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As a clinic, we receive a lot of requests from healthy people who aim to build muscle and lose fat with products such as HGH injections.
Although HGH is not available without a prescription. There is a lot of unreliable information presenting illegal usage of HGH as an easy way to build muscle and lose fat.
Both HGH and steroid abuse can lead to serious but different adverse reactions, such as palumboism, heart and circulatory problems. Thus, it is important to seek health-related information from medical professionals or evidence-based sources only.
Our medical expert will break down the science on the risks and questionable benefits of the most popular performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). In the next lines, you will be able to compare the safety and effectiveness of HGH versus steroids.
What is HGH?
Growth hormone is produced in pulses by a gland in your brain called the pituitary. If the gland does not function properly, this may lead to growth hormone deficiency (GHD).
GHD is the main medical indication for exogenous growth hormone treatment. Due to its anabolic and muscle-sparing effects, the legal indications for HGH therapy also include wasting due to AIDS and short-bowel syndrome (SBS).
Growth hormone therapy is effective only as HGH injections. Oral pills and tablets with HGH will be easily deactivated by your gastrointestinal system, while HGH gels won’t get absorbed through your skin.
Legal HGH therapy in GHD patients is generally well-tolerated and has few side effects. That’s because the treatment aims to restore the levels of the hormone in the body back to their normal levels.
Athletes usually abuse very high doses of steroids and HGH. According to studies, this can lead to several adverse reactions related to fluid retention, including edemas, headache, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.
Furthermore, researchers suggest that long-term HGH abuse may lead to acromegaly and type 2 diabetes. Acromegaly is characterized by irreversible bone deformations and an increased risk for premature death due to cardiovascular problems.
Why HGH IS NOT the same as steroids
HGH is often misrepresented for being a steroid due to its anabolic properties, the ban by the world anti-doping agency (WADA), and its illegal use in “steroid stacks”.
But growth hormone is not a steroid. Instead, it is made of 191 amino acids bound in a single chain which forms a “peptide structure”. Therefore, all hormones made from short chains of amino acids, such as HGH are called “peptide hormones” and not steroids.
What are Steroids?
Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) include derivatives of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). They have a typical steroid structure made of 4 rings of carbon atoms.
Other steroid hormones such as estrogen, cortisol, and aldosterone lack such anabolic properties
Steroids can stimulate muscle growth, increase strength and induce masculinization by triggering specific androgenic receptors in your body’s cells. Due to their effectiveness, steroids are some of the most commonly abused PEDs.
Some AAS such as testosterone esters are available as prescription medications. The main difference between testosterone and steroids is that testosterone therapy has legitimate indications for use in men such as hypogonadism, muscle wasting, and osteoporosis.
However, there are anabolic steroids that were never intended for medical use but instead used in cattle or discontinued. Nevertheless, they are often abused by athletes and bodybuilders despite the health risks.
Steroid hormones can be taken safely only when prescribed by a medical doctor. If you misuse AAS, there is a risk for both short and long-term adverse reactions. Short-term risks include:
- Oily skin
- Suppressed natural testosterone (T) production
- Psychological problems and symptoms of addiction
- Erectile dysfunction
What are the side effects of steroids?
According to trials, even short-term steroid abuse may lead to psychological effects. These include signs and symptoms of addiction as well as withdrawal after discontinuation.
Long-term adverse reactions occur after prolonged use of high-dose anabolic steroids. They include prostate enlargement, gynecomastia, testicular atrophy, high cholesterol, elevated red blood cell count, and increased risk of thrombosis.
Scientists also point out that prolonged AAS use can lead to chronic cardiovascular diseases including hypertension, cardiomyopathy, and heart failure.
Steroids come in two main forms – pills and intramuscular injections. Due to the fat-soluble nature of all anabolic steroids, they are well absorbed in the digestive system. Yet, they should not be injected intravenously due to a risk of embolism.
Oral forms of AAS are typically modified into 17-α derivates in order to have better bioavailability. Yet, studies reveal that this makes them hepatotoxic and adds liver damage to the list of possible side effects.
What’s the difference between HGH and Steroids?
Steroids compared to HGH are by far the most effective drugs for improving body composition and strength.
The use of supraphysiological doses leads to quick effects which occur as soon as the first couple of weeks. For the same reason, they also have some of the most serious adverse reactions.
Oral forms of AAS are usually taken daily or several times per day, while most injections are taken once per week.
In comparison, the anabolic effects of HGH are significantly weaker than those of steroids, while the fat-burning benefits of growth hormone are moderate. It takes at least a month until there is noticeable fat loss. The use of HGH involves daily subcutaneous injections.
Can side effects be prevented?
The best option to prevent side effects from HGH and steroids is to consult with a medical doctor and take the medications as prescribed. Keep in mind that purchasing illegal substances also hide a risk that they may contain chemical and biological contaminants.
The only way to be certain that you are purchasing a genuine product is to buy it from a licensed pharmacy that requires a prescription.
Reducing the dosage of the PEDs may lower the risk of adverse reactions. The side effects of HGH are transitory, and the main one is water retention which goes away as soon as you discontinue the medications.
If you have taken AAS for a prolonged period of time, it is best to taper off the drugs rather than stop “cold turkey”. The process may lead to symptoms of withdrawal and it takes several months for your natural T production to recover.
According to studies, it may take longer than 6 months until the testosterone production in your testes is restored back to physiological levels.
Recovery in 90% of individuals occurs after at least 12 months
Another option to prevent some of the risks is taking prescription medications such as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).
They may lower the risk of gynecomastia, natural testosterone suppression, and testicular atrophy by preventing the action of estrogen on your breast tissue and the pituitary gland.