"Hey, I'm thinking about doing a cycle or two. What do you think?"
Everyone in the barbell business gets this question from time to time, and usually my answer goes something like this: You should probably skip the drugs. But go to the doc and get on TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) if you need it.
I've observed two interesting things about regular-guy steroid users, meaning, guys who just want to get huge and aren't competitive bodybuilders or strength athletes:
1 – Steroids encourage and reward ignorance, especially in younger men.
In other words, everything comes a whole lot easier. Just about any kind of training will work, as will just about any kind of diet. The gains come so quickly and easily that the young steroid user never actually has to learn much. Everything works while he's "on." This essentially makes him dumb. There are exceptions of course, but not many.
Oh, I know, "He still has to work hard!" Sure, but let's not bullshit ourselves. Everyone has to work hard. But steroids and related drugs greatly accelerate progress (making motivation easy, almost as a side effect) and get you to a place you could never be without them. If drugs were only "10 percent of it" as many users like to say, then they wouldn't bother using them.
2 – The guy who begins using steroids early in his lifting life usually has a very short lifting life.
No, he doesn't die. But he does quit, often never returning to the gym. How does that happen? Well, for various reasons – legal, financial, spousal, health-related reasons, job-related reasons, etc. – he doesn't use steroids regularly. His gains fade and suddenly "lifting doesn't work," or at least it doesn't seem to compared to juiced training.
Think about it. You're not going to keep those gains. Christian Thibaudeau once called the steroid-derived body a "rented physique." So now you're working your ass off and losing most of the drug-built muscle. That's psychologically painful. "What's the point?" the guy says, and he eventually quits.
The pattern looks like this:
- Guy loves to train.
- Guy uses steroids.
- Guy now only loves to train when he's "on."
- Guy can't use steroids all the time so he doesn't train when not using. Again, "what's the point?" he thinks. Pretty soon, you just never see him at the gym anymore.
Now, people like this could still build plenty of muscle and reap all the amazing benefits of the iron, but remember, they're "steroid dumb" now. They never really learned how to keep natural progress coming. Their toolboxes contain an old, bent wrench and nothing else.
What's Your Identity?
The typical former drug user will likely never get back to where he was when he was using. That's a lot to deal with. And once his identity becomes "the big guy," can he handle becoming the "merely medium" guy? Often not. These are the psychological issues most people never talk about.
The only folks who "succeed" with steroids are usually older, wiser, more intelligent men with families, real jobs, real responsibilities, and a long background of lifting naturally and learning everything they can about training and diet. These guys tend not to get too crazy with the drugs. They have other, more important, identities.
The TRT Option
The alternative? Get your testosterone levels tested as you age and the moment you're eligible for doctor-prescribed TRT, get on it. Be happy with a nice, healthy "high but normal" T level. You'll feel better, perform better, and get better results in the gym than you would without TRT.
Given all the drawbacks of long-term steroid usage, all the stigma and all the asterisks, that should be good enough for the psychologically well-adjusted man.