A Look Into Anabolic Steroid Use In Bodybuilding, Physique and Wellness Competitors

A new study looked into the practices of IFBB competitors. Six (four male and two female) bodybuilders (IFBB) and their coaches were directly interviewed for this study(1).


2 male Bodybuilders in the same category.
2 Men’s Physique competitors belonging to the same category.
2 women competing in different Wellness categories.

All competitors used anabolic steroids during their bulking and cutting phases. They also used ephedrine and hydrochlorothiazide during the cutting phase. They trained each muscle once per week and all participants performed aerobic exercise in the fasted state in order to reduce body fat.

During the bulking phase, bodybuilders ingested ~2.5 g of protein/kg of body weight. During the cutting phase, protein ingestion increased to ~3 g/kg and carbohydrate ingestion decreased by 10–20%. During all phases, fat ingestion corresponded to ~15% of the calories ingested.

The supplements used were whey protein, chromium picolinate, omega 3 fatty acids, branched chain amino acids, poly-vitamins, glutamine and caffeine. The men also used creatine in the bulking phase.

Body composition was assessed by bioimpedance which we know is not the best methods and is greatly impacted by hydration status. 

No surprise, they gained large amounts of fat-free mass during the bulking phase but lost a lot of fat-free mass was lost during the cutting phase along with fat mass. A great deal of the lost fat-free mass right before competition could be attributed to dehydration.

Nevertheless, the table shows data from the beginning of the bulking phase, to the end of the bulking phase and beginning of the cutting phase and the end of the cutting phase before competition. 

Note how much fat-free mass subjects gained in a short bulking phase (4-6 weeks), for example male bodybuilder 1 gained +7.8kg of FFM in about 6 weeks, Wellness competitor 1 gained +6.3 kg FFM in about 6 week, Wellness competitor 2 gained +9.8 kg FFM in 4 weeks, Men’s Physique competitor 1 gained +7.2 kg FFM in about 5 weeks.

Wellness competitors 1 and 2, and Men’s Physique 1 were able to retain much of the FFM gained during the bulking phase after the cutting phase perhaps due to better hydration status. Another factor was due to the non-evidence based practices of subjects regarding exercise even though they took anabolic steroids during the cutting period.

MB1 won his category and was overall champion. MB2 was second place. W1 placed second in her category and W2 placed third. MP1 and MP2 were fifth and third, respectively.

I will just comment, for now, about the anabolic steroid use and leave exercise, nutrition and supplementation for another occasion.

Anabolic steroids

- 500 mg/week of testosterone enanthate, 200mg/week of boldenone and 150 mg/week of trenbolone acetate during the bulking phase.
- During the cutting phase, MB2 used 400 mg/week of testosterone propionate, 200 mg/week of stanozolol and 160 mg/week of oxandrolone during the cutting phase.

(The dosage is 9–41 times higher than the natural androgen production)

- 200 mg/week of stanozolol and 200 mg/week of nandrolone decanoate in the bulking phase
- 200 mg/week of stanozolol, 100 mg/week of testosterone propionate, 140 mg/week of oxandrolone and 300 mg/week of drostanolone propionate during the cutting phase.

For perspective, the amount of androgen used was 142–285 and 264–528 times their natural androgen production during the bulking and cutting phases, respectively. Testosterone increases muscle recovery (2) protein synthesis (3) and satellite cell activity (4,5).

For more perspective: 600mg per week with training can produce about 6kg of LBM in 10 weeks (6), 8-9 kg LBM in 20 weeks without training (7), and 4-14kg LBM (individual range) in 20 weeks without training (8). Gains are also dose dependent (9,10).

But anabolic steroids help only a little right? It is their very special training and dieting right? Clean eating, 6000mg of potassium and some other delusional fantasies from some people...?

Adverse effects of anabolic steroids

Testosterone may impair tendon adaptation to resistance training (9) and increase the risk of tendon ruptures, particularly in the upper-body (10). Other adverse effect are myocardial infarctions, alterations in serum lipids (decreased HDL and increased LDL), elevation in blood pressure and increased risk of thrombosis (11).

There are many reported cardiovascular events in bodybuilders associated with steroid abuse (12,13,14,15) and the risk is undeniable (16). Along with cardiovascular risk, the liver, the reproductive system, and psychological status are also adversely affected by the use of anabolic steroids (17,18,19,20,21) and this should not be ignored (22).

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