I have written and erased this article a few times now. I had started to write this as an informational blog to try to educate readers, but then I thought that maybe if I took the angle of speaking about my own experiences and of a couple guys I know it would be easier to write this.
A few years ago I was like everyone else and I'd defend steroid usage up and down, all day long. Nobody wants to think that what they're doing can have any negative health consequences. A guy smoking 2 packs of cigarettes every day doesn't know he can get lung cancer until he's told he has it. Someone shooting heroin doesn't think they can overdose until they buy a stronger grade or shoot a little too much. Someone who has used steroids for several years doesn't know they can negatively effect their health until things start getting out of whack.
The issue with hormones is it's seldom one of these deals where you inject this one day, and the day after you die. You can't point your finger at something and say “Yep, he took steroids so this is what's going on here.” The negative effects creep up very slowly and they usually don't become an issue until later in life. Do I believe steroids can cause negative health consequences? Yes, BUT ONLY WHEN ABUSED AND HEALTH GOES NEGLECTED.
Size, not steroids, is the culprit
But I want to dig deeper into this thing first. You can't say it's just the steroids, it's a little more involved than that. Let's take 2 different guys for example, the first guy takes steroids and floats around 180-200 lbs in fairly lean condition year round. The second guy balloons up to 250 lbs and stays that size for the next half of his life. The 250 lb individual has increased his risk of health complications from body stature alone, not just steroids.
Sure, steroids may have helped him get there, but it's now the effects of increased body mass and stress on the heart that becomes the health culprit, not the fact that this guy used steroids. The heart has to work harder to pump blood to the body because of his size, and throughout a number of years at this rate, he has increased the likelihood of a possible stroke or a heart attack.
Now, in some people who were genetically predisposed to be larger individuals anyways, this may not always be 100% accurate. But this is bodybuilding, and most of us were not genetically predisposed to become the size that we become. Organs in the body have to work harder to process things when more and more things have been introduced into the body. Be it food, drugs, caffeine, alcohol, chemicals in soda or whatever, the body has to work to process anything we put into it.
So again, overall consumption becomes an issue as well, not just steroids. So what is the key to knowing how far you can take it? It's called getting LABS DRAWN ON THE REGULAR. Whether you use performance enhancement or not, I believe anybody over the age of 30 should be getting regular blood work done, ESPECIALLY IF YOU USE STEROIDS! Steroids are not a death sentence, not even when used long term, if you know what the hell you're doing and when to back off.
Let's talk about false readings on blood labs. I use the word “false reading” very loosely here, because in a way it's false and in a way it's not. If you're using steroids and go get your labs drawn mid-cycle then things may look a little out of whack. This is only a false reading in regard to the fact you're taking something that is throwing things off short term, it's not a false reading in that the measures shown aren't really what they say at that given point in time.
When you come off your cycle then your labs will look better almost 90% of the time. Well when you never come off cycle then guess what? Your hematocrit that reads high is sure as hell isn't lying. Your elevated blood pressure is really high as hell, it's not just some fluke or something. You've gone several years now with these values possibly elevated, and that my friends causes damage.
Before you go freaking out on me, let me explain a few things here first. Much of this depends on what you've used, how your body has reacted to it, and how much you took. A guy who has used 200 mg/wk of Nandrolone for 20 weeks straight while maintaining good blood pressure, cholesterol levels and liver values, is in far better shape than that same guy who blindly uses 200 mg/wk of Nandrolone but is predisposed to elevated blood pressure from it. It becomes an individual thing to some degree, which is why you can't generalize everyone who used steroids as a walking death sentence. But, the misinformed and stubborn ones are most often the ones with negative health consequences.
Have some stability before you take steroids
When a guy comes to me and asks me if I think he should use steroids, I don't tell him yes or no. I prefer to educate them on the reality of it and what they're looking at down the road. The first thing I ask him is “Where do you work and do you have health insurance?” If this guy tells me he has some stability in life and can go to a doctor if he needs to, then I tell him to go for it. If this guy is a 19 year old kid who has no health insurance and no clue as to what the hell he is going to do with his life then I advise against using them.
