Due to the immense power of social media, more men and women are seeking to enhance their physical shape and are pursuing bodybuilding.
Such pressure to look like online fitness idols has led to increasingly more people taking shortcuts, in order to achieve their dream body.
As a result there is a current steroid epidemic -- with statistics showing over 3% of people in the world have taken steroids during their lifetime. This statistic becomes even more significant for men alone -- jumping up to over 6%.
Steroids are even more rife in competitive bodybuilding, with a Kansas and Missouri study discovering that 54% of male competitive bodybuilders take them -- with 10% of females following suit. However, if you were to test professional bodybuilders at elite level these numbers would inflate dramatically; with IFBB pros well-known for taking large amounts of AAS (anabolic androgenic steroids).
Thus, it's evident that drug-use is on the rise not only for the average person, but also in competitive bodybuilding. Many believe this is why bodybuilding will never be accepted as a mainstream elite sport, due to the blatant 'cutting of corners' that may tarnish companies' names who decide to broadcast Mr Olympia competitions.
Why do Bodybuilders Take Steroids?
The most obvious reason is to build a lot more muscle. This is certainly true, however there are many other benefits steroids can provide for a bodybuilder.
Anabolic steroids reduce subcutaneous body fat, helping a user's muscles to appear more defined on stage. This is particularly important for achieving ripped six pack abs.
Steroids also allow a bodybuilder to train for longer periods of time in the gym (at higher intensities), without any additional risk of overtraining -- which is when the central nervous system becomes excessively stimulated. Bodybuilders will notice that their body's ability to recover dramatically improves, due to much higher levels of testosterone in the bloodstream.
Certain drugs (diuretics) also allow bodybuilders to lose water weight, which typically collects outside of the muscles and underneath the skin. Losing such fluid can increase muscle tone and create 'paper-thin skin effect' often rewarded by judges.
The truth is -- a bodybuilder who doesn't take steroids is going to be seriously disadvantaged compared to someone on a high cocktail of PEDs.
Advantages of Natural Bodybuilding
Despite natural bodybuilding becoming less popular in a generation that seemingly wants quick fixes; there are many advantages for going down the natty path.
Firstly, steroids pose a major risk to a person's health. Anabolic steroids are banned in almost every country in the world (for recreational use) -- and thus are illegal for a reason.
In the best case scenario steroids may mess up your hormones temporarily, whereas in the worst case scenario steroid abuse can lead to death; as the bodybuilding world witnessed with Rich Piana passing away in August 2017.
With steroids being illegal, those found selling or in possession of them can receive hefty fines and prison time (depending on the country).
Although natural bodybuilding may result in slower gains, these results are more likely to stay with the person as they grow older. However, when someone comes off steroids the body enters an extreme catabolic (muscle-wasting) environment, where the muscles can shrink dramatically. This contributes to the addictive nature of steroids, with many reporting that it's very difficult to come off-cycle from a mental and physical standpoint.
You may not become the next IFBB pro bodybuilder by training naturally, however if you do get in great shape, you're likely to gain more respect -- in a world where natural bodybuilders are becoming a dying breed.
Remaining Natural Bodybuilding Federations
Many bodybuilding federations do not perform strict drug testing on competitors, with some turning a blind eye. Others may 'test' but do so at a scheduled time, thus bodybuilders can prepare for certain compounds to exit their body, by coming off them in time (going by undetected).
The problem is hardcore bodybuilding fans want to see mass-monsters, which is only possible with AAS and thus federations are put in a dilemma.
For example, conducting rigorous tests would result in many of their athletes getting flagged.
However, there are still some legitimate natural federations around the world which not only perform random drug testing -- but also polygraph's to aggressively weed out any drug-users (two examples being the INBA and ANBF).
Whether your personal choice is to take steroids or remain natural, it is important to understand the risks of taking potentially dangerous compounds and the psychological effects they can also have. Natural bodybuilding may not pay the most money, however it remains the safe and healthy way to build muscle.