Hey, my name's Erny and I'm the guy people turn to when they want to know if someone's taking steroids or not. I make a living from analysing bodybuilders/celebrities to see if they're natural. In this article I'm going to reveal the most common signs of steroid-use that I've found over the years.
Knowing who's on steroids and who's natural, gives us a better understanding of how much muscle the human body is capable of building naturally.
It also enables us to recognize bodybuilders who've had ‘assistance' or ‘cheated' in order to make gains. This gives more credibility to those who are genetically gifted, instead of being naive to the lies of a fake natty.
This guide can also help you make more gains. Here's how…
If there's 2 shredded bodybuilders who've both got 18 inch arms, but one of them's got signs of steroid-use and the other one hasn't; you'll be better off replicating the workouts/diet of the natty guy.
A natty bodybuilder following advice from someone on steroids is about as useful as injecting synthol to get bigger biceps. Thus my aim with this guide is to help you look at anyone in the world and know if they're on steroids or natural.
Here's the 12 signs to look out for.
Note: It's possible for some natty's to have a couple of the following side effects. However, if a bodybuilder has several of the signs listed below, there's a strong chance they're juicing. Equally, if a bodybuilder doesn't have any of the below, they're almost certainly natural.
1. Gains Timeline
This is by far the most effective way to spot someone on steroids.
A person's gains timeline, as I like to call it, is how their body's transformed throughout their life.
A natural bodybuilder's gains timeline will look drastically different to a steroid-user's.
A natty will gain approximately 20lbs of muscle when they first start lifting weights, but after their newbie gains, they pretty much stay the same size (only building small amounts of muscle thereafter).
In comparison, a steroid-user will have newbie gains. They'll also stay the same size for a while like a natty, but then they'll suddenly blow up again – gaining a further 30-50lbs of muscle. This pattern of growth is the biggest indication that someone's juicing.
Lets take Bradley Martyn for example. In the before picture below he'd been lifting for 5/6 years, so by this point he would've pretty much maxed out his natty potential.
However, a few years after this he suddenly blows up out of nowhere and becomes a fitness icon. He transformed from a dude who was in good-shape to a BEAST and now one of the most followed guys in bodybuilding.
These gains aren't normal for a natural.
So, a person's gains timeline is key in knowing whether a person's natural or not, you just need pictures to see how their bodies have evolved over the years.
In my experience I've found that guys who are natural (and genetically gifted) will look jacked before they even start lifting weights.
Firstly, some people have acne and aren't on steroids.
However, acne is common in steroid-users, due to steroids stimulating the sebaceous glands, increasing sebum production. Sebum is a waxy substance and too much of it clogs up a person's pores resulting in acne breakouts.
Not every steroid-user will have acne because some people produce low amounts of sebum, thus by taking steroids they won't have an excessive amount.
However, if you experienced acne during puberty and you decided to take steroids, you'll be at risk of developing acne on-cycle, due to your genetics.
3. 3D Delts
If someone's got 3D delts or boulder shoulders…to the point where it looks like their body has been constructed via photoshop, they're likely to be taking steroids.
It's possible to have big shoulders without taking steroids, so this isn't 100% reliable by itself. However, steroids produce more muscle growth in the deltoids and trapezius muscles, in comparison to others. The reason for this is because these muscles have a higher number of androgen receptors, making them more susceptible to growth when taking androgenic compounds (steroids).
4. Steroid Gut
This protruding stomach is actually caused by a combination of human growth hormone and insulin, hence how it's also known as HGH gut.
The reason for this pregnant-belly look is because HGH increases the size of tissues and organs in the body. One of the organs which is affected by such growth is the intestines (in your stomach).
With modern-day judges keen to reward bodybuilders for monstrous size; competitors feel the need to take HGH in order to put on more mass, despite it making them less aesthetic.
This HGH gut is a relatively new look, with bodybuilders of the past often having tiny waists and performing stomach vacuums (made famous by Frank Zane in the 70's). Bodybuilders first started using HGH in the 80's by the likes of Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates, favouring massthetics over aesthetics.
5. Flushed Skin
Steroids raise your LDL cholesterol levels, which spikes your blood pressure. As a result your body temperature can increase, causing a red/pinkish look to your skin.
Although natty guys can have flushed skin (albeit uncommon), this red-look is often a sign of someone juicing.
Because of this elevated body temperature, a steroid-user is also likely to sweat more than usual.
So if someone's gained a tonne of muscle recently, they've got skin the colour of a tomato and they're sweating more than a sinner in a church…they're on steroids bro.
Some steroids cause you to retain significant amounts of water (as much as 20lbs). As a result, a person's midsection may look particularly bloated. This is more like creatine bloat instead of a HGH gut.
Also they might develop a moon face, from where they're excessively bloated in the face.
Retaining large amounts of water isn't common for a natty, especially if they're bloated for long periods of time. This water retention causes their muscles to look smoother and less defined compared to a natural bodybuilder.
If someone you suspect of taking steroids has freaky vascularity, they could well be juicing. Steroid-users are known to have more visible veins, because most steroids decrease collagen production. As a result, their skin becomes thinner and more susceptible to premature ageing.
As a bodybuilder's skin begins to thin, their veins rise closer to the surface of the skin, making them more prominent.
