Many folks turn to Google 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 medications are used for different purposes. Below you’ll learn more about this issue.
How Do Anabolic Steroids Work for Muscle Growth?
As we’ve already mentioned, there are two basic types of steroids: anabolic-androgenic steroids (AASs) and corticosteroids (in addition, there are other types like estrogen). Anabolic steroids are used for enhancing physique. They are mainly represented by testosterone-like molecules which mimic its functions. How do anabolic steroids work? Testosterone binds to and activates cells’ receptors and make certain processes trigger in strictly defined sites. As a result, males have beards, their muscles and bones are larger than those of women.
However, T hormone which is endogenously produced in the body has limiting value. It determines the amount of musculature one can build without doping. Intensive workouts cause muscle ruptures which forces one to stop working out and make an intermission for recovery.
Anabolics activate the protein in the body, allowing muscles to grow much larger than “programmed” by the nature. Kadi F, Eriksson A, Holmner S et al. (Umeå University, Sweden, 1999) stated that AASs stimulate musculature growth by “both hypertrophy and the formation of new muscle fibers”. Anyway, to make steroids effective, include protein foods in your diet and do 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 sportsmen inject the appropriate area. However, this technique is not efficient and can even harm the site of intervention.
Anabolic steroids feature the following beneficial effects:
- Increased performance, stamina, and strength.
- Increase in muscle mass. Due to reducing the breakdown of muscle protein and increasing sarcoplasm (the cytoplasm of striated muscle cells) quantity, muscle fiber accumulation takes place.
- Strengthening of bone tissue. The meds also help strengthen joints and ligaments.
- Reducing the percentage of fat. Since in the process of steroid cycle there is an increase in the production of testosterone, there is an active release of free fatty acids.
- Anabolics are legally used in medicine. They help to increase bodyweight 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 numerous 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 (Na) in the body and maintaining physiological osmolarity and volume of extracellular fluid (ECF).
We are interested in the glucocorticoid effect. GCs receptors interact with various transcription factors, or nuclear factors played a role in immune response and inflammation. GCS helps the body to adapt to external stressors. They do that via multilateral pathways, influencing the metabolism in an appropriate way.
Being contrainsular hormones, GCs contribute to the development of hyperglycemia. They stimulate hepatic gluconeogenesis, and promote protein catabolism, activating the release of amino acids. Aminos serves as substrates for gluconeogenesis. Glucocorticoids help other hormonal substances to stimulate fundamental metabolic processes with peak force (the so-called permissive action; permissiveness is a biochemical phenomenon studied by endocrinologists).
GCs enhance the lipolytic action of catecholamines and HGH. They also reduce “expenditure” of sugar by adipose tissues. 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) resulting in elevation of free fatty acids in the bloodstream. GCs have primarily catabolic effects on bodily proteins. They inhibit the growth and division of fibroblasts (cells that synthesize the extracellular matrix, collagen, and stroma) and the formation of collagen (the major constituent of connective tissues), breaking the reparative function of inflammatory reactions. GCs have powerful antiinflammatory and immunosuppressive effects, which allow for their administration in fighting multiple illnesses.
So how does steroid cream work? It is used for reducing skin inflammation occurring in individuals 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. According to Kragballe K. (University of Aarhus, Denmark, 1989), these creams modulate arachidonic acid metabolism and interleukin-1 formation, suppressing inflammation and inhibiting mitosis (cell division).
How Do Steroid Injections Work for Dealing with Inflammation & Other Conditions?
How do steroid injections work? Generally speaking, their effect is achieved due to the same mechanisms that have been described above. But steroid creams have a local influence, so they are used for skin diseases and are much safer for other organs and body systems. Steroid injections have a stronger action and a higher risk of side effects. They can be made in the buttocks, epidural space, and 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 C21H27FO6) injection acting for a long time. Cortisone injections of systemic character are prescribed by general practitioners to handle allergic reactions to different triggers. Such shots 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 healthcare professionals prescribe a multifaceted therapy including steroid injections among other methods. Chloe Wernecke, Hillary J. Braun, and Jason L. Dragoo (Stanford University, 2015) note that corticosteroids exert dose-dependent deleterious effects on cartilage. The lowest efficacious dosage should be used.
The Bottom Line and Final Recommendations
Anabolic steroids and corticosteroids work differently. People with different diseases and/or needs can benefit from the use of certain drugs. Anyway, before starting their administration, 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.