A terrible thought crossed my ever pontificating mind that after reading some of the training articles here at Level Up, some beloved readers may be tempted to take a chemically assisted shortcut to hypertrophy. Thus, it is my duty to inform you on the pros and cons, and of course science y’all upside the head.
Yup. That terrible buzz-word has finally appeared on Level Up, but fear not, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor is here to keep you informed of the effects, side-effects and dangers of these nefarious chemical compounds. The advice bit will follow, but in the interests of true journalism, (I’m qualified and everything now.Yay), I present a the tale of how they came to be.
Percy Lavon Julian, unsung hero of medical science
Overall our knowledge of the great people who brought us groundbreaking milestones in medical science is pretty lacklustre. Can you honestly say that you have ever heard of this great man?
Occasionally a scientist will be so prominent as to be noticed by all; Albert Einstein is an obvious example, also consider those who are well-known for their inventions, again an obvious example would be someone like Thomas Edison. It is sad but true that the vast majority of the things we use every day were created by people whose names are unknown to us; because they never got credit for them or we just plain old couldn’t be bothered to learn who the brainiac was.
If you look in your medicine cabinet, at least half of what you find there was because of the genius of Percy Lavon Julian. Born April 11, 1899 he was one of the first African-Americans to receive a doctorate in chemistry. He was the first African-American chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, and the second African-American scientist inducted from any field.
He specialised in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants, it was one of the most crucial advancements in modern medicine. Ever used birth-control pills? An asthma inhaler? Taken medication for arthritis, eczema, chronic lung illness or even cancer?
You can thank Percy Julian for inventing the steroids required to produce them. On these merits alone, Julian should have been recognised and revered. He wasn’t however, because he was a black man living under the Jim Crow laws. Enacted between 1876 and 1965 these laws mandate a “separate but equal” status for African-Americans. The separation in practice led to conditions for African-Americans that tended to be inferior to those provided for white Americans, systematizing a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages.
Some examples of Jim Crow laws are the segregation of public schools, public places, public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and even drinking fountains. Even the U.S. military was also segregated. Before Julian made his epic discoveries, he was a promising chemist and was hired as a faculty member at the traditionally black school Howard University. No other African-American had ever earned a PhD in chemistry up to that point, due to the ridiculous Jim Crow laws, but that would not stop Julian.
Despite his talents and intellect, no school would offer him a place in a doctoral program; but he persevered and applied to overseas schools, eventually securing himself a fellowship to get his doctorate in Vienna, Austria. Julian sent letter after letter to one of his colleagues back at Howard University. Unwisely he bragged about his sexual exploits and gossiped about his former co-workers. Some years later when he returned to work for Howard, his colleague whom had received all the letters, he and Julian had a falling out. The letters were handed to the black press and published, tarnishing his reputation.
This was then compounded by him having an affair with his assistant’s wife. He was forced to quit University; humiliated and vilified by the black press. This remained a problem, as they chose to hold a grudge against him for years. A paint company in Chicago called Glidden hired him as director of research, an unprecedented move at the time, considering the laws. It was here that he saw the research he was performing could do much more than make paints. In 1940, Julian discovered the technique to isolate the hormones progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone from; wait for it, soybean oil! Following this discovery he was able to synthesize $10,000 worth of these hormones a day.
Within a few years this led to another scientist figuring out how to use cortisone to treat arthritis. He later started his own company to synthesize steroid intermediates from the Mexican wild yam. His work helped reduce the cost of steroid intermediates to large multinational pharmaceutical companies.
During his lifetime he received more than 130 chemical patents. Yet, even after all his achievements, becoming an award-winning scientist, a wealthy businessman and community member, Julian and his family still had to suffer prejudice and segregation because of the ridiculous and prejudiced Jim Crow laws. During the 1960’s equal rights movements were becoming stronger, more forceful.
Julian was loath to adopt a more aggressive way of fighting for equality. but he eventually joined the NAACP, (whose tactics at ensuring equality were a lot more aggressive than they are now), It is heartbreaking, for a man of such significant accomplishments to resort to violent methods against bigotry that shouldn’t even ever have existed. But people can only be pushed so far before taking drastic measures.
But that story ended on such a negative. Why, Rogue Advisor, would you subject us to this?
Apologies, beloved reader, but the tale had to be told
The pros of roids
Anabolic steroids by definition are a synthetic derivatives of testosterone. Modern anabolic steroids are created from Mexican Sarsaparilla root, (wild yam). The root itself has no anabolic qualities in its natural form, but can be synthesised into testosterone. Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, it is produced by the testes, in layman’s terms ‘balls’.
It is an androgen responsible for hypertrophy and also an androgenic, which causes facial hair to grow and the deepening of voice etc. Testosterone is the big daddy when it comes to growth and repair of tissues such as skeletal muscle. The primary mode of anabolic action with all anabolic/androgenic steroids is the activation of cellular androgen receptors to increase protein synthesis, thus the requirement for a perfect diet, chock full of glorious tasty protein filed foods, and also a genetic ‘blessing’ to have a great number of these receptors.
