Anabolic Steroids Related Terms: Synthetic, Exogenous, Androgenic, Hormones
If you’re interested in learning more about anabolic androgenic steroids for any reason, this is definitely the place to start.
We’ll begin by breaking the term down into parts.
Anabolism is the synthesis of molecules from metabolic processes.
On a microscopic scale this is the basic building, strengthening and restructuring of molecules and cells.
On a macroscopic scale – and in the context of bodybuilding and athleticism – anabolism translates to muscle, bone and connective tissue growth, in terms of size, strength, hardness and density.
It is important to note that while size, strength, hardness and density are all ways in which anabolism manifests, they don’t all necessarily happen.
A steroid can be anabolic while barely increasing muscle size.
The word “Anabolic” is simply the descriptive form or prefix to something which promotes anabolism, e.g. anabolic hormones, anabolic steroids.
Catabolism is the opposite process, which involves the breakdown of these tissues and indeed the oxidation, conversion and waste of cellular material.
Some hormones and steroids are ‘more’ anabolic than others, but to help make some sense of it, the Anabolic Rating determines the strength of one relative to another.
Testosterone is the original anabolic hormone and is the benchmark by which all others are rated. Thus, it has an anabolic rating of 100.
This is the nature of an androgen.
Androgens are sex hormones and can be natural or synthetic. Natural androgens include: Testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).
Androgenic hormones are also known as testoids and are usually steroid hormones. ‘Steroid’ refers to the cholesterol structure of 4 carbon rings at the core of the organic molecule.
They bind to Androgen Receptors (AR) and promote male characteristics and male sex characteristics:
- Deep voice
- Facial hair
- Body hair
- Greater Muscle mass (on average compared to women)
- Less Body Fat percentage (typically compared to women)
Again, testosterone is the most important androgen and many synthetic steroids created since its discovery have been based on it, or its derivatives.
Steroid users are very interested in androgenicity, as it has the greatest effect on muscle size increase.
Like the Anabolic Rating, there is an Androgenic Rating. You have probably guessed correctly that Testosterone is also the benchmark on this scale and has a rating of 100.
Rather confusingly, the Androgenic Rating of a steroid does not necessarily reflect the level of androgenicity it can promote.
In reality, it is a combination of both its androgenic potential and its binding affinity with the androgen receptors that determines the final effect.
An example is Fluoxyesterone – aka Halotestin – which has over 8 times the Androgenic rating of Testosterone. However, because it doesn’t bind to the AR at all, it exerts no such effects.
Trenbolone, on the other hand, acts just like its ratings, of 500 and 500, imply.
Another thing to think about is the ‘cutting’ steroid. Fat loss is one of the effects of androgens, and can even be the way that positive binding affinity with the AR can translate into action. So even if it binds it doesn’t always cause size increase.
What does this mean to the bodybuilder / athlete taking steroids?
We’ll get into the specifics of steroid effects – beneficial and negative – throughout this website, but one thing stands out immediately: the Anabolic Rating can be trusted as a true reflection of a steroid’s potency.
The Androgenic Rating, however, must be taken alongside the binding affinity and even the specific characteristics of the drug. That’s where other peoples’ experience and empirical evidence is useful.
As mentioned above, the ‘steroid’ part of the name refers to the structure of the organic compounds themselves.
Four connected rings with seventeen carbon atoms comprise the core of the steroid structure.
Cholesterol and Testosterone are examples but there are hundreds of them found in the natural world, throughout the plant, animal and fungi groups – as well as those that are synthesized in laboratories.
Natural steroids have various roles from sex hormones, to signallers, to cell function regulators.
By changing the bond orders, methyl groups, functional groups and configurations attached to the core, different steroids with differing effects can be created.
Scientists first achieved one of these adaptations in a laboratory during the late 1950s with the synthesis of methandrostenolone (Dianabol). That happened two decades after the first synthesis of Testosterone.
Since then, many steroids have been created in labs. With almost no exceptions, this was done in the pursuit of medical application.
People often think of steroids as having been made for performance and physical enhancement, but of course nature has been making them for millions of years.
Testosterone was synthesized for the purposes of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for men with low levels of natural testosterone.
Similarly, most others manufactured by big pharmaceutical companies began circulation as treatments or therapy for various diseases and disorders, including: anemia, cancer, osteoporosis, AIDS and others which cause weight maintenance difficulty…
Many pharmaceutical steroids have since been deemed inappropriate for use in some countries due to the side effects they can cause.
Some were even discontinued in the medical field in large part because agencies like the FDA in the US were clamping down on their ‘underground’ use by bodybuilders and athletes.
The use of exogenous anabolic steroids for physical and performance enhancement involves a different level of planning and attention than therapeutic application.
If nothing else, both the positive and negative side effects are multiplied, sometimes several fold.