Christian Thibaudeau explains how to tell a clean athlete from a juiced one. Even if you are not interested in “professional” bodybuilding or powerlifting, keep in mind that illegal drugs are used by many stars of the fitness gloss/Instagram and are also common in Crossfit. If you notice doping side effects/signs of steroid use in one of your idols, then think about whether the training or dietary advice of fake straight is right for you?
A Couple of Warnings
Before starting the exposure session, I want to make an important caveat.
First, there are real genetic monsters on our planet. A person can be extremely strong and muscular, even though they haven’t really used steroids. But most ordinary people and even jocks will call them “not natural.” By the way, even I don’t really like it when they call me “enhanced” (and Christian himself honestly said that he used steroids to prepare for two bodybuilding competitions – Editor’s note). It would help if you remembered that a super-talented athlete’s program/diet is still not suitable for mere mortals.
Secondly, these signs are only hints. Clues, but not evidence. I will tell you which of them are more compelling and which are not so.
Also, feel free to see the differences between enhanced and natural training.
Now let’s get started.
Top 7 Signs of Steroid Use
Signs of Steroid Use #0. “Learn from the natural, guys!”
The first alarming signal is when someone always and everywhere chokes about what a “natural athlete” he is. Even if nobody asks. If you are really clean and you were asked about this, then why not answer? But some, for some reason, themselves strive to open up to everyone constantly. Of course, it doesn’t feel like a full-fledged piece of evidence, but it makes you think, especially when such a character starts selling training programs after going to the gym for only a couple of years (or months).
Signs of Steroid Use #1. Rapid Hypertrophy
The first sure sign is a very fast gain of lean muscle mass without increasing body fat.
Muscle building speed is limited by natural physiology. Of course, there are exceptions: about 86% of people gain muscle mass at a normal rate, 13.6% a little faster, 2.1% even faster, and 0.1% fantastically fast.
How many grams? 100-220 per week (+ a little fat). Thus, you can build almost a kilo of muscle in a month. More than 10 kilograms per year!
Even the lucky group (13.6%) can sometimes gain about 1.3 kg of muscle mass per month per year – as much as 13-14.
So if someone in a few months easily builds a dozen kilos of lean muscles, this is an extremely suspicious sign.
Signs of Steroid Use #2. Huge Trapezoidal
“Juiced” guys are distinguished by huge trapezius muscles and delts, which stand out against the background of other muscles. According to one theory, the trapezium and the rest of the muscles in the neck region have more androgen receptors, which makes them more sensitive to steroids . I did not find any studies on deltoids, but perhaps they, too.
Another version is that delts are involved in almost all upper body exercises and receive much more stimulus for growth than any other group. But with natural people, they simply do not have time to recover, and the “enhanced” is helped by “AS.”
A thick neck, in my opinion, is the most obvious sign since the delts and trapeziums are often the most beloved muscles for training and are powerfully worked out almost in every workout, but few people train the neck.
Signs of Steroid Use #3. Too Much Muscle
Physiology limits not only the rate of hypertrophy but also sets the final limit of the potential for gaining muscle mass.
This, for example, was written by Dr. Casey Butt, Ph.D., who developed his prognostic formula based on the height and thickness of the individual’s bones (girth of the wrist and ankle). It is, in my experience, quite accurate, although it does not describe genetic upstarts. For example, according to this formula, for a person with a height of 1.68 with an average bone thickness, the limiting weight in the “shredded” state (6% fat) is about 80 kg. But I had a classmate of just such parameters – and he did not even work out! He just played football and rugby.
You can Google any formula you like, but I usually start with the following values (at 10% fat):
- 1.57 – 76 kg
- 1.63 – 80 kg
- 1.68 – 83 kg
- 1.73 – 93 kg
- 1.78 – 97 kg
- 1.83 – 101 kg
- 1.88 – 105 kg
- 1.93 – 111 kg
- 1.98 – 117 kg
If you see someone wearing significantly more muscle, it could be due to steroid use. Or you are fortunate enough to meet a rare genetic exception.
Clues of Steroid Use #4. “Steroid Psyche”/Roid Rage
The influence of “roids” on the psyche is not fiction at all. A number of steroids (especially the most androgenic ones) can increase aggression through several mechanisms:
- Increased adrenergic activity. Androgenic steroids increase the sensitivity of beta-adrenergic receptors, that is, the body’s response to adrenaline. At the muscle level, everything is good: you are stronger, “more explosive,” etc. And at the brain level, become more assertive and aggressive.
