anabolic steroids

The CK Podcast: The Oral Contraceptive Pill

Finishing up 2018 strong with yet another podcast!

I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Knott about the Oral Contraceptive Pill. I am so grateful to Chris for having me on his show, and asking me some of the best questions I’ve had to date.

Check out his summary of the show below!


“The stigma surrounding male anabolic steroid use is something well and truly still present in society. If a man were to experience unwanted side effects from AAS use he would be labelled as stupid for risking his hormonal health for aesthetic or performance reasons.

This being said, there is little to no difference in the way female contraception is administered to prevent pregnancies. Ovulation is inhibited by disruption of the regular hormonal cycle through the application of exogenous Estrogen and/or Progesterone.

This “can” lead to severe health issues if not treated responsibly through diligent lifestyle choices, I.e. being on top of nutrition, digestion, sleep and stress management.

Interested in learning more? Tune in to my latest podcast with Victoria Felkar for an absolute masterclass in everything you need to know about the oral contraceptive pill.”

PODCAST LINK:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/admin/episodes/879236-the-oral-contraceptive-pill

ITUNES:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-chris-knott-podcast/id1337586535?mt=2

SPOTIFY:

https://open.spotify.com/show/2fngJKF6UUdFKfmRwJKuua



Learn more about The Chris Knott Podcast
IG: @chris_knott_
WEB: http://www.chrisknottpt.com/category/podcast/

EliteFTS: Female Athletes & Exogenous Substances

From your digestion to your sleep to your cognition, exogenous hormone use has dramatic effects on your entire body. However, there is a subconscious idea that when a drug is taken it, it's actions and influence will stay within a tidy little box of ‘intended’ outcomes. The reality is, pharmaceuticals influence nearly every system in your body.

If that wasn’t enough, the chaos effect of a drug must be compounded with other variables such as the fluidity of a women's hormonal life course (puberty, perimenopause), an extraordinarily stressful physiological event (ie. competing or acute illness), or the ongoing multiple small daily stressors, like training at a high capacity without adequate nutrition and sleep. Needless to say, there are so many factors that on their own or together with others, can manifest in immediate, ongoing, and future health consequences.

But, these risks don't just come from drugs used for enhancement purposes either. Although the 'finger' is pointed at anabolic-androgenic steroids for causing massive system-wide dysfunctions within the body, steroids like oral contraceptives - espescially when taken at the beginning of a female's reproductive period - have the capacity to result in lingering effects for health.

Breaking down myths, speaking to the knowledge gap, and critically thinking about the information you read and receive will go a long way in helping to improve the current state of women's health. Blissful, willful and reckless ignorance won’t help the situation, or the women affected by it. Get informed, get critical, and build knowledge by breaking down myths.

Read the full write-up from EliteFTS here.

Write here…

EliteFTS: www.elitefts.com
FB: @elitefts
IG: @elitefts
YT: Dave Tate




OPD Podcast - Female Hyperandrogenism

OPD PODCAST #38

This week we were lucky enough to sit down with specialist Victoria Felkar to deep dive into multiple issues a woman may face in their health and physique development journey including birth control, hyperandrogenism and new research in female hormonal health.

EPISODE LINK:

https://www.jjphysique.com/podcast/2018/9/23/female-hyperandrogenism-ft-victoria-felkar

Podcasts App: Optimal Physique Development

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwDgypolfVG3nCfZf_N3XIg

ITUNES:

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/optimal-physique-development/id1265819314?mt=2

PLAYER FM:

https://player.fm/series/optimal-physique-development

 

Learn more about Optimal Physique Development Podcast
https://www.jjphysique.com/podcast/

Joe Jeffery
IG: @joejefferyuk
Email: joejefferyuk@gmail.com
www.jjphysique.com

Austin Stout
IG: @austinst8 
Email: datas4@aol.com
www.integratedmandh.com

Dean St Mart
IG: @deanstm 
https://www.youtube.com/user/Deanstm
www.trainedbyjp.com

EliteFTS: Menstrual Cycle Myths

Menstrual myth busting with the help of @elitefts. I’m so grateful to @underthebar and EliteFTS for providing me with a platform to talk about one of the biggest barriers to women’s health.

It’s easy to blame “stupid” coaches for manipulating women’s hormones, or point the finger at #fitchicks for perpetuating nothing more than rubbish rumours about periods and PCOS. Getting to the root of the problem is the hard part.

Overtime numerous myths and misconceptions have shaped our knowledge and understanding about women – their health, hormones and lives. Today, these myths continue to linger within most aspects of society, including medicine, science, and fitness. Although I'd like to believe that the cute infographics posted by the #fitfam are done with good intentions, the truth is, often these do more harm by continuing to produce, reproduce, and magnify not just bad - but wrong information, about women's health.

For the last two decades, there has been an epidemic of hormonal disturbances within women’s life cycles. Oral contraceptives use, enivornmental toxins, eating or training too much or too little, layering stress on more stress, and A LOT of other variables and triggers are contributing to this. My goal is never to simplify the situation or reduce it to any one factor. The body is really, really complicated and there are no easy or unified solutions. It always must come down to the individual in question. It should always be about her. Her body, her health, her life in context today, years past and those still to come.

With that being said, we must start recognizing that when it comes to women's hormones and menstrual cycles, there is a lot that we think we know, don't know and may never know.

Breaking down myths, speaking to the knowledge gap, and critically thinking about the information you read and receive will go a long way in helping to improve the current state of women's health. Blissful, willful and reckless ignorance won’t help the situation, or the women affected by it. Get informed, get critical, and let's start building knowledge by breaking myths.

Check out the write up: https://www.elitefts.com/educa…/watch-menstrual-cycle-myths/

 

                                         

 

The Muscle Nerd Podcast: Females on Steroids

The Muscle Nerd Podcast #11

Had an awesome early morning chat with @the_muscle_nerd_podcast. In the episode we spoke about female using performance enhancing drugs or more specifically anabolic steroids. 

