Both natural and synthetic anabolic steroids focus on promoting the growth of muscle tissue. Though muscle growth is the main purpose of the drug, taking steroids comes with a host of other effects on the muscles. When it comes to steroids, ill effects seem to outweigh the benefits. It's best to train your muscles with a drug-free high-protein diet and a strict training regimen.
Beneficial Muscle Effects
Anabolic steroids bind with cytoplasmic androgen receptors to promote tissue and cell growth. In conjunction with strength-training exercise, steroids can result in increased muscle growth, increased bone size and a boost to overall strength. Weight gained via steroids comes in the form of muscle fiber and is a fat-free weight -- as steroids contain the hormone testosterone, they promote lean muscle growth. Steroids increase protein synthesis and decrease nitrogen excretion, leading to increased leanness and muscle definition as well. Steroids also improve the recovery rate of muscle tissue. Bodybuilders and athletes use them to accent intensive muscle-building exercise programs. Skeletal muscles may also see increased growth because of steroid use.
Adverse Muscle Effects
Steroids may weaken the myocardium -- the middle muscle layer of the heart wall -- leading to cardiovascular complications. Likewise, the drug sometimes results in cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disorder that causes hypertrophy or abnormal enlargement. Steroids affect the musculoskeletal system as well, increasing the possibility of tendon rupture because of rapid muscle gain. Ligaments and tendons also stand at an increased risk of tearing or other damage during steroid use. In addition, steroid use can result in muscle cramps. For women, steroid use may alter the natural curves of the body, leading to a straightened, atrophied muscle structure.
Indirect Muscle Effects
In addition to direct effects, steroids come with indirect effects on the muscles. Those taking steroids may experience high levels of energy useful for muscle-training exercise, but the possibility of insomnia may offset this benefit. The achy joints, nausea, vomiting, trembling and water retention caused by steroids may have an adverse effect on the physical activity necessary for training muscles. Steroids have been known to cause osteoporosis; a weakened skeletal system makes for a weakened musculoskeletal system. The drug may also weaken the immune system, opening the doors to a long list of muscle-debilitating illnesses or diseases.