This question may raise some eyebrows and understandably so, as to the average Joe, testosterone and steroids are one and the same thing, but are they?! For most people steroids for bodybuilding are designed to achieve one main thing and that is to boost the body with exogenous testosterone to promote both bulking and performance enhancing gains.
So it goes without saying that for the uninitiated, all steroids consist of one form of exogenous testosterone or another with each offering similar bodybuilding results to users. However, this assertion cannot be farther from the truth and this lends itself to the question of which is better; testosterone or steroids.
In this post, we start by breaking down the difference between steroids and testosterone. This will be followed by highlighting their benefits as well as side effects before we round up with our opinion of which is better.
What are Androgenic-anabolic Steroids?
To start with, the first thing that comes to mind when the word “steroid” is mentioned is illegality. But not all steroids are illegal. Corticosteroids are often prescribed by medical doctors for treating a host of ailments. Notwithstanding, for the purpose of this article, the steroid in question is not Corticosteroids, but androgenic-anabolic steroids or AAS.
Typically, AAS offer users an opportunity for muscle building gains by stimulating the body with exogenous testosterone. This exogenous testosterone replaces the body’s natural production of testosterone and in fact raises the level beyond what can be considered as normal.
This provides users with gains synonymous with male-related characteristics. Steroids are able to do this by influencing several hormonal activities in the body, such as; increases in the body’s Insulin growth hormone factor (IGF-1), protein synthesis, metabolism, red blood cell (RBC) count and so on.
All these activities provide anabolic benefits to steroid users resulting in impressive bodybuilding goals. Steroids are synthetic testosterone compounds made by pharmaceutical companies and underground laboratories with bodybuilders able to secure unprescribed anabolic steroids for sale from both online and land-based sources.
But while anabolic steroid use can offer a tremendous amount of bodybuilding benefits to users, it could also be a cause for concern due to the proliferation of adulterated and/or fake anabolic steroids in both the open and black market.
Steroids are often used by bodybuilders for two primary purposes, namely; cutting (fat reduction) and bulking (skeletal muscle building).
Anabolic steroids like any other drug or prescribed medication do have side effects and the level of such side effects are often determined by a wide array of factors including the genetic make-up and tolerance level of the user, the length of usage and dosage, the lifestyle and diet of the user during steroid use, amongst other factors.
What is Testosterone?
When it comes to testosterone, it is important to note that the human body produces substantial amounts of this hormone. As a matter of fact, this hormone is produced by the testicles in men and hence why it is often called a “male sex hormone”.
Natural testosterone offers several health benefits, but testosterone is usually higher in adolescence up to the early stages of adulthood, but subsequently declines with age.
It is at this point that the use of exogenous testosterone by way of anabolic steroid use comes to mind. Persons with a lower than normal level of endogenous testosterone may seek medical prescription for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
This is where a patient with visibly low levels of endogenous testosterone is prescribed an exogenous testosterone cycle and dosage to raise their testosterone levels and improve their health in the process.
The exogenous testosterone prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner can involve the use of safe dosages of known anabolic steroids comprising of moderate to high levels of exogenous testosterone.
But while steroids for bodybuilding often involves the use of high levels of exogenous testosterone for both physical and performance enhancing gains, TRT would normally just involve the use of exogenous testosterone to attain relatively normal or optimal levels of testosterone in patients with extremely low levels.
Testosterone vs Steroids: What are the Possible Side Effects & Expected Benefits?
Now that you have a basic knowledge of anabolic steroids and testosterone with regards to what they are, you might be wondering what their side effects and benefits may be. Well, for starters, you should know that the side effects experienced from using steroids for bodybuilding would differ from person to person for several reasons.
Some of these reasons include:
- Genetics: People generally react to steroid use in different ways due to our different genetic make-up.
- Steroid type: The potency of steroids differ. Trenbolone for example, is known to have a very high level of exogenous testosterone compound compared to other similar steroids. So it goes without saying that using steroids with high testosterone compounds would increase a person’s risk of side effects compared to someone that uses steroids of less potency.
- Cycling: Another way that side effects can either be mild or exaggerated with steroid use has to do with cycling. A lengthy cycle would inevitably lead to increased risk of side effects.
- Dosage: The dosage used when cycling on steroids or even during TRT can also play a role in determining the severity of side effects experienced by steroid users and patients.
- Abuse or misuse: This also goes in line with the cycling and dosage, if the medicated drugs used in TRT or the dosage of steroids for bodybuilding are abused or misused, then the abuser is more than likely to experience harsh side effects as a consequence.
- Genuineness of steroids: In the case of buying steroids from unverifiable sources online, users may expose themselves to fake or adulterated products which may have far reaching health implications.
With prescribed TRT, patients can expect to experience little or no side effects, as the treatment is designed basically to bring their testosterone levels to a normal state. And the benefits of TRT are enormous and they include:
- Improved sex drive
- Resolving issues with erectile dysfunction
- Improved weight and muscle gains
- Relief from mental health challenges including anxiety, irritability, and depression
- Less fatigue concerns
- Improved sleep patterns
- Improvements in urinary tract and bladder
With anabolic steroids use, you potentially have side effects, such as:
- Mental health challenges including depression, anxiety and mood swings
- Increased aggression also known as “roid rage”
- Gynecomastia or male boobs
- Steroid induced acne
- Low sperm count
- Cardiovascular concerns
- Liver toxicity
- Virilization side effects in women including Increased body/facial hair, enlarged clitoris, breast atrophy, deepened voice, and so on
Exogenous testosterone online may pose some health risks to users, but they also offer a tremendous amount of bodybuilding benefits including:
- Increased energy levels
- Increased strength
- Increased muscle gains
- Improved bone density
- Quick recovery from muscle and bone injuries
- Increased metabolism and fat reduction benefits
- Improved stamina and endurance levels due to increased RBC
Which is Better Testosterone or Androgenic-anabolic Steroids?
This question is neither here nor there and the best answer is; it depends! It all depends on the purpose of use. For example, a person with low testosterone levels can say that a medicated TRT is better than self-prescribed steroid use, as the medically prescribed exogenous testosterone dosage would be designed in such a way to meet the optimal required levels of the patient.
Whereas, bodybuilders looking for skeletal muscle and performance enhancing gains would not find the TRT prescribed dosage as effective for their bodybuilding needs. In this case, steroids for bodybuilding providing moderate to high levels of exogenous testosterone would suffice in order to achieve set bodybuilding goals.
Also, persons wishing for little to no side effects would find TRT as an ideal treatment for their low testosterone levels. However, bodybuilders wishing to run extensive cycles of exogenous testosterone can expect to anticipate some level of side effects from their use of steroids.
Steroids for bodybuilding are great if taken with the greatest amount of care and recognition of the possible side effects that users may be exposed to. Testosterone is a naturally produced hormone that can be augmented with exogenous testosterone in situations where a person has low levels. This is done on prescription during TRT and oftentimes doctors recommend safe exogenous testosterone use to minimize side effects.
If you want to run a bulking or cutting steroid cycle, you are advised to consult with a well trained and experienced personal coach that would recommend a cycle and dosage that is safe while at the same time providing you with the bodybuilding gains that align with your bodybuilding goals.