I’m a morning person through and through, but a 14 hour time difference meant we had to start recording at 5am. While I always strive to keep things real and make sure anything I put out is organic, authentic and candid, I have a feeling that my #felkaring was extra in this episode! Thanks again Gus for having me on. The iTunes link is in my bio!

 

EPISODE LINK:

http://www.musclenerd.com.au/category/the-muscle-nerd-podcast/

 

ITUNES: 

https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/the-muscle-nerd-podcast/id1395050839?mt=2

 

SPOTIFY: 

https://open.spotify.com/episode/4a7n083oVBNMJPaBCtdqTa?si=M_m--Kk2QZGWNzRSeKSnrw

 

 

Learn more about The Muscle Nerd Podcast:
www.musclenerd.com.au
IG: @the_muscle_nerd_podcast

 

The Vanguard Sessions Podcast: Drug Talk

The Vanguard Sessions with Andrew Rose #10

 

Back at podcast guesting thanks to Andy Rose and The Vanguard Sessions!

I first met Andy a few weeks back at the elitefts Sport Performance Summit. I was on stage just about to sit down with the other presenters for a Q&A session, when he introduced himself and asked me if I would be interested in coming on his podcast. In the days following, after exchanging banter and chatting about the current state of the industry, I knew that this was going to be a great podcast experience.

From the pervasive and historical use of drugs in sport, to talking about some of the current issues surrounding anabolics and women's health, we dive into the PED abyss. Thanks again Andy!

 

EPISODE LINK:

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-tapap-8dbc0c

 

ITUNES: 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-vanguard-sessions-podcast/id1350278649?mt=2

 

Andy's Summary: 

I think it's high time we unbury our heads from the sand. Drugs - the performance enhancing kind - are here and they're here to stay. What's not here, unfortunately, is the data needed to help keep us healthy and safe. Sure, we're all getting bigger, faster, and stronger. Are we dying quicker? Are we destroying our bodies faster than we're repairing them? Will we ever have the answers? Or will we keep fumbling around in the dark using anecdotal broscience from some forum our old gym buddy once read on his ex-cousin-in-law's phone? This is a long episode, but I couldn't cut it short. There was way too much to be discussed.  Enjoy.  

 

spartan_2.jpg

 

Learn more about Andy Rose & The Vanguard Sessions podcast:
www.aefit.net
FB: @AndrewRose
IG: @vanguardbarbell
 

 

The Enigma of Anabolics for Her

 

Women & Steroids:
Ignorance & the Enigma of Anabolics for Her.

Lately I've found myself disgusted with the sheer amount of overly simplistic and dangerous discussions of female anabolic-androgen steroid (AAS) use. By no means is this an easy area to unpack. Quite frankly, it's an enigma, and in order to host a responsible conversation requires a lot more than just reciting 'scientific data' like it's gospel.

To begin to understand this massively intricate topic takes challenging certain personal beliefs like biological difference between the sexes, typical “masculine” or “feminine” characteristics, and knowledge about the body itself. It involves understanding physiology, biomedicine, the endocrine system, hormones, and of course androgens specifically, while not forgetting to mix in ‘personalized medicine’ – a method emphasizing evaluation and programming based on the individual and their uniquely dynamic characteristics. It demands a grasp of the physical and chemical properties of AAS, and basic clinical pharmacology of the effects of specific compounds is also essential.

Most critical of all, there needs to be context. Who exactly are we talking about? What other health and performance variables must be considered? What additional factors - whether internal or external to that particular individual's body must be explored? What drugs were used, for how long, and what source are they from? In this conversation, context is everything. 

As an academic researcher I am writing this not as scare tactic. In fact, I’m very critical of, and often appalled by, pseudo-scientific, unethical, and propaganda-like scholarly publications preaching the ‘evils’ of steroid use without citing relevant studies to back such claims. Nothing irks me more than reading information, hearing conversations, and seeing firsthand the damaging results of uneducated and ill-informed bro-pharmacists. I recognize fully the dangerous influence of Dr. Juice – the contest prep cocktail isn’t just a concern for females but all AAS users, but to say it simply – the body is complicated. 

 

Often I see athletes getting so focused on the ‘outside’, that what is happening on the inside gets ignored. At the crux of most sport is the desire to perform, and not just 'good enough' but to excel. To take your body to a new limit - whether it's an achievement of strength, speed or physical appearance. It's ok to want to win. It's ok to push the limits. But we have to start appreciating that by doing so, we alter and modified how well our internal systems can function. No matter how much 'science' or 'evidence' is involved during the process, many times the extent of this is unbeknownst until it's too late.

 

Fem chem.

While AAS are a class of drugs often containing synthetic testosterone, we all have this steroidal hormone flowing naturally in our bodies. Of course there are large variations in natural (endogenous) levels of testosterone. Since we are talking about women, I want to mention a hugely important point – whether genetic or due to other causes, some females have high levels of androgens. Indeed, androgen excess is the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age.

Women naturally produce sex steroids in various parts of their body – primarily the adrenal glands and ovaries. Other tissues such as fat and skin can also assist in converting weak androgens to stronger ones. Furthermore, some women with excess androgens may have excess levels of circulating insulin (insulin resistance), which has a massive effect on metabolic function, and can manifest in a wide range of symptoms including weight gain and lethargy. High androgens are also a common marker for an endocrine disorder called 'Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome' (PCOS) (as I've discussed before, this is a misunderstanding panacea). While it may come with a list of sub-characteristics and manifestations, little is known about 'PCOS' in “fit” women. Currently there is a limited study exploring how AAS may interact with 'PCOS', metabolic function, or influence the body’s ability to create and use androgens naturally.

Why am I spewing this medical mumbo jumbo? All of this is hugely important to remember when discussing women and steroids for a number of reasons including the fact for whatever reason people seem to think the female body lacks any amount of androgens to begin with. Furthermore, there appears to be a lack of regard for the variance in natural levels of androgens, and the different ways in which women can metabolize these steroids. I told you, it's complicated. But guess what? All of this gets even more complex when you add in our abysmal knowledge of athlete steroid use in general.

