Male infertility: Does excessive gyming and steroids lead to fertility issues in men?
Steroids were originally made as medical supplements but are now used in body building industry too. Does excessive gyming and steroids lead to male infertility
A six-pack guy is what many girls dream of and a six-pack body is every man’s dream so, to make this dream come true, they hit the gym but making a macho heroic body with six packs is not easy and is challenging. To counter this challenge, men often end up taking some supplements etc that mostly contain anabolic steroids.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Gunjan Sabharwal and Dr Anshika Lekhi, Senior Infertility Specialists at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals in Gurgaon's Golf Course Road, explained, “Anabolic steroids are basically synthetic substances that mimic the male hormone testosterone in their function. All the male phenotype voice, muscle, hair, etc is associated with testosterone. To promote faster muscle growth and enhance the performance men take these supplements since 1930s.” These steroids are functionally of 3 types:
- Bulking steroids: to make muscle bulk.
- Performance steroids: to boost endurance.
- Cutting steroids: to lose weight.
They elaborated, “These steroids are available in pill, powder, or injection forms. The known steroids available are Dianabol, Deca Durabolin, winstrol, trenbolone, clenbuterol, anadrol, oxandrin, equipoise and Anavar. These steroids were originally made as medical supplements for patients who were suffering from disease related muscle loss or bad endurance but their misuse soon started in the body building industry.”
Why are we anxious about a drug making the dream body of a man?
Dr Gunjan Sabharwal and Dr Anshika Lekhi answered, “The problem is that the man might become your dream looking guy buy but may lose the potential of reproducing. Yes, you read it right. These steroids can suppress the semen production in make it substandard or even nil in some cases. So, he will only look good but not do good. They can also cause shrunken testicles and even erectile dysfunction. Long time use has also seen to cause breast development, hair loss and acne. It has been associated with a lot of mood swing and behavioural issues. It also leads to high blood pressure and risk of cardiac disease and prostate cancer.”
According to them, any such medicine which is making man prone to all this is not worth it. They revealed, “These steroids might be synthetically made or naturally occurring, their effects are not going to change. So there is no replacement of hard work. To get that dream body you must do work out and no medicine. Since your health and your life is much more precious and important than any macho look. Obesity in both males and females has a negative impact on fertility. Thus, weight reduction with a multipronged approach becomes a prerequisite for a healthy successful pregnancy outcome. Generally, men resort to heavy gymming including weightlifting, cycling etc. for faster weight loss. Men are frequently having protein supplements containing anabolic steroids for body building. Earlier it was only body builders using them.”
Why is all this a topic of concern for fertility?
Dr Gunjan Sabharwal and Dr Anshika Lekhi shared, “Use of very heavy weights regularly can cause varicocele. This can affect the semen parameters. The condition may require surgical treatment and the couple may have to resort to assisted reproductive techniques as IVF/ICSI. Cycling regularly for more than 16 weeks causes thermal insult to the testis and hence deteriorating Sperm counts and motility severely. This also causes increase in free radicals and hence increased DNA damage. This is an important cause of male factor infertility. Use of anabolic steroid containing protein supplements causes hypogonadism (ASIH).”
They cautioned, “There is a fall in testosterone levels causing decreased spermatogenesis and eventually resulting in low sperm count. This decrease of count may vary from Oligospermia (less number of sperms) to azoospermia (Absent sperms). This may be transient or permanent. Oligospermia may recover from 4-12 months after stopping the steroids. Sometimes the recovery may be delayed up to 2 years. Apart from the sperm parameters deterioration, there also may be decrease in libido and erectile dysfunction. Whereas it is commonly advocated that for overweight couples, the key might be hitting the gym together but data assessing modifiable risk factors and sub fertility in males suggested that supervised exercise done in moderation with a nutritious balanced diet can help achieve weight control goals and successful pregnancy.”