Cutting steroids, also known as anabolic or anabolic-androgenic steroids, are often used as a bodybuilding supplement intended to reduce body fat and increase muscle definition. Although originally developed for medicinal purposes, such as an anemia treatment, steroids are commonly utilized by bodybuilders to both bulk and cut, or to increase muscle mass and define lean muscle. Common steroids include Winstrol®, Anavar™, and Primobolan.
The bulking and cutting effect comes from the synthetic hormones in cutting steroids, which perform the same functions as the male hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. These substances stimulate protein production and cellular tissue growth. This causes rapid muscle growth, increases physical strength, and raises endurance, while boosting the metabolism to improve fat-burning capabilities. Steroid use is not uncommon among competitive bodybuilders seeking to bulk up prior to a show, although their use is often monitored, regulated, or forbidden by various competitive venues or organizations.
Cutting steroids can be used a number of ways. Some are contained within a fluid suspension and injected directly into muscle tissue. Others are ingested orally. Still others can be applied as a topical ointment, spray, or patch, although some people debate the effectiveness of skin absorption. Many pill-based bodybuilding supplements claim to offer healthy, non-regulated, herbal alternatives to steroids.
Other than muscle growth, side effects of cutting steroids can include increased sexual function and various traits of masculinization, such as greater body hair density, changes in voice depth, and acne conditions similar to those caused by hormone increases at the onset of puberty. The masculinizing effects occur in both men and women, with variations in expression based on both gender and age.
Men may suffer from testicle shrinking, low sperm count, gynecomastia, infertility, and baldness. Women may grow facial hair, notice fluctuations in their menstrual cycles, and take on more masculine physical characteristics. Young steroid users may undergo rapid-onset effects of puberty, depending on age and physical maturation. When taken prior to adulthood, steroids may also cause anomalies in physical development, including exaggerated proportions, shortened limbs, permanent skin damage, or sexual dysfunction. Many such effects are non-reversible.
Long-term health risks include increased cholesterol levels, liver damage or liver tumors, water retention, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Use of cutting steroids can also affect behavior over time. Some steroid users have reported increases in aggression, more commonly known as roid rage. More extreme effects can include hallucinations or disconnections from reality. Due to these risks, many countries ban or strictly regulate use of steroids for anything other than medical purposes.