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How do Anabolic Steroids Work?

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You train hard and eat well- you work hard for the best physique possible. At some point in your training life you’ll probably wonder how steroids would benefit your body.

But are you aware of the risks as well as the benefits? 

There are a lot of misconceptions about what steroids do and much debate about their use by recreational athletes.

So just how do anabolic steroids work?

In this article we tell you all about them and how they affect your body:

  • What are anabolic steroids?
  • How do they work?
  • What are the risks and side effects?
  • Are they legal?
  • Final Word

What are anabolic steroids?

The first thing to mention here is that steroids means different things to different people – for the purpose of this article we’re not talking about the kind of therapeutic steroids you’d get from the doctor for arthritis or lung issues, we’re talking about the type of steroids that are taken to solely increase performance – the kind used by athletes and bodybuilders. 

Anabolic steroids, or Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are synthetic versions of naturally occurring male hormones called androgens. Both anabolic and androgenic outcomes may occur with steroid use:

  • Androgenic actions primarily include development of male characteristics – increased strength, voice deepening and hair growth
  • Anabolic actions include increased protein metabolism and inhibition of protein breakdown

Steroids are often taken to increase size, strength and power, as well as to boost endurance and energy.

There are lots of different types of anabolic steroids available, but the main three are testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and nandrolone. There are also a large number of brands that produce each type of AAS as well.

Anabolic steroids exert their effects on many parts of the body, including reproductive tissues, muscle and bone, as well as the immune and central nervous systems dependent on type and action [1].

According to a review paper in high ranking journal Sports Medicine [2], AAS are not just prevalent among athletes but also many amateur and recreational athletes- it has been established that use among athletes in gyms is extensive. 

how do anabolic steroids work?

Key Point: There are lots of different types of anabolic steroids but most promote increases in strength and muscle mass

How do they work?

There are a number of different mechanisms that have been demonstrated to explain the action of AAS – many of them are extremely complicated and still require additional research.

All you need to know is that receptors ‘soak up’ the extra AAS by allowing them to pass through the membrane of a target cell and bind to an androgen receptor located in the fluid of that cell. From there the cell nucleus receives a message to alter its processes [3]- and then the effect takes place.

The general androgenic effects of AAS are generally considered as those associated with masculinity as well as protein building in skeletal muscle and bone.

Therefore, steroids work by stimulating receptors in muscle cells, which in turn activate genes to produce proteins- they also affect enzymes involved in protein synthesis – [4] this equals more muscle and strength.

The risks and side effects of anabolic steroids use

According to a Sports Medicine academic review article [2] it seems redundant to mention that abuse of AAS may affect health status.

Although there is much to be gained from AAS use, there are numerous risks too. These include:

  • Cardiovascular disease

A study in the European Heart Journal [5] suggested that prolonged use of anabolic steroids leads to increased peripheral vascular resistance, and cardiac hypertrophy, together with decreased contractility of the heart– basically poor vascular health and enlarged but weak heart walls.

  • Reproductive issues

As AAS derive from testosterone they form part of an important feedback loop between the brain and the testes. As such, a very common side effect is reduced levels of testosterone – essentially the body sees no need to produce any seeing as though you are already providing it externally. Decreases can be seen in as little as 24 hours [6] and may ultimately result in smaller testes and reduced fertility.

  • Changes to mood 

There are a large number of case studies highlighting a range of alterations to psychological well being, including schizophrenia, steroid dependence, and psychosis and homicidal tendencies. 

There are also many incidences of aggression, depression and suicidal tendencies that appear to be dose dependent. For example, a study by Kouri et al [7] found that by increasing the dose of Testosterone from 150mg for two weeks, then to 300mg and 600mg for two weeks, aggressive responding behavior increased.

  • Severe acne and oily skin

Although not as serious as the previously mentioned conditions, anabolic steroid use can enlarge the sebaceous glands as well as production – these are tiny glands located in the skin which secrete a lubricating oily matter that can cause severe acne.

Other side effects that may occur due to AAS use include:

  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Insulin resistance
  • Withdrawal symptoms including changes to body composition and weight gain
  • Many, many more


Key Point: There are a large number of very severe side effects that can occur through anabolic steroid use.

The legalities of steroid use

Anabolic steroids are controlled substances in many countries- this includes the US, UK and Canada. However, as they can be sold legally in many other countries without prescription, you’ll find a reasonably large number of websites selling AASs online without violating the laws of their own country.

With regards to athletic performance, anabolic steroids have been banned on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Medical Commission list since 1974. Additionally, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was set up in 1999 as an independent body to conduct key scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti Doping Code [8].

Final word – How do Anabolic Steroids work?

There is a lot of misconception about what steroids do, how they work and the potential issues with their use.

Steroids, or Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), are synthetic versions of the naturally occurring male hormones called androgens, and as such they provide boosts to strength, muscle mass, and masculine traits.

There are a number of side effects reported from taking anabolic steroids including cardiovascular issues, changes to mood and psychology and reproductive issues. There are also a number of cosmetic side effects that can occur such as acne and hair growth.

Is there a better alternative?

There definitely is.

When it comes to boosting your testosterone levels naturally, TestoFuel is one of the best options on the market.

As a premium, natural testosterone booster, TestoFuel supplies your body with nutrients it needs to optimize your testosterone levels and get the best out of your workouts. With it’s ability to support:

  • Muscle Growth and Strength – Bigger size and stronger lifts
  • Improved Recovery – Faster growth and less soreness
  • Enhanced Enhanced Energy – More motivation to train stronger for longer
  • Healthy Libido – Ramp up sex drive and improve confidence

TestoFuel is ideal for improving your performance both in and out of the gym, and helping you attain that all-important muscular physique.


  1. Kicman, AT et al. Pharmacology of anabolic steroids. Br J Pharmacol. 2008 Jun; 154(3): 502–521.
  2. Hartgens, F et al. Effects of anrogenic-anabolic steroids in athletes. Sports Medicine. 2004; 34(8): 513-554
  3. Lavery, DN et al. Structure and function of steroid receptor AF1 transactivation domains: induction of active conformations. Biochem J. 2005; 1(391, Pt 3): 449-464
  4. Fahey, TD et al. Anabolic-androgenic steroids: mechanism of action and effects on performance. Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science. 1998; Internet Society for Sport Science: 7 March 1998.
  5. Nieminen, MS et al. Serious cardiovascular side effects of large doses of anabolic steroids in weight lifters. European Heart Journal. 1996; 17: 1576-1583
  6. Anderson RA, Wu F. Comparison between testosterone enanthate-induced azoospermia and oligozoospermia in a male contraceptive study, II: pharmacokinetics and pharmacody-namics of once weekly administration of testosterone enanthate. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1996; 81: 896-901
  7. Kouri, EM et al. Increased aggressive responding in male volunteers following the administration of gradually increasing doses of testosterone cypionate. Drug Alcohol Depend. 1995 Nov;40(1):73-9.
  8. World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).