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How to Spot a Steroid User

Comparison is one of the key components of gym culture. As fitness enthusiasts, we often compare ourselves to other people at the gym or in our online support communities. But sometimes, we can find ourselves trapped in a cycle of looking through inspirational pictures on social media and wondering why we can’t seem to achieve similar results.

steroid user

Well, comparing ourselves to people isn’t fair unless we’re all on an equal playing field. With the popularity of steroids and other growth supplements, it can be hard to determine whether the people on your feed are juicing or not. So today, we’re going to talk about 6 signs that can reveal whether someone’s muscle growth is completely natural or not.

How to Spot the Difference Between Natural Muscle Growth and Steroid Use

Before we explain each of these 6 signs in more detail, we should mention a disclaimer. Some of these signs and symptoms, especially those at the beginning of our list, may simply be common occurrences for the person you’re analyzing. But, if the person is exhibiting more than two or three of these symptoms over a long period of time, the cause is almost certainly steroid use.

Red Skin

One of the most common side effects of juicing is having skin that seems to be perpetually flushed. In addition to this symptom, steroid users may also have a heightened body temperature. The fact of the matter is that some types of steroids affect the user’s body pressure, hence affecting their body temperature and even skin hue.

Basically, the drugs increase testosterone production in the body in order to help the development of muscles. However, those heightened levels are often accompanied by a rise in LDL cholesterol. That harmful cholesterol can, in turn, make the blood pressure rise, leading to reddish skin.

Obviously, on its own, this isn’t any kind of proof that someone is juicing. Besides, this kind of symptom is also more visible on someone who has a fair complexion, to begin with. And even then, they could naturally have a ruddy skin tone. Still, if someone you know suddenly developed reddish skin and one of the other symptoms from this list, they may be on steroids.


Have you ever noticed that men are far more prone to acne than women? Well, because steroids affect the production of androgens, which are linked with male patterns of muscle growth, they can also cause acne.Specifically, if the drugs contain a type of hormone that’s even stronger than testosterone, users can expect to see medium to severe blemishes not only on their face but also elsewhere on the body.

Bloating in the Face and Stomach

If you’ve ever seen a comparison photo of a person on steroids and one that’s achieved a more natural muscle development, you may have noticed that users tend to have quite large and hard waists. So why is that?

Well, scientists have linked water build-up to high estrogen levels. The “female hormone” increases sodium salt absorption. That means that while someone is on steroids, they will retain more water after salty meals.

Avoiding salty foods altogether might lessen hormone-related bloating. However, bloating is a common side effect of ingesting any kind of dangerous supplement. Actually, the process of water retention is quite an interesting defensive action. Basically, our bodies do it in order to dilute the drugs that have entered our system.

But even this symptom wouldn’t be a conclusive sign of steroid use on its own. So if your findings are inconclusive so far — here are 3 more concrete pieces of evidence.

Breast Tissue Growth

When it comes to spotting steroid users, one of the most recognizable signs is actually enlarged breast tissue. Gynecomastia, as this condition is called, is another sign that has to do with the hormone imbalance steroids cause.

As you know, these drugs typically increase androgens or male hormones. In order to maintain balance, the body’s natural reaction is to release more estrogen — which leaves users with heightened hormones all around.

Steroid users don’t simply have larger pectoral muscles. They actually have breast tissue similar to the one women develop. Still, not all users have “gyno”.

Whether or not a person develops enlarged breast tissue is determined by the aromatase enzyme which converts testosterone into estrogen. Basically, it comes down to genetics — although users can also take anti-estrogen supplements. But then, those pills can also lead to heightened blood pressure and red skin.

Large Trapezius Muscles

No matter what kind of exercises you’re doing at the gym, you’re not going to be able to achieve the same back definition a steroid user might have. The traps are the roughly triangular muscles that connect the shoulder to back of the neck and the middle of the back.

Although an all-natural bodybuilder might still have impressive traps, a steroid user could achieve much more impressive results. The upper part of the muscle group, visible above the shoulder line, can get quite large in particular. In fact, that’s probably where the caricature of the neckless bodybuilder comes from.

Fast Muscle Growth Without Fat Gain

Finally, the most obvious sign that someone is on the sauce is how quickly they’re able to gain lean muscle. When it comes to muscle gain, some methods are tried and true. For lasting and natural muscle gain, you’d need to focus on muscle development over a long period of time. Alternately, you could make peace with some fat gain when you start your exercise program.

Actually, scientists have determined that sumo wrestlers and steroid users carry about the same amount of muscle mass. But sumo wrestlers aren’t the only athletes who also carry a lot of fat. In fact, athletes who don’t use supplements usually gain fat when they start exercising. After all, they need to have energy reserves to keep exercising. So if you’ve noticed some of your gym buddies start making progress at a faster rate than you even though you’re both on the same exercise plan, they may be juicing.

In Conclusion

Any of the 6 symptoms we’ve mentioned could be a sign that someone is juicing. And, as we have already mentioned, the first 3 points could also be genetic. Still, this list should make it easy for you to find out which of your role models achieved their gains naturally.

So, what do you think about the visual effects of juicing? Would you rather have natural-looking muscle growth or the extravagant results you could only get with supplements?

About James Smith

James Smith is a personal trainer for professional bodybuilders. He uses his experience, knowledge, and understanding of all the intricacies regarding bodybuilding and anabolic steroids, to deliver detailed reviews for every new legal steroid on the market. As an author, he may receive some small compensation for some of them. However, we guarantee the neutrality regarding the evaluating of each of the products and the factuality of the information.