Healthy Alternatives to Steroids
In October 2004 the United States congress passed a law that amended the controlled substance act to make anabolic steroids, Androstenedione (Andro) and other pro-hormones illegal. At this time there are over 100 different types of anabolic steroids produced and each of them requires a prescription to be legal.
For people who are true bodybuilders, weekend warriors or just want to stay in shape and work out regularly, there are other and healthier choices to steroids.
Ephedra, also known as ma huang, is an herb and was marketed as a weight loss supplement and a performance-enhancing supplement. The FDA initially tried to ban this supplement, a large lobbying effort kept it from being banned in 2000 when the FDA withdrew. Then in 2002 a Minnesota Vikings football player and in 2003 a Baltimore Orioles pitcher died and ephedra played a role in their deaths, the FDA once again proposed a ban, which was upheld by a US court in 2006. A so-called legal ephedra is actually the extract of bitter orange, which has synephrine and is similar to ephedrine and has similar risks as ephedra including the risk of strokes, high blood pressure and heart palpitations. It is sold as a weight loss supplement. This type of supplement might be used for increased endurance and weight loss, not building muscles. I have personally known people who ended up with heart problems because of using ephedra.
Legal and healthier alternatives to Steroids
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid, which is necessary for the body to function properly and another health alternative to steroids. The body produces creatine but can also be supplied through food sources. Creatine has been shown to increase athletic performance for short bursts but has not been shown to increase endurance. It can build muscle mass by increasing the size or volume of muscle cells. Creatine with quick energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) can permit more repetitions creating larger muscles. Creatine is not regulated, so the product you could be buying has not been checked for purity and safe dosages. Some side effects are abdominal pain, water retention and diarrhea. Studies have also shown that high dosages could possibly lead to liver, kidney and heart damage. When teenagers supplement their own body’s creatine levels, it is possible that the body itself would stop making its own creatine, leading to growth problems. You can buy creatine at places like GNC.
DHEA is a hormone that is made by the adrenal glands. Synthetic DHEA is made from the roots of wild yams and was exempt from the 2004 law that outlawed the anabolic steroids and other precursors. DHEA is legal and can be sold as a dietary supplement. Studies show that DHEA can be helpful in adrenal insufficiency, depression and systemic lupus. There is a lack of studies showing what the long-term effects might be. DHEA could theoretically increase the risk of prostate, ovarian and other hormone sensitive cancers. DHEA can be synthesized using wild yam extract, it is not believed that the body can convert wild yam to DHEA though. The side effects can be facial hair growth in women, negative mood changes and skin problems. If your doctor says you are low in DHEA than it could help you, if you are not low, then it could cause more harm than good. For teens the side effect can be like with creatine, it could actually stunt the growth of a teenager. You can buy DHEA at vitamins shops such as GNC.
AndrosteDerm is another possible healthy alternative to anabolic steroids claims to help keep the testosterone level at a healthy rate. It is topically applied and it bypasses the digestive system. People with cancer shouldn’t use it and men over 50 should monitor their prostate considering this is a hormone product.
Protein powders are probably the healthiest choice, and with the least amount if any side effects. You can get them made with whey or soy. Whey is the better of the two but for those who are strict vegans or have a problem with lactose, soy is a good alternative. Recently the US Air Force has done studies using specialized whey protein powder to find out if there was a supplement that would keep pilots mentally and physically alert. The Air Force verified previously done studies using leg extension machines and verified that these supplements did build strength and muscle mass. I have also heard of a very good protein powder from Xtremeperformance.com.
Amino acid supplement
L-Glutamine is another healthy alternative to steroids and a great contributor to muscle cell volume. It regulates the protein synthesis much the same way a steroid would. And it also helps muscles to recuperate faster after workouts. There doesn’t appear to be any negative side effects other than stomach discomfort while the body gets used to this supplement. It was recommended to take this supplement with the protein powder about 20 minutes after a workout. Recommended brands are Prolab, EAS, Champion Nutrition, Beverly International, Met-Rx, Labrada.
There are healthier alternatives to steroids but they should all be investigated, especially for purity and dosage. Bodybuilding websites can be a great source of information and some of them have forums where you can read what supplements they take and ask your own questions. Here is a review of Muscle & Strength, one such website with a great deal of supplements for sale and information.
Sam Montana © 05 February 2009
US Drug Enforcement Agency
US Food and Drug Administration