 

Bro Knowledge

For over 50 years AAS have been a cluster of controversy and panic, which unfortunately has limited academically sound and clinically applicable information on these drugs. The studies that do get discussed within the industry often pertain to the use of AAS within medical populations, or are concerned with self-administration by males – neither can be translated for female use! So where do you go then to learn about women and steroids? Internet forums of course! And if that doesn’t work, hire a prep coach. If those thoughts crossed your mind, even for a second, please give yourself a very hard smack, as that assumption couldn’t be more wrong and dangerous.

Let's break a few things down –

Your prep coach is not a researcher and Internet forums are not medical textbooks. Many times the information isn’t even on the specific compound you are looking to better understand because (surprise) anabolic steroids are sold on the BLACK MARKET. They are unregulated and not controlled for purity or strength. Thus, there is a high chance they have been cross-contaminated. Please note that a little sticker saying “pharmaceutical grade” means absolutely nothing. For men this is important, but for women it is absolutely crucial. Although health risks exist with any AAS, there are certain properties associated with specific compounds that may pose less of a risk for some women (please note the absolute lack of any generalizing statement within this comment).

The effects of female hormone manipulation are murky. Even if you determine a particular steroid is acceptable for personal use, you’ll be lucky to get your hands on a bottle actually containing the desired drug. And this matters! You should know what you are taking as all AAS are not the same!

Different AAS elicit different anabolic and androgen responses- anabolic induced changes to rates of muscle growth AND androgenic responses such as acne, hirsutism (abnormal hair growth), and reproductive dysfunction. These vary from drug to drug, and are often described in the form of a ratio. For example, synthetic testosterone has an anabolic to androgenic ratio of 1:1. This is the one and only time you’ll read a specific compound name in this article. Why? There’s a sickening sense of “protection” associated with specific drugs due to this ratio. An assumed safety net has been cast over certain drugs deemed “ok” for female consumption simply because they have lower androgenic activity. This notion is not only irresponsible and foolish, but it’s created a lack of critical thinking and laziness around female anabolic use. It amazes me that someone will prep for months BUT won’t put in the time and effort to truly understand the drugs they are putting into their body, and the influence on their health. While there’s little assistance from medical sciences on anabolic steroids, education is not impossible.

 

I'm not getting off my soap-box yet. Please know, I’m all for personal choice. I completely respect an individual’s decision to build their body as they please, but regarding AAS, there is a responsibility to fully understand risks, rewards, and long-term consequences of usage. Who you are today may not reflect who you want to be tomorrow. While you may want to be the next Ms. Olympia, life changes - your health changes. If you really want to learn more about steroids for the female users start with the basics. Understand basic human physiology. Work with a health care practitioner to track your sex hormones and menstruation patterns, and know the interaction of these on the endocrine system. There is some work out there on women and steroid use - however, there is a lot of room for improvement... variables not controlled for or even mentioned, problematic methodologies, and just all around bad science. 

 

Ignorance & bad science

So no, women and steroids is not a topic that you can simply search on the Internet or ask a random bro about. As I mentioned above, unfortunately it's also one that recently some of the industry's "most educated" have completely dropped the ball on - spewing off preconceived notions and unsubstantiated information without any critical reflection of the impact that their words have on the health of others.

To be honest, I get sick to my stomach when I think about the far reaching consequences of the conversations happening on social media about women and steroid use. I'm not just talking about female AAS use either, but steroids and other pharmaceuticals used in hormone manipulation in all forms: androgens, peptides, selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), anti-estrogens, oral contraceptives, hormonal IUDs, hormone replacement therapies -  oral, injectable, implants, patches, creams, sprays, and powders.

 

Do I know everything there is to know about female hormone manipulation? Hell no. By no means do I see myself as an authority on this topic. Even with my doctoral research being on women and steroids - the use of AAS and oral contraceptives by female athletes, and all the time I have spent specializing in this area and working directly with female athletes, doctors and other professionals, I am no expert. 

Guess what? When it comes to women and steroids, I'm not afraid to admit that there is a lot that I don't know. Now that I've probably lost the confidence of a few by admitting this, I'll tell you something that I do know about this topic: I don't know because we don't know. We don't know because there is a complete lack of study, critical conversation and personal dialogue - not only as it relates to female hormone manipulation, but women's health issues as a whole. Especially, information from a female perspective, which when it comes to these topics isn't important - it's essential.

 

As a result, it's vital to get good, reputable and contextual information out there. It's crucial to host conversations about women and steroids openly and without bias. But, there is a warning that should come with doing this - 

Words have power.

When you have power, words become the divine

 

Be careful what you put out to the world because the publication of inaccurate or misleading data is no different than the ignorance you seek to destroy. Ignorance is not bliss - it is dangerous. Ignorance disguised as scientific knowledge has infinite power. It is an incurable disease that spreads like wildfire, and puts the health and safety of women in serious danger.

It's time to start respecting that anabolics for her is an enigma. You are not an expert on this topic because no one is an expert. Maybe once you do that, we can actually start helping women.

 

 

Ps. I am working relentlessly to be able to start sharing more of my research on women and steroids with you. After the recent events online, it's clear that right now - more than ever it's needed. 


Copy the link, share and help spread the word.
victoriafelkar.com/library/womenandsteroids

 

 

Ask Me Anything E3: Women & Hair Loss

Ask Me Anything

Internal and External Variables for Female Hair Loss (including androgen use)

From hats to hormones, seasonal changes to genetics, there are a lot of internal and external variables that make this topic a complicated one!

To get to the root of female hair loss, within the video I talk about →

  • Why hair loss is more than just about androgens 
  • The multi-factorial basis of hair loss
  • Internal & external variables that contribute to hair loss including
  • Some factors that aren't often get considered
  • My own experience with PCOS, hair loss, and frustrations with physicians
  • Androgenic alopecia (AA), PCOS & anabolic-androgenic hormones
  • The combination effect: managing individual precursors & variables for AA
  • Various treatment routes for AA
  • Why knowing the ingredients of your hair products matters
  • PEDs and their influence on hair loss

 

If you like what you see, feel free to share. If you have any questions you'd like me to cover please feel free to shoot me a message.

