Everyone’s heard of steroids, right? Assuming you’re the guy who doesn’t go to the gym or isn’t in to any sort of sport, chances are that when you see a huge, muscular guy, you automatically think, “ugh, he must be on steroids”. Heck, I write about these sort of things and sometimes, I still catch myself thinking that very same thing, too.
But hold that thought right there, buddy. Not every muscular person you see is on steroids. Some of them are just extremely smart about their nutrition and their workouts while some of them could also be on testosterone boosters.
Which then brings up the question, “what’s the difference?” Thanks for asking. Now, before I compare both of them, there are other things you must know to make the comparison so much easier to understand. Let’s get to them.
WHAT IS TESTOSTERONE?
I’m pretty sure you already have at least an idea as to what this is but I’m telling you more about it anyway.
Testosterone is an androgen produced primarily by the testicles. More specifically, they’re made by cells found in the testicles called the Leydig cells. Consequently, testosterone also plays an essential role in the development of the prostate and (again) the testicles itself. In addition to this, testosterone also promotes secondary male characteristics such as body and facial hair, deep voice, heavier bone structure, and more importantly to this topic, muscle growth.
Specifically to this article, testosterone acts as the base of comparison between steroids and testosterone boosters.
WHAT ARE STEROIDS?
Let’s start with the more controversial element. When you talk about steroids, you’re basically talking about three things.
- Corticosteroids – These are steroids used for medical purposes. Corticoteroids are similar to hormones that the adrenal glands produce to counter illnesses and injuries.They have positive influences on the immune system and also reduces inflammation.
- Androgenic Steroids – As the name suggests, it’s a synthetic androgen that’s designed to help with problems regarding to sex. These include low libido and erectile dysfunction.
- Anabolic Steroids – The kind of steroid with exceptional effects on anabolic growth. As such, these kinds of steroids have made recent history a pretty interesting era when it comes to sports and bodybuilding because they are specifically designed to push muscle growth to extreme new heights.
In this article, I’m focusing on anabolic steroids because that’s basically where the confusion between steroids and testosterone boosters come from.
Anabolic steroids, as the name already implies, is focused on enhancing anabolism – a metabolic state where our bodies arrange organic compounds from simpler compounds to build something more complex (i.e., muscle).
How Do Steroids Work?
To put it simply, steroids work because the scientists made them work. The keyword there is “made” because steroids are synthetically produced inside a laboratory.
Steroids are taken from the molecular structure of testosterone which if you think about it, is good because testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies. However, the scientists in charge of manufacturing these anabolic steroids don’t stop there.
They mutate or modify the testosterone molecule to a point where the anabolic effects are immensely amplified. When this synthetic version of testosterone is taken in, it then results in a dramatic growth of muscle via the following pathways:
- Stimulation of receptor molecules in muscle cells – What this does is activating specific protein producing genes and expedite the activation rate of protein metabolism. All this results to enhanced protein synthesis and inhibition of protein degradation.
- Steroids may have an anti-catabolic effect – Catabolism is basically the breakdown of muscle tissue and anabolic steroids counter this by blocking Cortisol – a stress hormone that’s secreted by our bodies in response to the muscle injury that goes with exercise and also causes protein breakdown. By blocking cortisol, there is no muscle breakdown resulting in enhanced recovery.
- Inducing a psychosomatic state – This is basically an increase in aggressiveness, stress tolerance, and an induced feeling of euphoria. This allows the bodybuilder or athlete to train harder and longer.
- Improves strength and lean body mass – According to this study, the use of anabolic steroids resulted in around 5-20% increase in strength and a 2-5 kg increase in bodyweight. The same study attributed these gains to an increase in lean body mass.
Steroids aren’t for everyone though. You can’t get huge muscles by just taking in these synthetics. The efficacy of anabolic steroids depends on a number of things that’re basically pointing to veteran bodybuilders and athletes.
For instance, anabolic steroids depend on unbound receptor sites in muscles to be effective and intense strength training seems to unlock more of these receptor sites. Also, a high protein and calorie diet looks to be a necessity as well as the motor skills to exert maximal force during training. With serious bodybuilding, all these requirements are met.
Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids
If you’re a young and aspiring bodybuilder, the muscle building effects of using anabolic steroids might seem very attractive. Heck, I’ve even thought about taking anabolic steroids myself at one point because they are so insanely effective at building muscle. However, these are not without side effects.
Some minor side effects include acne, oily skin, and a not so minor one in baldness. But the side effects don’t stop here. As I’ve said, anabolic steroids raise testosterone levels via synthetic androgens. This confuses your body and as a result, it decreases and even stops your body’s own secretion of testosterone. Thus, during “off” cycles, testosterone becomes so low that the users have a hard time holding on to their gains resulting in a rapid loss of strength and muscle. Although anabolic steroids don’t cause the same “high” as other illegal drugs, this concept makes it prone to abuse and addiction.
