Do Anabolic Steroids Shut Down Testosterone? (Worth It?)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: April 1, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Dr. Kristy Dayanan, BS, MD
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I have been a fitness coach for several years and know anabolic steroid use is prevalent in the exercise world as a fast track to ripped muscle.

What is much more important than gaining lean muscle mass fast are the adverse effects these drugs can impose on your body.

I spoke with a few medical professionals I know and did some in-depth online research to determine the real implications of steroids on the natural production of testosterone.

I have compiled my data and outlined the facts in this article, so you can be fully aware of the consequences steroids can have on your testosterone levels.

Quick Summary

  • Anabolic steroids shut down testosterone production, leading to hormonal imbalances and reduced natural testosterone levels.
  • Anabolic steroids are used by athletes to rapidly enhance muscle mass and strength, but they come with significant health risks.
  • A study published in PubMed Central revealed that former steroid users experienced decreased testosterone levels and symptoms of hypogonadism years after ceasing steroid use.
  • Personally, as a coach, I recommend natural testosterone boosters as a safer and effective alternative to steroids, given their minimal side effects.

What Do Anabolic Steroids Do in the Body?

Holding a small syringe

Steroids significantly increase lean muscle mass and decrease body fat when they are used as a performance-enhancing drug.

Anabolic-androgenic steroids have their place in the beneficial treatment of several health conditions, including hormonal issues, delayed puberty, and diseases that cause muscle loss like AIDS and cancer.

Testosterone serves two purposes.

First, testosterone is responsible for male characteristics such as a deeper voice and body hair.

Second, testosterone is key for muscle growth, attracting athletes like weight lifters and bodybuilders [1]. Athletes often use synthetic testosterone, known as anabolic-androgenic steroids, in oral, injectable, or topical forms to bulk up fast. These steroids aim to boost muscle mass, strength, and endurance, cut fat, and increase bone density and red blood cells.

Athletes sometimes mix steroids with growth hormones or insulin in a method called 'stacking' for even bigger muscle gains.

Because of steroids' effects on muscles, athletes also find they may be able to have reduced muscle damage, and recover quicker from hard workouts [2].

Related Articles:

How Anabolic Steroids Affect Testosterone?

Man lifting dumb bells

In my years of coaching, I've observed that anabolic steroids unnaturally boost testosterone levels in athletes, leading to hormonal imbalances. This artificial increase often suppresses the body's natural production, causing issues like testicular shrinkage, which I've unfortunately seen in some cases [3].

A study published in PubMed Central shows former anabolic steroid users experiencing decreased testosterone levels and symptoms of hypogonadism years after stopping steroid use [4].

“Our body has feedback mechanisms, so it senses a guy’s levels of male hormones and uses that to decide whether it needs to ‘turn down the thermostat,’ so to speak, or if it has enough on its own. When a guy uses these drugs, his body ‘turns down the thermostat,’ and it turns off the androgen production in the testicles.”

-Dr. Ed Sebanegh, M.D.

Testosterone Production

Working out using dumb bell curls

A study published in PubMed and tracking a bodybuilder revealed that steroid use severely impairs natural testosterone production by reducing serum luteinizing hormone levels, crucial for stimulating testosterone production in the testicles [5].

Additionally, the follicle-stimulating hormone level, which is essential in stimulating the production of sperm, is considerably lowered by anabolic steroid use [6]

Let’s summarize the technical jargon above.

Simply put, steroids can cause low T-levels by fooling your body into thinking it has enough or excessive levels of testosterone.

This abnormal increase leads the body to stop producing testosterone naturally.

When the body stops producing testosterone, you may experience low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depression, increased fat, reduced cognitive ability, decreased muscular strength, infertility, and fatigue [7].

PCT and Restoring Testosterone Levels

Post-cycle therapy (PCT) is essential after a steroid cycle to help restore natural testosterone production, often achieving results within weeks, according to the Mens Journal [8].

Restoring testosterone levels quickly is crucial for alleviating symptoms of low testosterone.

Post-cycle therapy (PCT) options include prescription drugs like Clomid (Clomiphene) and Nolvadex (Tamoxifen).

Alternatively, natural testosterone boosters can also support your body's testosterone production, often without the side effects associated with prescription treatments.

Long-Term Effects

Two buff guys posing

Long-term steroid use, involving drugs like Anadrol, Oxandrin, and Dianabol, can harm the body, especially when taken in doses way above medical recommendations, sometimes 10-100 times more.

Steroids can lower testosterone and lead to serious health issues like liver disease, heart attacks, kidney damage, high blood pressure, testicular shrinkage, low sperm count, and sexual dysfunction [9]. They also increase the risk of blood clots, harming the heart [10].

Beyond physical health, steroids impact mental wellbeing, causing depressive symptoms, libido changes, and other psychological effects like mania, psychosis, dependence, and aggression, as reported by PubMed [11]. It's crucial to consider these mental health aspects in the steroid discussion.

“Steroid use is dangerous for several reasons, including the high risk of infection, their illegal status in most places, and potential for mental addiction. Frequent blood work is essential to monitor potential negative health effects.”

- Daniel Preiato, RD, CSCS

Steroid Addiction

Injecting steroids in the legs

As a coach, I've seen the strong psychological dependency on steroids, similar to other addictions. This is due to changes in the brain's dopamine pathways [13]. The Addiction Center notes withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, restlessness, mood swings, and depression, potentially leading to suicidal thoughts [14].

It's crucial to understand the recovery process from steroid use, focusing on restoring hormonal balance and countering the negative effects.

For safer muscle-building, consider natural, legal steroids. They work with your body to maintain healthy levels. Here are our recommended products:

Natural Alternatives

Some common ingredients proven beneficial to testosterone levels are D-aspartic acid, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D. Many of the most effective testosterone boosters have all or some combination of these ingredients [15].

For instance, a study on the effects of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels has shown promise in positively impacting testosterone [16].

Additionally, many testosterone boosters can be used in conjunction or “stacked” with other supplements to further enhance the benefits to muscle gain, blood flow, low testosterone, and weight loss.

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FAQs

How Long Does It Take Testosterone to Return to Normal After Steroids?

It can take up to four months for testosterone to return to normal levels after stopping steroids. Post-cycle therapy is typical after stopping steroids to restore low testosterone levels, including clomiphene citrate (Clomid) and tamoxifen citrate (Nolvadex).

Can Steroids Cause Permanent Erectile Dysfunction?

Yes, steroids can cause permanent erectile dysfunction, damage testicular function, lower testosterone and sperm count, and diminish sex drive. These effects may subside when steroids are stopped, but they continue for years or never reverse for some.

What Happens if You Suddenly Stop Taking Testosterone?

If you suddenly stop taking testosterone, the withdrawal symptoms may be severe and include fatigue, low sex drive, irritability, and depression significant enough to lead to suicidal thoughts.

The best practice to avoid or alleviate steroid withdrawal symptoms is gradually reducing the dosage over time.


References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2917954/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/performance-enhancing-drugs/art-20046134
  3. https://www.mensjournal.com/food-drink/heres-what-steroids-actually-do-your-body
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4988681/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30039560/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/793272/
  7. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15603-low-testosterone-male-hypogonadism
  8. https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/post-cycle-therapy
  9. https://medlineplus.gov/anabolicsteroids.html
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20020375/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17506239/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2875348/
  13. https://www.addictioncenter.com/stimulants/steroids/
  14. https://www.addictioncenter.com/stimulants/steroids/steroid-withdrawal-detox/
  15. https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/the-best-testosterone-boosters-for-men-over-50
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21154195/
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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