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Anabolic steroids are pharmacological drugs that imitate the action of male sex hormone - testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. Anabolic steroids accelerate protein synthesis in cells, which leads to hypertrophy of muscle tissue (in general this process is called as anabolism), therefore they found broad application in bodybuilding. The action of anabolic steroids is conventionally divided into two directions: anabolic activity and androgenic activity. The word "anabolic" comes from Greek "anabolein", which is translated as "to build up", and the word "androgen" comes from words "andros" and "genein", which is translated as "to make man" or " masculinize"
Anabolic steroids have a large number of synonyms:
The use of anabolic steroids began even before their identification and isolation. Medical use of animal testicles extracts dates back to the end of 19th century. In 1931 Adolf Butenandt managed to isolate 15 mg of androstenone from 10 000 liters of urine. Later this anabolic steroid was synthesized by Leopold Ruzicka in 1934.
In the 1930s, it was already known that extract from testes contains more powerful anabolic steroid than androstenone. Three groups of scientists financed by competing pharmaceutical companies from different countries (the Netherlands, Switzerland and Nazi Germany) began to search for more powerful components.  In May 1935, Karoly Gyula David, E. Dingemanse, J. Freud and Ernst Laqueur succeded in isolation of crystalline testosterone . The hormone got its name on the basis of its origin: “testo”- testis, “sterol” stands for steroid structure, and ending “on” suggests that the substance is ketone.
The chemical synthesis of testosterone from cholesterol was made in the same year by Butenandt and G. Hanisch. Within a week after this event the third group of Ruzicka and A. Wettstein applied for a patent of new method of testosterone synthesis. In 1939 Ruzicka and Butenandt got a Nobel Prize for this invention.
Clinical trials in humans, including oral administration of methyltestosterone and injection of testosterone propionate began in 1937.
The first mentioning of anabolic steroid in the history of power sports dates back to 1938, as concerns testosterone propionate in a letter to the editor of “Strength and Health” magazine. There are rumors that in Nazi Germany anabolic steroids were applied on soldiers in order to increase aggression and stamina, but at present these facts have no official confirmation. However, Adolf Hitler himself received injections of anabolic steroids, according to his personal physician. Anabolic steroids were used by the Nazi in experiments on prisoners of concentration camps. In other countries anabolic steroids were used to treat and rehabilitate exhausted prisoners which were released from the camps. 
Improvement of anabolic properties of testosterone was carried out in 1940s by Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries, such as East Germany, where anabolic steroids were used to improve the performance of Olympic weightlifters. In response to success of Russian weightlifters, US Olympic team physician Dr. John Ziegler, began to work with chemists on development of an anabolic steroid with less androgenic activity, thereby methandrostenolone was obtained. The new drug was approved by FDA in 1958. Most often it was prescribed to treat severe burns, and elderly people, but most of methandrostenolone was consumed in bodybuilding and other power sports. Dr. John Ziegler assigned only a small dose for athletes, but then he noticed that the athletes who exceeded the recommended dosage had prostate hypertrophy and testicular atrophy. 
In 1976 anabolic steroids had been banned by the International Olympic Committee. This fact ends the story of their legal use in sports, and 10 years later it developed special tests for identification of anabolic steroids in urine.
Nowadays, a variety of anabolic steroids and their modifications are based on four main ideas:
Also a new class of androgen receptor modulators is under active development.
The mechanism of action of anabolic steroids is not similar to the action of peptide hormones. When steroid molecules get into blood, they spread throughout the body where they react with skeletal muscle cells, sebaceous glands, hair follicles, certain parts of brain and some endocrine glands. Anabolic steroids are fat-soluble, so they can penetrate cell membrane which consists of fats. Inside cells they interact with androgen receptors of nucleus and cytoplasm. Activated androgen receptors transmit the signal into nucleus, resulting in changes of gene expression or activation of processes that send signals to other parts of a cell.  As a result, they start synthesis of nucleic acids and new protein molecules.
The effect of anabolic steroids on gaining muscle mass is due to the following mechanisms:
The effects of anabolic steroids are divided into two major categories: anabolic and androgenic.
It is seen that in bodybuilding only anabolic effects are pursued. Currently, steroids with pronounced anabolic and low androgenic effect are under development. The ratio of effects is called anabolic index. At the moment, almost all anabolic steroids have pronounced androgenic effects. 
See also: Side effects of steroids and how to reduce their harm
In the following list the side effects are listed according to the frequency of occurrence.
During the course:
After the course:
Almost all side effects are reversible, except for the cases of abuse. The pattern of complications is largely determined by pharmacological profile of steroid, some are safer than the others. Modern drugs are almost devoid of side effects and complications, if taken in accordance with instructions.
Despite variety of side effects of anabolic steroids it should be noted that currently available information about them is dramatically exaggerated. In media you can often hear that taking anabolic steroids leads to inevitable infertility, impotence, liver damage, and so on. But in fact, even excessive doses of steroids do not always lead to irreversible consequences. In addition, it is necessary to distinguish between the concept of "use" and "abuse". In 95% of cases, if anabolic steroids are taken in accordance with instructions, it does not cause any complications and adverse reactions; in 4% of cases the side effects are fully reversible. This shows that the risk of complications is very low. The abuse means high doses of steroids or excessive duration of the course. In this situation the risk of side effects increases considerably, as well as the frequency of irreversible complications. As a rule, the media represents steroids at the background of "abuse", therefore a false picture of extreme danger is created.
These recommendations can reduce side effects up to 1% or less and save gained muscle mass.
Anabolic steroids in bodybuilding are primarily intended to increase muscle mass and power performance. In addition, steroids help to maintain muscle mass when you get lean or work on muscular “topography”. They also contribute to workout productivity by increasing endurance and strength. Read more: how to create a course of anabolic steroids.
When gaining muscle mass, anabolic steroids intake should be combined with systematic power training and high-calorie meals. Out of sports nutrition it is desirable to take protein and BCAA along with steroids, as they are required to build new proteins. In addition you can take creatine, vitamin and mineral complex, as well as additives for post cycle therapy.
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