Steroids an Ergogenic Aid
What is an ergogenic aid?
Ergogenic aid can be defined as a substance or a technique that aims to enhance performance. These can be categorized as pharmacologic, nutritional, psychological, or physiologic and varies from the application of accepted methods and techniques like carbohydrate loading to illegal and unhealthy approaches like anabolic-androgenic steroid use. Many such techniques and the use of steroids have been controversial subjects since their side effects have been very much obvious. There are some ergogenic aids that are considered safe by the U.S Food and Drug Administration. For instance, there are naturally occurring compounds such as hydroxymethyl butyrate (HMB), conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), carnitine, chromium, creatine, etc. The other harmful ergogenic aids include anabolic and other steroids, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), diuretics, blood doping, ephedrine, and human growth hormone (HGH).
What are steroids?
The term ‘steroids’ has different meanings. They are the chemicals or hormones that the body naturally makes in order to put the organs, cells, and tissues in balance. But steroids are also man-made medicines that are used for the increased performance of mind and body. Some steroids such as corticosteroids have a harmful effect on the human body. Even its short-term use causes weight gain, mood swings, nausea, puffy face, unusual growth of hair, disturbance in sleeping, and turning down of the immune system due to which a person gets more vulnerable to infections and diseases. Long-term effects are even more dangerous like slow growth of kids, muscle weakness, higher risk of diabetes, and eye problems.
Effects of steroids on the athletic performance
Athletes tend to look for magical pills or something that can help increase their physical performance and give them an advantage over their opponents. McClung and Collins (2007) suggest that the use of steroids and supplements for higher and better performance in sports is being carried out led by the belief that the substance actually works for them, and it would be beneficial if the athletes are given anti-drug education. Male athletes are often seen taking androgenic-anabolic steroids which are the synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone. These steroids have a major effect on the human body and result in desired athletic performance. Studies suggest that the short-term use of these steroids by athletes results in an increase in strength and body weight. But apart from that, the disadvantages of these steroids are not ignorable. An increase in sexual drive, the occurrence of acne vulgaris, an increase in aggression, and body hair are some of the major effects of steroids (Hartgens, 2004). An increase in levels of liver enzymes is also common in athletes who use steroids, and the occurrence of Cholestatic jaundice is also associated with the usage of steroids, and usually resolves during the three months of ceasing the use of drugs. (Maravelias, 2005). When teenagers use steroids, there is a risk of gender mix-ups (diet.com). In women who use anabolic steroids for an extensive period of time, masculinization may be established in them as hirsutism, deepening of the voice, and menstrual abnormalities are also caused, but these may be permanent even after the drugs are withdrawn (Bahrke and Yesalis, 2004). The use of steroids has a relationship with the level of hormones. Clark and Henderson (2003) suggested that high hormone levels were linked with potentially harmful psychological effects for both boys and girls.
Athletes using steroids may be happy and pleased with their body and their performance resulting from the use of steroids but the development of different kinds of health issues must be taken care of which may prove harmful for them for the rest of their lives, and even prove in shortening their lives. These steroids and ergogenic aids are not tested through screening for safety and efficacy.
How do steroids differ from human growth hormones?
Though many people consider the human growth hormone and steroids to be one and the same thing, they are different in reality. Human growth hormone (HGH) synthesized in the laboratory like steroids, is much the same as HGH produced in the body. It has very few side effects, unlike steroids. It performs a variety of functions that are important for the body such as helping in the repairmen of a tissue, promoting cell regeneration, helping other enzymes and hormones in their functions, and governing overall brain working. Such significant and vital actions are not performed by the steroids, rather it disturbs the overall mechanism of the human body. Steroids just serve one main purpose for athletes, but HGH plays a role in many other functions. Where steroids establish the need for post-cycle therapy, HGH serves as a part of that treatment. The physical effects of steroids can be seen within a few weeks’ time while HGH does not show any notable physical transformation for three to six months. HGH is well-tolerated in both genders, unlike steroids. Easy absorption and no need of being injected happen in the case of HGH, unlike steroids which are not easily absorbed in the body and also require to be injected.
Medical risks associated with steroids
Many medical risks have been associated with the use of steroids. Changes in the cardiovascular system occur. There’s an increased risk of myocardial infarction. It is evident in many case reports published (Gunes, 2004). Many studies also reported normal coronary arterial function experiencing an infarct in steroid users (Kennedy and Lawrence, 1993). Other changes include an increase in blood pressure, increased risk of thrombosis, and alterations in serum lipids (Dhar, 2005). High blood pressure, lower levels of good cholesterol, and high levels of bad cholesterol are also associated with the use of steroids. Heart attacks can also occur since the left ventricle of the heart starts pumping thicker blood and may have problems pumping the blood. Cardiovascular diseases increase in magnitude and extent with an increase in the intake of steroids.
There is an increased risk of hepatocellular adenomas, peliosis hepatitis, and liver tumors. Hepatic cancers have been noted to occur more frequently in males than in females due to the use of steroids (El-Serag, 2004). David (1994) suggests the increased risks of tendon tears in athletes taking steroids.
Psychological and behavioral effects
Apart from these medical risks, there also exist some psychological and behavioral effects of steroids. This includes increased aggression, irritability, and arousal. Steroid abuse may lead to extreme mood swings and psychotic episodes. Approximately 60% of steroid users have been reported to experience aggression and irritability (Pope and Katz, 1994). Some studies suggest that these behavioral and psychological changes are recovered once the use of steroids is ended (Fudula, 2003).
Many complications occur due to steroid usage both in males and females. In males, the level of testosterone is increased many times from the normal level. Due to this, testes decrease in size and sperm production becomes low. Moreover, additional testosterone is changed into estrogen causing the development of breasts in males. Females go through irregular menstruation or even experience infertility due to the use of steroids. Apart from these, due to the increase in testosterone level, male characteristics start developing in the female body.
Athletes and bodybuilders that have been taking steroids for at least eight years were discovered to have a unique disease known as focal segmental glomerulosclerosis which damages the part of the kidney used to filter the blood. This leads to renal failure ultimately leading the patients to get a kidney transplant.
Changes to the Brain
Steroids affect the brain and cause mental changes that lead to disturbing behaviors.
The ergogenic aids and supplements are the substances used for higher and better performance. These substances help athletes and sportsmen and women maintain their physical structures and increase their performance. With the help of steroids, athletes gain body mass quickly and just as they require. Their level of performance is also highly increased. But the negative impacts of these steroids are many. One cannot even say that short-term use may not be dangerous to health. Both short and long-term use of steroids has damaging impacts on an individual’s physical and psychological health. The effects of steroids are more harmful than advantageous. Athletes risk their physical and mental health for their performance and physical appearance. People are often mistaken between steroids and the human growth hormone (HGH). They consider them to be the same thing but actually, they are different in the side effects they might cause, and many other properties. HGH is better to take than steroids since the side effects of HGH are much less than the steroids, and also performs vital functions inside the human body that steroids don’t. There are many medical risks associated with the use of steroids such as devastating changes in the cardiovascular system, hepatic system, brain, kidneys, and reproductive system. Thus, while taking steroids, these effects must be considered and must not be ignored.
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