Note: it's possible for natural guys to have awesome vascularity too if they've got insane vein genetics, but these guys are few and far between. Extreme vascularity is a common sign of someone on the sauce…or someone who's mega old.
Gyno, short for gynecomastia, is the technical name for man boobs.
This is when breast tissue starts to form underneath a man's pecs, making them look like a woman's boobs. The reason why this occurs is due to high estrogen levels in men. Estrogen is the female sex hormone, and levels become sky high when taking steroids.
Steroids skyrocket testosterone production, so in a bid to bring testosterone levels back down to normal, the body increases estrogen levels. If estrogen levels rise too high, breast tissue starts to accumulate in a man's chest region.
Some men take anti-estrogens to prevent them from getting gyno, however by doing this your fighting your bodies own defence mechanisms; resulting in severe side effects.
Due to natural imbalances in men, it's possible for some people (who don't take steroids) to have gyno, espcially during puberty. However if you're a bodybuilder, you're jacked and you've got gyno…the chances are you're juicing.
9. Skull Enlargement
This only happens when a bodybuilder uses HGH, not steroids per se.
Growth hormone doesn't just stimulate tissue and organ growth in the body, it also promotes bone growth. Typically when someone takes HGH their skull gets thicker and increases in size.
Their hands and feet can also grow noticeably.
Typical HGH skull growth can be seen by looking at the change in Sylvester Stallone head over the years. Sly actually got busted for smuggling HGH into Australia in 2007.
10. Stretch Marks
Stretch marks go hand in hand with taking steroids.
Due to gaining huge amounts of size in a short time period, this excess stretching of the skin unsurprisingly results in stretch marks. Steroid-users can gain as much as 40lbs in a cycle, if they use the right steroids, and they're new to juicing.
However, just because you've got stretch marks doesn't mean you've 100% been juicing…especially guys who've gained a lot of weight in a short period of time before.
Aka performed epic bulks.
11. Small Testicles
Yea sorry about this one, it's pretty graphic.
When a person takes steroids their testosterone levels go through the roof. As a result, their testicles stop producing testosterone to keep a homeostasis. So, the deeper you go into your cycle, the more your testosterone production gets shut down. As a result your body produces a fraction of the semen compared to before, meaning your testicles shrink.
How small a steroid-users testicles will shrink to depends on how shut down that person is. If they've run high doses for excessive amounts of time, they could be shut down pretty bad. If they do standard cycles, the chances are their balls will shrink a little bit and go back to normal several weeks after their cycle.
For those curious, penis size doesn't change when taking steroids (if anything HGH will make it bigger though).
12. Dry Muscles
Now, it's perfectly possible for a natty to get shredded (below 4% body fat). It's also possible for a natty to lose water weight and get dry for a competition.
However, if someone is constantly dryer than Ghandi's flip flop for weeks on end, with striations and veins popping left right and centre; this isn't a condition the human body is capable of maintaining naturally (for more than 2 days).
Like some steroids cause you to gain water weight, these will help you lose water. As a result you'll be visiting the bathroom more frequently each day and your muscles will continue to get harder/more ripped.
13. Full Muscle Bellies
Anyone can have full muscles; load up on carbs or have a cheat day and boom! Your muscles are looking plump and juicy.
However, a natural bodybuilder's muscles can only fill up so much.
Steroids on the other hand cause large amounts of intracellular water retention, meaning fluid fills inside the muscle cells, giving another dimension of muscle fullness/thickness. The best steroid for ridiculously full muscle bellies is deca durabolin.
It's incredibly easy to tell who's on deca because no other compound on the planet can replicate the constantly full and pumped look that deca gives. Arnie's also thought to have taken this popular bulking steroid in his prime.
14. Bad Breath
Okay, so we can't quite find the scientific reason behind this anywhere, but steroids and bad breath definitely is a thing.
Steroid-users often complain of a more gacky mouth when on a cycle. Other juicers (on forums) have said that since they started their cycle, their breath's started smelling like a skunk.
One theory could be that steroids dehydrate your body because of the increase in body temperature, causing you to sweat more throughout the day. Thus a way to reduce this side effect would be to drink more water to keep your body hydrated and your mouth moist.
Anyhow, many people have bad breath and this doesn't mean they're taking steroids. However, if one guy down your gym has just blown up in size, and all of a sudden his breath's started stinking real bad when you speak to him – this points towards steroid-use.
15. Steroid Jaw
When a man's testosterone levels change dramatically, their facial structure also changes.
High testosterone levels = big/defined jawline, wide face, small eyes, big forehead and a large adams apple.
People who haven't touched steroids before could have a face as described above. However, if someone's past the age of puberty and their face has changed recently, looking more masculine than usual (not because of facial hair), this could be routed to steroids.
The best way to tell if someone's taking steroids is by their gains timeline. To do this you'll have to collect several pictures of how that person's body has evolved throughout their lifespan and look for any unnatural growth patterns.
If you can't do that, the next best thing is to look at their body (don't stare for too long bro) to see if they have any visual steroid symptoms like: 3D delts, acne, gyno, HGH gut etc.
A typical steroid-user will have several of the 15 signs listed in this article, making it relatively easy to spot him vs a natty lifter.