Post Cycle Therapy
The amount of careful forethought and planning that a person needs to apply before starting to use steroids is the same amount of forethought and planning that needs to be applied before coming off steroid cycles. Knowing about post cycle therapy is important because everyone has to stop their steroid cycle sooner or later, and they need to know how to adjust their body to this change.
Some people think that post cycle therapy can do miracles for them when they want to come off the cycle. But this is not true. Limited knowledge about post cycle therapies cannot do much good. This is why any person should be fully equipped with proper knowledge about post cycle therapy before starting one.
What Happens When A Steroid Cycle Ends?
When an athlete is on a steroid cycle, the testosterone or other anabolic steroids that are administered to him make his body retain more nitrogen and use up the ingested protein more effectively for creating muscle mass. This process affects many anabolic activities like increasing IGF, decreasing cortisol, increasing RBC count, and protein synthesis. When an athlete is on cycle, the anabolic steroids in his blood increase the levels of androgens in his body. This is similar to the androgen increase in boys during puberty.
There is another factor that needs to be focused on before you can fully understand what happens after the end of a steroid cycle. This factor is called the negative feedback cycle of testosterone, and this is what controls the HPTA or the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Testicular axis. When testosterone is generated in the body, it undergoes some processes that tell the pituitary gland to signal the production of testosterone to be stopped. When testosterone is not being produced, however, the pituitary goes back to its normal functioning and generates signals to start its production again. This goes on in a loop so that testosterone levels never rise above a certain limit. This process is called homeostasis.
When the athlete is taking steroids, he breaks this cycle by increasing testosterone and androgen levels by too far above the limit. This causes the pituitary gland to stop the endogenous production of testosterone completely. And in this way, homeostasis ends. Being on a cycle, the athlete will never lack the androgens needed by his body because he is supplying them externally. The problem starts when the cycle ends. The pituitary cannot immediately understand that the external intake of the androgens has stopped and it needs to signal the start of the internal production.
The pituitary eventually does understand this, but it takes longer than what the body can survive on healthily. This is called the lag time, and it is extremely catabolic. It makes the athlete lose out most of what he has gained through the use of steroids.
Why is a Post Cycle Therapy needed?
As discussed before, natural androgen production of the body is restrained during a steroid cycle. On the other hand, the hormones provided from outside the body create changes in the levels of the other hormones. For example, when the testosterone levels in the body of a person increase due to steroid use, the levels of estrogen and progesterone also increase. But the steroids suppress the natural production of testosterone. So when the steroid cycle is discontinued, the testosterone production still remains suppressed. A male athlete’s testes may also shrink and reduce in size due to not being able to produce testosterone for a long period of time.
The high levels of estrogen and progesterone can meanwhile bring adverse changes to the body like water retention and gynecomastia (enlarged breasts). High estrogen levels in a male body can create psychological unrest as well, like insecurity, being too emotional about everything and no sex drive or energy. This calls for the need of a way to make the natural testosterone to be brought back to normal.
Even if a post cycle therapy is not followed, the body will return to its normal ways of working, but that will take a lot of time – close to a year. Meanwhile, the catabolic time lag makes the athlete lose his steroid gains due to altered hormone levels. This is because of the following reason. Testosterone ensures that the body does not lose much protein. If it is not present, the muscle mass that was built during the cycle will be burnt away. Apart from being stressful for the body, it is also extremely unhealthy.
The time it takes for the body to naturally regain its normal functions depends upon the amount of time that the athlete was on the steroids, as well as the strength of the steroids he was taking. Leaving the body to naturally regain its functions may be dangerous, because the longer it takes the more muscle the athlete will lose. Following a post cycle therapy ensures that the body regains its normal production of testosterone quickly, and the gains from the steroid cycle are retained.
How Does a Post Cycle Therapy Work?
The correct supplements make a post cycle therapy easy to follow and gain the correct results. There are two phases in which a post cycle therapy works. First is boosting the levels of testosterone, and the next is controlling the levels of estrogen in the body. Estrogen levels need to be controlled because most of the time the body’s enzymes aromatize the produced testosterone to estrogen.
