Over the last year or so, I’ve had the privilege of knowing several people who are intimately connected with female figure, fitness, and bodybuilding. I have also consulted with one or two national level fitness competitors, as well as a couple of national level female bodybuilders, as well as some figure competitors. I wanted this article to be very objective, but the more I became involved in conversations with these women, and began to develop friendships with them, that became impossible. Even disregarding my blatant unprofessionalism, it was virtually impossible to avoid admiring them and developing friendships.
So roughly a year ago, I began researching women and steroid use. I had figured that my name was recognizable enough to give me a modicum of credibility, and not come off like an internet-stalker- or at least less of one. I contacted all of the women I was on good terms with (not surprisingly, a relatively small number), and had them introduce me to some likely candidates to anonymously talk about their drug use.
Several figure, fitness, and bodybuilder women were all gracious enough to speak with me, very frankly and candidly (on the condition of anonymity). I have also retained a few connections with first division athletes in various colleges around the country, so I have decent insight into the world of female athletics as well. So I ended up doing dozens of interviews, and collecting reams of data on female anabolic use from various female competitors (and even a couple of recreational users).
Regarding female physique competitors, the first thing which struck me is that, in the off season, they are all remarkably similar in stats. While a 5’3″ (ish) female bodybuilder may bulk up to 155-165 lbs in the off season, I have seen more than one figure girl get up to about ten lbs shy of that, and fitness girls are typically around the same. One very popular figure model gets about 50lbs overweight between photo shoots. To look at her in the times between shoots, she basically looks like a fat girl with a pretty face. To look at her portfolio and magazine shoots, she looks like the type of girl high-school boys tape pictures of in their lockers. Or whatever boys that age do with pictures of hot girls wearing next to nothing…
Anyway, a typical off season weight for a female bodybuilder is only about 10 lbs higher than a figure or fitness competitor, if they are all still in reasonable shape (not super-fat). This immediately made me think that their drug intakes, diet, and training routines would be shockingly similar, and in some regards I was correct, and in others I was not.
Let’s go over what I’m talking about here, so we’re all on the same page. Fitness girls do the same physique comparison rounds as the figure girls, but also have a routine which contains compulsory moves. Figure girls are compared doing quarter turns in both a one and two piece “swimsuit”. It’s called a “swimsuit” but you can’t swim in it (naturally). In fact, it doesn’t resemble a swimsuit in any way except for the shape. The more sequins, jewels, and stones you have on the suit, the higher the price. And they’re not cheap…prices range from $500-1500. Yeah, a thousand dollar swim suit that you can’t swim in, that’s covered in jeweled studs. At those prices, I shudder to think what Liberace’s swimming wardrobe must have cost him…
I know we all want to get into the drug information here, but first, I need to touch on training and diet. With regards to weight training: figure, bodybuilding, and fitness competitors train in a very similar fashion. There’s really no “figure” workout, or “bodybuilding” workout which isn’t very similar. The fitness girls do a gymnastics routine (which obviously requires separate training), and the bodybuilders do a posing routine- while figure is limited to quarter turns. If you think there’s a difference in their training, besides the routine, you’re mistaken. If you think there’s a difference in the diet, you’re mistaken. The difference between figure and bodybuilding is that there’s no posing round, and figure girls don’t come in as dry. There’s about a 10 lb difference in them, which is probably about 5 lbs of water and 5 lbs of muscle, and that’s all. Of course, female figure and fitness is separated into height classes, while female bodybuilding is separated into weight classes.
Now that we’re vaguely on the same page, we can go over some basics regarding female anabolic use. It’s pretty common to hear people say things like “even fitness competitors use a low dose of ‘Var or Winny here and there…maybe some Clenbuterol”. This is absolute bullshit. Competition level doses I’ve seen are actually much higher than people think… basically around 10 mgs of Anavar (never less), stacked with an equal amount of Winstrol, and a bunch of Clenbuterol. I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a female bodybuilder or fitness girl’s drug program and not seen Growth Hormone in it- usually about 2IU’s a day (interestingly, IGF-1 hasn’t really busted onto the female anabolic scene yet, nor has MGF or the other peptides). Thyroid hormone is used in nearly every woman’s precontest phase, and doses can get pretty outrageous here. Proviron is pretty big when they can get it, and most of them take the same dose I do (25-50mgs/day). Some take more. Primobolan, both tabs and injectable, are popular with women, when there’s enough cash around to afford it. Most of the upper level competitors usually don’t have that kind of cash when they first break onto the national scene, though. Why? Because breast implants are expensive- and the last show I went to, there were only four that weren’t fake. And I don’t mean four women, I mean four breasts.
