Steroids vs. Natural Bodybuilding

Steroids vs. Natural Bodybuilding – Pros & Cons of Both Approaches

12 min read


03 Nov 2020

Steroids vs natural bodybuilding: it’s probably the biggest debate among bodybuilding bros. Should you try to reach the top au natural, or is there no point in even trying without adding some steroids to the mix? Can a natural bodybuilder even get anywhere near the size of a steroid shopper? Natural vs steroids; a seemingly endless discussion.

Here at team CrazyBulk, we’ll try to help you pick your side and decide what works for you. Because remember guys and girls, whether you prefer natural bodybuilding or the rush of roids: the decision is yours. It’s your body, and you can do whatever the f*ck you want with it, no judgement here! Whatever you do; just make sure you know why you’re doing it.

To be natty, or not to be natty, that’s the question…

bodybuilder posing

Steroid users and natural bodybuilders

People often say natural bodybuilders can never reach the same size as steroid users, and that you can ALWAYS spot the difference between natty and roid. But is it really that obvious? Let’s have a look at how to recognize the two groups.

We created a tiny little quiz we like to call “Natty or Not”. Here are 5 big-ass bodybuilders; some are natty, some are not. Let’s test your knowledge and see if you know your stuff.

1 – Arnold Schwarzenegger

2 – Mike Katz

3 – Jay Cutler

4 – Donte Franklin

5 – Seth Feroce

So now you’ve seen them, let’s vote: Natty or Not?!

You can find the answer at the bottom of this post, but before you try to cheat, first leave a comment with your honest answer below the article. Let’s see how many of you can tell if it’s steroids or natural.

Do you think you got them right? You gotta admit that even when staying all natural you CAN become massive. Some of these beast just have the bodybuilding gene, making it possible to bulk without juicing up.

But, it’s not as easy, and truth of the matter is that most of us will never reach the same level staying natural as we would if we would resort to roids. It’s as simple as that, and we all kind of know it’s true…

Does that mean taking steroids gives you instant muscle? Does that mean you can just take it in the butt once a day and you’ll be a pro bodybuilder a few months later?

No and HELL NO!

Even with the use of steroids you still need to work hard, train, exercise, diet, and do all the things you know the true athletes do. Roids are just an extra push, so to speak. But they come with a price as well; literally and figuratively…

weightlifter takes natural steroids

Natural vs steroids according to science

But before we dive deeper into the dark side of steroids, let’s compare steroids vs natural bodybuilding and see what science has to say about it.

If you have a look on Google you’ll probably find loads of studies talking about the side effects and dangers of steroids. What you don’t see that often is a study that compares natural vs steroids and looks at BOTH SIDES.

Luckily, a group of ten researchers decided to join forces and answer our questions, once and for all, in a comprehensive study.

The study: They randomly placed 43 normal guys into 4 different groups. These groups were:

  • Placebo (natural) with no exercise
  • Testosterone steroid (injection) with no exercise
  • Placebo (natural) plus exercise
  • Testosterone steroid (injection) plus exercise

For 10 whole weeks, the men received either real steroid injections or just fake (placebo) injections with no working substances. The guys in the exercise groups were working out three times a week. Just before and just after the experiment the men received a thorough physical examination, measuring things like fat-free mass, muscle size, arm strength, and leg strength.

The results: Once the results were in the scientists probably had to look twice. Because damn, this was some groundbreaking stuff! We’ve summed up the most important findings in this table below:

Steroids vs Natural

Placebo (natural) with no exercise No changes, of course
Steroid with no exercise ± 7 pounds muscle increase
Placebo (natural) with exercise ± 4 pounds muscle increase
Steroid with exercise ± 13 pounds muscle increase

That’s CRAZY!

The first group – natural without exercise – of course doesn’t do anything. If you don’t do anything, you’re not going to build muscle!

