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"Similarly, sports nutritionists can develop balanced diets that are rich in protein," says Maharam. "So athletes should heed the advice of these professionals. But too often, they only listen to their buddies at the gym. And that's how they learn about oil injections and steroids."

Maharam tells WebMD that many amateur and professional athletes use over-the-counter anabolic steroids.

"The use of oral steroids is probably more common than injections," says Maharam. "Because they're marketed as dietary supplements and sold at health food stores, people assume they're safe. But they cause heart disease, tumors, testicular shrinking, and premature balding. They can also stunt bone growth in adolescents."

Maharam tells WebMD that 'andro' (androstenedione) is the over-the-counter sex hormone once used by home-run king Mark McGwire. "It's inexpensive and widely available, but it's a powerful compound with serious side effects," he says. "Given the risks of using anabolic steroids, there's just no substitute for hard workouts at the gym. It's really the only safe way for athletes to enhance their performance as well as their appearance."

Vital Information:

  • Bodybuilders who inject plant and mineral oils to enhance their appearance can be causing damage.
  • These types of injections can cause painful cysts, scarring, and even some systemic diseases, such as scleroderma, a thickening and hardening of the skin.
  • Sports medicine experts say that circuit weight training is the only safe and effective way to build muscle size and strength.

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