Steroids vs Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Decision Making


Steroids vs natural have never been an easy decision. Do you want gains? Or you want to avoid the risks? Live fast, die young, leave a sexy corpse? It’s all or nothing? Big chances are never small stakes? Or slow and steady wins?

We’ve got you on this one. With this guide, you’ll be informed enough to be able to make a decision. As unbiased and no-BS as it gets – here’s all you need to know to decide, what the answer to steroids vs natural is right for you.

What Are Steroids

First of all, basics for those who just started exploring the world of gear. So that you see where we stand: 

Anabolic steroids are performance enhancement compounds class, invented in the 1930s. Most of them are derivatives of the male sex hormone Testosterone. All steroids promote muscle growth, strength boost, and other good things that every athlete tries to achieve.

The most significant difference between going on steroids vs natural is speed – an 8-10 weeks cycle can give a steroids user more than a natural athlete will achieve in a year. 

Anabolic steroids can give you side effects along with benefits since you intervene in the natural hormonal processes. Your testicles can stop producing the natural Testosterone, your liver can get damaged, and so on. Some sides are nasty!

Even though dangers are apparent – anabolic steroids and Testosterone still play a vital role in modern medicine. We have hundreds of studies that prove their effectiveness in treating different conditions (such as hypogonadism). Dozens of new studies come out every year, with all the new aspects in the spotlight. For example, here’s a great breakdown on Testosterone from Harvard Medicine.

Anabolic Steroids are illegal to sell, they are produced in black-market laboratories of different quality, and in some areas – even possession of AS can get you in jail. In the US and Canada, anabolic steroids are heavily regulated, but the Internet market flourishes and more and more athletes get their first cycle every day. 

The whole steroids vs natural argument is based on a clear point: steroids give you an unfair advantage. You can get a better physique than those who work out naturally.

Steroids are not new – even ancient greeks were trying to get a boost with weird stuff like bull testicles or garlic. Nowadays, performance enhancement compounds are much less crazy, way cleaner, way more practical, and are definitely better studied than in the past. 

It’s pretty easy to get yourself a vial or two of Testosterone or a pack of Dbol nowadays. So, what do you need to know to make a choice? 

How Natural Bodybuilding Works 

A simplified AF version: You put extra pressure on your muscle with resistance training – it learns to adapt to it and reacts to the challenge with hypertrophy, aka growth. 

Of course, it’s not THAT simple, but this is what the basic concept looks like. Challenge your muscles to make them grow. In the process, you start multiple chain reactions in your body, defined by several natural substances: 

  • IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1) promotes the growth itself and slows down atrophy (muscle mass decrease); 
  • Human Growth Hormone – stands for its name and promotes growth and healing of ALL tissues in your body, including muscles; 
  • Testosterone – the MOST important hormone when it comes to building muscles. 

Natural Testosterone comes from your testicles, and the amount of it defines how fast and how effectively you will gain muscle mass. Besides, DIET plays a crucial role in natural bodybuilding. Here’s a great study on all the nutrition stuff you need to maintain to get at least some notable mass.

Sometimes the right food can even increase your natural Testosterone – here’s our guide on natural Testosterone boosters.

Sounds like something you can manage? Yeah, but there’s a problem: Your natural Testosterone production is limited. 

  1. A typical male body produces 7-10mg of Testosterone in a day. So, the maximum weekly level of NATURAL Testosterone is 50-70mg. It’s not much; 
  2. Not all natural Testosterone counts – it partly binds to SHBG (not only, but Sex Hormone Binding Globulin deactivates it completely) and doesn’t work. Only Free Testosterone can give the effects; 
  3. Testosterone has multiple functions in your body and affects pretty much everything, from mood to libido. Your muscles get just a PORTION of what’s left. 

Yup, these upsetting details make the whole natural bodybuilding thing a slow process. And that’s why athletes turn to steroids. 

How Bodybuilding on Steroids Works 

Injectable, oral, or whatever – anabolic steroids MOSTLY needed to give you more Testosterone. A typical dosage of the simplest example, synthetic injectable Testosterone, is around 300-500mg/week. It raises your ability to build muscle by about 1000%. Now THAT’S a lot. 

