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Are Steroid Gains Permanent? (According to a Doctor)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

Maintaining muscle mass is generally easier than getting it in the first place, but you still need to work out to both keep and grow muscle.

I’ve noticed that pro bodybuilders who took steroids easily jump right back into shape after several months or even years of not working out.

I wanted to find out to what degree steroid gains are permanent, so I teamed up with an endocrinologist and a colleague of mine who has worked with many steroid users over the years to review various case studies on steroid users.

Here’s what I found out.

Quick Summary

  • Steroids increase muscle fiber growth while teaching them to develop a muscle memory mechanism.
  • A steroid user’s myonuclei levels permanently increase and remain enhanced long after they’ve stopped taking steroids.
  • While steroids can increase muscle development and strength, they often lead to very serious side effects.

Do Anabolic Steroids Give You Permanent Gains?

A person lifting weights in the gym

Yes, anabolic steroids may give you permanent gains because it changes the way your body builds muscle.

Recent studies on mice found that brief exposure to steroids may have long-lasting muscle-enhancing effects [1].

In a 2013 experiment on mice, researchers found that those briefly exposed to testosterone developed a sort of “muscle memory” that allowed them to regain muscle fibers rapidly later in life [2].

Both these studies suggest that once you take anabolic steroids to gain mass, your muscle fibers “remember” how to increase in size down the line.

While both studies were performed on mice, the researchers stated that the results could apply to humans as well.

“If [steroids are] sufficient to build muscle mass, I think it would be sufficient to give you this long-term effect. I think it could last ten years…”

- Prof. Kristian Gundersen, Depart of Biosciences, University of Oslo

To better understand whether humans could experience muscle memory and enhanced development of muscles long after taking steroids, let’s dive into the science behind muscles and steroids.

The Science Behind Muscle Growth and Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Two doctors analyzing a woman working out

First, let’s understand how muscles “learn” while growing.

Understanding Muscle and Myonuclei

Unlike other cells in the body, muscle cells don’t divide. They rely on cells called satellite cells to regenerate and rebuild themselves.

Muscle hypertrophy means muscle fiber growth, not the increase in the number of muscle cells.

And then there are myonuclei, which are your muscle cell nuclei. Think of them as the central command unit of your muscle fibers.

You gain more myonuclei from training your muscles. While people initially believed you lose these after you stop lifting, recent research suggests otherwise [3].

In fact, studies have found that these myonuclei are retained and play a major role in rebuilding muscle quickly once you get back to the weights [4].

This research suggests two things:

  1. Your muscles “remember” how to rebuild themselves
  2. Former users could potentially go undetected in future events while having an unfair advantage in training

Now, let's take a quick look at how anabolic steroids work.

How Steroids Enhance Muscle Size and Strength

A person lifting weights while looking at his biceps

Your body has ways to naturally increase testosterone production, which is required for protein-muscle synthesis [5].

The more testosterone you have, the more efficiently your muscle tissues grow.

However, there are natural limits to how much testosterone you can produce. It could be your age, diet, lifestyle, or hormonal issues.

While you can naturally boost your testosterone levels, there’s always a genetic peak beyond which your muscle tissue doesn’t grow.

To combat this, athletes take steroids, which work as a synthetic form of testosterone to make up for what your body cannot produce.

Intake of anabolic steroids enhances the activation of satellite cells, which tell your myonuclei to build “more muscle” [6].

With higher testosterone levels, your body will encourage increased muscle strength and size beyond what was naturally possible.

This physiological change in your testosterone can affect the way your muscle cells grow and keep your gains even after a steroid cycle.

Related: How Fast Do Steroids Build Muscle?

How Steroids Change Muscle Memory

It’s also important to note that anabolic steroid usage in conjunction with working out can significantly increase your muscle cell nuclei [7].

This basically means if you take steroids and work out, you produce multiple nuclei that will “remember” how to build lean muscle quickly in the future.

This muscle memory gives athletes with previous steroid use an unfair advantage in a competitive sport — even if they don’t go on a steroid cycle before the event.

Better Alternatives

A person holding alternatives to steroids

While the fact that steroids seem to give you permanent gains or make it easier to rebuild later on is certainly alluring, there are many health risks associated with them that make them not worth any potential benefits.

On top of that, they’re illegal.

A better alternative would be to go on legal steroids.

They’re natural testosterone-boosting supplements that'll enhance your strength training, muscle growth, and fat burn without wreaking havoc on your health.

FAQs

Will Past Steroid Use Ban You From Future Athletic Events?

Yes, past steroid use will ban you from future athletic events. However, this only applies if you were caught using steroids in the past.

Which Steroid Gives You the Most Permanent Gains?

Trenbolone is the steroid that gives you the most permanent gains. However, you need to keep working out to maintain your gains.

Why Natural Gains Are Better

Steroids might give you some permanent gains, but they also come with dire consequences. The results aren’t really worth the risk.

That’s why it’s better to stick with natural gains, for which I recommend taking recommended legal steroids to fast-track the progress.

These supplements are made from natural testosterone-boosting ingredients that’ll help you build muscle fast, enhance your workouts, and motivate you to keep your gains.


References:

  1. ​​https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131027205618.htm
  2. https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1113/jphysiol.2013.264457
  3. https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.0913935107 
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190125084106.htm
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6711889/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10589853/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3892473/
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