You can’t think about anabolic steroids without thinking about their side effects, and there are many good reasons why they can be off putting enough to scare a lot guys away from ever using steroids.
So, long ago when I heard that Oxandrolone (Anavar) is one of the most “side effect friendly” steroids, I thought how bad could it be? And does that mean its positive effects are also weak?
Well, yes and no.
Anavar is definitely not up there with the most potent steroids but when you want to take the more cautious approach, it’s weaker side effect profile simply makes it an easier steroid to use and tolerate than most others.
This is why it’s still so popular today! Anavar DOES not come with zero side effects – there are still a lot of things you will want to be aware of before you jump in to using this effective oral steroid.
Author’s Note: The following guide is based on my personal experience and does NOT promote the use of illegal steroids (PEDs).
What is Anavar (Oxandrolone)
Anavar is a brand name that represents the anabolic steroid Oxandrolone. This is a DHT derived steroid with some modifications to the chemical structure that result in two notable benefits:
- Anavar is taken orally
- Anavar has a significantly reduced androgenic activity than DHT, which itself is many times more powerful than testosterone.
Anavar was originally created to treat a range of medical issues, mostly relating to assisting in weight gain after surgery or trauma. It has also been used to assist burns victims and may be useful for osteoporosis.
Of course, as bodybuilders our greatest interest is what Anavar can deliver when it comes to performance and physique enhancement. Since Anavar’s core medical uses is to help increase lean muscle, we know it’s going to be a useful compound for bodybuilding. However where it is mostly beneficial is for cutting purposes, as we’ll see below.
Anavar’s relatively mild impacts on the body has its pros and cons. It was designed to be used by anyone who needed it for medical purposes, including children and women, so its side effect profile had to be suitable for this purpose.
This does mean that Anavar is certainly not one of the more powerful steroids we can use for bodybuilding, yet it has long sustained a popular profile with many in the bodybuilding scene.
Unfortunately, buying Anavar is expensive because it is not widely produced, and there is still quite high demand for it, resulting in inflated pricing. This can make an Anavar cycle one of the more expensive cycles you can do, although this can be offset by using it for a short period of time as is the recommendation for this compound anyway, so you can avoid serious health risks.
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What does Anavar do?
Anavar promotes fat loss while keeping the body in an anabolic state, so that lean muscle is retained. When you’re on a calorie deficit diet with the goal of cutting fat or shredding, it’s easy to become catabolic – where the body starts burning up muscle as energy, instead of just burning fat.
The whole original intention of Anavar is to stop this happening, so ill people do not lose weight, and that’s why it has become such a legendary steroid for the purpose of cutting.
Anavar can still help you to build muscle, although it is far from the most powerful mass building steroid available and it is rarely used by men for that purpose simply because you’d have to take doses that are too high and risky. Females however can, at low doses, see some nice moderate lean gains with Anavar.
Anavar’s powerful fat burning effects are what this steroid is most famous for. This steroid can not only burn subcutaneous fat (the fat stored under the skin), but also the fat that is stored further inside the body, including around the organs (visceral fat).
Anavar has many benefits overall, and here are the main ones:
- Muscle gain
- Fat loss
- Increased strength
- Mild side effects
- Dry physique – no water retention
- Can be used by females
- Enhanced stamina
- Better pumps and vascularity
A huge benefit of Anavar is its lack of estrogenic effects, and this means you wont retain water. Without the dreaded bloating that comes with many other steroids, Anavar leads to a very dry physique, and enhanced vascularity.
Despite its excellent benefits, many male bodybuilders will prefer a more powerful steroid, even in a cutting cycle.
Anavar is however quite popular in female steroid cycles, and is considered without a doubt as one of the best steroids for women in terms of both benefits and side effects (or lack of).
Short-Term Anavar Side Effects
With a short half life of under 10 hours, Anavar is a steroid that doesn’t stay in the body long after you’ve taken your last dose.
This means if you do happen to experience some nasty immediate side effects during your cycle, you can just stop using Anavar completely and it will exit the body (and those side effects should clear), or just reduce your dosage. Short term side effects of Anavar fall into a few main categories:
Androgenic Side Effects
The anabolic and androgenic ratings of all steroids are compared against the standard rating of testosterone, which has an even 100 for both.
In comparison, Anavar comes with a far higher anabolic rating, but a much lower androgenic rating of just 24 – which means its androgenic activity is significantly milder than testosterone.
But being based on a very powerful androgen in DHT, Anavar can come with the risk of androgenic side effects if you are someone who is already genetically predisposed to them. Mostly this means that if you were going to have some male pattern baldness later in life, Anavar can potentially bring this on earlier.
Guys who don’t have the baldness gene will not have to worry about this side effect. Exactly how much hair you could lose will simply depend on your genetics.
If you know that your father or grandfather has male pattern baldness, sorry to say that there’s a good chance this androgenic effect will impact you while using Anavar. There’s just no getting around your DNA!
