Difference between Testosterone and Steroids

Updated on December 5, 2017

Perhaps two of the most popular terms among fitness buffs and athletes alike are testosterone and steroids. These organic compounds play indispensable roles in many physiological processes in the body, but they are not the same thing. Let’s find out why.


The chemical composition of testosterone

Testosterone is the primary sex hormone that plays a crucial role in the development of male reproductive functions such as the prostate and the testes. It is a naturally occurring steroid hormone that promotes the growth of secondary sexual characteristics such as muscle and bone mass and body hair. In addition to preventing osteoporosis, testosterone has also been found to be important in improving a person’s well-being and overall health. Low testosterone levels in men may cause bone loss, frailty, and decreased gonad functions (i.e. hypogonadism). Testosterone can be artificially produced to treat symptoms caused by testosterone deficiency in males.

As men age, testosterone production gradually goes down. This is why older men are usually prescribed to take testosterone to treat problems associated with testosterone deficiency. Maintaining normal testosterone levels is known to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, increase lean body mass, and lower visceral fat mass.

In humans and most vertebrates, testosterone is produced in the male testicles. In women, it is secreted in lesser quantities in the ovaries. High levels of testosterone is often attributed to sexually active males. Instances where testosterone increases are when a heterosexual male engages a woman in conversation or watches sexually explicit material.

Enlarged breasts are side effects of steroid abuse

Steroids are organic compounds that occur naturally or are produced synthetically. They are composed of four cycloalkane rings, or hydrocarbons. Steroids that function as hormones in the body are called steroid hormones. These natural steroid hormones are produced in the gonads and adrenal glands and are made up of cholesterol. Cholesterol is abundant in animal cells which is an essential component of cell membranes. Estrogen, Vitamin D3 (i.e. cholecalciferol), progesterone, and testosterone are examples of steroid hormones.

Prednisone is a synthetic steroid medication that is administered for the treatment of inflammation. Anabolic steroids are steroidal androgens that include natural androgens (e.g. testosterone) and synthetic substances. As anabolic steroids, they help promote the growth of protein in the cells, particularly those in the skeletal muscles. They promote muscle growth as well as physical performance which is why anabolic steroids have been overused by many athletes. Excessive use of anabolic steroids may lead to many medical conditions such as liver damage, infertility, decreased sperm production, increased risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke, to name a few.

Testosterone vs Steroids

So what’s the difference between testosterone and steroids? Testosterone is a naturally-occurring steroid hormone that plays an important role in the development of male reproductive functions. Steroids, on the other hand, are organic compounds that are either synthetic or naturally made in the human body. Such organic compounds function as essential components of cell membranes as well as signal molecules that actively interact with steroid hormone receptors. Testosterone helps promote muscle growth, bone mass, and sperm production. Steroids such as anabolic steroids promote muscle and bone development, including physical performance among athletes.

Comparison Chart

A steroid hormone responsible for bone and muscle development and masculine qualitiesA general classification of organic compounds that plays an important role in many physiological processes (e.g. tissue growth, sexual reproductive development, etc.).
Synthetic testosterone is used to treat symptoms caused by testosterone deficiencySynthetic steroids are used to treat a wide range of medical conditions such as asthma, low appetite, arthritis, eczema, etc.
Testosterone treatment is FDA-approvedUsing anabolic steroids as performance enhancers is illegal
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