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Steroids 101: The What, Why, & How of Building Muscle With Testosterone

Steroids are a widely discussed topic in the weight lifting and bodybuilding world. If you’re trying to pack on muscle, chances are you have at least thought about using steroids—especially testosterone—to help supercharge your workout and get better results.

However, there is some stigma surrounding steroids and some negative stories about them. Plus, they sort of hover between legal and illegal because there are definitely some unsafe and risky steroids out there. And if not used properly, they can cause harmful side effects.

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That’s why it’s so important to do your research and learn everything you can about steroids before you decide whether or not they are right for you.

3D Testosteron Molecule

In this guide, we’ll talk about human growth hormones and anabolic steroids, with a special focus on testosterone. You’ll learn what they are, how they work, and how you can increase your levels to get the most results out of your workouts.

We’ll also give you some information about when, why, and how to start using supplements to boost your levels.

What Are Steroids Actually

Steroids are naturally occurring hormones in the body. There are many different steroids in your body that help regulate different processes. They control everything from your metabolism and immune system to water retention and hair growth.

Steroids Injection

When we think of steroids, most of us probably think about the synthetic ones that are used as medications and supplements. But they are actually naturally occurring. For example, the testicles in men and ovaries in women are where testosterone is produced.

So what is testosterone? Testosterone is responsible for both bone and muscle mass as well as body hair. Because of this, a lack of testosterone will make building muscle difficult and also put you at risk for osteoporosis as your bone density will be weakened.

Since it is one of the steroids responsible for muscle mass, many bodybuilders and other athletes will use it to help take their workout to the next level so that they can get more (and faster) results.

Another important steroid is the human growth hormone (hgh) which is produced in the pituitary gland that helps your body reproduce new cells to replace older, failing cells. In this way, it also contributes to muscle and bone growth because it helps build new cells here as well as the rest of the body.

Couple Using Growth Hormone Therapy

Because of this, many athletes will use hgh tablets or hgh shots to help give a healthy boost to their workout and pack on more muscle. Growth hormone naturally decreases with age so using growth hormone supplements becomes especially important as you get older.

Anabolic steroids is a term that refers specifically to the manufactured forms of hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone. They were developed to help treat various conditions—especially ones which are caused by a deficiency in the natural version of the hormone like low t.

But they are also used by some healthy athletes to help pack on muscle more efficiently. When used by healthy adults, caution is needed to make sure you don’t overdo it since there can be negative side effects when used excessively or incorrectly. We’ll talk more about this later in the article.

How to Increase Testosterone Levels Naturally

Testosterone is important but not everyone wants or needs to jump straight to medical solutions to boost their testosterone levels. For those with low T, testosterone therapy is necessary (see more on this below).

Man Lying Tired after Lifting Weights

However, for those with normal levels just looking to pack on some extra muscle and get more out of their workout, you may consider a few natural methods to increase testosterone before you decide whether or not you’re ready for testosterone shots or supplements.

Because your body naturally produces testosterone on your own, there are a few natural ways to stimulate testosterone production.

So, with that in mind, learn how to increase testosterone through dietary changes and other natural methods:

Increase Healthy Fats in Your Diet

Historically, fat has gotten a bad rap. We often make the common (but false) assumption that eating fat makes fat. But this is not true. Fats contain many important nutrients that your body needs and these nutrients are broken down and absorbed to build healthy muscle (as well as skin, hair, etc.).

Avocado Sliced on Half

By healthy fat, we mostly mean unsaturated fats but moderate saturated fats are also good for you. Basically, healthy fats are everything EXCEPT:

  • Trans fat – This is an unnatural, manufactured fat that shows up in heavily processed junk. When checking the ingredient list, if you see anything that says it is “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”, you’re consuming unhealthy, indigestible fats that WILL immediately be turned into fat in your body because your system simply doesn’t know what else to do with it.

So, with that clarification aside, why does healthy fat help with testosterone levels?