The drugs used for a post cycle therapy first bring back the testes to the normal size and proper functioning. After that the hypothalamus as well as the pituitary gland is blocked from the influence of estrogen, because estrogen inhibits the normal production of testosterone. Once the testes start producing testosterone spontaneously, then the therapy is stopped and the body’s normal functions are allowed to take over.
Athletes should always remember that they should not expect a post cycle therapy to miraculously return their testosterone levels to what they originally were, before using steroids. They should also remember that in case they had injured their HPTA beyond repair, then no post cycle therapy plan can help them. If the athlete followed a steroid cycle responsibly, only then will a post cycle therapy reap him any gains.
When Should An Athlete Implement a Post Cycle Therapy?
Generally, a post cycle therapy should only be implemented when the athlete is completely out of the steroid cycle and is not using any anabolic steroid at all. Also, a post cycle therapy can help an athlete if he plans to stay out of cycle for a long time. How long is “a long time”? The athlete should be planning to stay off the cycle for at least 12 weeks, excluding the therapy period.
If the athlete plans not to take steroids for a time period, that is shorter than 12 weeks, then he better not use a post cycle therapy. No doubt he will lose part of the gains that he achieved during the cycle, but he can gain them back when he has started the cycle again.
Unless there has only been a minor inhibition of the HPTA, implementing a post cycle therapy for a short period of time can in fact cause more stress to the body. This is because it will stimulate the natural testosterone production only to stop it shortly again. Minimizing stress during a post cycle therapy is extremely important, so a short-time PCT can produce adverse results. It will create an unnecessary shock for the body.
What is the Procedure to Follow a Post Cycle Therapy?
The post cycle therapy schedule should be maintained for about one month. Most products for post cycle therapy will last only this long, anyway. The average time frame that athletes need to be off the cycle after the therapy depends upon how long their cycle was. On an average, athletes should take a month of the therapy, and then stay off steroids for another month. After these two months, the athletes can go back to their steroid cycle. A good way to do this is by following the instructions from the manufacturer of the PCT products. The products that will best help an athlete get back to normal bodily functions is one that has the correct combinations of the estrogen control and testosterone boosting abilities.
A proper post cycle therapy should include the following 8 points.
Using dietary supplements during a post cycle therapy is not a bad idea. In fact, by using the appropriate ancillary supplements, athletes can ensure that they maintain the gains that they have achieved during their cycle, as well as stay healthy.
Compounds That Can Help During the Therapy
The best compounds for boosting testosterone levels are D-Aspartic Acid, Zinc and Magnesium Aspartate or ZMA, and Tribulus Terrestris. The D-Aspartic acid is one of the amino acids that can raise the levels of testosterone in the body. It works through two mechanisms. First, it stimulates the pituitary gland to release the luteinizing hormone. This hormone then connects itself to the receptor cells in the testes to make them produce testosterone.
After this, the second thing it does is, it increases the levels of a protein called the StAR (Steroidogenic Acute Regulatory) protein. This protein is a limiting factor in the production of testosterone. Elevated StAR levels means increased production of testosterone. A point to note, however, is that this compound should be administered in adequate doses for appropriate results to be achieved.
Next, the use of the ZMA is also for increasing testosterone levels. Researches show that zinc and magnesium combined can raise the testosterone levels by at most 30% if taken on a daily basis. The last compound, Tribulus Terrestris, is a plant extract that not only helps the body regain its normal hormone functions, but also boosts levels of energy in an athlete. It works by causing the luteinizing hormone to be released, boosting testosterone production.
Next comes the phase of controlling estrogen levels. This can be done by 2 compounds – Trans-Resveratrol and Agaricus Bisporus. Trans-Resveratrol controls aromatase, which is the enzyme that makes estrogen out of testosterone. This way, the compound keeps a tab on how much testosterone is broken down and converted into estrogen. Agaricus Bisporus is found in button mushrooms (white). This compound not only inhibits the production of aromatase, but can also play a vital role in controlling breast cancer.
