Drugs have been used for strength for a very long time, even the great Arnold has used steroids in order to improve his performance. There are two (2) main types of drugs that athlete use for strength gains: human growth hormone and anabolic steroids.
Human growth hormone for strength
Human growth hormone (HGH) is a chemical (hormone) produced by the body for growth and development. The levels of human growth hormone increase during periods of large growth such as in childhood and puberty. However, human growth hormone levels begin to decline as a person ages.
Human growth hormone is used for strength and power development as well as body composition, because it stimulates muscle growth. Human growth hormone also stimulates fat mobilisation for use as an energy source.
Physical dangers of human growth hormone
The side affects of using HGH for strength include:
- nerve, muscle and joint pain
- carpal tunnel
- numb tingling skin
- high cholesterol
- gigantism (large chin, ears, hands feet)
- muscular weakness, because they do not develop properly
- heart disease
- extensive bone growth
Other risks come if the drug is sourced through non-medical avenues (black market/illegally). These added risks include not knowing what is in the drug or what these additives may do.
Anabolic steroids for strength
Anabolic steroids are used by athletes to develop strength and power while also changing body composition. Anabolic steroids are derived from testosterone and have similar effects on the body. Testosterone is the male hormone helping develop the secondary male characteristics (increased muscle size, body hair, deeper voice, adams apple etc). It is interesting to note that when it comes to improvements in performance, anabolic steroids do not work without training. In response to the question, “Do anabolic steroids work?” the NSW Government fact sheet states:
The answer to this is controversial. If you speak to athletes, body builders, trainers and some doctors, who have used or had experiences with anabolic steroids, they are certain that anabolic steroids increase lean muscle mass, strength and endurance. But scientific studies have only shown that anabolic steroids enhance physical performance through the effect of training, diet and motivation, which accompany the use of the drugs.
This means that you get benefits from anabolic steroids if you are training hard, but you get no benefits if you are not training.
Physical dangers of anabolic steroids
The side effects of anabolic steroids include:
- heart issues
- liver damage
- Male secondary sex characteristics (facial hair, deep voice etc)
- Irregular periods (female)
- Enlarged clitoris (female)
- high cholesterol
Other dangers for the athlete arise when the drug is sourced on the internet, gyms or other means where a medical practitioner is not involved. In these cases the contents of the “drug” are unknown and add extra physical danger to the athlete. NSW Government Health, Anabolic Steroids. Accessed at http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/mhdao/Factsheets/Pages/anabolic.aspx on 4 February 2016.