I do want to point out that this is not a moral blog post, I have no qualms about anyone taking steroids, it's your choice, your body, but to be informed, we should be educated, and that's kind of where I come in (to some small extent).
I personally don't think I've met any, or at least, too many people who have needed steroids or "roids". I've trained hardgainers, hardlosers and I've been both myself. I don't want to fall into the fallacy of "I did it, you should be able to do it too", but this what I looked like at age 23 (left) and 25 (right):
Here I am at my fattest
This was me at about 110-115kgs with a bodyfat percentage of about 22-25%
And after 6 months of dieting and training, with a loss of about 15-20kgs and about 7-10% bodyfat. This may (depending on your definition) categorize me as a hardloser too, or maybe, and the point I'm trying to make is, most people just don't do enough in the gym, and eat well enough outside it.--->
As you can see, I'm still not very lean in the pic on the right, now you could attribute that to my training and my knowledge, and you could be right. But the point is, I never touched roids and I could claim as anyone can, that I was a hardgainer or a hardloser, which really meant "I didn't get as big as I liked or as lean" which were my failures, in diet and training, not because of my "genetic potential". Excuses, which I think roids are in a lot of cases, are always plentiful, but are they necessary? Of course not, and as we discuss the health concerns below, we can see why, when there are safer alternatives (actually showing up to your training sessions, and eating your meals), you have to wonder why anyone would take roids? I think it's psychological, not physiological.
Going back a step, I'm not sure how much I subscribe to this hardgainer/loser mentality, I think a lot of people use it as an excuse to keep them down, to keep them from pushing hard. Perhaps I'm wrong, I have been once or twice. Having said that though, there are, scientifically speaking, technical "hardgainers" and "hardlosers", whose somatotypes fit a certain profile (ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph), this doesn't mean they need roids to get big or lean, it just means that based on a certain somatotype, an individaul would need a specifically tailored program, nothing chemical and nothing dangerous, and no different from anyone else! I would say I'm an ectomorph in the left (top) photo, endomorph in the right. What does that mean? It means those categories aren't set in stone and they don't dictate who you're going to be, training wise. Like anyone else can and, fallacies aside, I got results, without roids, without extraneous supplement use (I cycled creatine and always used protein), results happen naturally, in time, and trust me when I say, there is nothing special about me, or my training!
Now are there people who need roids due to hormonal imbalances? Well this is the same kind of excuse that some overweight people use about their "gland problems" etc, to which I would say the same to them, if that is actually the case, if you have been to the doctors and have been diagnosed with low testosterone levels or gland problems, then in those rare cases, I support what you need to do (well I'll support whatever you need to do anyway, but I'm making a rhetorical point!). But I'm not sure how often low testosterone levels occur in 18-25 year old men (but, if ever it was going to happen, it'd be in today's society), but having said that I have no on hand statistics, to support my position. My point, as belaboured as it is, in the world of fat loss or muscle gain, we all have certain disadvantages, some are psychosomatic, some are real, but neither are solved by excuses and cop outs (*steps of soapbox*).
Now, onto the more technical stuff, without going into too much detail David J. Kroll has a great article defining roids and their risks, so we'll begin with him:
"(on testosterone) When I was interviewed by Dan Harris for ABC World News Sunday last weekend, we discussed in footage that did not appear whether testosterone qualified as an “anabolic steroid.” The public normally thinks of ultrapotent, clandestine compounds as being the anabolic steroids used by athletes. But in purely pharmacological terms, testosterone is a steroid based on its chemical structure and it has anabolic, or tissue-building, activity. However, testosterone is an anabolic steroid that we make naturally, men and women.There are obviously different types of steroids; dianabol, stanozolol, sustanon, winstrol, clomid, andriol, anavar, deca-durabolin etc, but for our purposes its enough to know some examples and their effects. The side effects are common to most, and are listed below.
Hence, testosterone is an endogenous anabolic steroid. When injected as testosterone cypionate, this would be called the exogenous supplementation of an endogenous steroid. But true bodybuilders wouldn’t bother with something like testosterone when more potent and effective synthetic anabolic steroids are available on the clandestine market...Testosterone and human growth hormone (hGH) are anabolic agents. That is, they enhance the development of lean, skeletal muscle mass.
Human growth hormone (hGH) is a peptide normally produced in the pituitary gland that is also anabolic on its own and augments the muscle-building effects of testosterone." (Kroll 2010)
Steroid.com, the logical place to go for information has this to say on some of the side effects:
"1. Inhibition of Natural HormonesThe website goes into gruesome detail regarding the aforementioned side effects, complete with studies and references, which I encourage you to check out (link below). As Kroll succinctly states:
2. Liver Damage
3. Cholesterol (Blood Lipid Profile)
4. Gynocomastia (Development of breast tissue in males)
6. Roid Rage." (steroid.com "Steroids Side Effects")
"A person taking an anabolic steroid regimen (recall that testosterone is a natural anabolic steroid) is prone to mood swings, anxiety, and aggressive behavior." (Kroll 2010)Conclusion
Obviously this is a very basic treatment of steroids, as I'm concerned that too much detail may be a little too hard to swallow for my lay clients. But the point, I think, is delivered, and that is, there are risks, there are benefits, but roids are not a necessary part of your exercise regimen, hence are a completely unnecessary risk.
Kroll J. D., (2010). James Ray and testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). Science Based Medicine. Retrieved 29/03/2011-http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=3333.
Steroids.com. Steroids Side Effects. Retrieved 29/03/2011. http://www.steroid.com/steroids_side_effects.php.