Video Location: Android Bodies
www.androidbodies.ca
FB: Android Bodies Inc.
IG: @androidbodies

Video by: Alora Griffiths
aloragriffiths.foliodrop.com
FB: Alora Griffiths
IG: @aloragriffiths

Ask Me Anything E1: PEDs

Do you believe there's a time and a place for PEDs?

In this clip I go over the complexities of performance enhancing drug use by discussing:
· A brief history of their use in sport
· What exactly is performance enhancement
· Societal ideals of PED use
· The importance of knowing your own stance on PEDs
· Therapeutic value of compounds vs. enhancement

If you like it, please feel free to share!
 

· · · ·

Video Location: Android Bodies
www.androidbodies.ca
FB: Android Bodies Inc.
IG: @androidbodies

Video by: Alora Griffiths
aloragriffiths.foliodrop.com
FB: Alora Griffiths
IG: @aloragriffiths

 

 

SARMs for Women

In this Q&A I tackle a question about SARMs for women, but in doing so open up a bigger conversation about the "new" kids on the anabolic block and the importance of information literacy.

The 'Secondary' Side Effects of Steroids.

The Secondary Side Effects of Steroids: Sex, Gender and the ‘Unnatural’ Female Sporting Body

IN PROCESS

For over half a century controversy has swirled around the use of anabolic androgen steroids (AAS) by athletes and bodybuilders. They have received significant media and political attention though both the academic and clinical literature are sparse. Robert Goldman’s Death in the Locker Room (1984) helped to create and perpetuate hysteria and panic surrounding steroids, especially their use by women. Focusing on what he calls, “The New Unisex – Female Athletes Turning Male,” Goldman describes anabolic steroids as exclusively “masculine hormones,” and suggests that women who take them are ‘unnatural’, resulting in a ‘bastardization of the female form.’ Goldman is not alone in his concern for the female use of anabolic steroids. The little research that surrounds women and steroids tends to endorse powerful cultural norms about a ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ female sporting body. Often, discussions of female athlete steroid use echo long standing beliefs about the appropriate appearance, health and abilities of the female sporting body.

This project will examine why there has been so little attention to female steroid use and discuss the underlying assumptions on which biological determinism, sex, gender, and the ‘natural’ body have been built into the steroid discourse. As Nelly Oudshroon pointed out, ideas regarding the function of hormones, and the terminology surrounding these chemical messengers have embodied rigid cultural ideas about sex, gender, and the body. Although hormones, including synthetic hormones, do not possess an inherent sex or gender, the debate over anabolic-androgen steroids use in sports continues to distinguish anatomical and physiological differences in the ‘male’ and ‘female’ sporting body.

Despite recent scholarship on gender verification, sex testing and the female athletic body that challenge dominant ideas about ‘normal’ levels of ‘natural’ endogenous androgen levels in female athletes, little research has addressed exogenous androgens, women and AAS use in sport, or the gendering of synthetic sex hormones. Furthermore, although there is a growing body of critical literature on anabolic steroids, the gendering of synthetic sex hormones has not gained the same level of critical inquiry as other aspects of the topic, such as the reframing the philosophical debates of ‘fairness’, debating doping-control measures, or the unsubstantiated physiological and/or psychological ‘risks’ associated with male athlete use.

Drawing upon historical and contemporary medical and popular literature, this project will explore the interplay around the construction of biological sex, gender and hormones, with misrepresentations and myths about the use of steroids by female athletes. It aims to address the current ‘science’ of steroids as it relates to the sporting female body, and show how presumptions about what a ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ female should look like underscores much of the discourse around women’s use of AAS.

 

Want to learn more? Contact me for details. 

How Muscle Became Bad.

Maybe being muscular isn’t all it’s built up to be.

 

You’ve been mugged.

Late one night under the cover of darkness you found yourself blindly cowering at hands of an attacker. You didn’t see the guy who attacked you but the police still call you in to view a line-up of possible suspects. From right to left your eyes scan over 4 men. Too old … too skinny … too short ... eureka! Standing in front of you is a complete monster with arms so big that they could burst through his shirt at any second. Even without ever laying eyes on your mugger, you don’t have a single doubt in your mind that this jacked-up animal is him. That’s the criminal who attacked you.

Although the above is simply a fictional story it represents a powerful and inescapable stereotype that for decades has haunted those with muscles.

Got muscle? Welcome to a lifetime of typecasting as a violent, mentally-ill, unintelligent, steroid using criminal – and if you’re a female then you can add the fact that somehow you’ve suddenly grown balls and have dreams of becoming a man.

But how can this be? We’ve all got muscle to some extend or another. So, why is a muscular body ridiculed, criminalized and condemned? Since when did muscle become bad?

To answer this we must to turn back the clock to the late-1800s. Here in the shadows of a time known for many great discoveries, is the start of a long and disturbing history that continues to promote what a criminal body looks like.   

Emerging as a product of Darwinism, the field of criminology started as a way to help society identify and get rid of anyone that they perceived to be ‘bad’. For example, in Italy a physician and psychiatrist named Cesare Lombroso began to make claims that all criminals had similar physical features. How could a crooked nose and anchor tattoo on the arm of a sailor automatically condemn a man as criminal?

Such ideas quickly found their way across the Atlantic and with America’s growing prison system more theories of what it meant to look like a criminal erupted. Here’s when muscle first got added into the mix.  

By the turn of the 19th century the notion of muscular Christianity gained popularity throughout the United States - which linked muscle building to improving morality. This movement inspired prison officials at New York’s Elmira Reformatory to use physical activity and sport as a way to fight the physical decay that had become associated with criminality. That’s right, being muscular was thought to make a man less criminal.

The support for men to build muscular bodies continued into the turn of the 20th century. A growing sport movement was taking Western nations by storm and event such as the first modern Olympics of 1896 helped to show the world what being physical fit could do for a man’s body and mind. Clear boundaries of how much muscle was socially tolerable was set by the same field that has brought to us the science of body composition testing – the field of anthropometry.