Studies have shown that high fat diets—we’re talking 50-70% fat here—are associated with improved testosterone levels. And more importantly, LOW fat diets—which are often recommended as “healthy”—are associated with measurable drops in testosterone levels.

This makes sense if you think about it. The strongest and most muscular and powerful species in the animal kingdom are those who eat almost exclusively protein and fat (think carnivores like wolves, lions, etc.).

Coconut Oil Next to Coconut Sliced on Half

Some great sources of healthy fat include:

  • Olive oil and other plant oils (almond, coconut, etc.). But avoid corn oil and the generic “vegetable oil”
  • Nuts like pecans, almonds, and walnuts.
  • Eggs
  • Avocadoes
  • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines.

Add More Zinc And Vitamin D to Your Diet

Both vitamin D and zinc have proven to be essential to maintaining healthy testosterone levels. Vitamin D is also known as the “steroid hormone” because your body needs it to produce testosterone.

Vitamin D Food

Zinc is a mineral that has shown to directly affect testosterone levels. A zinc deficiency can cause a significant drop in testosterone levels and increasing zinc in your diet can lead to dramatic improvements in a matter of weeks.

The absolute best way to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D is through sun exposure. There are supplements that can be helpful if sun exposure is not possible (like in winter or while on certain medications). However, if you are able to choose between the two, always choose sun exposure.

The standard recommendation is 20 minutes of sun per day. But it depends on the time of day and how much of your skin is actually exposed. If it’s not peak hours or you only have a small amount of skin exposed, you’ll need more than 20 minutes.

And don’t worry, you can (and should) use sunscreen. Sunscreen does not block your skin’s ability to produce vitamin D at all. And it DOES protect your skin from the harmful rays from the sun so you can get your vitamin D without increasing your risk for skin cancer.

As many as 45% of adults are not getting enough zinc in their diet. So that means it is very likely you are not getting enough and if that’s the case, your testosterone levels are definitely not as high as they could be.

Beans and Legumes in Spoon

Getting enough zinc can easily be done through a healthy diet, including foods like:

  • Meat and fish. High protein foods also tend to be high in zinc.
  • Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Beans and legumes

Unfortunately, zinc is very sensitive to heat so cooking these foods can dramatically reduce the amount of zinc you actually get out of it. So try to stick to raw or lightly cooked meals—sushi lovers will be happy to hear that! And if you’re not a fan of raw meat, focus on yogurt, cheese, and milk.

Change Up Your Workout Routine

The good news is that strength training already helps naturally boost testosterone levels. The more you use your muscles, the more your body realizes that it needs to ramp up its efforts to build even more muscle to meet the demands your placing on it.

Woman Doing Push Ups

To maximize the effectiveness of your routine for testosterone levels, follow these tips:

  • Go slowly. Rather than focusing on getting in as many reps as you can, it’s actually better to go as slow as you can. That doesn’t mean pause between each rep. It literally means perform the movement as slowly as possible. You will immediately notice the difference in intensity simply by slowing down the movement. This is because slow movements force your muscles to exercise greater control. They are forced to power the entire movement rather than relying on the momentum you build from speed.
  • Multi Joint Movements. Using free weights and focusing on exercises that work a variety of muscles (rather than isolating specific muscle groups or areas) has been shown to lead to more rapid testosterone boosts. Plus, it’s better for your muscles overall to be trained together rather than in isolation because, ultimately, they all need to work together to keep you going. Multi join exercises also have a lot of other advantages that make them far better than isolation exercises.
  • Take Shorter Rest Periods: long rest periods between sets or workouts may feel nice at the time but they actually lead to increased cortisol levels which leads to decreased testosterone levels (see the next section below about stress). You should limit rest periods to 1 minute and limit your total workout session to a max of 60 minutes.
  • Use High Intensity Interval Training. Limiting your workout to a shorter time period may sound like you’re limiting the amount of progress you can make. But this is not true. Using that time as effectively as possible will lead to better results than long, drawn workouts that trigger cortisol spikes. High intensity interval training focuses on alternating between short, explosive exercises and short rests (or less intensive exercise). These short high intensity periods will stimulate more testosterone production than a more moderate but longer exercise period. And it will help you progress faster because you are pushing yourself to your limits more often.

