Anabolic androgenic steroids are synthetic forms of the hormone testosterone that can be used to help gain muscle mass. "Anabolic" refers to muscle-building, "androgenic" refers to increased masculine characteristics and "steroids" refers to the class of drugs. Anabolic androgenic steroids are legally available only by prescription, to treat conditions that occur when the body produces abnormally low amounts of testosterone, such as delayed puberty and some types of impotence. They are also prescribed to treat body wasting in AIDS patients, for weight gain after serious illnesses (like anemia or cancer) and other diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass. Abuse of anabolic steroids, however, can lead to serious and even irreversible health problems.
Many people use illegal steroids to enhance muscle mass and improve physical performance. Anabolic steroids are taken orally or injected, typically in cycles of weeks or months (referred to as "cycling"), rather than continuously. Cycling involves taking multiple doses of steroids over a specific period of time, stopping for a period, and starting again. In addition, users often combine several different types of steroids to maximize their effectiveness while minimizing negative effects (referred to as "stacking").
Andro supplements are over-the-counter steroid-like dietary supplements. Andro supplements include: androstenedione, androstenediol, norandrostenedione, norandrostenediol, and dehydroepiandtrosterone. All claim to be converted into testosterone in the body to help improve muscle mass.
Creatine monohydrate is a compound produced by the body that helps release energy in the muscles. It is found in protein-rich foods like meat or fish, or it can be taken as a nutritional supplement. HMB (beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid) is a chemical that occurs naturally in the body when the amino acid leucine breaks down. High concentrations of leucine are found in muscles. During athletic training, damage to the muscles leads to the breakdown of leucine as well as increased HMB levels. Creatine is available in pills, powders and many functional food bars in health food stores.
Other supplements: There are also many muscle-building supplements, many of which are unregulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Stimulants/diuretics: Many athletes use stimulants, like caffeine and the now illegal ephedra, to boost energy and suppress appetite. Diuretics are used to help change the balance of fluids in the body and lose weight.
Protein: Athletes can also bulk up by increasing the intake of protein. Many protein bars and shakes are available. They contain a high amount of protein, usually about 10-30g, and many also contain vitamins and/or minerals.
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