For the inhibition of progesterone levels, the best compound to be used is any that includes the Vitex herb in it. In fact, if Vitex is used during the cycle itself, then it can prevent likelihood of creating gynecomastia through progestogenic pathways. For the reduction of cortisol, compounds that can be used are Glutamine, Vitamin C, 5-AT, Phosphatidylserine, and 7-OH.
For increasing libido, athletes can use ingredients like Maca, DMA, and Divanil. Creatine and beta-alanine supplements are good for increasing bodily strength. To restore the health of the athlete, substances like Milk Thistle and N-Acetyl Cysteine can be used. Fat gain can be minimized using products which have TTA, Forskolin and 7-OH.
Another compound that can help the increase in production of testosterone, and can be easily included in an athlete’s diet, is Vitamin D or Cholecalciferol. It can not only affect testosterone production, but it can also suppress the levels of SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin) in the body. SHBG binds itself with testosterone and renders it useless. Unless the released testosterone remains free, it cannot be used by the body in functions like building muscles, providing energy, etc. By suppressing the levels of SHBG, Vitamin D ensures that the testosterone that is released is free for use by the body.
Also, it is common for athletes to overlook the danger of testicular atrophy in their need for building muscles. Incorporating a plan to prevent atrophy inside the steroid cycle, rather than after it, is a better way to make the post cycle therapy a success. Incorporating about a weeklong administration of compounds that stimulate the testes would help prevent atrophy.
The compounds that can help during a cycle to prevent atrophy include not only HCG, but also compounds like bromocriptine, arimidex and Clomid. While arimidex and Clomid prevent unnecessary atrophy by working on several characteristics of the HTPA, bromocriptine keeps a check on prolactin and keeps erectile function and sperm production healthy. Care should be taken while using bromocriptine because excessive use of this compound can create loss of appetite and reduced sensitivity of the receptors.
Factors That Can Affect the Success of a Post Cycle Therapy
Post cycle therapies are different for every different individual, and this difference arises out of a number of factors. These factors are discussed below.
For example, if an athlete uses Deca Durabolin for a cycle of eight weeks, the effective cycle that he is employing is of 10 to 11 weeks. This is because of the metabolites from the steroid that are left in the blood even after the cycle is over, and these keep inhibiting the HPTA till they degenerate. During this lag period, there will be no anabolic activity in the athlete’s body, and neither will there be any endogenous testosterone. This is very bad for health.
Deca Durabolin can also inhibit the Nerve Growth Factor or NGF, which in turn inhibits recovery. Like the Deca, steroids like Testosterone Enanthate or Testosterone Cypionate also hinder recovery, since their metabolites are not removed from the blood immediately.
Apart from these factors, it is also the belief of some athletes, that switching to a cycle consisting of milder steroids before starting a post cycle therapy can boost the success of the therapy. However, this is not true. Any steroid that supplies androgens from outside will inhibit the HPTA and the endogenous production of testosterone in turn. Even oral steroids metabolize and bind to the androgen receptors, and this inhibits recovery.
In contrast, fast acting orals and esters are removed from the bloodstream quicker. This enables the recovery to start earlier. For a quicker recovery, switching to these fast acting compounds for the final four weeks of the steroid cycle would be beneficial. Fast acting compounds include hormones in suspension, or propionate or acetate esters.
Options Available for a Post Cycle Therapy
There are some chemicals available that can be incorporated into a post cycle therapy depending upon the needs of the athlete. A SERM (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator) like Clomid (Clomiphene Citrate) or Nolvadex (Tamoxifen Citrate) should ideally always be incorporated into the schedule. Before these are administered, the testosterone levels need to be brought to normal.
The leydig cells in the testes need to be stimulated by the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) to produce testosterone on their own. LH needs to be produced by the pituitary gland and the pituitary, in turn, needs to be stimulated by the hypothalamus to do that. But the hypothalamus will not stimulate the pituitary as long as there are excess levels of estrogen in the blood stream. This is why another hormone called the HCG needs to be introduced into the body.