Lower Your Stress

You have probably heard plenty about the negative effects of stress on your body. It releases a hormone called cortisol. In normal doses, this hormone helps keep you alert and ready. But if you are often stressed out, it places strain on your system and starts to actually block testosterone.

Stress Free Zone Street Sign

We know this can be tough advice to follow. The more you learn about how terrible stress is for your body, the more stressed you get about it. But it is important to be aware of and to take active steps to reduce your stress levels so that you can increase your testosterone levels.

Unfortunately, what relaxes one person doesn’t always work for another. Some people swear by meditation while others find it impossibly dull and insufferable. So there is no single de-stressing technique we can recommend for you. But here are a few tips:

  • Carve out some “me” time every day. Even if that means waking up a little earlier or going to bed a little later, take at least 30 minutes to an hour each day to just do something you enjoy. That might be reading a book, doodling, taking a nap, going for a walk, or anything else that you enjoy.
  • Be solution oriented. We can’t avoid worrying about the problems in our life and simply trying to ignore them is not going to help. But there is a way to worry healthily. That is, instead of thinking about all the ways a problem is interfering with your life, focus on thinking of all the possible ways to resolve it. Simply thinking in this more constructive way will help to reduce the amount of stress that is triggered in your body when you think about it.
  • Decrease sugar intake: sugar destabilizes your blood sugar levels. It sends you on a roller coaster of rapid spikes and crashes in energy levels and this causes both physical and mental stress. Stable blood sugar levels help you avoid mood swings and get through the day with less stress. Replace your sugary snacks with high fat, high protein snacks (like nuts, seeds, and whole grains) to help stabilize blood sugar between meals and avoid giving in to your sugar cravings.

Cut Out Sugar

Sugar is one of the worst things you can eat. It wreaks absolute havoc on your metabolism and blood sugar levels. But it also sends your insulin levels sky high and high insulin levels directly lead to decreased testosterone levels because the insulin stops the testosterone from working.

Woman Closed Her Mouth while Holding Sugar in Spoon

So even if you are taking testosterone supplements, a sugary diet is going to severely limit the effectiveness of those supplements. That means that no matter what you need to cut out sugar (or at least drastically cut down how much you consume).

This can be more difficult than you think because there is hidden sugar in a lot of foods. It’s not as simple as cutting out sweets because some manufacturers load sugar into foods you might not expect it to be in (like bread, canned veggies, etc.).

You need to read labels on everything. And you should also focus on eating a whole foods diet of fresh ingredients with nothing added as much as possible.

If you’ve got a serious sweet tooth, you can curb your intake by increasing the amount of healthy fats in your diet. Not only do healthy fats help boost testosterone (as mentioned above), but a diet rich in fats will actually help to decrease your cravings for sweets because your body feels more satisfied and nourished. Plus, fatty foods are very flavorful so they satisfy your craving for rich, flavorful foods.

Increase Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein which is the main ingredient in building muscle. This particular group of branched chain amino acids (leucine, valine, and isoleucine) has been shown in some scientific studies to help reduce damage to your muscles caused by your workout routine.

Man Resting on Couch

As most strength trainers and bodybuilders know, muscles naturally tear and experience some breakup during a workout routine. This is part of the process of building muscle. The old must tear because it triggers a repair process that builds up even more muscle than was there before.

However, too much damage can force you to take long rest periods between workouts as you wait for the soreness to go away and the muscle to repair. So ramping up the amount of BCAAs in your diet is a great way to speed up the repair process so that you can fit in more workouts without the risk of causing serious damage.

