (Oxandrolone) and Winstrol. But legal oral steroids also exist, named designer steroids and prohormones. These are real anabolic steroids sold as dietary supplements and have been changed structurally to resemble banned and illegal anabolic steroids. These compounds often have nasty side effects, like hepatoxicity, gynecomastia, bloating and testosterone suppression, so make sure you research your chosen product before ingesting it.
Not all oral steroids cause hepatoxicity, and many of the issues caused by oral steroids can be mitigated. But, having said that, care should be taken to understand what the effects and side effects of oral steroids are before engaging in their use. The fact of the matter is, if you’re going to use anabolic steroids, you’re going to have to get used to injection, it’s just that simple. Oral steroids can be effective as part of a stack, but not by themselves.