Last Updated on March 20, 2020

steroidsA Quick History on Steroids (and a Few Alternatives)

You must have heard stories of stacking where a bodybuilder injects different kinds of steroids, over a period of time, to enhance skeletal structure and androgenic muscle mass. Back in the day, anabolic steroids were all the rage. But today, a number of these substances have been banned, leading to a host of alternatives as well as a hefty dose of skepticism surrounding steroid use.

Here’s what you need to know about the rise of anabolic steroids, and a few legal, safer alternatives.

A rapid-fire history of anabolic steroids

Anabolic steroids are synthetically produced to mimic testosterone, and other growth hormones, that our bodies produce naturally. Anabolic steroids are illegal.

In the late 1930s, anabolic steroids were developed to treat natural testosterone deficiency. Cut to World War II, and fatigued soldiers were administered steroids to boost performance and gain weight. When Soviet wrestlers took the 1956 Olympics by storm with testosterone shots, it led the American Dr. Ziegler to explore and tweak them in his lab. This produced anabolic steroids that wrestlers and athletes soon began stacking up on.

The Olympic Committee banned steroid usage in 1975, and a couple of years later certain anabolic steroids were labeled Schedule III drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.

Steroids can deliver more-than-wholesome biceps and abs, but the physiological effects can be detrimental in the long run. Here are some well-documented side effects of steroid use.

  • One study among male bodybuilders found that a number of them experienced testicular shrinkage and breast development. While the former is reversible, the latter, if dealt with too late, could be permanent. This happens because of hormonal imbalances triggered by steroid abuse.
  • An increase in cholesterol levels, blood clotting and arterial clogging are other side effects linked to irresponsible steroid usage.
  • Oily hair and skin, acne and boils are minor issues that can crop up with steroid use.   

So where does that leave you on your quest for bigger muscles? Steroids, like any other supplement out there, can have nasty side effects when used in excess. That’s where steroid alternatives come in to save the day.

The rise of legal steroid alternatives

Legal steroid alternatives are designed to mimic the effects of steroids, minus the harmful side effects. Of course, you still need to be disciplined when it comes to dosage, and there’s no substitute for healthy nutrition and a streamlined workout regimen. The best way to ensure maximum gains and reduced side effects is to adopt a cyclic steroid consumption plan. For instance, if you use steroid alternatives for a couple of weeks, make sure you stay away from them for the same amount of time.

Most gym rookies make the mistake of blindly selecting a steroid alternative because they know other bodybuilders who are using it. To make the best choice, you need to know the ingredients and benefits of the main alt-steroids.


  • L-leucine: The main benefit of L-leucine is that it helps maintain muscle mass. This branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) boosts protein synthesis of skeletal muscle and could promote weight loss. Anabolism is supported by eating and working out right. The addition of leucine promotes muscle growth. One study found that participants 28-30 years old who ingested leucine experienced a spike in muscle protein synthesis.



  • L-isoleucine: Isoleucine is vital when it comes to the proteins that help build muscle. This process is known as proteinogenesis, during which isoleucine acts as the building blocks upon which protein is shaped into mass. Isoleucine is also responsible for triggering the creation of various hormones and certain antibodies that keep your immune system in a healthy state.



  • L-valine: Valine is known for increasing energy and keeping fatigue at bay. If you want to prevent muscle wastage during and after workouts, valine and the other BCAAs are your best bet. Valine is also known to enhance lipid oxidation, which helps break down fatty acids.


Since anabolic steroids are out of the question, look for substitutes that can help you build muscle mass without breaking any laws or inviting physical complications. If you’re aware of the ingredients that go into your steroid alternative, you’re on the right track towards becoming ripped.

The murky history of steroids makes it seem like the bad boy of bodybuilding supplements. However, with scientific advancement, there are products that can side-step the negatives. If you’re aiming for that muscular look, choose steroid alternatives that have ingredients that are well documented and reviewed.

There’s a fine line between bodybuilders who care about their health as much as their appearance and ones who are looking for a shortcut to that jacked-up physique. Make sure you’re the former, not the latter.      

Cory is a veteran health industry writer and content creator. His work has been featured in major publications such as MyFitnessPal, Healthy Living, and Low Carb Fanatics. His health industry writing career spans over nearly two decades.

In his free time, Cory enjoys snowboarding, fictional writing, and online chess.