Many people turn to the internet to find the answer to the question: How do steroids work? They should distinguish the effects of anabolic steroids and corticosteroids, as these two types of drugs are used for very different purposes. In this article, you will learn more about this issue.
How do anabolic steroids work for muscle growth?
As we have already mentioned, there are two basic types of steroids: anabolic steroids and corticosteroids (in addition, there exist some other types, for example, estrogen). As far as anabolic steroids are concerned, which are used for enhancing physique, they are mainly represented by molecules whose structure is similar to that of testosterone and which mimic its functions. How do anabolic steroids work? The male sex hormone is known to have the ability to join cells’ receptors and make certain things occur in strictly defined places. Therefore, in particular, men grow beards, and their muscles and bones are larger in size than those of women.
However, testosterone which is produced naturally by the body has limiting value. It determines the amount of muscles you can build without doping. An excessive load causes muscle ruptures which forces a man to stop working out and spend certain time in recovery.
Anabolic steroids activate the protein in the body, allowing muscles to grow much larger than the maximum inherent in nature. At the same time, to make steroids effective, you need to include protein foods in your diet and do the proper exercises.
Steroids can be administered in different ways: orally in the form of pills or by making injections, commonly in the buttocks’ outer quadrant. In an attempt to enlarge muscle size and strength in a particular area, some athletes inject the appropriate site. However, this technique is not effective and can even do harm to the site of injection.
1) Increased performance, stamina, and strength.
2) Increase in muscle mass. Due to reducing the breakdown of muscle protein and increasing the volume of sarcoplasm, muscle fiber accumulation takes place.
3) Strengthening of bone tissue. Also, the drugs help strengthen joints and ligaments.
4) Reducing the percentage of fat. Since in the process of steroid cycle there is an increase in the production of the male hormone, there is an active release of free fatty acids.
5) Anabolics are legally used in medicine. They are used to increase muscle mass after some kinds of surgery and in the treatment of cancer,
It is important to understand that steroids do not just affect the muscles that you build up intensively in the gym, but have a large number of side effects. They can adversely affect the body, increasing the level of cholesterol and increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. In addition, anabolic steroid use can cause addiction.
How does steroid cream work in the body?
To understand the effect of a steroid cream, you need to understand how its main active substances act, that is, corticosteroids. Corticosteroids function when bound to intracellular steroid receptors, while they regulate the expression of genes at transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels. They have glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid activity, duplicating the effect of glucocorticoids (GCs) and mineralocorticoids. The main function of mineralocorticoids is retaining sodium in the body and maintaining physiological osmolarity of the internal environment.
In this case, we are interested in the glucocorticoid effect. GCs receptors interact with various transcription factors, or nuclear factors involved in immune response and inflammation. GCS provides an adaptation of the body to stressors from the external environment. This is due to the multilateral influence on the metabolism.
Being contrinsular hormones, GCs contribute to the development of hyperglycemia. First, they stimulate hepatic gluconeogenesis, and secondly, enhance the protein catabolism, thereby stimulating the release of amino acids, substrates of gluconeogenesis from peripheral tissues. In addition, GCs help other hormones to stimulate key metabolic processes, including gluconeogenesis, with maximum effect (permissive action of GCs).
GCs enhance the lipolytic action of catecholamines and human growth hormone, and also reduce the consumption and use of glucose by fat tissue. Excessive amount of GCs stimulates lipolysis in some parts of the body (such as the limbs) and lipogenesis in others (such as the face and trunk) and leads to an increase in the level of free fatty acids in the plasma. GCs have both anabolic and catabolic effects on the exchange of proteins. The first one is exerted in the liver while the second one is effective on the muscles, skin, bones, fat and lymphoid tissues. They inhibit the growth and division of fibroblasts, the formation of collagen, thus breaking the reparative function of inflammation. GCs have a pronounced anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effect, on which their use in treating many diseases is based.
So how does steroid cream work? As far as steroid cream is concerned, it is used for reducing skin inflammation occurring in people suffering from eczema and psoriasis. It is considered first-line treatment in handling the above mentioned and other diseases of skin. The most frequently used steroid creams which belong to topical steroids include: clobetasol, hydrocortisone, fluocinonide, and triamcinolone. Their mechanism of action lies in affecting cells’ response to various triggers by preventing them from generating chemicals caused by inflammation.
How do steroid injections work for dealing with inflammation and other conditions?
How do steroid injections work? Generally speaking, the effect of steroid injections is achieved due to the same mechanisms that have been described above. But steroid creams have a local effect, so they are used for skin diseases and are much safer for other organs and body systems. Steroid injections have a more pronounced action and a higher risk of side effects. They can be made in the buttocks, epidural space, and into the area of affected joints or ligaments.
- Steroid shots for allergies. It is an immunotherapy which implies making a series of injections from many months to years. Doctors use a term “3-month allergy shot” meaning a corticosteroid (commonly triamcinolone) injection acting for a long time. Cortisone injections of systemic character are prescribed by general practitioners to handle allergic reactions to different triggers. Such injections are made in the gluteus muscle.
- Epidural steroid injections. Another type of steroid injection is an epidural one which delivers medicine directly into the spinal epidural space. In some cases, doctors prescribe steroid injections with additional fluid (saline solution or local anesthetic) to ‘flush out’ inflammatory substances from the area to alleviate the pain they cause.
- Injections for joint inflammation. Steroid injections are also used for treating joint and ligament disorders. Thus, tendinitis can be effectively treated with the help of a steroid injection made locally. However, in case of rheumatoid arthritis doctors prescribe a multifaceted therapy including steroid injections among other methods.
The bottom line
As you can see, anabolic steroids and corticosteroids work differently. People with different diseases and/or needs can benefit from the use of certain drugs. In any case, before starting their administration, you should consult a doctor (or a qualified sports professional if you use steroids for sports purposes) to avoid side effects or at least to minimize them.