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Athletes and competitors of all sizes and types are always looking for a competitive advantage, and runners are no different. Sadly, when they reach the upper limits of their natural abilities that can be achieved with genetics and training alone, many athletes begin to consider steroids. We all know steroids can help you with sports involving strength and power, such as football and weightlifting, but can they really help you with running?
Steroids can increase an individual’s ability to gain and build muscle, but they have not been proven to be able to increase one’s motor skills, agility or work ethic . All of which are key factors for success in running.
Can running increase your cardio endurance?
Although we know anabolic steroids are used as performance enhancing drugs and to build muscle mass, their use for improvement of endurance performance is less frequent (He et al., 2018). Some studies have shown a positive correlation between steroid use and cardiovascular performance, but this is typically something that must be built up with regular training sessions over time.
Blood doping has been shown to be far more effective at increasing cardio endurance and performance, but this is typically only seen at the highest levels of competition, such as in the Olympics and elite marathon running.
I recently wrote a blog post called “How long does it take to build running endurance?”. Click here to read it.
What are the cons to taking steroids for running?
The number of side-effects associated with steroids are many, but there are some that are specifically detrimental to running. These include increased risk for ligament and tendon injury, muscle cramps, trouble sleeping, and joint issues and inflammation. Some studies have also found that even low doses of steroids can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease for those with inflammatory diseases (https://evidence.nihr.ac.uk/alert/low-doses-steroids-increase-cardiovascular-risks-in-inflammatory-diseases/).
Steroids have also been reported to cause high blood pressure, depression, weight gain, mood swings, fluid retention and swelling in your legs. Many steroids work by lowering your immune response, thereby weakening your immune system. As you can imagine, any or all of these symptoms could very negatively impact your ability to train and run effectively.
What are the main benefits of using steroids for running?
The most widely mentioned benefit of using steroids for runners appears to be with recovery. If you can recover faster, you can train more. And, with running, training is the name of the game. Running can be extremely hard on muscles, ligaments and joints. Especially for those training for marathons and ultra-marathons.
Sprinters can benefit significantly from anabolic steroids, which help build muscle mass and improve speed and performance. Since sprinters weight train in order to focus on maximum output over a short period of time and for building fast-twitch muscle fibers, steroids would likely be more beneficial to sprinters, as opposed to long-distance runners.
Other benefits include building muscle strength and endurance, as well as promoting muscle synthesis.
Although steroids can assist your performance with a variety of benefits, there are also many negative side effects and consequences that can come along with them. Steroids impact everyone differently, and they can be extremely dangerous to your mental and physical well-being.
I would never recommend steroids for anyone that is a novice to weight-lifting or running. If you have not been consistently training for at least 2-3 years and are still in your early to mid 20s, I would recommend that you do not even begin to consider performance enhancing drugs at this point, as you still have not come close to tapping into your body’s natural potential. And, not that I would recommend them at all, but if you were someone intent on taking them, I would highly advise you doing very thorough research, and only doing so under the supervision of a trained medical professional.
Contrary to popular opinion, steroids are not all bad, and can help assist athletes in various aspects. However, there are always inherent risks. “Are those risks worth it to you?” and “do the benefits outweigh the consequences?” are the inevitable questions you need to answer for yourself.