Natural Bodybuilder vs Steroids: Compared (users, pictures, female)

January 8, 2024 |

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What are the differences between a natural bodybuilder and a steroid lifestyle?

Do natural bodybuilders take steroids?

Bodybuilding has a bad reputation for steroid use and abuse, with a lax approach to testing and a major incentive for spectacle.

Today we’re going to look at what this means and the lifestyles, pros, and cons of each.

Important Disclaimer: Nothing in this article constitutes medical advice, and the use of performance-enhancing drugs can be dangerous. Take it with a pinch of salt – this information is all about educating yourself, and we don’t recommend taking exogenous hormones without serious thought and medical guidance.

Natural Bodybuilding vs. Steroids: The Basics

Bodybuilding is split into two camps: bodybuilding and natural bodybuilding.

The fact that this distinction exists at all should tell you that bodybuilding is replete with steroid users. The whole system is built on the unspoken use of steroids, which means that normal bodybuilding has a problem with expectations.

Many natural bodybuilders are shown examples of enhanced bodybuilding, and it can warp perceptions of who is natural, what’s naturally possible, and how to train.

Some of the more cynical motivations drive this: spectacle sells tickets, sponsored supplements, and drives up social media engagement.

Natural bodybuilding provides an alternative to ‘enhanced’ bodybuilding but doesn’t get the same attention.

Some excellent federations are trying to promote this kind of training. These shows don’t get as much attention as they’re from younger feds and lack the drama of super-massive, shredded steroid users that draw attention so easily.

Is Natural Bodybuilding Better than Steroids?

Natural bodybuilding is better for your health, but it depends on what else you’re looking for.

Bodybuilding is better for maximizing muscle growth and conditioning, but it’s built around the use of unhealthy and often-illegal substances. This dark underbelly of bodybuilding puts many normal people off the competition.

natural bodybuilder

Equally, natural bodybuilding physiques are far more pleasing to many normal people.

The “mass monster” stage of bodybuilding has been long-lived now, and it’s not the aesthetic that everyone wants – very few people want to weigh 300 lbs with abs.

Is natural bodybuilding better? That’s a matter of personal preference. It’s certainly cheaper, healthier, and less likely to kill you.

These are the objective factors, and for most people, that means natural bodybuilding is better.

How Can You Tell a Natural Bodybuilder from a Steroid Bodybuilder?

There is no single way to detect a natural or unnatural bodybuilder – but there are a few things to look out for:

  • Size: Natural bodybuilders look more natural. They’re not inhumanly massive or look like they’ve been photoshopped. Natural bodybuilders are smaller and more normally proportioned.
  • Delts and Traps: The shoulders and traps are famously receptive to steroid use, which means they pop in unnatural bodybuilders. Proportional delts and traps make steroid use less likely, but they’re not 100% certain.
  • Conditioning: You can’t be big, lean, and natural – you have to choose 2. Natural bodybuilders sacrifice a lot of sizes to get into competitive shape, while PED users can be massive and shredded simultaneously.
  • Timing: Natural bodybuilders have to have long, patient run-ups to competitions since they don’t have steroid support. PED users have massive swings in short spaces of time since they aren’t likely to have hormonal consequences.
  • Grain: It’s hard to define, but natural bodybuilders often lack a severe grain to the physiques that steroid users possess – these are the results of certain compounds in the cutting phase that produce a very particular type of lean definition.

These are just a few things to look for, and it takes time and experience to spot who is natural and who isn’t. If it’s any consolation, you’ll only ever be able to say who is on steroids, as many of the most prolific users (like long-distance cyclists) aren’t visibly in gear.

Ultimately, you can only go by someone’s word and the imperfect world of drug testing.

Natural Bodybuilder vs Steroids: FAQ

Do Natural Bodybuilders Take Steroids?

While natural bodybuilders shouldn’t take steroids, some ‘natural bodybuilders still use anabolic steroids. Testing is limited, and there will always be someone willing to cheat to win – even in a federation or category dedicated to steroid-free bodybuilding.

