Are Steroids OK?
What's your opinion of steroids and protein drinks to enhance performance?
I'm opposed to the use of both kinds of products.
Anabolic steroids are male sex hormones that increase protein metabolism, bone density, and muscle bulk. For some time now, male athletes and bodybuilders have taken anabolic steroids to increase muscle bulk and enhance performance. In fact, this practice is astonishingly common. Only five years ago, the Drug Enforcement Administration made them controlled substances, thus ending legal prescription. The promise of rapid development of big muscles and a powerful body image is very seductive, especially for teens and young men.
In a study published 4 July in the "New England Journal of Medicine", it was reported that injections of testosterone (an anabolic steroid) added extra muscle and strength in a group of 40 male bodybuilders. The New York Times headline put it succinctly: "Testosterone=Big Muscles." That's not news, really. What's important to ask is: What's the downside?
And there's plenty to talk about. It has been widely accepted that steroids have very significant effects on body chemistry and, over time, may interfere with sexual function. They can reduce sexual potency and drive, and cause erratic mood shifts. They also increase your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, with side effects including acne, baldness, and abnormal liver function. Women may experience masculinizing changes, such as a deepened voice and increased facial hair. In fact, women were excluded from the recent study, because the potential side effects were seen as "unacceptable."
Proponents of steroids say these adverse effects are rare. They will be encouraged by the above-mentioned journal study, which also found no evidence that steroids made the weight lifters more aggressive. I think it's important to note that the study was conducted over a very short period of time (10 weeks) and the dose of testosterone given was much lower than what bodybuilders usually take. Overall, steroids unbalance the body's hormonal system and ultimately lead to a weakening of the overall system in later life. High doses are thought to be addictive.
As for protein supplements, I can see no reason to use them to enhance performance. I've seen competitive bodybuilders who have developed liver dysfunction as a result of force-feeding on protein. Excess consumption of protein - in any form - puts an added workload on the digestive system, liver, and kidneys. Protein is not a very efficient fuel for the body. It takes more energy to digest and metabolize, and it breaks down into toxic residues that the liver and kidneys must handle. The breakdown products of protein metabolism also can harm the immune system.