I had just finished up the first exercise of my back workout, barbell rows, when a young guy walked up to me. He was about 5’10” and 170 pounds or so, early to mid-20s. You could tell he worked out, as he had a little bit of muscle on him. Here’s the start of our conversation:
Young guy: “Do you compete or something?”
Me: “Yeah, I do. I’ve done a lot of shows, actually.”
Young guy: “Uh, do you know where I can get some supplements?”
Me: “Supplements? Jeez, lots of places—GNC, online.…”
Young guy: “No, I don’t mean those kind of supplements. I meant, uh, you know, underground stuff.”
Me: (after a pause) “Are you asking me where to get steroids?”
And indeed he was. He nervously explained that I looked like a pretty big guy, which I understood meant he obviously assumed I must be on steroids and so would know someone in the area who could hook him up. Even though I was somewhat offended, I did not respond with anger. He would have thought that was ‘roid rage!
First, I explained to him that you don’t just go up to a stranger and ask him to help you buy illegal drugs. For all I knew, he could be a police officer, and for all he knew, I could be one. Second, I said, even if I did know how to get steroids, I certainly wouldn’t be so stupid as to offer that information to some random person I just met.
That seemed to mollify him a bit. He told me he had been training for three years and had very little to show for it. Looking him right in the eyes, I told him it was very clear to me that he didn’t eat enough.
“How do you know that?” he demanded. I bluntly informed him that even with very average genetics he would have more muscle by now if he had been eating good food every two to three hours, which he admitted he hadn’t.
Since I do feel it’s my duty to educate the ignorant and help steer them in the right direction to reach their physique goals, I steered him to various Web sites like Bodybuilding.com, and IronManMagazine
.com so he could learn more about proper training and nutrition from various articles and videos. Though he was nodding and seemingly appreciative, it turns out he hardly heard a word I said. How do I know this? When I was done he asked me again,
“So is there someone in this area who could help me out with that stuff?” I shook my head and told him that I could never in good conscience even discuss steroid use with someone at his level. He still had plenty of muscle to add naturally before he should even think about looking into chemical enhancement.
I understood where the kid was coming from. He wants to get big, and he wants it now. Our culture today is all about speed and instant gratification. We demand faster Internet and wireless connections, faster downloads and movies on demand. Building muscle mass is a painstaking process that requires years of effort, discipline, dedication and sacrifice. It would make sense that guys who grew up in a faster-paced world would want to see results faster too, but I do not believe that people should touch a steroid until they have at least built a very decent natural base of size and strength first. Why?
One huge benefit to training naturally is that you learn how to make gains by relying on nothing more than your own hard work in the gym and devotion to eating right. Those who start using steroids early in their training often don’t even know that they can make gains on their own. When they do come off the drugs—and only a totally reckless idiot would stay on steroids forever without a break—they are usually horrified to see their size and strength rapidly fade away. Since they never made gains naturally, they lack the confidence to know it can be done. Two things typically happen to these people. Either they stay on drugs forever and have to continue increasing their doses to see further results, or they quit training altogether. I’ve seen both cases many times.
I know that guys will want to use steroids to accelerate their progress. Who am I to say they should or shouldn’t? In the end, they will do what they want to do. As long as they don’t come to me looking to score drugs, all I can offer is my continued advice on training and eating. As much as I know how ridiculous it sounds to those impatiently craving bigger muscles, how you train and how you eat will have a much bigger impact in the big picture than any pill you could pop or oil you could inject. That’s not to say that steroids don’t work. They absolutely do. But to turn to them for help when you’re not training or eating right in the first place is just plain lazy.