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Steroids: Do They Work and Are They Safe?
“Legal steroids” is a catch-all term for muscle-building supplements that don’t fall under the category of “illegal.”
Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are synthetic (manufactured) versions of the male sex hormone testosterone. These are sometimes used illegally.
People who have muscle wasting or testosterone production disorders can take these hormone supplements for their condition if prescribed by a healthcare provider.
However, some athletes and bodybuilders illegally use these steroids to boost muscle mass or performance.
Some legal supplements do have science on their side and aren't entirely unsafe. But others may be completely ineffective or even cause harm.
Creatine is one of the most well-known performance support options. It’s a naturally occurring substance found in foods like fish and meat. It’s also sold in many stores as a muscle-building supplement.
Creatine has numerous documented benefits:
A 1999 studyTrusted Source found that weightlifters who used creatine showed nearly three times as much growth in muscle fibers and doubled overall body mass than those who didn’t use creatine.
A 2003 studyTrusted Source found that using creatine when you’re weight training can help build strength in your legs and increase your overall muscle mass.
A 2007 reviewTrusted Source of muscle-building supplements indicated that creatine is the best supplement for increasing muscle mass.
Research has also found no long-term health effects of using creatine.
Look out for any extra ingredients in supplements that may have side effects or cause allergic reactions.
Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)
MMP is a blend of creatine, betaine, and dendrobium extract that’s often sold as Craze or various other names.
This supplement is relatively safe to use. However, it doesn’t result in the muscle-building claims this drug’s marketing copy might lead you to believe.
A 2014 studyTrusted Source found that participants who used it for a 6-week training period reported higher energy and better concentration, but no increases in body mass or overall performance.
As with other OTC supplements, look out for additional ingredients that can cause allergic reactions or long-term health effects.
DMAA has been found in numerous muscle-building and weight loss supplements, but it’s not safe. Any product that contains it and markets itself as a dietary supplement is illegal.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source has released numerous warnings to consumers to steer clear of DMAA and its various forms in OTC supplements.
Using DMAA can lead to one or more of the following complications:
narrowing of blood vessels
increased blood pressure
shortness of breath
feeling of chest tightness
mental health conditions