When you work out naturally, Testosterone from the Leydig cells in your testicles goes to your blood flow, reaches the androgen receptors, and starts giving its effects. When you INJECT Testosterone, the same thing happens, but injectable Testosterone goes to your blood flow from the injection site. 

The delivery method doesn’t affect the core structure of the process. The active substance STILL has to reach your muscle tissue through your blood. 

With oral steroids, you get the same effect, but they have to pass through your digestive system first. It makes adverse effects more likely (like liver damage), but it’s still a popular way. Here you can check our guide on two of the most popular orals comparisons – Anadrol vs Dianabol and Winstrol vs Anavar.

If you want to put some science base to it – here’s a classic study on anabolic steroids effects from 2004. It’s still relevant today since its rather basic.

Steroids vs Natural: The Benefits 

Here’s why the steroids vs natural argument has sense: anabolic steroids give you even more additional benefits: 

  • Raising RBC (red blood cell) count to enhance the oxygen supply to your muscles, so you get better endurance; 
  • Lowering SHBG, so you get more Free Testosterone; 
  • Give you better libido and turn you into a sex machine (if you don’t get one of the side effects that will turn your dick off completely); 
  • Boost your recovery speed, including both healing from muscular micro-tears and after severe traumas; 
  • Enhance your bone density, meaning that it’ll be harder to break them. 

And that’s not even the complete list.

Steroids benefits 

The arguments can be simplified to this: 

  • Speed. You get bigger FASTER. A natural bodybuilder has to work out regularly for years to achieve the same look that steroids user will get in a few months with the same training routine; 
  • Pushing the limits. Even a genetically gifted athlete will never achieve the same level of physique that hardcore steroid users get in some years of proper cycling. It takes a miracle for one to get the exact size AND – most importantly – level of details;
  • Effectiveness. One set on a bench press with the same weights will give a natural bodybuilder just a tiny portion of results that a steroid user will get, with the same amount of sweating their ass off. 

Natural Benefits 

Of course, we don’t promote steroids use – natural bodybuilding has its benefits: 

  • Mental gains. Whatever you did, YOU did it. No performance enhancement compounds were there to help you. For every tiny muscle cell, you fought alone, with no help. Even if you get less – you get it through hard work only and can be pretty damn proud of it. It doesn’t mean that steroid users can’t be proud of their achievements. Working out on steroids is not easier in any way. It’s just that you – naturally – didn’t get any external help, and your genetics and dedication define your looks;  
  • Social approval. Justified or not, steroids use is stigmatized in modern society. In some bodybuilding circles, it’s stigmatized as well. Once you run at least ONE tiny cycle of something, you can’t say that you’re 100% natural, and the amount of people who would judge your decisions grows exponentially. Even if you don’t give a shit about others’ opinions – you can’t dismiss WADA’s, IFBB’s, and other organizations – you have to be afraid of testing positive for steroids. With natural bodybuilding, you may not get the same gains, but you can be sure about your reputation safety; 
  • Safety. Oh, speaking of this elephant in the room… With natural bodybuilding, you don’t intervene in the core hormonal processes of your body. You can sleep well, knowing that you won’t get a gyno overnight, your dick will work as it should, your liver is safe, your mental health is unaffected, your hair won’t start falling off, your sex drive will stay the same, and so on. It’s a whole other topic that needs more attention. 

Steroids vs Natural: Side Effects 

Oh, the never-ending list of possible side effects you can get on steroids. Here are just the most notable things: 