He'll probably be perfectly fine and a lot like everyone else. He'll hit a few cycles and get some results, and then he'll probably move on and won't take the gym as seriously as he gets older, or when he settles down with a wife and kids he'll just quit altogether. He'll be one of the guys who talks about, “Yeah, back in the day I tried Dbol, Tren, and Test” but he'll get over it and move on and his hormone levels will come back to normal range.
HOWEVER, if he is someone who stays in the gym throughout the years and continues to use steroids into his 30's and 40's, but doesn't have the financial means to get blood labs drawn, or proper health care coverage, he just may be a walking time bomb. It's nice to think that you'll make health a priority and get regular labs done and just pay cash, but 90% of people just can't afford it and aren't going to do it without heath insurance. So much of my answer to someone who asks me about steroids is based on that factor right there.
I know a guy right now in his mid 40's who is going to die if he doesn't get a kidney transplant. I'm talking about the walking picture of health and fitness his whole life. This is a guy who always ate clean and always stayed in the gym. But he always ran a bunch of gear, used recreational drugs, and never went to a damn doctor. This guy went downhill so fast it would make your head spin. I didn't see him for a few months, and then one morning in the gym he pops up and he was so thin and frail looking I thought he must have had AIDS.
He didn't speak to me that day and I later found out why. Nobody feels like talking when they think they're on their deathbed, especially when they were known for being a picture of health and fitness before their life went to shit. Now, of course recreational drugs can play a major role in this, but who knows the specifics of it? He could have been someone who never came off orals, and I'm guessing that blood work wasn't in the picture for him. This was a national level bodybuilding competitor who probably never went off gear. The point to this story is get your damn blood work done if steroids is a part of your lifestyle, so if you need to back off you know when.
A good friend of mine was just referred to a kidney specialist last week. He calls me up and tells me this, and starts asking all these questions about kidney values. Then he asks me what he could still use as far as steroids and what dosages I thought he could get away with. He is talking to me in terms of “If I can just make it another 5 years.” He is talking to me in a way that say's he's accepted the fact he is going to die soon, and if he can't bodybuild then he'd assume to be dead anyways.
There were a lot of old timers that were like this, and many took their own lives when bodybuilding was over with. It drove them absolutely nuts that they were falling apart and they ended it before they suffered. Sometimes this isn't always a deal where you have something happen and in a blink of an eye you're dead. No, I'd almost say those may be the luckier ones. A lot of guys suffer through a lot of bullshit before they finally tap out.
Bodybuilding is still new
You have to remember that bodybuilding is still new. A lot of old timers from the 60's and 70's are just now starting to die off. They rarely make 70 years old and the ones who make 70 years old are lucky. Now we have a new breed of bodybuilders who are taking far more drugs, far bigger dosages, and far longer cycles. Well what comes to my mind is if the old timers rarely see 70 years old, then what is the time clock for a newer guy? Even with advances in the medical field something just tells me you can only fool mother nature for so long.
Now, on the other side of the coin we have health issues that come on from low testosterone. I know another guy who has been in the gym for 40 years, and has juiced up a total of 30 years now. He went off everything once for a period of 3 months due to a non-related medical condition. Guess what happened? His blood work went to hell, but then went back to normal when he resumed testosterone replacement therapy! Low testosterone is terrible and I'd dare say the lack of energy, anxiety, and stress, is worse than being on testosterone for the rest of your life. So you definitely cannot just rule this out and deem testosterone replacement therapy as the anti-Christ here.
From my experiences in bodybuilding and performance enhancement, every decade yields a twist in the way you eat, train, and even use performance enhancers. Yes, I've only been at this 2 decades now, but I'm already wise enough to know it's going to change at 40 years old, again at 50 years old, and so on. But the thing is I already know what to do to manipulate things and how to train as an aging male.
I have too many friends and acquaintances in their 40's, 50's, and 60's who I know on a very good level, so I know what it's all about. I've seen it just in my time with bodybuilding alone, but I'm talking about some guys with 30 and 40 years of bodybuilding and steroids under their belt. One thing I'll tell you is the quality of their lives is much better than their “normal” counterparts, because they are doing it right.
So, how do we do it right?
