Top 10 Steroids For Bodybuilding

Dr George TouliatosDisclaimer: The following article is for educational purposes only and does not promote the use of illegal steroids. If you have any questions or concerns, Dr. Touliatos is currently available for consultation.


Bodybuilding is regarded by many as a ‘taboo’ sport due to illegal steroid use being rife at an elite level.

Bodybuilders have taken anabolic steroids as far back as the ’70s, when greats including Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to taking them.

Five decades ago, the dangers of taking steroids were not well documented, so bodybuilders could easily obtain a prescription from their doctor for cosmetic purposes.

Now, steroids’ side effects are well-known and are currently illegal to use (for recreational purposes). Currently, they are strictly used for medicinal purposes, including the treatment of muscle-wasting diseases.

Despite such laws, bodybuilders continue to buy steroids today via the black market.

Research shows that in certain US cities, 54% of males who compete in bodybuilding shows regularly take steroids (1). With 10% of female bodybuilders following suit.

However, it is not just competitive bodybuilders who take steroids, but also the general public, with over 1 million steroid users in America (2), making up 0.5% of the adult population. 2.3% of 12th graders (17–19-year-olds) are also thought to be on steroids (3).

Why Do Bodybuilders Use Steroids?

Anabolic steroids can take a bodybuilder’s physique to a whole new level. We have seen patients build 40–50 pounds while simultaneously stripping away body fat following the use of steroids.

With pressure from judges to be bigger and leaner, it is understandable why bodybuilders feel pressured to take steroids. 

Social pressure may also be the reason why so many non-bodybuilders take steroids, with influencers on social media and reality TV shows gaining large followings as a result of their well-chiseled physiques.

For some bodybuilders, their dreams of competing may be over if they persevere with natural bodybuilding.

However, other bodybuilders who don’t want to compete in the IFBB Mr. Olympia or other federations may be more satisfied with their size and thus refrain from taking illegal substances.

Different steroids will build muscle and burn fat to different degrees, hence why some steroids are more popular than others.

Top 10 Steroids For Bodybuilding

Below are the top 10 steroids used in bodybuilding, with the pros and cons listed for each.

  • Testosterone
  • Dianabol
  • Anadrol
  • Trenbolone
  • Turinabol
  • Winstrol
  • Anavar
  • Deca durabolin
  • Masteron
  • Equipoise

Also, steroids can come in injectable or oral form. Therefore, the preferred route of administration for a bodybuilder will dictate which steroids he or she will use.

Testosterone

Testosterone was the first-ever anabolic steroid created, and it remains one of the most sought-after compounds today.

Testosterone will result in a significant amount of muscle mass and strength. It will also enhance fat loss, causing a dramatic change in body composition.

We find it is generally used during bulking cycles when trying to increase muscular size. It is popular due to its affordability, being relatively mild (compared to other bulking steroids) and its side effects not being overly harsh.

This is why many novice steroid users will cycle Testosterone alone for their first cycle.

Testosterone is predominantly an injectable steroid, with the most popular esters being enanthate, cypionate, propionate and undecanoate. The latter is the only oral version of testosterone.

However, Testosterone does cause side effects, including any or all of the following:

  • Low endogenous testosterone levels
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Acne
  • Hair loss
  • Gynecomastia
  • Water retention

Dianabol

arnold steroids

Dianabol was designed to be more anabolic than Testosterone, but with less androgenic effects.

Our patients often testify to this being the case with Dianabol, where muscle and strength gains are more significant compared to Testosterone.

However, the difference is not huge, with Testosterone still being a powerful steroid.

Dianabol is one of the most effective steroids for bulking up and building muscle. It is typically available in oral form, so injections are not needed.

Dianabol was thought to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favourite steroid, and it remains highly coveted today. It is best utilized in the off-season, causing rapid weight gain.

Due to its reduced androgenicity, Dianabol is not one of the harshest steroids on the market, making it popular even among beginners (in small to moderate doses).

However, we have seen Dianabol cause the following side effects:

  • Low endogenous testosterone levels (4)
  • Liver toxicity (5)
  • High blood pressure (6)
  • Water retention (7)
  • Gynecomastia (8)

Anadrol

Anadrol is a similar steroid to Dianabol, causing huge increases in size and strength. It is arguably more powerful than Dianabol, which can be attributed to it being taken in larger doses (mg per mg).

Anadrol is an oral steroid, often coming in 50-mg pills.

In our lipid and liver tests, we have even found Anadrol-only cycles to be very toxic and not suitable for beginners. Large increases in blood pressure will be experienced when taking Anadrol; thus, users with existing heart problems may want to avoid taking this steroid.

Anadrol will also cause all of the usual side effects associated with steroids, but to a greater degree. Liver toxicity will also be a cause for concern, with it being processed by the liver upon entry (being a 17α-alkylated anabolic steroid).

Trenbolone

Trenbolone, like Anadrol, is a very harsh steroid in our experience. However, it remains popular among bodybuilders due to its sheer power when it comes to building lean muscle.

Tren does this without any water retention, due to a lack of aromatization and conversion to estrogen.

Therefore, bodybuilders can remain aesthetic and lean when taking Trenbolone instead of holding water and bloating. Users often notice an increase in vascularity and striations due to low levels of fluid outside the muscle cells.

Trenbolone is mostly an injectable steroid and is commonly stacked with Testosterone and Anadrol for greater results when bulking.

Trenbolone can also be used during cutting cycles to maximize fat loss while preserving or building new muscle tissue.

Despite significant stress on the liver being unlikely, we often see the following side effects:

  • Increased LDL cholesterol levels
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Hair loss
  • Acne

Turinabol

Turinabol, also known as Tbol, is a powerful oral steroid.

