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Athletes usually experiment with anabolic steroids in order to improve their performance. While these are used mainly because they cause a dramatic increase in strength and performance, they should ideally have no place in fitness training. Those who rely on steroids for improving performance are not only competing unfairly but also compromising their health. So, if you ever consider taking steroids, think twice.

The change caused in strength levels is temporary and dependant on the intake of steroids. This increase is, literally, artificial. Most people who have relied on steroids at any time will find that the change is temporary; there are chances of performance actually going down once their usage is stopped.

Steroids can cause external as well as internal changes in the body. Outwardly, these changes can range from minor ones such as an increase in acne, increased hair loss, male pattern balding, change in voice (especially for women), increased facial hair growth and changes in the reproductive system. Females on anabolic steroids may develop masculine facial traits, male muscularity, and coarsening of the skin.

If growing teenagers are administered steroids, it can interfere with the natural growth process and stunt height permanently. What's more, males can end up developing female characteristics and females can end up developing manly features!

Steroids negatively affect almost all organs of the body.

They can cause a rise in cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.

They cause an increase in blood pressure as they cause retention of water and sodium. Accompanied by strenuous physical activity, this can adversely affect the cardiovascular system and even lead to heart attacks if the blood pressure is not brought under control.

Taking any type of steroid causes the brain to send a message to the organs to reduce and, in some cases, stop its natural production of testosterone (the male hormone) in order to maintain a natural balance in the body. However, in the long run, this upsets the natural balance.

Steroid usage is known to also cause changes in temperament -- an increase in aggression, violence and mania.
As the liver and kidneys are responsible for detoxifying the body and ridding it of wastes, repeated usage of steroids can weaken them by forcing them to work harder and overtime.

What the doctor says:

Dr Meena Godhia, PhD in foods and nutrition and a reader in the Department of Nutrition at SVT College of Home Science, Juhu, reiterates the fact that steroids taken to enhance performance do more harm than good in the long run. They can prove dangerous due to the adverse effects they have on all vital organs. Besides this, Dr Godhia emphasises that, "They should not be used by athletes, not simply because of health implications but also because it is not the right way to gain an edge over your competitors. Any athlete who practices training and diet discipline without resorting to artificial means will definitely have more long term health benefits though." She strongly feels that if coaches are given the right training and education, they will be able to counsel and guide athletes in the right direction and help them make informed choices.