For the average man some muscle and strength was desired … but if you went too far … got too big and too strong then you were literally forced to run off and join the circus. As traveling performers, strongmen and women helped to build popular opinion of the muscular body – often one of curiosity and mystery. Muscle had now been made into another sideshow act of the Freak show.                                   

The arrival of Prussian strongman and founder of bodybuilding, Eugen Sandow to the United States further developed public interest in a heavily muscled physique. Sandow’s vaudeville acts were closely followed by the launch of Bernarr MacFadden Physical Culture magazine in 1899. Headed by the motto “Weakness is a crimedon't be a criminal!” the magazine revealed to the average man all the fitness and diet strategies needed to develop a mainstream muscular physique.

And so another element is added into the muscular myth. Too much muscle will turn you into a one-man circus freak show … but too little muscle makes you a criminal.

Even after the horrific Nazi eugenics movement defined the muscular male body as god-like there was little judgement against muscle within popular culture – that was until in the 1950’s the father of somatotyping, William Sheldon, suddenly defined muscle as bad.

Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, his work was a melting pot of pseudo-science, power struggles and dirty money. To say it nicely, Sheldon was a bit of a crock – and unfortunately a very resilient one.

Here’s what Sheldon preached. All male bodies can fit into 3 basic body types – endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph - an idea that many of us in the fitness industry know well.

BUT here’s something most don’t know about somatotyping theory. Sheldon specifically promoted that men with muscular mesomorphic bodies are more prone to criminal activity, violence and aggressive acts.  

Exploring the merits of body typing theory is beyond the scope of this article. It’s one that we can have another day, but regardless of if you agree with the disillusion of somatotyping or not there is one very important take away message here.

Sheldon’s work and those who followed in his theoretical footprints have created an incredibly stigmatizing message about the muscular body:

Muscularity = Deviance.

Muscularity = Aggression.

Deviance + Aggression = Criminality.

It would be easy for me to end the story there but unfortunately there is a lot more to this dangerous equation. And so we continue in the 1970s. Thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger something really interesting happen that would for better or worse rebuilt muscles reputation.

In bodybuilding circles Arnold and Pumping Iron have been regarded for bringing bodybuilding into the mainstream but they did much more than just that – they helped to change what it meant to look like a man… muscles! Suddenly muscle became the standard for American manhood. That’s right muscularity = masculinity.

Size now mattered when it came to muscle, and it was nowhere more apparent than in the media. By the early 1980s the hard-bodied action star dominated the silver screen and made a place for heavily-muscled bodies within popular culture. Pair this with an enormous in spike in films suddenly showing jacked-up inmates pumping iron in the pen and we can start to see a highly visible - yet completely false - representation of exactly what Sheldon’s research stated… the big bad bodies of muscular criminals.  

Back behind the gates of academia, researchers continued to pump-out studies focusing on how muscularity was responsible for criminal behaviour. As if being muscular wasn’t bad enough, during the early 90s researchers had started to explore the relationship of testosterone to criminal behaviour. One study went as far to state a “well-established relationship” between testosterone’s effects on the brain and body build – but get this. The researchers state that testosterone only enhances upper body muscle. Unfortunately, this particular study became the media’s go-to source to try to explain everyday acts of criminal behaviour.

Fast forward to today. Where does having a muscular physique get you in 2015? For both men and women this remains a conversation full of complex contradictions.

While there continues to be an open disrespect for bodybuilding and the culture of muscle it represents, there is also a sense of admiration and respect for those who have average or “good” levels of muscularity.

Rigid social norms require men to have some muscle in order to be considered masculine, and it is necessary for female and male athletes to have heightened levels of musculature in order to achieve sporting excellence.

Furthermore, when female muscle serves a functional purpose such as when a Xfit athlete flings her body over a chin up bar in a convulsing motion society seems to be a-ok with her shredded six-pack but when this same body is posed on stage in front double bicep wearing a sparkly bikini her body suddenly becomes grotesque and “manly.”

Don’t forget about the absolutely absurd pathologization of muscle as a mental illness, such as Dr. Harrison Pope’s psychological diagnosis of “muscle dysmorphia” or bigeroxia. Pope and his colleagues have such strong ideas on what is are ‘appropriate’ levels of muscle and the wrongful desire to work out that they have created a mathematical formula (the Fat Free Mass Index) to determine the level of musculature a person can achieve without anabolic steroid use. How’s that for science!

And if it wasn’t complex enough, the condemnation of muscle has morphed into an all-out war against performance enhancing agents and the ridiculous automatic vilification of anabolic steroids and those who use them. Regardless of their rich and vast cultural history, the discussion of anabolic steroids revolves around a combination of legal, ethical and medical arguments that steroid use is unfair, unethical, medically dangerous but above all criminal.

Furthermore, most popular discourse around anabolic steroid use pertains to only one user, and one user alone – the muscular male. This is nowhere more clearly exemplified than in Sweden’s recent law changes which now allow police officers to search, arrest, and conduct mandatory drug testing based “anabolic steroids physical characteristics” such as “puffy and bloated body” and “swaying walk.”

How do the police get away with blatant acts of stereotyping in the 21st century? It’s a little something the legal system calls “probable cause” based on a person’s physical appearance. Like skin color or ethnic background, muscularity should not provide the grounds for violating someone’s basic human rights and personal privacy.

Let’s get something straight here.

Muscle itself is neutral in biology.

It is neither male or female – nor is it wicked, immoral or evil. Having varying degrees of muscularity does not produce more or less intelligence, aggression, mental illness or criminal behaviour.

In its most pure form, muscle is simply a grouping of muscle fiber cells surrounded by some connective tissue - yet, overtime society has and continues to constructed particular meanings and definitions of what it means to be muscular ... we have made muscle bad.

Simply put, being muscular isn’t all that it is built-up to be.

 

 

Originally Published: Feature, Muscle Insider Magazine, 24: Aug/Sept 2015

 

 

Clearing Up Clenbuterol

A Dopers Delight or Misused Stimulant?