That was the obvious bit, now in comes the surprise: steroids WITHOUT exercise could give a muscle increase of 7 pounds!!! That’s literally just injecting yourself with instant muscle! No effort, just instant gains!

And it doesn’t end there…

The guys who stayed natty but did work out three times a week saw muscle increases of up to 4 pounds of muscle. That’s awesome; but it’s still less than the steroid users just sitting on their juiced-up asses doing nothing!

Lastly, come in the big boys: steroid users who exercise. Result? A whopping 13 pounds muscle increase! As expected, of all the groups in the experiment the guys getting testosterone injections while also exercising see the biggest muscle gains.

What are the benefits of using steroids

Conclusion of the research? Steroids do the job, and it seems like your muscle gains are just a shot away…

Judging from the research results, the benefits of using steroids are clear: whether you’re working out or not, if you use steroids you will gain more muscle than when you don’t use steroids. It’s that simple.

Aside from just increasing muscle mass the use of anabolic steroids enhances a person’s overall physical performance. Expect more strength, faster muscle recovery after training, and decreased body fat. You’ll have more energy and power, and basically can workout harder and longer.

No wonder it’s so popular among bodybuilders and so many bros ditch their natural ways and take to roids.

man doing barbell curls after taking steroids

Makes sense?

Sounds appealing?

Ready to give up natural and stock up on steroids?!

… Let me stop you right there!

We haven’t covered the full thing yet. Unfortunately, there’s a catch. Let’s talk about the dark side of steroids…

Risks and side effects of steroids

Sadly, as with many of the good things in life (beers, burgers, chocolate, etc.) there is a downside to steroids. We LOVE it when we take it, but we hate it when the side effects kick in. With beers it’s the hangover, with burgers the fat, with chocolate the blood sugar levels.

With steroids, it’s a long long list filled with risks and dangers and side effects. In a previous post we talked a bit more in-depth about the 8 main steroid side effects, but today, we wont go into it that much. Instead, let’s just give you the list, quick and easy.

Sorry if you were just getting all excited about steroids; time to dish the dirt. After this, all of a sudden natural bodybuilding will seem a lot more appealing…

Side effects of steroids

  • Bloating, swelling
  • Acne
  • Weight gain/feeling more hungry
  • Hot flushes and sweating
  • Visual problems like light sensitivity
  • Dizziness
  • Gynaecomastia (Man boobs)
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Diabetes
  • Liver tocixity
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Hair loss

muscular man

Do steroids still sound awesome, or are you starting to lean towards natural bodybuilding instead of steroids? Lets not beat around the bush: the list of steroid risks is nasty, and most of these side effects are even backed by science; there’s no denying.

But, do bear in mind that these are the POSSIBLE side effects. In other words, if you use steroids you risk experiencing these side effects, but that doesn’t mean you WILL experience them. Some studies, like this one, even suggest that the medical issues associated with anabolic steroid use are exaggerated. Basically, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth risking these symptoms. If it is, then go for it man!

Or well, we’re not there yet actually…

One more risk of steroids we haven’t discussed: steroid use in sports. Now we’re not talking about hitting the gym three times a week; we’re talking professional competitive sports.

Whether you’re a boxer (like Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, who recently failed drug tests) or a bodybuilder. Whether you run a marathon or cycle through France: steroid use is banned from most professional sports.

If you’re competing in the big leagues, you will need to do regular drug tests to see if you haven’t been using anything that might enhance your performance. If you test positive on doping, you’re out of the game. Imagine all your efforts and hard work to get to the top being all for nothing, just because you couldn’t stay natural. Would you risk it?

man prepares to inject steroids

Our advice for people starting out

That’s all the good, the bad, and the ugly stuff covered. We looked at the massive gains you can get from steroids, but also at the negative side of it, time to weigh our options. Natural vs steroids; what to pick?

Now if you’re just starting out this might seem like a LOT of information to take in, and you might be struggling to see the forest for the trees…

It’s difficult. Do you go for the biggest gains – no matter what it takes – or will you settle with a bit less to avoid the risks?

