During the past couple of years many athletic magazines are giving the impression that anabolic steroids are accepted and used by everyone in bodybuilding. Such is hardly the case. Granted, anabolic steroids and other drugs are used by some competitive bodybuilders. However, the number of people who compete as bodybuilders and thus the number that are candidates for steroid use are proportionately very, very small. Furthermore, while steroids are used, they are not accepted. There are no bodybuilders who enjoy using them or want to use them.
A recent analysis by William Taylor, MD., which appeared in a popular powerlifting magazine, showed that the cost-to-benefit ratio of anabolic steroids is way too high. Dr. Taylor cites evidence that bodybuilders who use steroids cannot expect to add more than 10 pounds of solid muscle a year, and that initial size gains with steroids are not maintained in later, repetitive bouts.
In his cost-to-benefit discussion Dr. Taylor presents the following hypothetical situation: Assume that an athlete gains two pounds of lean muscle a year. (If the athlete gains eight pounds, six pounds of that will be water, two pounds actual lean tissue). If the athlete does this while using four cyclic bouts of anabolic steroids (20 mg of Winstrol a day for six weeks and 200 mg of Deca-Durabolin a week for the same six weeks), sees a physician for an initial exam and required blood monitoring, and spends $250 a year on training costs, then his expenses for these four six-week cycles come to $1040, or $520 per pound of lean-muscle tissue.
Let's go a step further. Since, as Dr. Taylor says, this same athlete is liable to be stacking more steroids and using other drugs, such as fat-mobilizing and cutting agents, the cost would he much higher — at least 50% higher. If he uses growth hormone then the theoretical cost of muscle could exceed $1000!
Let's assume our hypothetical bodybuilder escapes serious short-term side effects through the type of routine monitoring that Dr. Taylor suggests. That still leaves the potential problem of latent long-term side effects. Cardiovascular insult, kidney malfunction, liver disease, prostate hypertrophy and cancer, as well as testicular shutdown and testicular cancer, are big problems, even to the hardened drug proponent. As medical writer Bob Goldstein recently reported, in the last few years, five weightlifters have died from drug-related damage (based on the best available evidence). There has been one death from liver cancer, two deaths from electrolyte imbalances resulting from the use of diuretics, one case of aneurysm and one case of myocardial infarction. Secondarily, there has been at least one case of a steroid-induced liver tumor that the athlete survived.
If Dr. Taylor added potential medical costs to his theoretical formula, the cost for a pound of muscle would either be off the chart or irrelevant.
Recently a study conducted on popular bodybuilding supplements determined that a group of subjects taking these popular supplements and engaged in heavy weight training gained an average of 1.916 pounds in six weeks. This compared to a placebo training group that gained on the average only .34 pounds.
Using the same water-to-lean ratio mentioned earlier, these subjects gained about .65 pounds of lean tissue. This is valid since this group showed a mean loss in percentage of bodyfat. As with steroid-induced muscle gain, results with food supplements and training come quicker at first and then slow down. So it's reasonable to assume that gains would be repeated, but at a declining rate. That .65 pounds of lean tissue in six weeks would probably be around two pounds in a year using the popular bodybuilding supplements over four six-week cycles spread throughout the year.
This is the same as the hypothetical steroid cycles. The cost of the natural food supplements for six weeks is approximately $75, or $300 for a year (four six-week cycles). Adding in $250 in training costs, we arrive at $550 for two pounds of muscle. Compare this to $1000 plus per pound for the hypothetical drug user. To top this fact off, the supplements are safe and you wouldn't have to pay for blood monitoring or have to worry about potential medical problems.
What's the point of all this, other than the fact that steroids are expensive and an unfortunate part of bodybuilding? Just because some bodybuilders use steroids doesn't mean we can't work for legislation against their use, and meanwhile try to develop food supplements that work to enhance the acquisition of mass. If steroids were removed, the same guys would probably win anyway. The big guys would still be big guys.
Attempts to justify steroids (from any standpoint) don't make sense. Not only are these drugs ridiculously expensive, but there are also just too many associations between steroid use and grievous medical side effects. Young up and coming bodybuilders should seriously consider their futures. Gaining muscle with food supplements and hard training may be a lot slower, but it's a lot less expensive, produces longer-lasting gains in muscles, weight and health, plus it's a hell of a lot safer. I rest my case.