We have spoken many times in this column about the use of drugs like anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) to build muscle. Recently there was news that a new drug may not be far away that can pump up muscle cells with hardly any exercise at all.

It would appear that researchers have now found the chemical pathways that muscle cells use to build up strength and endurance. With this basic knowledge it is in the realm of possibility that scientists could develop a pill that will build muscle. Although it sounds great for those who would prefer sitting at home watching the television to pumping iron at their local gym, the target of the research is actually to promote the health of those living with heart disease or other conditions that keep them from doing enough exercise.

The research was conducted with mice and it would appear that those mice with a high level of a protein called CaMK developed more mitochondria, structures inside a cell that provide energy by metabolising oxygen and nutrition. Cells with many mitochondria can produce more work over a longer time. Physical training increases the number of mitochondria in muscle cells.

The head of the study said a drug that would trigger the CaMK muscle-signalling pathway has not been found, but now that there is a specific target it should make the development easier.

Although the use of steroids appears to becoming increasingly popular, studies examining the benefits of AAS have proven to be inconclusive. There is evidence of weight gain and increase in strength; however, anabolic steroids alone will not increase muscle growth. It is believed that steroids allow the user to increase the intensity of weight-training sessions and recover in a shorter time. This, in combination with a proper diet, can result in an increase in lean body mass. The use of AAS does not enhance aerobic fitness and has been associated with poor cardiovascular function.

Anyone who works out at the gym and hasn’t seen the success they were necessarily expecting may be tempted by what looks the easy way to achieve a bigger body. Currently it is important to be aware that there are risks and these should be taken seriously. As for new muscle-building pills, they sure sound attractive but they could be a way off.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug, and no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?

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