Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Steroids and Exercise Fatigue by Jerry Brainum

You would be hard-pressed to find any class of drugs more demonized than anabolic steroids. Sure, there are the "get high" drugs, such as ecstasy, amphetamines, and others, but such drugs have little actual medicinal value. While many people think that anabolic steroids are just as potentially evil, the fact that anabolic steroids have some useful medical purposes is often overlooked. Steroids are used to maintain muscle mass in a variety of catabolic conditions marked by excessive loss of lean mass. Such conditions include HIV and other wasting conditions. And, yes, they are often abused by athletes, who use dosages that are far beyond that used to treat any medical condition. But contrary to popular belief, such "abusers" are not dropping like flies. In reality, serious side effects associated with even extensive steroid usage are relatively rare.Not only that, but the preponderance of existing medical studies shows that any abnormalities that appear with steroid usage usually dissipate when the drug use stops.
       A recent rat study illustrates a potential benefit of anabolic steroids. One suggested cause of muscle fatigue during intense training is oxidative damage. This is particularly true if such oxidative damage occurs in the portion of the cell called the mitochondria. It is in these cigar-shaped structures that energy is produced in the form of ATP, and also where fat is oxidized in a process called beta-oxidation. A byproduct of this increased metabolism is the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), also known as free radicals, that can damage cells. While the body has a few built-in antioxidants to deal with the increased release of ROS during exercise, such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione, and others, these native defenses are often overwhelmed during hard training. When that happens, mitochondrial proteins can be damaged, which interferes with energy production, hence an increased level of fatigue.
       In the rat study, rats did exhaustive running sessions on a treadmill during the 8-week study. Some of the rats were "clean," while other rats were given stanozolol (Winstrol), a well-known anabolic steroid. The rats not provided with the drug all showed extensive oxidative damage to mitochondrial proteins. But the rats on Winstrol showed a marked reduction in such damage. Interestingly, this effect of Winstrol was not due to an increased antioxidant protective effect in the mitochondria. How Winstrol provided this level of protection isn't known, but it was a clear effect. Protection of mitochondria can favorably influence not only energy production, but also can enhance fat oxidation. In addition, loss of mitochondria with aging is thought to play a major role in the aging process. While it would be far-fetched to suggest that anabolic steroids such as Winstrol can slow the aging process through protecting mitochondria, it's nonetheless interesting that a drug so reviled as Winstrol--after all, it was the drug that Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson was caught using at the 1988 Olympics--can provide such important protective effects. While this was a rat study, the same mechanisms are known to also occur in human mitochondria.

Sabrido, A, et al. Exercise-induced oxidative stress in muscle mitochondria is reduced after anabolic steroid treatment.Appl Physiol Nutr Metabol 2009;34:1153

©,2012 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited

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