In terms of their off season drug intake, female bodybuilders differ from their figure and fitness sisters. Typically their doses are only slightly higher, but they are much more experimental with compounds they will use. Testosterone propionate, Trenbolone Acetate, Oral Turinabol, Deca-Durabolin, and occasionally Equipoise are used by female bodybuilders. I need to be totally honest, and say that if the woman didn’t start off as exceptionally pretty, these drugs, in the dosages commonly used by top level female bodybuilders, will not win them any beauty contests. Still, even at the top levels of competition or in photo shoots, when their make-up and hair is done, there are a lot of beautiful female bodybuilders, who haven’t lost their looks. However, what’s typically seen in the lower levels is a different story. Girls who are trying to break into the professional ranks, who haven’t done it after several tries, typically turn to much higher drug intakes, and sometimes ruin their femininity.
Most of the side effects I’ve seen in women are manageable, and only temporary. Yeah, horror stories exist, but they’re few and far between. Permanent deepening of the vocal chords is very uncommon, and I’ve only seen it with much larger female bodybuilders- who typically don’t go off steroids long enough to have their voices recover before it becomes semi-permanent. I know of one woman who lost the highs in her voice, but it didn’t deepen…she was, however, under the mistaken impression that her voice had started out much higher than it really did. I think a little precaution here goes a long way. In particular, women need to be more receptive to what their bodies are telling them when they’re on a cycle, and they need to come off the drugs, regularly and periodically. When undesirable side effects start showing themselves, doses need to be cut in half, or discontinued immediately. Do I even need to remind everyone that blood work is a must throughout the year, when you’re going to be tampering with hormones?
The side effect most commonly ignored (believe it or not) is the growth of body hair, and hair loss (from the head). Most women I know brush off the growth of body hair by rationalizing that they have to shave anyway, and the loss of any hair from their head is quickly re-grown after the cycle is over. Body hair growth doesn’t go away usually, but girls who are blonde (natural ones, anyway) usually only grow a very fine layer of mostly unnoticeable hair, and brunettes who compete often have to do regular full body shaves anyway. Ever see any hair on the arms of a bodybuilder (male or female)? Yeah, that’s how that one goes down. The men and the women usually shave every day or every other day anyway, so it’s going to be growing back a bit heavier and coarser. If you wanna compete, you have to shave…so this side effect is usually ignored. And the thinning hair just doesn’t phase the women too much because they have so much of it.
How about acne? Yeah, it happens. I’m taking 300mgs of injectable steroids every other day right now, along with 50 mgs/day of orals, and I don’t have a single zit or pimple. Genetics obviously play a role here, and that’s what I’ve seen with the women who use anabolics too. Women who had severe break outs during their teenage years often find them to recur if they use anabolics. Conversely, if a woman has had exceptionally clear skin her whole life, the addition of steroids doesn’t usually produce much if any acne. Look at some pics of the top figure or fitness competitors next time you see them. Do they look like they spent their teenage years as awkward, skin blemished girls? Right, and this is probably why we don’t see too much acne from them now either- genetics.
Some slight clitoral enlargement is common, but usually (mostly) goes away for the most part when the woman stops using the drugs. Some slight enlargement is going to be permanent, but the “Denise Masino” level of enlargement is really not common at all. And here’s a hot tip: Denise did it on purpose. To be perfectly frank, most women appreciate the temporary effect of clitoral enlargement and swelling, because it makes it much easier for them to orgasm- and combined with the libido increase experienced through the use of anabolics- well, I’ll leave it to you to figure out the advantages here.
But is it permanent? Lets think about this objectively for a moment, ok? Men use tons of DHT based anabolics, in much higher doses, and we never hear of grossly enlarged and permanent external genetalia enlargement in men, from those compounds. Topical DHT has been used successfully to treat inordinately small penis size in males (technically called Microphalia), but this is really only marginally successful and involves rubbing DHT on the area every day, for months on end. And no, this isn’t something I’ve needed to try- thank you very much.
One of the alarming trends I see with female competitors is that they usually are listening to men, with regards to their drug intake. Contest Prep “Gurus” (read: drug dealers) usually recommend the “mild” drugs which are used in the world of male bodybuilding as cutting agents. This includes Anavar, Primobolan, Proviron, and Winstrol, most commonly. These are obvious choices for men, because none of them aromatize (convert to estrogen). When you take a look at their androgenic rating, they’re all quite low, and have very decent anabolic effects. None of them really provide any huge weight gains, but they do provide very high quality gains, of mostly muscle, and very little water retention. In low doses, any of them are reasonably safe. Sounds great, right? Surely, this is why men recommend these drugs to women- when they use these drugs, men typically experience very hard, quality gains in muscle, with only small increases in muscle, on the level of a few pounds, with no water gain. This is just what women usually want out of their cycles, so the reasoning behind these recommendations is sound- almost.