Most natural bodybuilders are clean, as they could have taken drugs and gone into the enhanced bodybuilding circuit – where there is more money and fame.

This makes for a relatively honest split between bodybuilding and natural bodybuilding, but it’s never 100% clear cut, and some people take advantage of this ‘common sense’ distinction to win.

Can You Win Bodybuilding without Steroids?

No, there is no way that you’re going to win a professional bodybuilding show without steroid use. The major competitions – Mr. Olympia, Mr. Universe, and the continental championships – are very competitive, and the main competitors are all on steroids.

This is not the case in natural bodybuilding, however, where you may be able to see great success without steroid use. These natural bodybuilding federations promote steroid-free bodybuilding, and you can win those without steroids – it’s the whole point.

Ensure that you’re looking at the right kinds of competition when looking at what you want to achieve.

Normal bodybuilding is very steroid-dependent, while natural bodybuilding pursues an aesthetic and approach more in line with naturally possible physiques.

What’s the Difference Between Natural Bodybuilding and Bodybuilding?

Natural bodybuilding is designed to eliminate steroid use – the testing protocols and physiques shown in natural bodybuilding are far more realistic. Federations have different testing procedures and rely on competition organizers’ experience and expertise to target suspicious physiques.

Natural bodybuilding aims to provide an all-natural alternative where people who don’t want to take steroids are not at an unfair disadvantage.

Some people will still try and cheat in these competitions, but they’re much better for natural bodybuilders.

Female Bodybuilder Steroids vs No steroids

The natural bodybuilder vs steroids debate is even more pronounced for female bodybuilders – women’s response to anabolic steroids is far more dramatic, obvious, and damaging than for men.

Women’s bodybuilding is typically less dependent on steroid use due to the smaller competition pool and the greater importance of genetics. Effective muscle growth is typically slower, while steroid use is obvious in most cases – especially with the “real” steroids that have more potent effects.

Women’s natural bodybuilding and steroid-use bodybuilding are worlds apart, and the difference is visually obvious

woman bodybuilder

The masculising effects of steroids on the voice, hair growth, facial features, musculature, and other factors make it both more consequential in daily life and easier to tell the difference between natural bodybuilders and steroid users.

Overall, it’s a worse trade-off that should only really be considered by those committed to bodybuilding and with close medical guidance.

Are Natural Bodybuilders Stronger than Steroid Users?

No, steroid users are stronger than natural bodybuilders because steroids’ strength and muscle size both increase.

Androgens like testosterone and its derivatives increase muscle strength.

This is why weightlifters and powerlifters also take steroids – they’re useful for just about every muscle, strength, and power goal. Natural bodybuilders can still be strong, but they’re not going to have the same advantages or easy strength gains as steroid users.

Is There a Natural Steroid for Muscle Building?

There are no ‘natural steroids’ for muscle building – if it’s natural, it’s not steroids.

You can improve your results with nutritional supplementation and smart training, helping you get the most out of your workouts.

For example, you can use the ultimate stack from Crazy Bulk to emulate some of the muscle-gain benefits of steroids without the health risks. The products in this stack – like TestoMax– are great for supporting natural hormone levels to produce better muscle gains and support your body’s natural testosterone levels.

This is as close as you’re going to get to a natural steroid, with a more gentle formula, no health risks, and a wide range of healthy nutrients to support performance and hormonal function.

Can I Get Big without Steroids?

Many natural bodybuilders, powerlifters, weightlifters, and fitness enthusiasts got big without steroids. It will take longer to get bigger than someone using steroids, but it’s still possible.

Obviously, what you consider to be big matters.

You’ll need steroids if you want to be as big as elite bodybuilders or strongmen. However, you can become very big without steroids; you have to be patient and consistent with your training and diet.

You also can’t be big and shredded without steroids – there’s an old saying that you have to pick two from big, lean, and natural.