Upping your BCAA intake is especially important if you plan to follow the advice above about shortening rest periods. While it’s important to push your body to go farther, it’s also important that you do this safely because serious damage could force you into taking an extended break and that will kill the progress you’ve been working so hard to achieve.

You can boost your BCAA intake by eating more foods like:

Three Whey Protein Tanks

  • Whey protein: this is a milk protein found in dairy products like cheese (but not that highly processed stuff, the real, quality cheeses). It’s also often added to muscle building protein shake formulas.
  • Healthy Lean Meats: chicken, turkey, and salmon are some of the best foods you can eat if you’re trying to build muscle. They contain complete proteins and lots of them. Complete proteins refer to proteins that have all 9 essential amino acids (including the 3 that fall into the BCAA group).
  • Eggs: like meat, eggs are an excellent source of protein, including your BCAAs. They’re also powerhouses of other important nutrients (like zinc!).
  • Plant sources: protein rich plant foods (like nuts, legumes, and grains) do exist but if you’re vegetarian or just trying to maximize protein in every ingredient on your plate, you have to keep in mind that many plant sources don’t contain all 9 essential amino acids. You need to consciously combine two or more plant sources to create a “complete protein” that has your BCAAs along with all the other essential amino acids. A common way to do this is to combine legumes and whole grains. Think peanut butter (natural, sugar and corn syrup free) on whole grain toast or beans and brown rice.

You will also see supplements for BCAA on the market but you should use these with caution. When BCAA is free form (not embedded in food), your body absorbs it very rapidly and this can mess up your metabolism and destabilize blood sugar levels.

To be on the safe side, stick with BCAA rich foods and if you do take a supplement, be very conservative with doses and always take it with a full meal to help slow down the absorption rate to a safe level.

Why Use Testosterone Supplements

By about 30 years old, your testosterone levels naturally begin to decline. Even if with the perfect diet and exercise level to maintain them, you can’t always fight off this simple fact of growing older.

Supplements in Pills and Injection

This is where a testosterone enhancer can really make the difference. The gap that you can’t seem to fill no matter how much you stress about making the right diet and exercise choices can be safely and effectively bridged by supplementing.

This is similar to taking a vitamin supplement when you are struggling to get enough of the nutrient through your diet. Just as it becomes more and more important to take calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis as you get older, testosterone and other anabolic steroid supplements can be extremely beneficial to maintaining your health throughout your life.

Symptoms of Low Testosterone

Having low testosterone is a major limitation on your ability to build muscle. You could eat all the protein in the world and it still wouldn’t make up for not having enough testosterone to make use of it.

So let’s take a look at the symptoms so you can see whether or not you might be dealing with low testosterone.

Low Testosterone Symptoms in Men

While it is certainly a problem in women as well, men produce (and need) much, much more testosterone than women do. This makes low testosterone in men more dramatic and more noticeable. Check for the following low testosterone symptoms:

Brushnig Bold Hair

  • Sexual functions: if you’ve noticed a decrease in sexual desire or erections, you may be dealing with low t.
  • Infertility or low fertility: testosterone is needed to produce sperm. If you’ve been diagnosed with a low sperm count, you should consider getting your testosterone levels tested to see if that may be the cause.
  • Increased body fat: if you’ve gained a lot of body fat recently, it could be the result of low t. If you have been overweight for a long time, that can actually be a cause of low t. So in either case, excess body fat is a potential sign of low t.
  • Decreased body hair. Testosterone and other growth hormones are responsible for encouraging body hair growth. If your body hair has been thinning out, this may be a sign of low testosterone.
  • Difficulty sleeping: if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, this may be a result of low t.
  • Mood change. Testosterone is a hormone that helps keep you feeling motivated and confident. When levels drop too low, it leads to feelings of depression, irritability, and fatigue.