We are all born with a certain amount of these and that is that, they cannot be increased nor decreased. The number of receptors is set in stone until the end of our days, thus anabolic steroids will not have a noticeable effect on anyone with a low androgenic receptor count. For those of you a high amount of androgenic receptors, consider this: Working out actually destroys the skeletal muscle tissue, breaking it down and leaving it temporarily weak.
The body, being the wondrous adaptive machine that it is, then reacts to this by re-growth of the muscle tissue. When they are fully healed again, they are better prepared for the stresses that caused the initial damage by adapting to the new input with increased strength and hypertrophy.
This anabolic process require resting and eating enough protein, unfortunately, many factors can limit the amount of protein we can absorb and the rate at which we absorb it, therefore slowing our progress and limiting the gains from our workouts. That’s where the appeal of taking the chemical shortcut comes in; The faster the skeletal muscle regenerate via protein synthesis, the sooner you can pump iron again.
Supplementing external anabolic compounds increases hormone levels, and thus the speed and efficiency of protein absorption, speeding up the muscular regeneration, thus being able to pound the iron more often, thus building strength and size at a greatly increased frequency. However, even if you’re pumping yourself full of roids, if you don’t genetically have enough androgen receptors to deal with them, don’t consume enough protein and miss workouts; you’ll be wasting time. Anabolic steroids alone do not build alone. You have to do the work, the diet and have the receptors.
The cons of roids
There were already a few cons in the pros section, how bad can it be?
Legalities: I don’t really need to go into this do I? It’s against UK law. Nuff said. Acne: Rampant acne is one of the more obvious indicators of steroid use. The sebaceous glands, which secrete oils in the skin, are stimulated by androgens, increasing the level of skin hormones, enhancing the output of oils. It most commonly causes large patches of acne to develop on the back, shoulders and more often than not the face. Not such a bad side effect? Try the rest of them.
Aggressive behavior: Can be one of the scarier sides of steroid use. Men are typically more aggressive than women because of the significantly higher testosterone difference, and especially increasing this with the use of steroids. Yet some bodybuilders and powerlifters like this effect for the use of lifting heavier and more explosive.
But is that really worth hurting people for? Especially if one were to enter a rage and hurt a friend, family member etc. It most definitely is not the Superhero / Level Up way of doing things. Yet some bodybuilders and powerlifters like this effect for the use of lifting heavier and more explosive.
Birth defects: Anabolic steroids can have a profoundly impact on the development of a fetus. Adrenal Genital Syndrome in particular is a very disturbing occurrence, in which a female fetus can develop male reproductive organs. Woman should not use anabolic steroids or other medications that may be harmful to the fetus, and always check with your doctor first.
Blood clotting: Anabolic steroids have been proven to increase prothrombin time, or the duration it will take for a blood clot to form. This basically means that while an individual is taking steroids, he/she may notice that it takes slightly longer than usual for a small cut or nosebleed to stop seeping blood. This leads to exacerbated life threatening situations if the athlete ever requires invasive surgery.
Heart damage: If the steroids in question are being administered intravenously, they will always pass through the tricuspid valve of the heart, the first through which de-oxygenated blood flows through in order to be re-oxygenated for the next cardiovascular cycle. If enough damage is caused to the valve, de-oxygenated blood will flow back the way it entered, damaging the valve even more and reducing hemoglobin levels.
Liver damage: As with everything that is taken orally, it will at some point be processed by the liver. And of course damage it, irreparably. Even a long-term alcoholic can recover around 60% of their liver’s original functionality. Steroid damage to the liver is permanent.
Kidney damage: Since your kidneys are involved in the filtration and removal of byproducts from the body, the administration of steroidal compounds (which are largely excreted in the urine) will cause them some level of strain. There is actually some evidence to suggest that steroid use can be linked to the onset of Wilms Tumor in adults, which is a rapidly growing kidney tumor.
Gynecomastia: The medical term is for the development of female breast tissue in the male body. This occurs when the male is presented with unusually high level of oestrogen, particularly with the use of strong aromatizing androgens such as testosterone and the most popular oral steroid Dianabol. The excess estrogen can act upon receptors in the breast and stimulate the growth of mammary tissues. So if you want the boobs plus pecs combo guys, get roiding!
Testicular shrinkage: Steroids can make your balls shrivel up guys. Need I say any more? If that wasn’t enough it can cause baldness and prostate cancer.
I ain’t touching that s**t
Wise words. But the saddest truth is this:
Anabolic steroids are only a shortcut. The maximum hypertrophy any person can ever attain is genetically predetermined. It’s limited by your very DNA, you can only get so big. Why rush it? Also, most people can only produce roughly 1.5 pounds per week, your body actually limits the hypertrophy to take pressure from bones and joints. Steroid use cannot change this anatomical fact.