You can get into great shape with lots of muscle mass, but that huge, peeled physique that you see in bodybuilding competitions requires steroid use to achieve – so set realistic expectations for yourself!

Does Mr. Olympia Allow Steroids? (How Legal)

Officially, the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition does not allow steroids but has a no-testing policy so that bodybuilders can compete while using steroids. This is an unspoken cultural agreement for the competition and all the competitors understand – and are using steroids themselves.

The Mr. Olympia competition can’t just allow steroids actively – primarily because it’s based in the United States, where many anabolic steroids are illegal.

Rather, they know that people are using them and don’t mention it and don’t test them.

Part of the appeal of the Mr. Olympia competition is the spectacle, which relies on huge muscles, amazing conditioning, and ridiculous competitions between physiques.

Steroids make all of these easier and more intense, so they have no reason to test or be strict with drug use. The whole ‘sport’ of bodybuilding (outside of natural bodybuilding) relies on underground steroid use.

Why do we recommend natural steroid alternatives?

We recommend natural steroid alternatives for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, they are much safer than traditional steroids. Steroids can cause a number of side effects, ranging from mild (acne, headaches) to severe (heart attacks, liver damage).

Natural alternatives, on the other hand, are much less likely to cause side effects.

Additionally, natural alternatives are legal in most jurisdictions, while steroids are not.

Finally, natural alternatives tend to be more effective than traditional steroids, meaning that you can achieve your desired results without putting your health at risk.

Here are some of the best natural steroid alternatives on the market today:

  • D-Bal which replaces the anabolic steroid Dianabol
  • Anadrole which replaces the anabolic steroid Anadrol
  • Trenorol which replaces the anabolic steroid Trenbolone
  • DecaDuro replaces the anabolic steroid Deca-Durabolin
  • Anvarol serves as a safer and legal alternative to Anavar

These are bulking and cutting supplements anyone can get anywhere with or without a prescription.

With over 150,000 users, customer reviews with before and after photos, and clinically-proven ingredients, CrazyBulk products are some of the most effective (and safe) on the market.

CrazyBulk Before and after pictures

First here is Donald, who used D-Bal for 2 months and then Anadrole for 1 month:

Donald CrazyBulk before and after

His muscles grew at a rapid pace and I lost 4% body fat. And he also gained around 20 to 25 pounds on bench and increased strength.

Secondly is Kieran:

Kieran CrazyBulk photo

Who took DBal for 4 weeks, then gained large amount of muscle mass from one cycle. And also increased strength. His bench press, squat and deadlift have risen by atleast 10kg.

Thirdly is a female – Jessie:

Jessie CrazyBulk review photo

Jessie used D-Bal for 1.5 months. And gained lean muscle on her arms, legs, back, and core. She now have toned areas where she used to have body fat.

That’s not all!

She also went from 14% body fat to 11%. And now able to lift 10 lbs more than she could a month ago, and can press 25 lbs more.

View more before and after photos here

Final Thoughts: Natural or Steroids?

Bodybuilding is a physical pursuit wrapped up in steroid use and spectacle controversy.

You don’t have to use steroids to compete in bodybuilding if you compete in a natural bodybuilding federation. It’s a significant cost to your health that most people don’t benefit from enough to justify PED use.

Some people will cheat in natural bodybuilding federations, and some will use PEDs no matter the physical effects. That’s down to personal goals and priorities – the important part is understanding the expense to your health before making any long-term decisions.

Natural bodybuilding vs steroids is a choice for each individual, but the overall themes are important.

Setting realistic expectations about what’s naturally possible is important – and paying attention to the right competition is a great way to redress your image of bodybuilding.

The bodybuilder who does not use steroids will likely have a rounder appearance, as this person has less muscle mass and more fat. Neither of these bodybuilders is necessarily healthier than the other; both may have healthy or unhealthy lifestyles.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide whether they want to use steroids or not.

If you have your eyes on steroids – I’d highly advise you to consider the legal, safer, and healthier options we listed above.

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