Are steroids used in bodybuilding, ya you bet, I’m not going to sit here and B.S. you and say they aren’t. But here is the deal and I have talked to several IFBB pro bodybuilders who have been on the Olympia stage who have had longevity in the sport about this. I am also not going to say everyone does this way but there is something to be said for those who have done this for many years and as I get older myself I believe this to be true.
Are steroids needed to grow? No they are not.
The most anabolic substance you can put in your body is food. Think about it, when you are trying to grow you can eat more food, plain and simple. So when you are dieting for a show and are trying to grow you can just eat more. The issue becomes when people want to stay lean all year around. That where the issue of year around drug use becomes an issue. You should be able to grow without steroids. This took me a long time to learn. The last time I have been on a cycle was 2013 and I was forced to go a different direction because of fertility issues when we decided to start having kids and we have gone over that several times in the past. So I was forced to train drug free. In 2015 when Shawna was pregnant I still couldn’t go back on anything because our goal was to have 2. But I needed something to do and I was in the mindset that I wanted to compete again and so in 2015 I did a drug free contest prep. The difference between looks was certainly a hardness difference of the muscle. A drug free muscle is not going to be as hard as a muscle that is not drug free. But what I noticed the most was the difference in my hamstring development. I had a huge hamstring sweep in my side chest and side tricep poses and I didn’t really think much about it until I got done with the first show. I ended up doing 3 shows that year, all drug free. In 2013 when I went off everything I never stopped training and eating, I just didn’t have any extras in me. So for 2 years I just trained and ate and I still developed muscle mass.
So fast forward a few more years, we now have 2 kids and are done and therefore I am now able to be on hormone replacement therapy of about 200mg of testosterone a week through my doctor. It brings me up to a testosterone level of about 600 and I feel great. I have been on this for almost a year and my training has been spot on. My testosterone levels when not on my HRT is about 45 so I don’t produce anything on my own anymore so I have to be on it. But I have been able to grow and got stronger and I am now stronger than I have ever been in my life across the board on all lifts than when I was back in my 20s when I was taking everything under the sun. As you follow this lifting blog as I am now in what I call an actual offseason even though 2015 was my last show but I am training to prepare myself to compete next year again. Before you think well you have 200mg a week in you, you need to understand that the high end of normal is around 900/1000. So I’m not at the peak for normal levels of testosterone, I am about average. When you are on a full steroid cycle those levels will exceed 2000 and sometimes over 3000. So no I am not enhanced one bit, I am just simply the same levels as an average male my age at 34. But you will see I am getting back to some good weights and making some great progress right now.
So as I have talked to several pros who have said similar things, The drug use side at the elite level for bodybuilders is more during the actual contest prep. Those who have stayed around for a long time and have competed for a long time are not using all year around. Many come off everything and train their offseason drug free because they just eat more food and they don’t care about getting softer either. That the other huge issue, is you can’t be shredded all damn year so get that out of your mind if you are going to compete in bodybuilding. This is a sport, you get softer and then you get shredded and the cycle repeats itself as you go between offseason to contest prep. But you find your limits. I know for me I feel best around 280 pounds. I did push myself to the mid 290s for a few months but I didn’t feel good and felt to soft, For offseason I want to have some ab definition and once those abs go away completely than your too soft and that is how I felt at about 295. So for me my sweet spot for good offseason body-fat level and to still be able to get stronger and make progress is in the low 280s. So I dieted myself back down to that over the last month and I feel great. My pressing is a little down but my squat and deadlifts are up so you just learn what your goals are and what your trying to do.
But you don’t need to be steroids to grow muscle when you can just eat more food. So learn to eat before you start adding the other stuff in as well as learn to be patient. We live in a “I want it right now” world and so in this type of sport you have to be patient and allow your body time to progress. We are all not genetic freaks so I am hear to tell you as someone who doesn’t have the best genetics for this sport that no matter how much stuff you take in your 20s that if you have trained consistently always and ate than you will be stronger without being on anything in the your 30s.