The HCG, or the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin hormone, is produced in the human body by the fertilized egg in a pregnant woman. However, this hormone acts like the LH and can stimulate the leydig cells to generate testosterone. The HCG should, however, be used only as minimally as possible – just enough to bring the testes to start producing testosterone on their own again. The HCG can also be used by athletes who suffer testicular atrophy during their steroid cycles.
The time period which HCG can survive in the human body after being injected is around 3 days. So it should be administered every alternate day for as long as the testes do not start producing testosterone on their own.
After the body is prepared this way, the SERM therapy can be started. If the cycle contained the human growth hormone (HGH), then it needs to be continued in the same manner in the post cycle therapy. This hormone also makes the body retain the gains that were achieved during the cycle.
Coming back to the SERM therapy, it is done to stop the estrogen from inhibiting the pituitary and the hypothalamus from the production of testosterone. The Clomid is actually a medicine that is supposed to boost ovulation in women. But this drug attaches itself to the estrogen receptors inside the pituitary and the hypothalamus. These two glands sense the estrogen level in the blood through these receptors, and according to that, they either start or stop the production of testosterone to maintain homeostasis. When the Clomid molecules attach themselves to these receptors, the glands cannot sense the estrogen.
Nolvadex is another SERM that blocks estrogen, and also works as good as Clomid. In fact, as per some studies, Nolvadex acts best when coupled with HCG. This is for the fact that if HCG doses are too high, Nolvadex blocks the estrogen arising from aromatization, and does not let the leydig cells to become desensitized. This helps in the better release of testosterone. Some people are also of the opinion that it is best to use Nolvadex along with Clomid because that gives the ultimate synergistic effect.
Anyway, the levels of testosterone are low in the body as it is. The glands are blocked from sensing the high levels of estrogen now due to the SERM. This is seen as low testosterone levels in the blood. The pituitary and hypothalamus then signal start of the production of testosterone to the testes. Clomid and Nolvadex are both available in tablet and liquid form. Nolvadex is also used to treat cancerous tissue which is sensitive to estrogen, like breast cancer.
Using too much of HCG for a long period of time may cause the leydig cells in the testes to get desensitized. This will not be good for the body. Also, HCG greatly aromatizes into estrogen, so taking higher doses of this hormone should always be coupled with anti-estrogen. That will help prevent conditions like gynecomastia.
High levels of HCG may also cause the production of progesterone in the testes. To prevent this, any aromatase inhibitor like Letrozole or Arimidex can be used. But if any such inhibitor is used, then Nolvadex should not be included in the post cycle therapy plan. This is because Nolvadex directly counteracts the actions of these inhibitors, especially Arimidex, and vice versa. If Nolvadex has to be used, then Aromasin should be the aromatase inhibitor of choice, since Aromasin does not react with Nolvadex in any manner.
Apart from not interfering with Nolvadex, Aromasin is also known to be able to help in the production of testosterone, as well as negatively affect cholesterol levels. This makes it an ideal choice for the post cycle therapy. Cycling between anti-estrogens is always good for consistently keeping the levels of estrogen low in the bloodstream.
Protocols to be Followed during a Post Cycle Therapy
Like starting a steroid cycle, post cycle therapy should also be practiced according to certain protocols to get optimal results. First thing, the athlete should wait to start his post cycle therapy for as long as it takes to clear his system of the exogenous testosterone after he stops his steroid cycle. The average time for this is 2 weeks, but then, this depends on the half life of the compounds that were used during the cycle.
After the athlete is completely free from the interference of any steroid in his body, he can start the post cycle therapy. Ideally, this should last for 4 to 6 weeks, depending upon how fast he can recover. Among these, the first 1 to 2 weeks should contain only the administration of HCG. This is because of the fact that though the hormone acts like the LH, the testosterone it helps produce will aromatize greatly into estrogen and lead to greater suppression of HPTA.