  • Liver damage. Oral steroids are 17-alpha-alkylated to pass the liver’s natural filtering. The process damages the liver. It’s not THAT bad if you take moderate doses, but if you abuse orals – it can lead to liver failure or blood-filled cysts; 
  • Natural Testosterone Suppression. You get so much Testosterone from injections that your balls think that their work is insignificant now and stop working. They need a lot of time to get back on track after the cycle. During that time (especially if you don’t give them the PCT support), you’re going to feel all the effects of low Testosterone, from dead sex drive to anxiety and severe fatigue; 
  • Cardiovascular issues. Steroids put extra pressure on your heart and elevate your BP. If you take high doses, mix them with drugs or booze, or have preexisting conditions, the adverse effects can be chronic, or you can get heart failure; 
  • Painful pumps and headaches. Another consequence of elevated BP. From hot flashes to painful pumps that last for days, steroids can give you many discomforts. Countermeasures like Taurine are not ALWAYS effective. Headaches, dizziness, nosebleeds, red face, it’s all on the list; 
  • Acne. Your skin reacts to steroids as well. Pimples all over the back and neck area are not uncommon. To counter steroidal acne, you need to take hardcore compounds like Accutane, with their own set of side effects. Sweating like crazy and worsening your skin condition with frequent showers comes as a «bonus». 

It doesn’t sound good at all, right? That’s why the steroids vs natural argument is always a hot topic – you have severe risks with external compounds. And it gets even worse: all of these are GENERAL effects. 

Specific anabolic steroids can give you more nasty stuff: 

  • Winstrol – an oral steroid – can give you wrist pain, especially in your wrists, elbows, and knees; 
  • Deca Durabolin and Trenbolone can give you so-called Deca Dick and Tren Dick – temporary erectile dysfunction. Basically, they turn your dick into a noodle for some time, especially if you run them without a Testosterone base; 
  • Trenbolone seriously affects your CNS and can give you the most pronounced mental side effects, from anxiety and panic attacks to the illusion of irrationally high self-esteem. 

Even a regular TRT – Testosterone Replacement Therapy – can give you a bunch of nasty sides, here’s a big study from 2014 that lists some of them. To do your TRT right and choose a compound, read our ultimate guide on TRT compounds and cycles.

Does it mean that you will 100% get all the side effects? No, Is there a possibility and a risk you will? Hell yes.

Health risks play a key role in the whole steroids vs natural argument. 

Steroid side effects are dose-dependent, defined by your preexisting conditions and health stats. You can get lucky and enjoy a free ride with little to no side effects or get a whole bunch in your first cycle. They can be horrible or just mildly uncomfortable. It’s a lottery, and you have a new ticket each time you try a new compound. SOme medical experts argue that steroids are not THAAAT dangerous – some of their arguments are listed in this study on anabolic steroids’ adverse effects.

With natural bodybuilding, your chances to get one of those effects are pretty damn close to zero. It’s a major benefit of going natural. 

Steroids vs Natural: Roids101 Verdict  

As obvious as it gets, there’s no clear answer.

It’s a personal decision: risks vs. effectiveness, extreme gains vs. extreme safety. You’ve got to make your own decision here, based on all the facts you know now. 

We’d recommend to talk with both experienced steroid users and natural athletes, but there’s a whole class of people who try to cheat the system.

Fake natural bodybuilders, aka fake natty guys. They are trying to straddle both worlds: get praised for their fantastic «natural» physique and get all the steroidal benefits. They’re not 100% a negative thing, but the fact is – there are tons of them among social media influencers. And a whole different subject in this – is how to spot a fake natty. You know, the guy you definitely should NOT listen to when you’ll try to make a decision on steroids vs natural thing.

How To Spot a Fake Natty 

First of all, there is no way to say whether someone is natural or not, based on their appearance. We’re dealing with assumptions here. However, sometimes you just get a critical mass of assumptions, and there are way too many of them. Here are the signs: 

