Many men would love to get jacked, but don’t want to inject steroids because they’re worried about the side effects. This is a sensible mentality, as steroids can pose major health risks.
So, are there any bodybuilding supplements that work like steroids?
Firstly, no one responds exactly the same to every supplement. One person might have awesome gains on a certain test booster, but another person might not notice any difference
However, it IS possible to experience steroid-like gains from taking natural bodybuilding supplements; because I’ve experienced this before (when I was natural).
Note: Natural supplements very rarely produce similar effects to steroids. I’m just sharing my own experience.
Before I tell you how I experienced insane gains from taking a certain supplement (when I was a natty), I’ll explain why steroids are so powerful when it comes to building muscle. If we can understand HOW they work, we’ll have a better idea of how to replicate the same effects in the body (naturally).
Steroids work in 2 main ways:
- They boost testosterone
- They fill your muscles with water (increasing strength)
Testosterone is the ultimate muscle-building hormone. Here’s a simple rule: the more free testosterone you have, the more muscle you’ll build.
For example, if you had 2 males who ate the same foods and followed the same workouts. After a month of eating and training identically, in some cases you will see one of the men considerably bigger/leaner than the other male. The reason for this is because the man in better shape has superior testosterone levels; or what the bodybuilding world likes to call – “better genetics”.
This example is a common scenario in bodybuilding and it proves how your testosterone count has a HUGE impact on your physique.
Many bulking steroids will cause your testosterone levels to shoot through the roof. As a result, a beginner can build large amounts of muscle in just a few weeks. As a standard rule, newbie steroid-users often gain 20-30lbs from their first cycle. That’s a lot of muscle.
Thus, if natural bodybuilders can replicate this same testostrone-boosting principle and increase our levels naturally, we’ll also be able to experience fast muscle gains.
However, you won’t be able to do this to the same degree without exogenous testosterone. Why? Because natural testosterone boosters don’t increase test levels as much as anabolic steroids do.
The supplement which gave me steroid-like gains was a testosterone booster called tribulus terrestris. This is a 100% natural herb, which increases free testosterone levels.
Your free testosterone is the most important type of testosterone score when it comes to building muscle. This is the amount of testosterone that’s available (for the body to use), helping to synthesize new muscle tissue.
When I was taking tribulus I noticed many big changes in my every day life.
Every morning I’d wake up looking and feeling more muscular than the day before. On tribulus I was gaining muscle at a rapid speed. I also became stronger than ever before. I’d be benching something like 60kg for reps, but within a week on tribulus I’d be comfortably doing 70kg for reps.
(This wasn’t because I wanted to lift more weight, but because the weight I used to lift now felt too light).
My confidence was probably the highest it’s ever been. I remember I was at college, I was already a confident guy; but I felt like I turned into the biggest alpha male on the planet on tribulus. My male friends respected me way more and girls would almost be salivating over my confidence.
My charisma went up a few notches for sure; I was funnier than usual, exuded macho confidence; and I genuinely believed I could get any girl in college.
My body was transforming big time and people were noticing. Friends who hadn’t seen me for a few months would be in shock at how much bigger I was.
“Wow, you got hench!” was a common compliment.
I eventually came off tribulus, because although I was experiencing steroid-like gains; I felt pretty down towards the end of my supplementation and was experiencing some anxiety and elevated blood pressure. Although the side effects may not have been as bad as taking steroids, I thought it was time I came off, so all my hormones could regulate back to normal.
After coming off tribulus, I’ve kept all the muscle and strength gains I’d experienced during my cycle.
Studies on tribulus terrestris:
- Tribulus more than doubles testosterone levels (1)
- Tribulus significantly increases testosterone and LH levels in male rats (2).
There are some conflicting studies which say TT doesn’t increase testosterone, so I wouldn’t say my experience was typically normal. However, if you can get the same gains I did from this herb; it’d be a shrewd addition to your supplement stack.
You can get a tribulus-terrestris based test booster from Crazy Bulk, called Testo-Max.
The aim of testo-max is to replicate the effects of the steroid, testosterone sustanon; but without the harsh side effects. Don’t expect the gains of sustanon 250, however if you react incredibly well like I did, you’re in for some big gains.
Testo-Max also contains other testosterone-boosting ingredients including:
- D-Aspartic acid
- Fenugreek extract
- Panax Ginseng
The second reason why steroids can give you a lot more perceivable muscle size, is due to them drawing large amounts of water into your muscle cells.
As a result, your muscles look bigger, your strength levels increase, ATP levels go up; and you’re able to lift heavier weights.
There’s natural bodybuilding supplements which can replicate this water-storing effect inside the muscle cells; with the most popular one being – creatine monohydrate.
Creatine is one of the most tried and tested bodybuilding supplements around; and almost everyone will tell you that it works.
Get ready for your muscles to look bigger and fuller than before, your strength to reach new-found levels and your muscles to recover faster after each workout.
Creatine doesn’t come without side effects; however these adverse effects are more mild and tolerable compared to steroids. Creatine can increase blood pressure due to the extra fluid retention, so it’s important to monitor this with your doctor when taking this amino acid in high doses.
Studies have also shown that creatine can have a positive effect on your testosterone and DHT levels, as well as reducing myostatin.
You might have heard that genetically gifted bodybuilders (i.e. competitors in the Mr Olympia) often have myostatin deficiencies. Myostatin is a protein which restricts muscle growth, so men who have an abnormal deficiency in this protein can develop huge muscles. Flex Wheeler is a famous example of a bodybuilder who had this condition.
Studies on creatine:
- Creatine significantly increases testosterone levels (3)
- Increases DHT levels by 56% (4)
- Can double your strength and muscle gains (5)
As creatine is proven to give you significant muscle gains, it’s a much-coveted supplement for natural bodybuilders. The only drawback is once you come off creatine you will lose some size and strength gains, due to the reduction of water inside the muscles. However, the elevated testosterone levels and enhanced strength you experience ON creatine is thought to result in some permanent results (even if you lose water post-cycle).
Are There Any Supplements That Work Like Steroids?
Generally the answer is no. However, I and others have had some crazy gains from taking certain testosterone boosters. The problem is not everyone reacts the same, hence how test boosters have a very mixed reputation.
Other people will say pro hormones work like steroids, but studies have shown that pro hormones’ effect on muscle mass is inferior to AAS.
Going by my own experience on tribulus terrestris, this natural herb did feel like I was taking steroids (in terms of gains and side effects). I know someone else who had great gains on tribulus, but this isn’t typical. It’s also worth mentioning that my brother tried the same tribulus as me and didn’t notice any difference. He questioned whether my gains were a ‘placebo effect’, but it was obvious that this wasn’t the case, as the effects were seriously powerful.
Llewellyn, William (2011), Anabolics. Jupiter, FL: Molecular Nutrition. pp. 705-714
O’Connor M.D, Thomas (2018), America on Steroids: A Time to Heal. Cheshire, CT: Metabolic Promotion LLC. pp. 151-154
Dr O'Connor's the author of the book: America on Steroids - A Time to Heal, and has worked with many elite bodybuilders. He's also been featured in Muscle & Fitness, Muscular Development, whilst appearing in the bodybuilding film documentary Generation Iron 3.