For this reason, HCG should never be used in a post cycle therapy, but during a steroid cycle, or before a post cycle therapy has started (to prepare the body for the PCT). When the body is ready to take the other drugs after being treated by HCG, the protocol should be as follows:
If the athlete is planning to take Nolvadex only as his SERM treatment, then he should take it in the following dosages:
This way, the dosage should be reduced, and the body should be brought back to normal.
If the athlete wants to take both Clomid and Nolvadex together, then the dosages that should be followed are as below:
As seen from the above schedules, the dosage of the drugs should always be slowly reduced so that the body adjusts and is able to come back to its normal functioning. However, it must be noted that if the steroid cycle of the athlete was too suppressive, or the athlete had been on the cycle for a very long time, then the dosages may have to be stronger to bring his body back to normal.
There are also protocols that should be followed for the length of the PCT as well as for allowing a time gap after ending the steroid cycle and before starting the post cycle therapy. That depends on the drugs as well as how long the athlete was on them. Considering that the athlete was on the drugs for not more than 6 weeks, the following protocol can be followed:
Protocol for Administration of HCG
Commercially, HCG is available in the form of a powder that can be reconstituted. It comes with an adequate quantity of bacteriostatic water with which to reconstitute it. While reconstitution, the environment of the HCG should always be sterile, otherwise impurities may enter the solution, which will affect the effectiveness of the HCG. After mixing the water to the powder, this reconstituted solution should always be kept under refrigeration. The refrigerated mixture can last up to a month. After reconstitution, the solution can be injected intramuscularly or subcutaneously.
Getting the Hormone Levels Tested
It is also important to know that the post cycle therapy is taking effect, and that is why the athlete should get tested from time to time to know the status of his hormone levels. But it is equally important to know how and when to do the tests. Testing for testosterone in the mornings can give a false sense of security to the athlete because testosterone levels are generally 20-30% higher than normal at that time, and before dinner (in the afternoon).
Sometimes, doctors may take advantage of this fact to avoid prescribing testosterone. But this will leave the athlete non-functional and hypogonadal. For the testosterone levels to be really healthy for the athlete, they should measure over 700 ng/dL during the day, and 900 ng/dL in the morning.
In a Nutshell
Being on steroids for building muscles is imperative, as the normal testosterone levels in the human body are good enough for neither bodily strength, nor muscle building. But it cannot be denied that these steroids can have extremely adverse effects on the body, depending upon the strength of the steroids as well as the amount of time they were used. This is why they should be used with precaution, and if possible, with compounds that minimize their ill-effect even during the cycle.
The best course of action may be to utilize enough non-hormone steroids, and during the last phase of the cycle, using fast acting substances like testosterone propionate or trenbolone. Oral dianabol may also be effective as it can clear away quickly from the body. Also, during the whole cycle, efforts should be made to keep the levels of estrogen down. This can be done with the help of compounds like formestane and arimidex. Taking non-aromatizable steroids like winstrol and trenbolone is also a good way to keep estrogen levels under control.
One recovery week should always be incorporated after every four weeks of the cycle. This makes sure that testicular atrophy is avoided. This can be done with the help of compounds like Clomid and arimidex. These compounds should also be used during the final 2 weeks of the cycle alongside any other steroids that the athlete is using. This will prepare his body better for the post cycle therapy as it will stimulate the release of FSH. Using bromocriptine for a short period of time is also good for stimulating sperm production.
It is also important to know when the drugs have been cleared from the system. This can be done by knowing the half life that the drugs possess. For example, trenbololone has a half life of 48-72 hours. This means that the drug will definitely have been cleared from the body by 3 days. If it was taken now, then the cycle will effectively end 3 days later.
Limited amounts of HCG can also be used to bring the body back to the normal HPTA. Nutritional supplements can also be incorporated into the diet of an athlete during a post cycle therapy. Compounds like nootropics and the human growth hormone may also boost recovery. Also, HIT or High Intensity Training should also be a part of the post cycle regimen to make the body recover more quickly. To avoid excessive catabolism, short but intense workouts can help.
Finally, it should be noted that a responsible steroid cycle is always the quickest on recovery. Using the steroids responsibly can ensure that the post cycle therapy works most optimally.
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