Our advice? Honestly, this decision is completely up to you. There is no right or wrong, there is no judgement. If you want to stay natty that’s fine, if you want to juice that’s equally fine. But if we could give you at least SOME advice then it would be this:

  • If you’re a professional athlete – or aspire to be one – you should stay natural

Yes, many of the big ones out there have used steroids and reached the top using them, but there are many more who never even had the chance to make it to the top because they were banned from their sport before they could break through!

  • Try natural first, maybe steroids after

Whatever you do, first see how far you can get on your own. No steroids, just natural. Are you working out often enough? Do you get enough sleep? Is your diet well-balanced and does it match your workout routine? That last point especially: never underestimate the effect of your food intake!

healthy foods

Before you even think about steroids, you should make sure you’ve done EVERYTHING in your power to maximise yourself. Still not enough? Then it might be time to consider steroids.

  • Don’t do it because others do it

Whatever you do, don’t do it just because that bulked-up bro in the gym keeps telling you to do it…

It can be tempting, we know. And a juiced-up, angry beast of a bodybuilder can be a tough crowd to say no to, but you DON’T want to get bullied into doing something you deep down don’t want to do.

If you want to do steroids that’s 100% OK, just make sure you do it because it’s your choice. You’re the boss!

  • Make sure you’ve read this article top to bottom

Preferably twice, in fact. Not just because we like to have you here, but mostly because you should make sure you know EXACTLY what you’re getting yourself in to. Make sure you know the risks and dangers and be prepared for this.

Even better would be to just get your ass to the doctor beforehand and ask talk it through. He/she can give you expert medical advice and determine whether you might have a higher risk of developing certain side effects, based on your bodily profile.

man consults doctor

Fast risky roid gains vs slow natural improvement

In the beginning of this article we saw some examples of famous bodybuilders, some of them natural bodybuilders, some of them steroid users. Every single one of them is massive, and you can barely tell the difference between natural or steroids.

In other words, it IS possible to become absolutely ripped without resorting to roids. Difference is, you’ll have to work a lot harder to reach the same level. Don’t get us wrong though. We’re not saying with roids you don’t have to make an effort; it’s still hard work!

It’s just the difference between going for fast gains with steroids, or looking for slowly building it up naturally. The first option has it’s risks, the second option just takes hell of a lot longer. The choice is yours.

man deciding whether to take steroids or not

Are there supplements that mimic effect steroids provide?

For most of us, in the end it means choosing the lesser of two evils:

  • Steroids = ability to reach your full potential, but bad for your health
  • Natural = not harming your health, but you never reach the same level

Luckily, there is a third option that can get you pretty damn close to finding the perfect balance between the two:

There are legal alternatives to steroids that can mimic the effects of roids, without giving you all the nasty side effects. With natural bodybuilding supplements, you get the best of both worlds!


So what’s the conclusion? Steroids vs natural; which side wins?

Well, there isn’t really one clear answer…

Natty bodybuilding is risk-free and therefore a lot better for your body, but steroids just give you so much more muscle increase, and they give it to you FAST.

So what’s more important to you, fast gains or your health? Your choice bro!

Vote now and let’s see which is more popular!
We are curious to hear your choice, so we decided to let you vote.

After reading this post, do you support natural bodybuilding, or do you think a bodybuilder simply needs steroids to reach his/her full potential.

Oh… and one more thing.

Check how many answers you got right!

The answer to the quiz: Natty or Not?

Curious about the answer to our little “Natty or Not” quiz? Of course you are, but could you first do us a small favor bro? Leave a comment below and let us know what your honest answer is, simply judging from the pics. Most Crazybulkers got at least 1 of them wrong, so we’re curious to see how you did bro!

Once you’re ready you can just click on the image below to get the answers. And; surprised? 😉

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