Whey Protein As Alternative To Steroids Biology Essay

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For muscle mass to first be built up, the muscle fibers must first undergo some form of trauma. From this trauma, satellite cells help rebuild the vulnerable fibers with more nuclei. These new nuclei are able to receive more of the hormones IGF, GH, and testosterone which all individually allow more protein synthesis to occur. Increased rates of protein synthesis help the muscle gain more mass faster. Steroids are chemically manufactured drugs used to mimic the hormones produced by the body. They are introduced to the body and interfere with the DNA of the muscle fiber cell's nucleus. Compared with steroids, whey protein is a naturally occurring globular protein found in coagulated milk. Like steroids, whey also increases the rate of protein synthesis. Whey also supplements the body with essential amino acids that are normally only obtained through a balanced diet. While both are viable additions to a workout regiment, they both have side-effects that could be potentially harmful to the user. Whey protein provides the body with more natural supplements than steroids when trying to increase muscle mass. After comparing the two, whey protein seems to be the more intelligent choice for a muscle building supplement over steroids.

In a world where the honesty of hard-work and effort is being replaced by a growing need for fast results, it is no mystery why more athletes are turning to steroids as a quick way to build muscles mass. Disregarding the negative side effects, athletes are using anabolic steroids as a supplement coupled with rigorous strength training to increase their athletic ability. As an alternative to steroids, whey protein is becoming a reoccurring sight in the realm of athletic training. Made from whey, a protein found in milk and filtered from cheese, this supplement is offering athletes a relatively less harmful way to introduce more protein into their diets (Clifford, 2002.) To further understand just how steroids and whey protein impact the individual, the process of muscle growth and development must be covered.

For muscle growth to occur, the muscle fibers must first be broken down through trauma or exercise. After this happens, the satellite cells, which are located outside of the fibers between the basal lamina and plasma membrane, swarm to the damaged site (Kravitz, 2004.) The satellite cells fuse together to repair the fibers and as a result increased cross sectional areas of muscle fibers occur. Besides fusing, the satellite cells also divide their single nucleus where some act as organelles for the newly made fibers and others form myofibrils. The new muscle fibers use the remaining satellite cells, which now function as new nuclei, to synthesize more proteins therefore making more contractile myofilaments, or actin and myosin (Kravitz, 2004.)This gives the muscle fibers the increased ability to breakdown more proteins and build muscle mass faster than average.

After the muscle has been made more receptive to growth, there are some key factors that help stimulate further development. Hormones and hormone-like substances regulate satellite cells, and motivate these cells to increase muscle fiber size. In particular IGF, or insulin-like growth factor, plays an instrumental role in controlling the amount of muscle mass growth by stimulating change in DNA during protein synthesis and fueling muscle cell repair (Kravitz, 2004.) IGF also allows glucose to enter cells, therefore letting satellite cells to use glucose as a fuel substitute and increasing the growth capabilities of those cells. In addition to IGF, growth hormone is stimulated by resistance exercise and is dependent on the level of intensity of the workout. This hormone enables fat to be used as energy in the growing process of muscle fibers (Kravitz, 2004.) Testosterone is the most publicized hormone associated with muscle hypertrophy, or growth. Inspiring hormone responses, testosterone enhances the uptake of amino acids and protein synthesis in muscle (Kravitz, 2004.) If testosterone is used as a steroid hormone, it tampers with the DNA receptors and again leads to increased protein synthesis in effected cells.

Hormones play such an instrumental role in the determination of muscle growth, so accordingly steroids must manipulate these stimulants for the desired effect to be reached. Steroids are chemical based drugs, which tweak human hormones for an optimal result. There are two basic types of steroids: anabolic and androgenic. To begin, anabolic steroids work by first binding to the cytoplasmic androgen receptor (UCSD, 2000.) This receptor has a strong 'magnetism' for the cell's nucleus. As the bond receptor moves to the nucleus, it binds to DNA which the only limiting factor being the concentration of the cytoplasm versus the concentration of the steroid itself (UCSD, 2000.)When testosterone uses this method, it often blocks the glucocorticoid pathway so that proteins cannot be degraded (UCSD, 2000.) After its entry into the cell's nucleus, the steroid is then able to transcribe certain genes. Then mRNA is made and released from the nucleus and speeding up protein synthesis (USCD, 2000.) To reiterate, this protein synthesis then allows the muscles to gain more mass more quickly.

Steroids are often highlighted by the media because of their drastic side-effects often plaguing those who use the drugs. Because steroids manipulate the hormonal balance of the body, most the side-effects are related to distinguishing sex features. These side-effects include but are not limited to: liver tumors, jaundice, fluid retention and high blood pressure (drugfree, 2009.) Men may suffer and lowered sperm count, infertility, baldness, and the development of breasts. For women the effects include growth of facial hair, changes in the menstrual cycle, and a deeper voice. Some these effects are irreversible even after discontinuing steroid use (drugfree, 2009.)

Comparing to steroids, whey protein is produced and used, in an entirely different manner. Whey is one of the two major globular proteins found in milk and is filtered out of cheese after milk coagulates. Serving as a prime source of amino acids, naturally produced whey protein is a key increaser of protein synthesis (Clifford, 2002.) Easily and rapidly digested by the body, whey allows the protein to become assessable for muscle building faster (Clifford, 2002.) Whey also supplies the body with essential amino acids that are normally obtained through a healthy, balanced diet. Amino acids can be thought of as puzzle pieces, they are incomplete chains that need to be filled with other amino acid pieces (Clifford, 2002.)

As with all supplements, there are some worries of side-effects with using whey protein. The primary worry stems from allergic reactions to the protein. Because whey is a globular protein found in milk, lactose intolerant people may have difficulty using the product

(Max, 2006.) The next two side effects have not yet been scientifically proven but probable cause is enough to justify mentioning them. If consumption of whey protein is in high levels over prolonged years, damage to kidney function may occur. The third, and only probable, side-effect of whey protein use is the onset of osteoporosis (Max, 2006.) The thought behind this suggestion is whey protein can lead to an imbalance of minerals in the bones causing them to weaken over time (Max, 2006.) These side-effects are not yet proven, and even if they soon merit scientific proof they will still be minimal to those of steroids.

Looking at both steroids and whey protein, the benefits and hindrances are apparent. Where steroids are chemical substances often made in a laboratory, whey protein is extracted from the naturally occurring process of coagulation. Whey protein supplies the muscle fibers with increased protein stores to increase the rate of protein synthesis. Hormones are manipulated by steroids tweaking the use is satellite cells. While both steroids and whey protein are making a mark on the body building scene, it is obvious whey protein is the better choice for less harmful results.


To conclude, steroids and whey protein are both effective ways to gain more muscle mass. From the initial trauma to the final building of muscle fibers, muscle damage and subsequent growth is the vulnerable stage in which steroids and whey take effect. The hormones, IGF, GH, and testosterone are the major controllers of muscle growth and as such as the primary ones triggered by steroid use. Contrastingly, whey protein simply introduces more protein into the body for amply protein synthesis. The side-effects of steroids can be viewed as more drastic than those of whey protein. Even though this paper found whey protein to be the better choice for muscle growth, the choice remains to the individual as to whether or not to use whey or steroids.