- Long-term use of anabolic steroids can lead to enlargement of the amygdala , which is the area of the brain that is active in aggressive behavior.
- Also, chronic “AS courses” can increase the turnover of glutamate in the brain. This increased glutamatergic activity can increase aggression, firstly by increasing the intensity of experienced emotions (including aggressive ones) and causing critical mood swings, and, secondly, by simply being neurotoxic (poisonous) to the brain.
- Finally, hormonal imbalances that occur with steroid use can also contribute to increased aggressiveness.
But this is not the case with everyone. I know many guys using “vitamins” who remain calm and friendly.
This becomes a dangerous signal when you knew a person before, and he suddenly – along with a sharp increase in muscle – begins to lose his temper more often, get irritated over trifles, and react more sharply to criticism. Yes, aggression is also vulnerability.
Clues of Steroid Use #5. Permanent Pump
“Pumping” after a workout is a natural phenomenon, and natural people enjoy it. Then the circulation is restored, the muscles return to their original size (well, a little more, if you’re lucky). But the “juiced” guys always look as if they just left the gym. The fact is that their muscles remain partially activated. This is also the effect of adrenaline. Since steroids increase the sensitivity of the beta-adrenergic receptors in muscle tissue, adrenaline leaves it partially activated and at rest.
In addition, “vitamins” increase muscle glycogen and creatine stores; some steroids help water retention by increasing sodium and potassium levels. Partially this effect can be achieved by natural people – with the help of a certain diet.
Tell Sign #6. Rabid Vascularity
In thin people, the veins are clearly visible, for example, on the forearms and sometimes on the calves. But if swollen veins protrude all over the body – especially on the chest, back, and delts – this may indicate steroid use. They increase blood volume, especially by raising the levels of “dense” constituents (red blood cells and blood lipids).
Anadrol (oxymetholone), for example, was formulated to increase red blood cell production (treating anemia).
Thickening of blood, of course, puts more stress on the cardiovascular system, as well as the kidneys. The heart grows in size – a serious risk factor for CVD. This is one of the reasons many bodybuilders have blood tests done regularly.
A number of steroids (stanozolol, Masteron, Primobolan, Anavar, testosterone, etc.) can significantly increase blood lipid levels. This also makes the blood thicker and the veins larger.
Finally, high blood pressure can also increase the thickness of the veins. Steroids, which increase the sensitivity of beta-adrenergic receptors or retain water, also raise blood pressure.
#7. Obvious side effects/visual signs of steroid use
These include, for example, gynecomastia (breast enlargement in men) and severe acne (especially on the back and chest). However, not all “enhanced” athletes are faced with this.
Of course, other factors may be the cause of these manifestations: acne from skin problems and gynecomastia from too high estrogen levels.
Also, a number of steroids accelerate hair loss if you are genetically prone to it. But high levels of natural testosterone can also lead to this.
Having found one or two signs, do not rush to accuse the suspect of using illegal drugs. You have to understand that they are not equal.
Very serious evidence:
- Fast muscle gain
- Excessive muscle mass
- External side effects
- Disproportionate trapezoid / delts / neck (without special elaboration)
- Outrageous vascularity throughout the body
Medium and weak:
- Permanent pump
- Aggressive behavior
The combination of any of the two strongest traits with any other indicates the use of “roids.” But if none of the first pair is observed, then the rest must be collected as much as possible.
One final caveat
The juiced one may not have any of these symptoms if low doses of steroids are used.
Many natural-looking Instagram stars use a little bit just to add muscle to promote their business.
Also, some athletes who do not exercise with iron use doping to improve performance and accelerate recovery. A cyclist, for example, can use testosterone and growth hormone and weigh no more than 60 kg.
- Kadi F, Bonnerud P, Eriksson A, Thornell LE. The expression of androgen receptors in human neck and limb muscles: effects of training and self-administration of androgenic-anabolic steroids. Histochem Cell Biol. 2000 Jan;113(1):25-9
- Kaufman MJ, Janes AC, Hudson JI, et al. Brain and cognition abnormalities in long-term anabolic-androgenic steroid users. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;152:47-56
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