Legal steroids, also known as multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements (MIPS), are over-the-counter (OTC) supplements. They’re meant to help with
But do they actually work? And are they safe?
Yes and no. Some are perfectly effective and safe. But others can have deadly consequences.
Let’s look at how to recognize a legal steroid from an illegal one, what precautions to take if you plan to use legal steroids, and what other proven methods you can use to build muscle and strength.
“Legal steroids” is a catch-all term for muscle-building supplements that don’t fall under the category of “illegal.”
Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are synthetic (manufactured) versions of the male sex hormone testosterone. These are sometimes used illegally.
However, some athletes and bodybuilders illegally use these steroids to boost muscle mass or performance.
Some legal supplements do have science on their side and aren’t entirely unsafe. But others may be completely ineffective or even cause harm.
Here’s a brief overview of which supplements may be fine to use in small doses and which to avoid.
Creatine is one of the most well-known performance support options. It’s a naturally occurring substance found in foods like fish and meat. It’s also sold in many stores as a muscle-building supplement.
Creatine has numerous documented benefits:
1999 studyfound that weightlifters who used creatine showed nearly three times as much growth in muscle fibers and doubled overall body mass than those who didn’t use creatine.
2003 studyfound that using creatine when you’re weight training can help build strength in your legs and increase your overall muscle mass.
2007 reviewof muscle-building supplements indicated that creatine is the best supplement for increasing muscle mass.
Research has also found no long-term health effects of using creatine.
Look out for any extra ingredients in supplements that may have side effects or cause allergic reactions.
Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)
MMP is a blend of creatine, betaine, and dendrobium extract that’s often sold as Craze or various other names.
This supplement is relatively safe to use. However, it doesn’t result in the muscle-building claims this drug’s marketing copy might lead you to believe.
As with other OTC supplements, look out for additional ingredients that can cause allergic reactions or long-term health effects.
DMAA has been found in numerous muscle-building and weight loss supplements, but it’s not safe. Any product that contains it and markets itself as a dietary supplement is illegal.
Using DMAA can lead to one or more of the following complications:
- narrowing of blood vessels
- increased blood pressure
- shortness of breath
- feeling of chest tightness
- irregular heartbeat
- heart attack
- neurological disorders
- mental health conditions
Here are some alternative, healthy ways to build muscle that don’t require any possibly harmful steroid or supplement use:
Come up with a good weight-training routine
Learn about the different muscle groups in your body. Alternate between training of your chest, arms, abs, and legs. Improve your repetitions and techniques over time as you become more comfortable.
A consistent, challenging routine will show you much better results than taking steroids and overworking your muscles.
Follow a healthy, muscle-friendly diet
- amino acids
- healthy fats
Your diet can include foods like:
- lean fish like tuna and salmon
- Greek yogurt
Work with a personal trainer
It’s OK if you feel overwhelmed by how much time and thought you need to put into bulking up or if you’re not seeing the results you want. In this case, working with a personal trainer may help.
Consider hiring a certified personal trainer (CPT). Read their reviews to ensure they have proven success and a reasonable rate for your budget, so you can stick with it even when you feel like giving up.
There are even virtual trainers who can coach you remotely through your phone, laptop, or TV.
Use a fitness app to create a routine and track progress
Planning and recording your workouts and personal fitness goals with an app can be a quick, easy way to make sure you’re staying on track.
Over time, having detailed records of your progress can give you a more tangible sense of how far you’ve come and how close you are to achieving your goals. Here are our top fitness app picks.
Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are lab-made testosterone supplements. They’re never a good choice for building muscles or strength because of their numerous negative side effects.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies AAS as Schedule III drugs. Just possessing them illegally (not prescribed to you by a doctor) can result in up to a year in prison and a fine of at least $1,000 for a first-time offense.
Here are just a few of the possible effects of using AAS:
- Using AAS while you’re doing resistance training can
increase your riskfor heart disease and other cardiac complications.
- AAS can make you more aggressive and lead to
- Long-term use of AAS to maintain a sense of how you’re “supposed” to look can lead to
body image disorders.
- Taking oral AAS can cause long-term liver damage and dysfunction.
- Hormone changes from using or stopping AAS can lead to
enlarged breast tissuein men (gynecomastia).
- Increased testosterone supplementation can cause the testes to become smaller and
lose their functionover time.
- Decreased sperm production from steroid use can ultimately
lead to infertility.
- Increased androgens from taking certain kinds of AAS can cause an
early onset of male pattern baldness.
Steroids, legal or not, are never the best solution for building muscle or getting fit. They can cause many side effects that may threaten any progress you’ve made at all and have long-term health consequences.
It’s best to focus on sustainable, healthy ways to build muscle and stay fit. You’ll also prevent the possible physical and psychological harm of relying on artificial substances to achieve the level of fitness you want in the process.