I often wonder if there would be the proliferation of bodybuilders today if those chemical enhancers weren't available to make the muscles grow faster and stronger, eliminating the time, toil and grief necessary for real muscular achievement.

Steroids basically change the body's hormonal action and improve the body's ability to utilize protein more efficiently for rapid tissue repair. However, these chemically induced activities provide a long list of side effects from hair loss to acne, from heart failure to liver disease. In using steroids, the compromises are extraordinary and should be carefully considered. Yet the will - the ego - is so strong that the side effects are often dismissed. The self, matching today's lifestyle, looks only toward the favorable effects, and, hoping for the best, plunges headlong into careless drug use.

The risks involved with using anabolic and androgenic steroids do not stop with acne or hair loss. If you're a committed bodybuilder and enjoy an essence of independence in your life, you can surely plan to lose it. Steroids are insidious, and commonly cause psychological as well as physiological addiction. When you're on a chemical cycle, the weights go up easier, your muscles pump and so does your ego and enthusiasm. But when off the chemical cycle, and as the body normalized, the reverse inevitably takes place. The lifter is left with depression and a hopelessness which often leads to radical social behavior and the cessation of training entirely. This is a very sad and unhealthy situation indeed, and silently plagues many young bodybuilders today.

When taking any medications, a doctor's supervision through blood testing and monitoring of vital statistics is essential. Steroids are no longer legally prescribed to athletes to enhance their physical abilities; doctors are unable and unwilling to provide the necessary supervision. The black market is full of bogus drugs with suspicious ingredients and high price tags. What we have is an abundance of illegal toxins streaming through the bodybuilding and sports world, messing up athletes young and old.

It's curious to hear from all levels of bodybuilding, participants as well as spectators, that today's lineup of competitors all share a conspicuous sameness - except for the head and height - there is very little difference one from another, with exaggerated muscles no longer looking lifelike. Zabo, the daddy of Muscle Beach in the 50's and today the "Chief" of World Gym, Venice calls them "StarWar bodies, living in a fantasy world."

I was ten years into my training, 235 pounds and already Mr. America before steroids came on the scene. I used them sparingly under a doctor's supervision and noticed marked improvement in my muscularity and separation. I also noticed a marked loss of improvement as I stopped taking them, and here is where the big catch is.

Young bodybuilders, if you're not taking them, don't. If you do, you'll wish you never did. They'll eat away at the foundations you're trying to build before you build them. As a pro, well, the weight's on your back and you know where the rack is.

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