I've devised a list of things to pay close attention to in order to maintain your health while using steroids and aging;
#1 – Protein goes up when cycling, it drops when maintaining. Too much protein makes your kidneys work harder, and it can also make you sluggish. It's a wise idea to lower it once in awhile, and it's my belief that .8 grams per pound of body weight is all that is needed to build quality muscle for most people.
#2 – Dosages need to be lower as you age, but done with compounds you can run out for longer durations without negatively impacting labs to any significant degree. My drugs of choice as I've gotten older and on TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) would be low dose Deca, NPP, Primobolan Depot, Anavar, Masteron, and moderate dosages of EQ.
#3 – Anyone on replacement therapy should be donating blood on a regular basis. Donating blood keeps things in check; especially red blood cells and hematocrit. Women statistically live longer than men because of their menstrual cycles; their bodies lose blood and the creation of new blood pulls toxins from their vital organs. It's a wise idea to donate blood on the regular if you commit to TRT or steroids for life.
#4 – Calories should be consumed at maintenance level to slightly below maintenance levels 80% of the year. There is no more gaining 20 lbs of muscle mass from cycles or ballooning up with water weight and fat gain. Your metabolism is getting slower and it doesn't take as many calories to do the job. You will find yourself more energized on fewer calories than packing them in all the time.
At this point you've gained what you're going to gain in terms of size (unless you're new to it) and your efforts are better spent constantly refining what you have into better and better quality. I call this “old man muscle” and this is that grainy ass, hard as nails muscle you only see on vets who have been at this for years and years. It's quite impressive. 90% of veteran trainers or middle aged men have absolutely no reason to consume over 3,000 calories per day.
#5 – Repetitions should become higher than they were in the beginning. It's fine to occasionally drop to lower reps, but remember that your tendons and joints haven't gotten as strong as your muscles have. The first rep of any set is the most dangerous rep, and the last rep is the safest. Whoever says you cannot benefit from high rep training is full of shit. I have found that a slower rep speed and reps frequently taken into the teens has done me a world of good as I've continued to train and use steroids along with getting older. Volumizing the muscles and pump becomes more important than lifting heavy as you get older. Your joints will thank you!
#6 – Sleep becomes more critical as we age. Sleep typically gets worse as we age also. Due to lower GH levels in our bodies, our sleep seems to just go to shit as we age. Stress, responsibilities, monotony of day-to-day routines, and lack of hormones can have a serious damper on sleep quality. I'M GUILTY AS CHARGED TOO! Try to make it a priority to be in bed at the same time each night and if you need to use something to help you fall asleep then use it. Whats worse, taking an ambien tab to fall asleep or going on no sleep and walking around like a zombie? Hey, I'm not saying to become a drug addict here, but if you need to pop a pill to go to bed once in awhile then fuck it, pop one.
#7 – Cardio, cardio, cardio! Look, holding muscle isn't difficult if you've been a muscular stature for a long time. You can literally do just a couple sets per muscle group each week and you're probably not going to lose jack shit in terms of muscle size, especially if you'e using testosterone. When you get to that point in the gym where you've been training for 45 minutes- 1 hour and you ask yourself “Should I continue to weight train and skip cardio or go do cardio?” then you need to go do cardio. Even if it's just 20 minutes per day 3-5 times/week just make sure you're doing it. Your heart will thank you and so will your lungs. You may find yourself looking much more impressive than just set after set after set in the weights.
#8 – Get to a manageable body weight that is a good combination of muscle/definition but not overboard. It's a fact, bigger people statistically die younger and people on higher calorie diets die younger.
You guys have all heard of Frank Zane by now. Frank Zane competed around 180-190 lbs, and while certainly not the largest guy on stage he was pretty damn impressive. Frank Zane's daily diet at this point is about 1200-1500 calories/day. He is heavily involved in meditation and clean living practices. Frank and his wife used to ride road cycles a lot as well. Zane was never concerned with being the biggest guy but everything was quality.
Frank is a far cry away from the shape a lot of older guys are in now health wise. He was always smart about things. Yes, Frank Zane used steroids, he wasn't nicknamed “The chemist” for nothing. He taught chemistry if I'm not mistaken, but I'm sure his nickname wasn't just because of that, if you get my drift. But at some given point in time he had to get smart and let a lot of it go. When I say a manageable body weight, I don't mean you need to be a walking skeleton, but it's a wise idea to try to get into the low 200's if you can.