Optionally, you can use DHT blocking prescription medications to help prevent hair loss during Anavar use, although these can come with their own side effects such as loss of muscle so speak to your doctor.
Development of acne and oily skin are the other androgenic side effects to watch out for. Again, these will develop quickly and severely in some people, while others won’t have any acne at all.
This is also thought to be genetics based so if you’ve been acne prone in the past, there’s a high chance you’ll develop this side effect when using Anavar. Unlike baldness which is usually permanent unless treated, acne should reduce and clear once you stop using Anavar.
Estrogenic Side Effects
Side effects caused by rising estrogen levels come about when a steroid causes conversion of testosterone into estrogen (also called aromatization). One of the most appealing things about Anavar is that it does NOT aromatize, and therefore does not cause estrogenic side effects.
These can be some of then most debilitating and physique ruining side effects of steroid use, and include bloating or water retention, and gynecomastia. Unless you’re including any other aromatizing steroids in your Anavar stack, you can expect nice dry gains with the absence of estrogenic side effects.
Anavar is far from then most suppressive steroid we can use, but it will still have some impact on your regular testosterone production.
While you’re using the steroid you won’t have symptoms of low testosterone, but as soon as you stop taking Anavar, and where no other form of external testosterone is being taken, you can experience a sudden drop in T levels – particularly as Anavar leaves the body quickly.
Symptoms can be widespread and serious, and can include fatigue, depression, low libido, loss of muscle and fat gain to name just a few.
The higher your dose of Anavar, the more severe your testosterone suppression is likely to be. It can take several months for your testosterone to recover its normal function after finishing an Anavar cycle. Waiting for this to naturally happen is not an option because low testosterone is seriously debilitating.
Having a PCT plan ready to go for the end of your Anavar cycle is the simple way of avoiding low testosterone.
Long-Term Anavar Side Effects
Too many of us make the mistake of thinking very short term when using steroids: “what will the androgenic and estrogenic side effects be?”.
Understandably, you’re focused on those side effects because they can heavily impact your Anavar results (granted, some androgenic effects like hair loss will indeed be a long term issue).
But what’s even more important are the potential long term side effects we might have to deal with as steroid users. What risk does Anavar pose for your long term health? With any steroid there are several main areas of concern for longer term side effect risks. Much of this will depend on factors that you can and can’t control, including:
- Your Anavar dosage
- Cycle length
- How frequently you do steroid cycles
- Your genetics and age
- Any existing health issues
What should you be most concerned about when it comes to long term side effects or health risks from using Anavar?
- Cholesterol: At medical doses, Anavar isn’t thought to pose any notable risk to cholesterol levels. But at the doses we will use Anavar for bodybuilding, some people can definitely see some negative changes in cholesterol. If you have existing cholesterol issues, you should be monitoring your levels throughout all steroid cycles, even when using a compound as comparatively mild as Anavar.
- Kidney damage: Anavar is actually metabolized more through the kidneys than it is through the liver, which is unusual for an oral steroid. This does cause the potential for stress and kidney damage – and is one of the critical reasons why we limit dosage of Anavar. Kidney damage is serious stuff, and you don’t want to risk it. Unless you already have kidney related health problems (in which case you should not use Anavar at all), and provided you keep your dosage at a recommended level – AND ensure your cycles never exceed 8 weeks and ideally have several months off cycle.
- Liver damage: All oral steroids in particular pose a risk to stressing the liver because they are metabolized by this vital organ. Anavar is considered a lower risk to liver health than other oral steroids, but it is not without risks – especially if you have any existing liver health problems.
Anavar, unlike the other oral steroids, actually places greater stress on the kidneys than the liver. While you can expect an increase in liver enzymes while using Anavar, for most people this will be quite mild and should go back to normal once you stop using the steroid.
This assumes you are not using excessive doses of Anavar, and not using it continually over a long period of time – in those cases you can expect much higher stress being placed on the liver, possibly causing permanent damage. Liver support supplements can help provide some protection to your liver when using Anavar or other steroids.
Most of these possible risks exist when you are taking very high doses of Anavar (well beyond what is recommended even for advanced bodybuilders), and when you are running Anavar for much longer than the recommended 8 weeks, and when you aren’t giving your body enough time to recover in between cycles.
All of these things are easily avoided with common sense and good cycle planning, and by doing so you will greatly decrease your risks (although not eliminate it altogether) of suffering any of the above serious health problems.
These concerning long term side effects are much more likely to come about from any other more powerful steroids you might be stacking Anavar with, rather than from Anavar itself.
Hepatotoxic Side Effects
One of the greater risks of oral steroids is how they can stress the liver, potentially causing liver damage or toxic hepatitis.
Anavar has a modification to its chemical structure, known as 17-a-alkylation modification, which is what allows us to use this steroid orally. But compared to injectable steroids, oral steroids will take longer to clear from the liver, and that’s where the possible risk lies for liver stress or liver damage.