Low Testosterone Symptoms in Women

Women can also suffer from low testosterone. Although they need much less than men do, they do still need some and if they aren’t producing enough, it can lead to disruptive symptoms like:

Woman Zipping Tight Pants

  • Fatigue: testosterone helps keep your energy levels up. If you often feel drained or unmotivated, it could be a symptom of low t.
  • Weight gain: as in men, low t can be both cause and symptom of excess body fat. If you’re struggling with weight, it is worth getting your testosterone levels checked to see if this could be one of the factors preventing you from shedding those extra pounds.
  • Decreased sex drive: there are a few hormones that play a role in female sex drive. Testosterone is one of them. If you’ve noticed a decrease in your sex drive, you should get your hormone levels checked (including your testosterone).
  • Osteoperosis: this is a form of bone deterioration that can happen for a variety of reasons. Women are particularly prone to getting it. While it doesn’t usually start to appear until you get older, you need to take active steps to prevent it as early as possible by making sure your testosterone levels are stable (and making sure you get enough calcium and magnesium in your diet).
  • Irregular menstrual cycle: your menstrual cycle is a great indicator of your body’s health, especially when it comes to hormones. If it’s regular and consistent, that is a good sign that your hormones are all in order and stable. If it’s irregular and inconsistent, it’s almost certainly a sign of hormone imbalance, including the possibility of low t.
  • Hair loss: testosterone is one of the hormones responsible for triggering hair growth. Low t can actually cause baldness or patchy hair coverage in women. It can also decrease hair growth on the rest of the body but this is usually less noticeable since many women shave or wax anyway.

Woman Holding a Hourglass

Unfortunately, less research and testing has been done for testosterone treatments in women. And getting too much testosterone can cause undesirable effects in women so supplements can be a risky venture.

If you’re a woman and considering testosterone treatments, consult your doctor and definitely start with much lower doses because you don’t need nearly as much to reach stable levels as men do.

You also need to keep a close watch on the symptoms and side effects to make sure it isn’t adversely affecting you in any way. Read more about the effects of testosterone and other steroids on your body in the next section below.

How Anabolic Steroids Affect Your Body

There are many benefits to using steroids to supercharge your workout and get great results. But there are also some potential risks when used incorrectly (or when you buy from a disreputable source and don’t know the quality of your product). So let’s talk about the different effects steroids can have on your body (the good and the potentially bad).

The Benefits of Using Steroids

When you buy high quality steroids and use them in a safe and smart way, they can have many positive effects including:

Strong Man with a Dumbbell

  • Increase lean muscle mass: the most desirable effect of steroid use is the muscle mass. You will pack on muscle faster and more effectively so you can achieve the sculpted figure you have been working so hard to get. While some muscle mass will start to appear even without exercise, it’s not recommended to use steroids a lone. You want to train that new muscle. And if you truly want to bulk up, you need to be following a strict routine—including eating a healthy, high-protein diet to nourish those new muscles.
  • Improve performance: steroids help with cell growth as well, including red blood cells, which are necessary for carrying oxygen to your muscles. With more oxygen being delivered to your muscles, they will not fatigue as quickly so you will notice a dramatic improvement in your endurance so you can train harder and longer—which will help lead to even better and faster results.
  • Reduce recovery time: steroids can help lower recovery time because your muscles are able to repair themselves more quickly. It also lowers cortisol levels (a stress hormone which causes damage to your muscle tissue). That means they don’t get as severely damaged from training and they heal what little damage there is more quickly. The result being that you can not only train harder but more often, again leading to harder and faster results.
  • Improved libido: this doesn’t really do anything to help your workout exactly but it is a positive side effect worth mentioning—especially if you have been struggling with a decreased sex drive recently.

