It may well depend on what kind of gym you go to, but regardless, we suspect everyone will conjure up a similar image when we ask you to imagine the typical ‘gym junkie’ or a bodybuilder you suspect to be on some form of performance-enhancing drug.
They’re going to have muscles the size of watermelons, singlets that barely cover their bursting bodies and if they’ve skipped leg day (which most probably will) will look so out of proportion they could be compared to a Picasso painting.
We’d wager that much of the gym-going public will automatically assume someone with exceptionally large muscles will be taking steroids, it’s certainly a belief we’ve had. And a quick look on Reddit proves we’re not alone. Amid the sea of various threads all posing the same question, we’ve picked out this comment to back up our hypothesis.
“Extreme vascularity is usually a pretty strong sign someone is taking certain kinds of steroids. It’s not 100% but the amount of work and maintenance required to achieve that look naturally is basically like having a second job.”
But are they actually taking steroids, or have they just dedicated their entire lives to lifting weights and guzzling egg yolks, all in the name of what they perceive to be the ‘perfect’ figure.
To find out if there’s more than meets the muscular eye, we reached out to Modex, creators of an eponymous natural performance, endurance and recovery sports supplement, to get the full low down and to ask if you can, in fact, tell if someone is using steroids or not.
We asked them to compare images of everyone’s favourite German gym-bro Jo Lindner…
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…and an image of super-fit human Ross Edgley, who many people consider to be on some form of drug. We’re not claiming either to be taking steroids of any kind, but there is a clear difference in body composition.
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The short answer from Modex was a, frankly surprising, “no”.
“You can’t tell if someone is taking steroids just by looking at them, innocent until proven guilty, right?”
So that’s our theory about popping veins being an obvious sign debunked. Is there actually any way of telling then?
“The only way to truly know [if someone is taking steroids] is if they take a blood test.” We’re not sure how that conversation will go down in the gym, but don’t ask, don’t get.
“If they are found to be using performance-enhancing drugs, ask them what other changes have occurred to their body that they know of. This may be a long list depending on the individual.”
What do those changes include? Modex didn’t tell us, so it’s back to Reddit. “There are tell-tale side effects like HGH gut, acne (sudden acne on someone who hasn’t had it before), moobs etc.” There are other potential side-effects that no man should want to endure.
However, some other Reddit users claim these aren’t the clearest signs, “The thing is, I don’t use, I don’t even seriously lift, and I can have acne myself, and “man-tits” that would qualify for light gyno.”
“…for me this is what is a better signs [sic]: extreme progress over a very short period of time; guys who stay very muscular at very low body fat for a very long period of time, or worse progress while shredded; guys who develop features that are clearly unnatural, such as over-developed delts, the lats also, sometimes the way the biceps, pecs, triceps are also.”
Modex argues that someone could get their body into a similar condition without the use of steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs,
“If they’re not using steroids, ask them what they have done to get their body into the condition it’s in. This will likely involve a strict diet and a considered choice of supplement(s).”
“Regardless of which route taken, you would need to be training just as hard to get the result you are aiming for, it’s just that one has a much longer list of warnings.”
Online personal trainer Sam Wood agrees, telling us “some guys just have amazing genetics.”
“Even if you do take them, it still comes down to hard work. I know a few guys who you’d think would be on them but actually just train a hell of a lot.”
You learn something new, right?