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This Month In Body
  • Get Flexible!
    Here are the facts about stretching as well as the best stretches for total body flexibility. Read >>
  • Cold Weather Fitness
    If the freezing temperatures are placing a freeze on your fitness, here are some ideas to get you moving and have some fun at the same time. Read >>
  • Performance-Enhancing Drugs
    Is winning really worth the cost when it comes to potential long-term health risks? Do your research. You may decide the benefits really aren’t worth the risks. Read >>
  • A Bodyweight Workout
    If you find yourself struggling to find time to drive to the gym, give bodyweight exercises a try. Read >>
Health and Fitness News
Chandra Young is now a professional Fitness Trainer

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Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Weighing out the risks and benefits.

What measures will you take to make the team, receive a scholarship, or win the championship? Many athletes are so competitive they go to drastic measures to improve their performance. And when they feel their natural ability isn’t enough to get them where they want to be, some wind up taking performance-enhancing drugs or muscle-building supplements.

The most common enhancement substances include anabolic steroids and the human growth hormone (HGH). Others include androstendeione, erythropoietin, Creatine, diuretics, and stimulants.

Is winning really worth the cost when it comes to potential long-term health risks? Do your research. You may decide the benefits really aren’t worth the risks.

Anabolic Steroids

Your body naturally produces an anabolic steroid. It’s called testosterone. This hormone is used to build muscle mass and strength as well as male-specific traits, including a deeper voice and facial hair.

Athletes take anabolic steroids to boost their performance. These drugs make your muscles bigger and help your muscles recover more quickly from a strenuous workout, enabling you to perform harder and more frequently. Helpful as this sounds, taking anabolic steroids for athletic performance is both illegal and dangerous.

When men take too much testosterone they may develop breasts, shrunken testicles, baldness, or infertility. Women may grow body hair, get a deeper voice, become bald, or have an enlarged clitoris. As if that weren’t bad enough, both men and women are more likely to develop acne, tendonitis, liver and heart problems, tumors, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, aggression, and depression when taking anabolic steroids.

Human Growth Hormone

Also called gonadotropin, the human growth hormone (HGH) has anabolic effects as well, increasing the taker’s muscle mass and athletic performance. But it’s not all good news for HGH. Undergoing HGH injections may lead to muscle weakness, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fluid retention, disease of the heart, and high lipid levels in the blood.


Rather than taking a drug, many athletes choose to take nutritional supplements, which are readily available over the counter in pill or powder form. The most common supplement is called Creatine monohydrate, a compound naturally produced by your liver for muscle energy. Athletes believe Creatine supplements give them short bursts of energy needed for sprinting or weightlifting.

While many have found positive results from Creatine, there is one fact you won’t find on the package at your local health food store: supplements aren’t regulated. Because of this, they have been found to be contaminated with substances that could show up positive on a performance-enhancing drug test.

In addition, Creatine may cause muscle cramps, stomach cramps, weight gain, diarrhea, nausea, and dehydration, all of which hamper athletic performance. High doses could even lead to liver or kidney damage.

While low doses seem safe for adults, long-term risks are unknown, especially when used by kids or teenagers.


A naturally occurring hormone in the body that’s converted to estrodiol and testosterone, androstenedione (andro) can be found in prescription or nonprescription (supplement) form. Illegal as a performance drug in the U.S., andro is believed to allow athletes to workout harder and recover from their training faster.

As with anabolic steroids, men taking andro may develop acne and breasts. The drug can also result in a lower sperm count and cause the user’s testicles to shrink. Suddenly, bigger muscles don’t seem that important, do they?
Women may develop acne, a deeper voice, or male-pattern baldness.
Additionally, andro puts both sexes at increased risk for heart attack and stroke by lowering HDL (good) cholesterol.


Epoetin, a synthetic form of erythropoietin (a hormone that increases blood flow to muscles), is typically used by endurance athletes. Popular in the 1990s, epotin led to at least 18 deaths, and may lead to stroke, pulmonary edema, or heart attack.


When an athlete desires to lose weight (wrestlers for example) they may take a diuretic. Diuretics change your body’s balance of salts and fluids, leading to dehydration. Losing water weight will lower one’s body weight quickly.
Unfortunately, diuretics increase the risk for dehydration, exhaustion, dizziness, muscle cramps, low blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, heatstroke, potassium deficiency, and even death.


Used by athletes to increase their heart rate and blood pressure and stimulate their central nervous system, stimulants can reduce fatigue, improve endurance, and make you more aggressive. Examples of stimulants include caffeine, amphetamines, ephedrine, pseudophedrine hydrochloride, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

Risks include insomnia, dehydration, heatstroke, inability to concentrate, heart problems, tremors, hallucinations, stroke, or convulsions.