Following the Olympics in 1992, a new breed of stimulant gained global recognition. Hailed as the “dopers delight”, this anti-asthma medication was special. Not only could it be used as a stimulant but many believed it could also enhance muscle growth. Only 4 years earlier, steroid guru Dan Duchaine introduced the bodybuilding world to this same drug - which to this day remains one of our sports most misunderstood and misused compounds: Clenbuterol Hydrochloride.

Targeting specific receptor sites in the body’s sympathetic nervous system (SNS), Clen is a selective beta-2 sympathomimetic… wait, a what?

A car backfires and subconsciously you jump off your couch - this is an automatic physiological response initiated by our SNS in response to a perceived threat. Known as fight-or-flight, this response is the result of the release of a hormone called norepinephrine (NE). To work, NE has to bind and activate a specific receptor in your body called a beta-2 receptor. Think of this like a lock and key. Only one key (NE) can both fit (bind) and unlock (activate) one lock (beta-2 receptor).

This is where Clen comes in. Clen acts as a “fake” key that can unlock only some beta-2 receptors (why it’s called “selective”).  

Although its labeled use is an anti-asthma medication, Clen is able to unlock fat and muscle tissue cells throughout the body. Like other beta-2 agonists, clen is a “thermogenic” = Clen-sweats. This is caused by an increase in body temperature and metabolic rate, as well as its ability to directly target fat cell breakdown of triglycerides to free fatty acids is what makes Clen such as popular “fat loss” drug.

Its anabolic capabilities however are still up for debate. Although since the early 90s bros have been using clen as a part of post-cycle therapy or as an alternative to steroids to get “lean-gains”, there remains no human research (animal studies only) that provide evidence to support an increase in lean muscle mass as a result of clen. Regardless, Clen has become a stable drug for many athletes both inside and out of bodybuilding. While Clen-shreds may sound enticing, they certainly don’t come without controversy and concern. It doesn’t matter how Clen gets into your body – inhaled, pill or liquid form, or injected, remember this: Clen is dangerous.

Keep in mind that clen is different than other beta-2 agonists or stimulants based off: specificity, potency, and duration of effect. This makes for steady, strong blood levels of Clen, which often are easy to achieve with just a single or twice-daily dose (thanks to its 35-hour half-life). After a few weeks (usually 4-6 weeks) the body’s beta-2 receptors slowly stop responding due to a process called “down regulation” … simply put, they stop responding and require rest (aka. stop the drug).

However, like other performance enhancers, Clen is great at turning users into complete idiots by tempting them with magical everlasting results. What follows is the “more is better, longer is better” complex.       

From developing a psychological dependency based off ill-informed perceptions that Clen can be used long term, to the fact that users gauge the effectiveness of the drug based off the presence initial side effects such as shaky hands, insomnia, sweating and nausea – it appears that we have a growing Clenhead epidemic on our hands.  

Yes, initial side effects should dissipate after a few days and this does NOT mean that the drug has stopped working, so please stop boosting the dose to supersonic levels and somehow believe that stacking it with other stimulants will results in “better results” and not a cardiac arrest. Wake up and education yourself on drug dependency and the long term effects of Clen that happen even after beta-2 receptors stop “responding.”

Not only that, due to its strength, long half-life, and perceived effectiveness, there is such thing as Clen toxicity – which is why in Canada it’s not available for human use even with a prescription, and within veterinary practice has dramatically declined over the past few years.

Clen has never been made available for human or animal use in the US, and within sport clen it is completely banned regardless of the fact that some countries around the world (Bulgaria, Russia and China) continuing to prescribe it as a therapeutic drug. (… cough cough, the IOC wonders why there has been an increase of athletes with “asthma”).

Since the mid-90’s, it’s even illegal to use Clen to bulk-up livestock. Not only were the animals questionable, but those who ate Clen’d meat suffered symptoms of Clen overdose, such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Just an FYI to athletes who travel - be mindful that not all countries have banned its use in livestock. Anti-doping agencies have reported a number of cases where athletes tested positive for Clen after eating contaminated meat … or at least that’s what the athlete told officials after being caught Clen-handed.

Regardless of the fact that Clen is pretty much illegal for ALL consumption, it continues to be widely available on the black market and used for performance enhancement. From the consumption of cocaine in 18th century, amphetamine use during cold-war and now to today’s Clenheads – even though athletes have been using stimulants for centuries it doesn’t make it safe or smart. 

 

Originally Published: Insider Controversy, Muscle Insider Magazine, 29: June/July 2016

 

Resources on Women & Steroids

QA in 8:

Resources that Discuss Women & Steroids

In the first Q&A in 8, I try to start a much bigger conversation on women and anabolic steroids, specifically highlighting a question about potential resources.

 

Muscle Minds: Sex, Gender & Anabolics

Advices Radio: Muscle Minds with Dr. Scott Stevenson and Scott McNally #19

 

I'm back with my good friend Dr Scott Stevenson, and his partner in podcast crime Scott McNally, on Muscle Minds to answer listeners questions and discusses gender issues and how they have impacted female anabolic steroid use

 

EPISODE link:

https://www.advicesradio.com/track/episode-19-3

 

ITUNES: 

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/advices-radio/id1104299645?mt=2

 

Stitcher: 

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/scott-mcnally/advices-radio/e/51707031

 

 

Learn more about Advices Radio:
www.advicesradio.com
FB: @advices.radio
YOUTUBE: Advices Radio

 

 

Become Unf*ckwithable: Bodybuilding's Elephants

Become Unf*ckwithable with Mindy Harley #9

Discussing the Elephants in The Bodybuilding Industry

There's a lot of misinformation in the ever evolving world of bodybuilding. From the delicate hormones of women and gender specific training to the so-called "safer than steroids" SARMs", Mindy and I dicuss how it's become increasingly harder to find good solid research in a sea of one sided forums and outdated articles.