The Risks of Using Steroids

When you don’t do your research and end up buying low quality steroids or you use them incorrectly (or excessively), you put yourself at risk for some serious problems including:

Agressive Man Shouting

  • Increased aggression: “roid rage” is a widely known side effect of steroid use. You’ll need to take steps to watch out for and control this extra aggression.
  • Infertility: this is a potential side effect of steroid use since it lowers sperm count and can sometimes cause painful erections. With long term use, it can also cause testicular atrophy (where the glands in the testicles stop working altogether, producing no sperm or testosterone or anything else).
  • Testicular Shrinkage: with long term use, there will be shrinkage. This is why cycling is important and why you should limit use. Don’t make steroids a long term part of your routine.
  • Liver Damage: this typically occurs with pills/tablets because the liver has to try hard to filter them. You need to very carefully regulate doses with pills/tablets (just as you do with injections) to help minimize the damage to your liver.
  • Death: this occurs when you use too high of doses or buy from unsafe sources. This is why it’s so important to carefully regulate use so that you are doing it safely.

How to Buy Legal Testosterone Safely

As you can see, there are some serious risks that can be associated with steroids. Because of those risks, it’s extremely important to buy testosterone and other steroids from safe, legal sellers who guarantee the highest quality.

Legal Steroids Bottle Next to Weights

  • Do your research. There are a lot scams out there online and in person. A lot. If you find a site that seems like the real deal, do additional research to see reviews and find out what kind of experiences others have had with it.
  • Buy a small test batch first. Before you blow hundreds on steroids that end up being fake (or a scam where you don’t even get anything in return), order a small test batch to make sure it’s the real deal.
  • Ask around. Talk to people you trust at the gym, go on forums online, and find out what real people with real experiences say. These are often more reliable sources of information.

How to Use Testosterone Safely

Even after buying high quality and safe steroids, you still need to make sure you are using it properly. You want to maximize the positive, muscle building effects while minimizing the negative effects. So here are a few tips for taking depo testosterone and other forms of supplement:

Injecting Steroids in Arm

  • Wait until you are 21 or older. If you start them too young, you will stunt your natural growth process which will end up preventing you from packing on as much mass as you want in the long run. So, until you are 21, stick with a steroid free routine. You should still train hard but just hold off on the supplements.
  • Train first, steroids later. 21 years old is not just some magic age at which you should immediately start taking steroids. If you haven’t been training hard until then, you should wait even longer to start a course of steroids. You should be following a rigorous diet and training routine for at least a year before you start steroids. This is because a) you want to be sure you are actually committed to sticking with it; b) you want to have a good idea of what your body can accomplish by itself, and; c) you want to be very knowledgeable in diet and training methods so you know you are making the most of these before you decide on whether or not you need steroids.
  • Decide on injections or pills/tablets. Each come with their own risks. Pills and tablets tend to be very harsh on the liver but if injections are done incorrectly and enter the blood stream (instead of the muscle tissue), they can cause serious injury (possibly death). Do your research. Learn all of the risks of each and consider your own medical history when deciding which is the better option for you.
  • Practice safe technique. With injections, you need to be completely sterile. Don’t share needles. Don’t use un-sanitized needles. Store your equipment in a safe, sterile place. When using pills or tablets, monitor dosage carefully to make sure you aren’t overstressing your system.
  • Monitor results. Track your progress closely. You want to make sure that the steroids are working at a safe and effective rate and, more importantly, that they are providing better results than what you would be getting without.
  • Use cycling. Start an 8-12 week cycle in which you alternate which steroids you use and also incorporate an off-cycle (no steroids) period. You can learn more about this on our website.

Bodybuilder Showing Muscles

Final Word

So, as you can see, taking anabolic steroids like testosterone or human growth hormone can be an excellent way to take your workout to the next level and pack on the kind of muscle mass you have been working so hard to get.

However, there are definitely important considerations you need to make before you decide to supplement. There are risks when buying steroids, especially online and there are risks even when you have safe, high quality steroids if you don’t make sure you are using them correctly. So make sure you are well-informed before you start adding any kind of steroid supplements to your routine.

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