Some bodybuilders also refer to it as ‘baby Dbol’ (Dbol being an abbreviation for Dianabol).

This nickname came to fruition due to Tbol being a derivative of Dianabol, although it is not as powerful.

Turinabol does not produce water retention, so virtually all of the weight gain will be in the form of muscle. We find this particularly beneficial to athletes who desire enhanced performance without carrying extra water weight.

Turinabol isn’t the most powerful steroid for bulking up; however, it will still produce noticeable changes in size and strength. It is also utilized during cutting cycles due to its ‘dry’ nature, helping users maintain muscle size when dieting.

We find Tbol to be a better muscle builder than Anavar, but weaker than Winstrol.

Turinabol does not typically produce harsh side effects, in comparison to other anabolic steroids, and is relatively mild. However, we still see cholesterol levels rise, testosterone levels decrease, and some liver toxicity.

Winstrol

zac efron steroids

Winstrol (Stanozolol) produces significant muscle gains while simultaneously stripping fat. This makes it an effective oral steroid to use when bulking or cutting.

We find Winstrol’s muscle gains aren’t as pronounced compared to powerful bulking steroids, such as Anadrol, Dianabol, Testosterone, or Trenbolone. Thus, it is usually added to a stack to enhance muscle gains, rather than being the main compound used.

Winstrol is another ‘dry’ steroid that will expel water from the body, increasing muscle definition and making a bodybuilder appear leaner.

Consequently, Winstrol can be taxing on the joints due to less water surrounding them, acting as a cushion. Winstrol’s side effects are also harsh, with ALT/AST liver values and blood pressure rising significantly in our testing.

Androgenic side effects (oily skin or hair loss) are common, and testosterone suppression is likely to be significant post-cycle.

Anavar

Anavar (Oxandrolone) is arguably the safest steroid on the market. It helps bodybuilders build mild amounts of muscle while burning fat.

Therefore, it is typically used during a cutting phase.

Anavar is a ‘dry’ steroid, like Winstrol; therefore, bodybuilders will look extra ripped when cycling it.

In our experience, side effects are typically mild, which explains why Anavar is still FDA-approved for medicinal purposes and is often prescribed to women or children.

Beginners often take Anavar due to its safety and easy administration (it is an oral steroid). However, Anavar on the black market can be very expensive due to oxandrolone being more scarce and difficult to produce.

A lot of women also take Anavar, as it is less likely to cause virilization side effects, such as:

  • Hair growth
  • Deepened voice
  • Clitoral enlargement
  • Masculine facial features

Despite being an oral steroid, we do not find Anavar to be overly hepatotoxic, as it is also metabolised by the kidneys.

Anvarol is the legal alternative to Anavar and is considerably cheaper. 

Deca Durabolin

Deca Durabolin (Nandrolone) is an injectable steroid that is often stacked with other bulking compounds for massive gains in the off-season.

Deca is a slow-acting steroid and, by itself, won’t produce huge results. However, when combined with Dianabol or Anadrol, for example, it can accelerate muscle building.

Deca also increases muscle fullness, giving an extra dimension of thickness to the muscles and enhancing pumps (in and out of the gym).

Our patients generally find Deca’s side effects to be more tolerable compared to other bulking steroids, with it causing milder side effects. However, impotence is likely when taking Deca Durabolin, due to an increase in prolactin and a decrease in DHT (and testosterone).

Arnold was believed to have been taking Deca Durabolin in the ’70s, in conjunction with Dianabol.

Equipoise

Equipoise (Boldenone Undecylenate) is an injectable steroid commonly used among veterinarians on horses. Equipoise is similar to Deca Durabolin, although Equipoise is a stronger compound and more androgenic than Deca. Thus, we have found Equipoise’s side effects to be a little harsher.

However, Equipoise’s gains are likely to be similar to those of Deca; therefore, bodybuilders typically stack Equipoise with more powerful bulking steroids for hefty gains in size and mass.

Taking Equipoise alone (like Deca Durabolin) will result in slow and steady gains, with cycles usually lasting anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks.

Masteron

Masteron is a DHT-derived steroid that produces moderate increases in lean muscle and has significant fat-burning properties.

Masteron works similar to a SERM (selective estrogen receptor modulator), having strong anti-estrogen properties that result in the muscles appearing hard and dry.

Masteron is not as popular as other steroids on this list, mainly due to it not having the ability to add as much size or mass compared to other compounds.

However, we find the side effects of Masteron to be mild compared to other cutting steroids, such as Winstrol. Therefore, it is a preferable cutting steroid for some bodybuilders who are not looking to get huge.

Masteron is typically used by bodybuilders during contest prep when trying to get as shredded as possible. We also see Masteron being common among CrossFit athletes looking to increase their strength and endurance (without severe side effects or dramatic weight gain).

Anabolic Steroid Side Effects (and Harm Reduction)

Summary

Many of the anabolic steroids listed in this article have been around for several decades, yet they are becoming increasingly popular each year.

There are other effective anabolic steroids and PED’s used by bodybuilders that are not on this list.

Other notable drugs utilized by bodybuilders, enabling them to build muscle and strip fat, are:

  • Cytomel (T3)
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Clenbuterol
  • Halotestin
  • Superdrol
  • Furzabol
  • Primobolan
  • Proviron

We would like to warn our readers about the health implications of using the steroids listed in this article.

Instead, we advise bodybuilders to purchase legal alternatives to these steroids, ensuring that they stay within the law and are not jeopardizing their health with dangerous substances.

Co Authors :

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2621538

(2) https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubs/brochures/steroids/professionals/

(3) https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2015/12/drug-use-trends-remain-stable-or-decline-among-teens

(4) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21818626/

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1849648/

(6) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15590370/

(7) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7018798/

(8) https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/01/gynaecomastia-and-anabolic-steroid-use