 

PODOMATIC:

https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/becomingunfuckwithable/episodes/2017-09-05T12_49_37-07_00

 

 

Learn more about Mindy Harley:
http://www.mindyharley.com/
https://socialempireonline.com/
IG: @mindyharleyofficial
FB: @mindyrocksolidharley

 

 

 

Elite Muscle Radio: Girls on Steroids

Elite Muscle Radio with Phil Graham #64

GIRLS ON STEROIDS? The Growing Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Female Fitness

15937119_10154828923561774_4865124000833329749_o.jpg

There's a first time for everything... even recording a podcast! I'm so grateful to Phil Graham for having me on Elite Muscle Radio. We chatted all things #femchem - the growing use of anabolics in female gym goers, implications, how use has changed over time, and more. This is a massively complicated and controversial topic - and one that for the most part, has been completely ignored or overly simplified. Much needed attention, discussion and education can happen with opportunities such as this, so thanks again Phil for having me on your show! 

Itunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/64-girls-on-steroids-growing-use-performance-enhancing/id771021324?i=1000379699788&mt=2

 

Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/elitemuscleradio/bikini-chicks-on-steroids

 

Learn more about Phil Graham:
www.phil-graham.com
www.diabeticmuscleandfitness.com
IG: @philgraham01
FB: @philgrahamfitness

Too Big to be Natural?

Debunking the Gospels of Dr. Harrison Pope

Are you male? Do you lift weights or participate in bodybuilding? Do you want to change your physique … maybe add some muscle or decrease your body fat? Do you lift weights for more than a few hours a week? Do you pay attention to your diet? If you said yes to any of the above questions then you could have a psychological illness – one that the field of psychology believes is a growing ‘secret crisis’ and epidemic among men who workout. 

A variant of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), Muscle Dysmorphia (MD) - also known as bigorexia, megarexia or reverse anorexia nervosa - is formally defined as a pathological preoccupation or obsession with muscularity and leanness. In other words, it is that constant drive to get jacked. The official list of criteria includes a range of characteristics such as feelings of guilt or shame when having to miss a workout, constantly checking one’s reflection to see if they have added size, training “past the pain” or while injured, an “excessively controlled” dietary regime, and anabolic steroid use.

Hold on… from the sounds of it, it seems nearly every bodybuilder that I have ever crossed paths with is considered by psychology to be a little unhinged. My goal is not to debate whether or not muscle dysmorphia is a legitimate mental illness or not. As a teen and former competitive ballet dancer I personally struggled and overcame severe anorexia nervosa – a disease that to this day still has lingering physiological health effects. Needless to say, I am the last person who will argue the legitimacy of what defines a mental illness. But I digress. Let us get back to the topic at hand.

Yes, the concept of muscle dysmorphia has some validity BUT there are some big problems with the methodology and theories of the mastermind behind the bigorexia phenomenon. Ladies and gentlemen, I let me introduce you to Dr. Harrison “Skip” Pope. 

Published in 2000, Pope and colleagues introduced the world to muscle dysmorphia (MD) in their book, The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsessions. Like with any new sexy scientific finding, the media quickly swallowed up Pope’s new diagnosis of MD without much criticism. In fact, during the firestorm of the Major League Baseball drug scandals in the early years of the new millennium Pope became the media’s go-to ‘steroid expert’ tasked with explaining why anyone would ever go to such dangerous lengths to improve their sporting performance.

For Pope, the motives behind anabolic steroid use are not about a desire to achieve athletic excellence but rather are solely fueled by a culturally induced desire to improve personal appearance. In other words, Pope claims that (and I’m not exaggerating here) men take steroids to get bigger. Performance enhancing drug use is less about becoming a better athlete and more about achieving the ultimate muscular appearance.

Pope links this relentless desire for size through AAS use back to the Adonis Complex that he declares “afflicts millions in our society” and has been brought on by “modern society’s and the media’s powerful and unrealistic messages emphasizing an ever more muscular, ever more fit, and often unattainable male body ideal.” Said best by former powerlifting world record holder and Sport Historian at the University of Texas, Dr. Jan Todd, if that is truly the case then “perhaps we should rename gyms – if there are truly millions of such folks – Body Dysmorphic Centers.”

I agree that there has been a sort of steroid driven metamorphosis since the 1940s in how the male body is depicted within popular culture. Whether it is in action figures and comic books, professional wrestling and bodybuilding, in magazines and movies or even just in advertisements, there has been a remarkable transformation of the muscular male body over the past 75 years. But can we really boil a supposed male need for anabolic steroids and automatic diagnosis of a MD down to this? Could the development of new techniques of athletics and strength training have anything to do with this unquestionable growth in muscularity and strength? What about the countless new findings within the fields of kinesiology, sport science, nutrition and medicine? Are women immune to developing muscle dysmorphia? What about athletes? Where do you draw the line between obsessive behaviour and doing simply what is needed in order to excel in elite sport?

Due to an overwhelming lack of scientific detail, the complete absence of a bibliography, questionable research methods and overall weak scholarship, there remain countless questions that could be further discussed regarding Pope’s Adonis Complex – however the most problematic of his claims we haven’t even got to yet.

Measuring Steroid Use.

Possibly the boldest and most absurd of Pope’s claims is not only the discovery of a “natural limit” of muscular development without steroids but also that a simple formula could be used to detect anabolic-steroid use. The formula, called the Fat Free Mass Index (FFMI), can “predict” steroid use by combining a series of mathematical calculations to determine a person’s lean muscle mass determined from height, weight and body fat percentage. Pope believes that the higher your FFMI is, the more likely it is that you are using anabolic drugs.

Wait a second. Could the FFMI really be a new cheap and non-invasive alternative to drug testing? Think about it. Natural bodybuilding federations can just weigh and measure competitors, throw some numbers into a free online body composition calculator and within minutes know exactly who is juiced up. To some this may sound like a promising development, however the reality is the FFMI is not only dangerous but pretty darn idiotic.

First, let us look at exactly how Pope and his colleagues have come to find this “sharp upper limit to how muscular you can get by natural means.”

The FFMI uses a subject’s height, weight and body-fat percent to gauge overall muscularity. This score is then compared to a scale in order to determine anabolic steroid use. Sound simple enough?