  • Look at their sweat and skin. Elevated BP is one of the signs of steroid use. If a person is sweating like crazy, got nose bleeds, it can be pointing at the fact they’re on a cycle right now. Of course, you have to distinguish between sweating like crazy because of a hardcore workout or sweating like crazy because it’s 32 Celsius outside; 
  • Look at their veins. Vascularity is a notable effect of steroid use. A person with a spider web of veins all over their body is either genetically gifted (even though it’s a controversial benefit and not all people find visible veins sexy), run on extremely low body fat percent, OR just finished their cutting cycle with Anavar or something like that; 
  • Look at their mental health. Not a thing you can literally «look» at, but it’ll be visible If something is wrong. Of course, some people are douchebags naturally. However, anabolic steroids increase irritability and directly affect the central nervous system. If a generally chill guy turns into a psycho for a week or two – they might be on gear (or, well, in the middle of a divorce process); 
  • Look at their legs. Hard to notice, but it mainly works with beginner steroid users. Leg muscles have way fewer androgenic receptors than the upper body. A steroid user will MOST LIKELY get notable gains in shoulders, traps, and arms on the first bulking cycle, but legs will stay relatively the same. Not a 100% sign since they could just hate leg days THIS much, but it still can be one of the things to look at; 
  • Calculate FFMI. A tricky one: to calculate FFMI (Fat-Free Mass Index), you need to know one’s height, weight, and body fat percent. There are plenty of calculators on the Web to avoid the pleasure of messing around with formulas yourself. FFMI over 25 is a sign of steroid use since natural athletes have to be extremely, EXTREMELY gifted to achieve this point. 
  • Acne. More precisely, steroidal acne. Tiny ugly pimples on the back and the neck, rarely – on the face. Of course, acne can manifest on anyone for a dozen of reasons, but if you see this specific type – it’s one of the signs; 
  • Gynecomastia. Cycling anabolic steroids can lead to the development of male breasts due to estrogen rise because of aromatization. Long story short, if you see a guy with a nearly perfect physique, but he – somehow – has puffy nipples or full-size (ok, small, but still) female-like breasts – he’s either extremely unlucky with genetics, or – more likely – was cycling gear. 
  • Muscle Mass. The most obvious thing, but one of the most misleading signs as well. That’s why we put it here, in the end. Some people are genetically gifted. They don’t need to work out like crazy on a daily basis to look fantastic, and they don’t need gear for it. That’s the argument your average fake natty will use with a probability of about 90%. However, if you see other signs AND unreal muscle mass – it most likely means that the guy made his choice on steroids vs natural, and he’s pinning his choice every 3 days in his glutes.

Questionary If Someone is Natty or Juice 

This one won’t work with the majority of fake natty YouTube bloggers, but it can maybe help you to identify a steroid user in your local gym: 

  • Are they sweating like crazy even during relatively simple exercises?
  • They’re covered with pimples, especially on the neck and back area?
  • Their veins pop out and look like a paper cut can be lethal?
  • They’re acting crazy, easily get triggered, or just look anxious?
  • Their shoulders and upper body are more prominent than their leg muscles?
  • Their FFMI (Fat-Free Mass Index), if you can learn it, is over 25 or around it?
  • They somehow gained an insane amount of muscles in a short time?
  • Do they have bitch tits, aka moobs, aka male titties, aka gynecomastia?
  • Do they happen to be a «genetically gifted» award-winning PRO-level athlete?
  • Do they act significantly differently every 2-3 months?

None of these – again – are 100% signs. But if you get more than 5 or 7 at a time – there’s a big chance you’re looking at asteroid users. 

How To Win Natty or Juice Argument on The Internet

We’ll save you some time: it’s impossible.

It’s a never-ending shit-storm, whether a YouTube bodybuilding star #534 is natty or juice. It starts over and over with every new influencer in the spotlight. You’ll see it everywhere – in the comments, on forums, even in specific subreddits, dedicated ONLY to this kind of argument. 

The funny thing about natty or juice arguments is that… they really happen, and they NEVER end. And often – look like this: 

— It looks like a chicken! 
— But it still can be a statue, a different bird, or a toy chicken.

— It sounds like a chicken! 
— Yeah but it can be a rare bird that mimics chicken sounds.

— It moves like a chicken! All that shaky stuff and head turns! 
— Oh, so you’re a chicken movement expert now, a biologist or a physicist? It can be animatronic to trick you. In the 1980s, I’ve seen a pigeon moving just like that, so it proves nothing. 

— I just saw it laying an egg! 
— Well, alligators lay eggs, too, it proves nothing.

— I just killed it, plucked it, fried it, and ate it. It tastes 100% like a chicken.
— It doesn’t prove anything. This chicken-like taste could be from years of hard work and dedication, you’re just jealous!

Sigh. We guarantee you’ll remember this chicken stuff when you’ll come across one of those arguments in the wild. 