Abusing anabolic steroids opens up a whole new world of negative side effects which include:
- High Blood Pressure
- “Roid Rage”
- Heart, liver, and kidney failure
To add, the talk about steroids decreasing testicle size isn’t just a myth. To learn more about the side effects of anabolic steroids, click here.
As you can see, anabolic steroids do elevate muscle growth to entirely new levels. However, the muscle gains come with a plethora of life endangering side effects. In fact, a lot of competitive bodybuilders have died young due to anabolic steroids.
My honest advise? Don’t risk your life by taking these. Think of the people important to you. Think of the people relying on you. Think of your dreams. The future you’re still about to have is infinitely bigger than the huge arms you’ll get with anabolic steroids. It’s just not worth it.
WHAT ARE TESTOSTERONE BOOSTERS?
Testosterone boosters are, in a way, not as complex to explain compared to anabolic steroids. Simply said, they stimulate your own body’s natural processes to naturally create more testosterone. “Natural” being a redundancy in the last sentence isn’t a mistake. It was there to stress the fact that testosterone boosters are Mother Nature’s gift to us men (and even women).
These testosterone boosters may include only a single ingredient but most likely, will include a ranging number of vitamins, minerals, and herbs that target masculine health.
How Do Testosterone Boosters Work?
As your youth escapes you, your testosterone goes along with it because as we age, our testosterone levels decline as well. This is natural but just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s not problematic.
This is the reason why so many older men struggle to add more muscle, maintain energy, and stay on top of their sex game among others. However, regardless of age and purpose, testosterone boosting supplements work in the same mechanisms.
- Provide the compounds that are used by the body to form its own testosterone
- Send chemical messages that trigger the production of testosterone
- Trigger the release of testosterone into the bloodstream when needed
- Fight off the girly hormones and enzymes that drive T levels down low
- Play a role in the way the body synthesizes and uses various growth hormones (HGH)
All these bio-activities work harmoniously with the body to supercharge our natural production of testosterone. By boosting testosterone as a whole and not just the anabolic effects, testosterone boosters unlock a wide variety of manly benefits that aren’t limited to muscle growth such as:
- Improved stamina
- Improved mental state
- Improved bone density
- Improved libido and sperm quality
However, not all testosterone boosters work the same for everyone. For example, when a 20 year old man takes a testosterone booster to aid his workouts, he might not have the same results as someone who is 30 years old.
Regardless, testosterone boosting products can be used by everyone of all ages (adolescents notwithstanding). Typically, a man in his early 20’s is in his testosterone prime. Therefore, the need to boost testosterone isn’t really a necessity yet but testosterone boosters can still help this age group by aiding in strength, performance, muscle growth, and recovery for a better bodybuilding experience.
Compared to men who’re over their 30’s, the need for testosterone boosters becomes apparent. However, older men also typically have different priorities such as libido and stamina. Testosterone boosters can help with that, too.
Additionally, because testosterone boosters typically include a wide variety of ingredients, they can be customized to fit the different priorities of different people. Some testosterone boosters focus on the anabolic side of testosterone, some focus on bolstering libido, while some are a mix of both and some other factors that testosterone can target.
Side Effects of Testosterone Boosters
As I’ve said, testosterone boosters work in harmony with your body so it’s generally safe and side effect free. However, there are reports of minor side effects such as:
- Acne breakouts
- Gastric irritation
- Increased aggressive tendencies
- Occasional headaches
- Mood swings
Here is where the comparisons come in so I’ll try to keep it real simple.
When it comes to building muscle, anabolic steroids win. Hands down. That’s what they were made for so this shouldn’t be surprising. However, that’s about the only area where they have an advantage against testosterone boosters.
Don’t discount the muscle building effects of testosterone boosters though. Although not as effective as anabolic steroids, some of them work really well for muscle, too.
In terms of legality, anabolic steroids can get you banned off of competitive sports for doping. Admittedly, some designer steroids are manufactured specifically to elude drug tests but drug tests are getting more advanced, too. So if you’re an athlete and you’re thinking about taking steroids, don’t. Testosterone boosters are safe, legal, and will help you enhance your athletic performance too.
When it comes to safety, let me ask you a few questions. Would you rather have a heart attack or acne? Would you rather have organ failure or occasional mild headaches? Would you rather die young or grow old and have the opportunity to turn back your youth? The answers should be obvious. Don’t risk your health on steroid abuse.
Overall, the cons of anabolic steroids far outweigh the only pro it has. Testosterone boosters on the other hand, unlock more benefits compared to steroids and are relatively free of major side effects.