To create this scale the researcher took data from 84 AAS users and 74 non-users. In this same study, FFMI estimates were derived from photographs of Mr. America winners (1939-1959) from the “pre-steroid era” and compared to estimates obtained from pictures of modern bodybuilders featured in bodybuilding magazines from 1989 to 1994. It was found that the average Mr. America had the FFMI average of 25.4 but the modern bodybuilders had much higher FFMI results. 

What does this all mean?

From these two data sets the researchers created a score to represent the highest level of muscularity that one could potentially achieve naturally. With an estimated FFMI score of 25.7, former Mr. America Steve Reeves was cited to exemplify this new natural limit of muscularity.

Pope was so confident about this natural limit that he stated “any male scoring 26 or higher who is not visibly fat, and claims that he has achieved this physical condition without the use of drugs … is almost certainly lying.”

While there are many different issues with the FFMI, for the sake of brevity, let us focus on three:

1. The issue of using young male amateur bodybuilders to further demonstrate this ‘upper limit of muscularity’ that can be achieved naturally.

Is it not just a little problematic to be classifying young males who have yet to finish puberty and only have a few years of lifting experience as recreational bodybuilders? Or what about the fact that to obtain the subject’s FFMI score Pope used skinfold caliper measures – a method that has many sources of error, not only with the technique of ‘pinching’ but also with the formula that is used to predict body density. When it comes to tracking change over time skinfolds testing can do a pretty good job – but when it comes to predicting body composition there can be as much as a 5% or more range in results even when computed by the same person. Sounds like a great method to me… NOT!

2. Using photographs to predict FFMI in bodybuilders.

There are some major discrepancies in the methodology used by Pope and colleagues to obtain the FFMI results. Furthermore, although Pope cites Steve Reeves with a FFMI of 25.6 as the upper limit, he fails to recognize that two-time Mr. America John Grimek (1940, 1941) has an estimated FFMI of 31.99. Why wasn’t Grimek used then to demonstrate the highest level of muscularity that could be achieved naturally? Your guess is as good as mine.

3. Pope’s lack of understanding of the history of physical culture and development of sport training over the past century is appalling.

Pope selected his sample of Mr. America winners from the 1939-1959 timeframe simply because he believed that they competed in a time before steroids were used by athletes and bodybuilders. Hmm… really?  

Before WWII bodybuilders didn’t specifically train for physique competitions. In 1939, the sport of bodybuilding was still in its early years. During this time, competitors were most often weight lifters who would strip down after a meet to have their physiques judged. This was a time before specific machines were used to isolate set muscle groups – before specific bodybuilding resistance training techniques were invented, or knowledge of how diet and proper supplementation could help ‘build’ a body. Needless to say, the use of bodybuilders from this era as exemplary of the ‘natural’ ideal or a steroid-free maximum is utterly misleading and a prime example of poor research. If Pope had had a more thorough understanding of the iron game might he have been able to develop a more accurate measure of muscle mass?

Overall, it saddens me deeply that an unsupported claim such as this can be made and disguised as ‘science’, distributed to the general public and accepted without any critical thought. It is because of this and more that I fear the FFMI has and will continue to fall into the wrong hands. I fear we will see the false naming of individuals as steroid users and the continued profiling of those with hyper-muscular bodies.

Yes, anabolic steroids have been a contributing factor to the development of bigger bodies over the past 100 years but there have also been astronomical advances in medicine, sports science, nutrition and coaching. Such advances have forever changed not only bodybuilding but all of sport more broadly.

For some, all of this may seem irrelevant. Why should we even care about some silly formula used to estimate anabolic steroid use? The answer is simple. Pope’s work has become embedded in contemporary physical culture. Within recent years, Pope’s FFMI has already made media headlines and the Adonis Complex has become a go-to theory in the field of psychology. Pope is hailed as one of the foremost leading experts on steroid use and has even testified before Congress on the issue - all of this without any critique or inquiring into his methods. Rather than question his research or explore the impact of his unproven claims, Pope continues to receive attention and funding, recently receiving a grant of nearly 2.5 million dollars to study the long-term dangers of steroids.

It is no wonder that popular perception of anabolic steroids is not one of fact but rather a fictional story of mentally disturbed mass monsters. As one of the most cited psychiatrists of the 20th century, the impact of Dr. Pope approaches the “biblical proportions” range. In a world where there is a preoccupation for athletes to continue to push the limits of athletic performance, Pope’s will to set ‘natural’ limits to muscular development is more than just problematic, it is an example of literal ‘natural’ selection. Except rather than allowing the big, strong and fast to excel, an overly simplistic math equation and psychological diagnosis may have the power to undermine the evolution of human potential.

 

 

Originally Published: Feature, Muscle Insider Magazine, 26: Dec/Jan 2016

The Good, the Bad and the Juiced: A Critical Conversation about Muscle

SWIS OZZIE TALK2016

From booming numbers of new dietary supplements to the rising celebrity status of social media’s fit-bodies, the popularity of today’s fitness industry is unquestionable. While current fitness trends provide for a greater social tolerance of muscle, there remains continued cultural condemnation of bodies that are arbitrarily deemed as ‘overly’ muscular. The boundary between what is defined as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ muscle is further complicated by problematic perceptions of anabolic steroids. In fact, the automatic vilification of the drugs has shaped popular representations and misconceptions of the hyper-muscular body with devastating results. Regardless of the lack of academically sound and clinically applicable information on anabolic steroids, suspected users are often viewed as social sinners, demonized, and in some countries arrested and prosecuted based solely on a muscular physique.

Guided by a critical socio-cultural historical perspective, this project explores how, overtime, the muscular body has become ridiculed, condemned and criminalized. Through the use of several examples, including the rise of criminal anthropology in the late-1800s and the evolution of the ‘evils’ of anabolic steroids use, within this project I challenged popular perceptions of muscle and identify the impact of these powerful and inescapable stereotypes for contemporary fitness culture. 

Want more? Watch the full video here.