Those Internet battles are especially hilarious if the chicken comes to the camera ten times a day and says, «I swear I’m an alligator, guys, never did a cluck-cluck in my life, just believe in yourself!». 

Yeah, looking at you, Mike O’Tren. 

mike ohearn bb web
Mike O’Hearn is one of the most famous «natural» influencers out there.

The golden rule here is simple: if it LOOKS like a chicken, MOVES like one, SOUNDS like one – it’s a fucking chicken. If it’s not – it’s their damn problem that they look like a chicken so much, not yours. 

Why Natty or Juice Arguments Are Important

If you ask people why they even care whether someone is natty or juice, they will most likely give you one of these 2 points: 

  1. Fake natty athletes and influencers lie to get rich! 
  2. Fake natty athletes promote unrealistic expectations! 

First of all – don’t be mean to those people. We all need to vent on the Internet sometimes, and if believing in some special mission of fighting for the truth helps them in it – why the hell not? People that get rich from lying are nothing new, it’s just capitalism. And second…

Here’s an unpopular opinion: natty or juice arguments are VITAL for the modern bodybuilding community. 

Sounds not right? We still believe in it. Here’s why: 

Reason 1: It doesn’t let those fake natty bloggers relax. 

If there was no social stigma against steroids – they would all openly promote them. Luckily, it’s not true. 

Just imagine, at some day – every Mike O’Tren comes out and says, «Oh yeah, I cycle this, this and this, and that’s why I look so awesome». The steroids market will blow up instantly. 

I doubt those influencers would highlight the importance of caution and patience in dealing with gear, the importance of moderate dosing, and a proper PCT. We’d get an army of impatient and uneducated steroid users. 

More people doing something they don’t quite understand = more crucial side effects and bad cases = more bad attention to the market = more restrictions. We can go on with «higher prices», «less high-quality options», and so on, but it’s speculation. Fake natty influencers act as a dam to some degree, and «natty or juice» arguments keep them in that position. 

Of course, this point would shit on influencers who openly admit taking steroids – but that’s unnecessary here. Those honest guys get all the respect we can give. 90% of the time, they promote the HEALTHY way of cycling steroids. They know they’re playing with fire and take all precaution measures. Unfortunately, they’re still a minority, and we still need a fake natty dam. 

Reason 2: Arguments create doubt and keep people from depression 

This is about all the «unrealistic expectations» stuff. It’s cool if said Mike motivates someone to go to the gym and work at their peak, with pure dedication and so on.  

Unfortunately, more people who just start going to the gym look at Mike and think, «Fuck it, I’ll never look like this guy on gear, so what’s the point». Or even worse: 

Some people work out hard for years, go to the gym daily, put their soul into creating a perfect diet, watch their calories, and STILL don’t look like some mike or Phil. It creates depression, frustration, and despair. 

Natty or juice kind of arguments cut the extremes here. When people DISCUSS whether some new influencer is fake natty or not, there’s no clear answer – and no base for extremes. 

Maybe you WILL look like him with dedication and hard work. Maybe he’s just a cheater. Maybe not! Or maybe yes. Anyway, the more people are uncertain about something – the less they are likely to get depressed or make life-changing decisions because of it. 

Internet shit-storms can – maybe, under the right circumstances – save someone’s mental health. 

Still, the best thing you can do with these shit-storms is just staying away from them. Whether someone is natty or juice should NOT bother you. It doesn’t affect your routine, doesn’t work as an excuse to drop hardcore workouts (“oh, I’ll never be as jacked as those fake natty guys”), and doesn’t work as an excuse to start cycling gear. 

Personal Opinion On Steroids vs Natural and Fake Natty Athletes

Even if you get the steroid user’s exact cycle and dosage – there are no guarantees you’ll look like them. I’d even bet that you 100% WILL NOT look like them because genetics and personal response to the compound can alter the results drastically. 

Feel an urge to go fake natty spotting? Do 50 push-ups. Still feel it? Do 50 more!

This way, at some point, you won’t give a single fuck about someone being natty or juice, and your own performance will be slightly better. 

Your personal gains are more important than all the people that are not right on the Internet. 

And this way, you’ll have more time to decide for yourself what is the answer to the whole steroids vs natural argument.