Serge Nubret was 200 lbs at 6′ tall, and anyone who says you cannot look muscular at 200 lbs and 6′ tall would change their view real fast if they went and pulled his photos up. So I'm about 5'9″ myself, there is absolutely no reason for me to be walking around at over 220 lbs as I get older and try to stay as healthy as my look.
But let me let you guys in on something here; LOSING WEIGHT IS AN ABSOLUTE BITCH WHEN YOU'VE HELD IT FOR SO LONG! For me to get under 220 lbs it's like pulling teeth! I have to diet my ass off to get anywhere under 220 lbs, and if I went back to “normal eating patterns” I'd throw it right back on. Guys, this is even with no steroids outside of 150 mg/wk of testosterone as per replacement dosages. I'm advocating manageable body weight in terms of heart health, cardio health, and flexibility. Nobody wants a knee replacement because they had to walk around at 275 lbs their whole life feeling like king shit. You're not king shit with arthritis and bad joints.
#9 – Enjoy life a little more! How many times did you do away with a certain activity because you went to the gym instead? Listen, you may have been in the gym on every sunny day for the majority of your life. Why not take up kayaking or hiking a couple days a week? Or how about riding a bike or surfing?
Something different once in awhile doesn't hurt, for God sake don't go to your grave missing out on other beautiful things life can offer besides a nice looking body! One of the biggest reasons people get depressed as they grow older is because day-to-day activities get downright monotonous and repetitive. The sad part is most people can't figure that out! They're too busy trying to make money and stressing out over stupid shit that really doesn't mean as much as they think it does in the whole scheme of things.
#10 – DON'T PUT YOUR HEALTH IN SOMEONE ELSE'S HANDS! The medical industry wants you to stay sick! If you're sick that means they make more money, and if you stay sick it's even more money. Do you know how many classes most general practitioners take on pharmacology in school? ONE! They take 1 class on general medicine, that's all.
Don't go in for a fucking follow-up if there aren't labs involved or an issue has subsided. What the hell for? So they can ding your insurance just a little harder and you get 2 minutes of some doc's time? “So how you doing now?” he'll ask you. “I'm doing fine” you'll say. “OK, great! See you next week!” He'll hurry you along because of the 4 other appointments his secretary has scheduled for the same time.
Don't buy into it all and don't put your health solely in the hands of someone else! Do you know how many people die that way? Learn from others who can educate you and do your own research. If someone specializes in a particular area then listen to them, sort of like I specialize in fitness and hormones! But at the end of the day, nobody should care more about you than you. And nobody should be held more responsible for your health than you!
Fitness with aging doesn't have to be a difficult endeavor nor a horrible experience! I get all these guys in the gym who want to bitch to me about how hard it is. This guy today tells me how hard it is for him because he has to eat what his wife cooks. REALLY? Do you have any idea how stupid that sounds to me? If she wants to get fat then by all means, but the bitch isn't force feeding you with a shovel. Grow a set of balls and tell her you want to start cleaning up your diet. She'll think you're cheating on her, but then again if she is some fat bitch who eats nothing but pasta and garlic bread then maybe you should.
Or all of these guys with back issues who refuse to train lower back or hit abs. There are ways to train around injuries and strengthen areas to protect yourself. Man wasn't made to have some terrible injury and the body not try to correct itself. Stop being lazy. If you can't do deadlifts then fine, do hyperextensions. If you can't do hyperextension then take yoga classes to gain more flexibility and stabilizer strength, then go do hyperextensions!
I've deadlifted heavy as hell for the past 20 years straight and I have zero back issues BECAUSE I DEADLIFT. Go figure, I train myself to pick heavy shit up off the floor and I remain injury free! It's funny how that works huh? The way I see it, you have 2 choices here; either stay strong and healthy or stay broke and hope the health insurance plans don't get any worse than they already are. I know which one I'll choose!
For more on anti-aging and testosterone replacement therapy, be sure to pick up “Straight from the Underground” which is scheduled to release very soon!
Train hard! -JD
PS – Don’t forget to check out Straight From the Underground, the new underground bodybuilding bible!