A recent study examined the muscle fibers of powerlifters who use anabolic steroids, versus powerlifters who do not use anabolic steroids. The findings were somewhat surprising.

Initially, researchers found that the fibers on users of AAS were bigger. This was interesting, as it helps to explain muscle memory, the ability to return to a previously held level. Also, it helped demonstrate why some people can use steroids for a few years and will remain bigger than their non-user counterparts, even after halting use.

Additionally, researchers discovered much larger “nuclear” domains in the muscle group. This translated to mean that in steroid users, even years after stopping use of steroids, the cell nuclei remain large. Inside of every single muscle cell in the body, despite a lack of steroids in the system for a period of years, the cell nucleus has grown and remains large forever. Arms, legs, and chest will always be bigger as a result, even in untrained men.

This bodes well for people considering using anabolic steroids for a few years, then returning to normal life. They will keep most of the muscle gains – or at the very least, retain them in their muscle memory. They will always have more muscle size than people who have never used, all other things being equal.

Does this affect people who claim to be “natural” even though they ran a cycle five or ten years ago? Absolutely. A man who trains with steroids from age 20 to 30, then doesn’t touch them for 7 years, can compete in any natural bodybuilding organization. Is this fair to the natural 37-year old bodybuilder who has never touched a drug in his life? Of course not. The former drug user is going to have a distinct advantage in terms of muscle size. Additionally, he’ll be able to add muscle and lose body fat as a natural at a much faster rate than will the bodybuilder who has been a consistent natural all of his life.

It adds an interesting twist to natural bodybuilding shows. Promoters have to decide if they should let athletes who are bigger due to their early drug use, compete against athletes who have never competed in their lives. This quagmire comes in addition to the many competitors who will enter a natural show while using anabolic steroids anyway. Promoters are often willing to let the former users compete because they need the entry fees as well. It’s another sign that bodybuilding isn’t a perfect sport.

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