Once again, Anavar is considered relatively mild on the liver compared with other oral steroids as it passes through the liver faster, but don’t discount the risk – for some individuals your own response and sensitivity levels can be vastly different to the next user and it’s worth considering using a liver support product during your cycle.
HPTA and Endogenous Testosterone Production Side Effects
Anavar will suppress your testosterone at pretty much any dosage, and the higher the dose the more suppression you can expect.
The Hypothalamic Pituitary Testicular Axis (HPTA) can potentially become damaged with excessive steroid use, possibly causing permanent damage to your testosterone production in extreme cases.
You can avoid this by being sensible with dosage, and it is critical that you implement an effective post cycle therapy plan ready to go at the end of your Anavar cycle to combat the inevitable low testosterone state that your body will be in by that stage.
Cardiovascular and Lipid Side Effects
Negative change to cholesterol levels, as can be caused by Anavar, can heighten your risk of heart related disease and even stroke.
So what can Anavar do to your cholesterol? In some people it’s possible that LDL levels are increased (this is the “bad” type of cholesterol), while the “good” cholesterol of HDL is decreased.
When LDL cholesterol increases too much, it can put you at risk of blocked arteries and raise your risk of heart disease. Eating a cholesterol friendly diet is critical to minimize all risk, and since Anavar is mainly used for cutting, your diet is not likely to be a concern. Including plenty of healthy fats in the diet will add to risk reduction.
Women Specific Side Effects
There really are not many steroids that females can use without experiencing severe side effects that mostly involve the development of various masculine physical traits. This comes about as a result of providing the body with considerably higher amounts of male androgen hormones like testosterone and DHT than would otherwise normally be produced.
Females naturally produce small amounts of testosterone, but when using steroids this powerful androgen can quickly bring about a whole host of undesirable side effects for females.
So while most steroids are almost completely off limits for women to use unless they don’t mind these side effects, Anavar is one of the very few that are considered “female friendly”. In fact, depending who you ask, Anavar is THE most female-friendly steroid available today.
Nevertheless, at high doses Anavar still poses a risk for women, but at low doses females are known to use this steroid with minimal or even no side effects at all.
Potential side effects can include deepening of the voice, growth of body hair, clitoral enlargements, and menstrual irregularities. Females can of course also see adverse effects in the areas of liver, kidney and cholesterol.
Is Anavar Safe?
All anabolic steroids come with a lot of risks to your health. Because we’re using steroids for performance enhancement and bodybuilding, the compounds are being taken at doses much higher than if they were used for medical purposes. It goes without saying that the higher your dosage is, the greater your risk of adverse health effects will be.
From a medical perspective, health experts will always state that misusing any anabolic steroids comes with the risk of serious health concerns, like:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Mood and anger problems
- HPTA and testosterone production damage
Using Anavar at low to moderate doses is about as safe as it can get for anabolic steroid use. It is not known for its severe side effects, as is the case with so many other compounds. But abuse Anavar beyond the recommended usage patterns, and you do set yourself up for an unsafe steroid experience that can and will damage your health.
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Does Anavar cause water retention?
A great benefit of Anavar is that it doesn’t cause water retention! There’s no bloating or gyno to worry about, because there’s no estrogen conversion. This makes it possible to achieve that highly desirable dry, pumped look when using Anavar.
Does Anavar cause kidney problems?
Anavar is actually more stressful on the kidneys rather than the liver, because it is metabolized mainly by the kidneys. Common sense says that to reduce risk of kidney damage, maintain a sensible dose and cycle length of Anavar, and avoid using it completely if you have a history of poor kidney health or disease.
Is Anavar hard on the liver?
As an oral steroid, Anavar will always be a higher risk to liver health compared to injectables, although it is considered lower risk compared to all other orals. You can minimize liver stress by taking moderate doses and limiting your Anavar cycle to no more than 8 weeks.
Does Oxandrolone make you angry?
Anavar is not notorious for creating mood issues, as can so often be the case with other steroids due to the drastic increase in testosterone they produce. Some users still report changed mood or increased irritability on Anavar, which goes away once stopping the steroid. This is a side effect that is very much unique to each individual.
Will Anavar cause acne?
Although Anavar has a mild androgenic profile, it can still cause you to develop acne if you’re someone genetically inclined. If you’ve never had acne before, you’re unlikely to experience it with Anavar use.
My Conclusion and Recommendation
Anavar is a steroid that certainly cuts the bodybuilding community down the middle – some swear by it, others think it’s too weak to bother with. Women love it.
I can confidently say it’s a compound that does indeed deliver on results and does not overly burden you with the debilitating side effects that can make life so miserable with other steroids – but not all Anavar users will be so fortunate.
Despite its obvious benefits, Anavar still comes with too many risks to be comfortable using it these days.