Did I mention that all of the drugs I just listed are also the most expensive anabolics on the market? Not a bad deal for the “gurus” who recommend them…
In reality, when I look at the commonly recommended steroids for women, the striking thing that occurs to me is that they are all derived not from Testosterone, but rather from it’s much more potent cousin, Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Most people think that testosterone is the most potent natural androgen, but in fact, it’s not. DHT is the most potent naturally occurring androgen, and it’s responsible for several androgenic effects in both men as well as women. In men, it deepens the voice at puberty, is responsible for male pattern baldness, aids in the growth of body and facial hair, and in the fetus is responsible for the development of external genetalia. Testosterone gets converted to Dihydrotestosterone by the 5alpha-Reductase enzyme, and the presence of 5a-R in the womb is a major determinant in of the sex of the baby. Have I mentioned that DHT is both anti-estrogenic and anti-progesteronic? See where I’m going with this?
The reason men experience very nice gains with the DHT family of steroids is that they not only reduce estrogen, but they also are very potent androgens, despite their misleadingly low androgenic ratings. Androgens in men produce far less of an effect on a Mg for Mg basis, than they do in women, and this is due to the differing endocrinology of the two sexes.
In female endocrinology, we see what’s called a two-cell/two-gonadotropin concept LH is delivered to the theca interstitial cell which leads to the secretion of androstenedione. This is then aromatized into estrone, which is then converted to the more potent estradiol. In addition, some testosterone is produced, and this is also subject to aromatization just as it is in men, as well as being subject to 5a-Reductase and conversion to DHT. The overall amount of androgens produced in the woman is, however, far less than what is produced in men. This is why women only need to use lower doses to produce really nice changes in their physiques.
Their threshold for experiencing undesirable side effects is also very low, so doses need to be increased incrementally, and this isn’t usually done. Let’s discuss why. The popular brands of Anavar used by most women, for example, typically come in 5mg tabs. So when a woman decides to up her dose, she goes from one tab to two. That’s a huge increase, and I’ve never heard of a woman going from five to six mgs, or anything like that. Winstrol comes in amps of 50mgs, and it’s very difficult to measure out 1/th of a ml in a syringe. Consequently, most women use a quarter ml every other day, and then they jump to double that dose when they move up. The pattern here is that doses are doubled every time they’re increased, and this is something unique to women. A man doing 500mgs of testosterone per week will usually jump to 750mgs if they aren’t receiving the effects they want. At lower doses, and lower side effect thresholds, the trend in female anabolic use is (unfortunately) to double the dose. I would recommend moving up in mg amounts, rather than arbitrarily doubling doses.
I also see women using rather high amounts of anti-estrogens, in order to get that competition level look, virtually eliminating all of the estrogen in their body for months on end. Take away all of the estrogen from a high-dose steroid using female and what do you end up with? Yeah, you get someone who doesn’t have to worry much about what the sign on the public restroom says anymore…
I noticed another trend, in speaking with some of the top level female competitors I interviewed. Unfortunately, I saw what would be technically classified as compulsive behavior in some women, who either experience anxiety when they come off the drugs, or feel a degree of anxiety when they aren’t using the kind of doses they perceive their competition to be using. As with any compulsive act, as anxiety levels rise, the desire to relieve that anxiety (in this case by using steroids) also rises. As the compulsive behavior begins to manifest itself, and as more compulsive acts are committed- i.e. drug intake is continued or increased- anxiety levels decline. This creates a pattern of unnecessary psychological reliance on the drugs, not necessarily to build a better physique, but rather to decrease anxiety.
It’s my hope that this article has shed some light on a somewhat taboo subject, and maybe even helped to provide a warning and some safety for women considering the plunge into the world of anabolics. They can be safely used, and I’ve seen them produce incredible results in many women…but I’ve also seen psychological compulsion drive their use to the upper limits and coaches who serve to convince their clients to use them far too haphazardly, without thought to the consequences. And that’s something I hope to see change, maybe just a bit, by writing an article like this. Women run a far greater risk from the use of anabolic use than men do, and seeing the way it’s escalated in the past few years (on the women’s side of things) makes me cringe. A sensible approach needs to be undertaken; with caution replacing the current mindset of random experimentation and listening to “gurus” or even worse, internet personas and message-board-experts…I truly hope that I’ve contributed to a future shift in thinking about women and anabolics, in at least some small way.