When you’re a female weightlifter and you’ve got muscle mass on the mind, it can be easy to fall into the temptation of performance-enhancing drugs. But there is a dark and dangerous side to this shortcut: steroids side effects in females.
Weightlifting is no longer a male-dominated sport as women continue to join bodybuilding, CrossFit, and powerlifting, setting new records in popular competitions. The quest for greatness is shared by both sexes, making women just as susceptible to the temptation of anabolic steroids as men. While performance-enhancing drugs can help with muscle growth and recovery, women who take steroids put themselves at risk for several serious side effects.
Let’s review steroids side effects in females and some natural alternatives that can produce equal results without the risk. What Are Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids, also referred to as “roids,” are a man-made compound that mimic the male sex hormone, testosterone. This synthetic creation of testosterone captures both the anabolic and androgenic benefits of the hormone.
Anabolic refers to the growth in muscle tissue, which is the primary reason why steroids are used by men and women. Androgenic, on the other hand, refers to the male characteristics that develop during puberty including hair growth, a deeper voice, and acne. This is where the effects of steroids on women can become problematic. History of Anabolic Steroid Use by Women Bodybuilders
After the isolation of testosterone, and the subsequent creation of synthetic testosterone in the 1930s, it wasn’t long before the latter was being used in performance-focused sports with an emphasis on bodybuilding.
Starting in the 1950s, the use of anabolic steroids was only done by men. Aesthetically, women did not have an interest in that bulky or muscular look. It wasn’t until after the post-feminist movement in the 1980s when females began to enter competitive bodybuilding that the number of females on steroids increased.
Since then, with the popularity of performance and physique-focused events like Mr. Olympia and the CrossFit Games, the number of females using steroids has continued to grow, and with it, the number of cases of side effects of steroids in women. Why Some Female Bodybuilders Use Steroids?
There are two sex hormones present in men and women, testosterone and estrogen, but each sex has more of one over the other. Men naturally have more testosterone and women have more estrogen.
While the characteristics of testosterone include facial hair, a deep voice, and larger muscle tissue, estrogen promotes the complete opposite. Higher estrogen levels are associated with no or very little facial hair, a higher-pitched voice, and more body fat, especially in the hips, thighs, and breasts.
The primary reason that some female bodybuilders turn to steroids is because of the proven effect of increasing muscle mass via boosting testosterone levels that studies have demonstrated time and time again. Risks and Side Effects of Steroids for Women
When testosterone levels become higher than estrogen levels, women will achieve their primary goal of more lean muscle tissue and less fat. However, a few other changes will occur, most of which are harmful to short-term and long-term health. Here are the most common steroid side effects in females: Female Virilization
Hands down, the most common female steroids side effect is female virilization; or the development of male characteristics. As we discussed above, high levels of testosterone are associated exclusively with masculine traits, and larger muscles are only one part of the bigger picture.
Studies show that women who take steroids will often notice several of the following symptoms occurring simultaneously:
Short-term Side Effects
- Acne, especially on the face, chest, and back
- Facial hair, especially on the chin and upper lip
- Receding hairline (also known as male pattern baldness)
- Deepening of the voice
- Breast size decreases
- Clitoris enlarges
- Menstrual cycles become irregular or disappear
Females on steroids will notice both short-term and long-term side effects, especially if multiple cycles are used. Short-term side effects will include those we mentioned above such as acne, receding hairline, and deepening of the voice, but women can also expect the following:
Long-term Side Effects
- Mood swings, especially aggression · Insomnia (studiesshow high levels of testosterone correlate with sleep disorders) · Irregular appetite · Periods of intense restlessness followed by extreme fatigue
Using steroids over an extended period of time can result in irreversible damage to the organs and female reproductive system.
Liver Damage: The liver is where blood is filtered before being sent through the rest of the body. Taking anabolic steroids puts an enormous strain on the liver, which requires a post-cycle therapy (PCT) supplement that focuses on liver health. Over time, a PCT isn’t enough, and the liver damage becomes permanent, potentially requiring a transplant.
: Just like the liver, the kidneys are also responsible for removing waste and toxins from the body. Anabolic steroids are recognized as a toxin and are filtered through the kidneys and liver. If a woman takes steroids over a long period of time, kidney damage may be inevitable, resulting in failure of one or both kidneys. Cardiovascular Damage
: For decades, researchers have warned steroid users that synthetic testosterone can weaken the heart, increasing the risk of stroke or heart failure. New studies show that the damage to the heart is worse than originally thought. Specifically, anabolic steroids significantly weaken the left ventricle of the heart, which is primarily responsible for pumping blood throughout the body.Mental & Emotional Side Effects
When testosterone levels are increased far above normal levels, mood swings become commonplace. Aggression is the most reported symptom in both men and women. But over the long-term, fluctuations in your mental state can occur. Aside from aggression, women who take steroids may also experience feelings of paranoia, or delusions of invincibility. Physical Side Effects
The most noticeable physical side effects of steroids for female users are going to be excessive acne and accompanying acne scarring, facial hair, and changes in the hairline, usually receding in the front. Less obvious physical side effects involve uncontrollable muscle trembling or tremors. You may notice that the muscle contracts or shakes on its own and no amount of stretching can help.Other Options and Alternatives
We understand that the desire to build lean and strong muscle mass can tempt you to take potentially harmful shortcuts. We want to see you build muscle safely, but that doesn’t mean you have to take the long road. Here are some alternative and all-natural supplements for muscle building that can complement any bodybuilding, powerlifting, or CrossFit workout routine. Creatine
: A classic bodybuilding supplement, creatine has been used for decades to support strength gains and muscle building. Creatine once had a bad rap due to reports of bloating and kidney damage, but supplement technology has come a long way. Bloating is no longer an issue due to the development of micronized creatine, and reports of kidney damage were exaggerated from the beginning. In other words, you have nothing to worry about, but remember to drink plenty of water when taking it. Studies show that creatine can increase intra-workout strength output, helping to achieve more overall volume to trigger muscular hypertrophy or growth. Whey Protein
: Easily the most popular supplement regardless of your fitness goal, whey protein contains amino acids, the building blocks of muscle tissue. It’s an essential supplement to use if you want to build muscle or support muscle recovery. We recommend using Anadrole, which contains whey protein concentrate. Many users say that Anadrole mimics the effects of Oxymetholone (also known as Anadrol), considered to be one of the most powerful anabolic steroids on the market. The best part: no side effects. Branched-Chain Amino Acids
: Three amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine – have been found to be particularly useful for fitness goals. These three essential amino acids can help to increase protein synthesis, which is the creation of muscle protein. Studies show that BCAAs can increase muscle growth while protecting current muscle tissue from breakdown. For example, if you’re on a low-calorie diet or performing a workout while fasted, BCAAs can ensure muscle tissue isn’t used as fuel.
Steroids side effects in females are unavoidable. Whether you take one or several cycles, any woman using steroids is going to experience some degree of side effects such as acne, mood swings, decreasing breast size, and balding.
The long-term health damage caused by anabolic steroids isn’t worth the price. Consider using natural alternative supplements such as creatine and whey protein to support your fitness goals. It might take longer, but you won’t have to worry about long-term consequences.