Post Cycle Therapy – What Is It And Do I Need It?
In the world of sports, steroids are, probably, the most controversial and debated subject one could think of. From bodybuilders that become huge living action figures with the help of anabolic steroids, to world renowned athletes fallen from grace after being caught using performance enhancing drugs, ever since Ben Johnson tested positive for drugs in the 1988 Olympics, steroids have been at the core of most discussions revolving around the future of sports.
Where does modern society stand on this?
Recent events – like the Lance Armstrong case – have once again ignited this debate, highlighting the moral responsibility, or lack thereof, associated to resorting to performance enhancing drugs, as well as the dangers linked to this practice.
For many, this is a forbidden subject. The prejudice and myths associated to anabolic steroids consumption make this practice something of a taboo, “the stuff we don’t speak of”.
Nonetheless, it is widely known that many weightlifters and bodybuilders depend on anabolic steroids, and other performance enhancing drugs, to be at the top of their sport.
With such controversy surrounding it, this subject often draws conflicting and passionate opinions, which range from the conventional view that steroids are a health hazard and an unfair advantage for athletes, to those who defend these substances should be legalized and monitored, which, allegedly, would bring control and transparency to this issue. Recently, Ellis Cashmore, a professor of culture, media and sport, at Staffordshire University, UK, defended this latter approach in an article he recently wrote for CNN [*1].
Whatever your position on this may be, one fact remains: the use of anabolic steroids is a relatively common practice in the world of weightlifting and bodybuilding. And while Prozis doesn’t sell anabolic steroids – nor we defend in any way whatsoever the consumption of these substances – from a public health perspective, we believe the subject must be discussed. The more information we have on this matter, the better equipped we will be to deal with it, enabling us to make informed decisions based on scientific data.
If PCT is a therapy, what is it supposed to treat?
After the article on steroids previously posted on this blog, it is now time to approach the second stage of steroids use: the Post Cycle Therapy, also know as PCT.
Once an athlete finishes an anabolic steroid cycle, another crucial stage begins, the Post Cycle Therapy. Essentially, a PCT has two purposes:
- the first is to ensure athletes keep the muscle gained during the cycle;
- the second is to prevent the post cycle crash that would likely strip away some of your hard-earned muscle. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, since the levels of hormones and other substances that were circulating in your body while on the cycle (like testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, growth hormone, among others) are now changing. Sadly, at this stage, athletes start having lower amounts of the hormones we want for building muscle, and higher amounts of the catabolic ones. What one must to, as quickly as possible, is to promote the production of our own natural anabolic hormones, and produce less of the catabolic ones. OK, so how do we do this? Let’s break it down.
First things first: what hormones are we talking about? To put together an effective PCT, steroid users must first take into account the fact that different substances require different PCT approaches, since they produce different effects in the body as well.
If you are considering doing an anabolic steroid cycle, make sure you know very well what the selected substance is, so that you can adapt your PCT later on, once the cycle is complete. With that in mind, here’s a short list of the most popular anabolic steroids out there:
- The DHT derivatives, which include 1-testosterone, methasterone – also known as superdrol – and methyl-1-testosterone.
- The testosterone derivatives, in which we find testosterone and its esters, methyltestosterone, boldenone and its esters, methandrostenolone, bolasterone, 4-androstenediol and 4-androstenedione.
- The 19-nor derivatives, like nandrolone, norandrostenedione, norandrostenediol, and trenbolone.
PCT programs for the aforementioned substances have several things in common, since they are meant to treat situations that are common to the consumption of any of these steroids.
The most important element in a PCT program is restoring the body’s endogenous testosterone production. That is the biggest concern an anabolic steroid user must have in mind. Think of it this way, if a person starts a program meant to drive his testosterone levels through the roof for a few months, after that period, the person must make sure the crash won jeopardize his health, nor his muscle gains. After all, we are talking about hormones here! You can’t expect your body to go into a temporary muscle development hyperdrive for 3 or 4 months and then, all of a sudden, go back to its normal self. Actually, when this happens, the human body gets really, really confused in deed.
Disregarding the effects of such an hormonal imbalance could be counterproductive, and even dangerous. And that’s why steroid users need this therapy, to walk the body through the normalization process and avoid leaving it in an hormonal mess.
So, what aspects do a PCT involve?
Essentially, they are 4:
- The Axis, referring to the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Testicular Axis, or HPTA, for short. This system gauges and controls the body’s natural production of testosterone. When it senses a need for more testosterone, it releases Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH). When is senses too much testosterone in the body, it provides negative feedback signals to the hypothalamus and pituitary, which trigger the secretion of estrogen to counter-balance things. Too much estrogen does precisely the opposite of what an excess in testosterone does, In extreme cases, man can actually develop womanly breasts, feminine voice, among other symptoms of too much estrogen in the body. An effective PCT will keep the estrogen production in check.
- The testes approach. Yes, that’s right, we are talking about the testicles. Testicular desensitization is a problem that affects steroid users. Since the testicles produce testosterone, one has to make sure this production goes back to normal levels once the steroid cycle is complete. In this sense, an effective PCT will prevent the testicles from atrophying and from suppressing testosterone production.
- Whoa, there, estrogen! Anti-estrogens are substances that play a fundamental role in any PCT program, since they regulate the estrogen levels in the body. After a steroid cycle, the body tends to be left in an hormonal imbalance in which estrogen tends to raise. This is called aromatase. Here’s how aromatase takes place: for a while, the steroid user made sure his testosterone levels were significantly high, which leads to higher muscle gains. The only problem is that the body reacts to this by producing more estrogen, which his the “feminine” hormone that counter-balances testosterone. If a person decides to use a testosterone product, the body will tend to produce more estrogen, to keep up with the increase in testosterone. However, once a person is off the testosterone cycle, he or she must undergo a post cycle therapy, composed of anti-estrogens, inhibiting aromatase and ensuring the estrogen levels are normalized.
- Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. Or HCG, if you will. This is a specific injectable drug that one must resort to whenever anti-estrogens aren’t effective anymore. Essentially, HCG is a prescription fertility agent that mimics the body’s own natural Luteinizing Hormone. Administering HCG shocks the testicles with an overwhelmingly high level of LH activity, which will enable the user to reach a level far above what our body could possibly do on its own, or even when supported by anti-estrogens. Why is this important? Because recent studies have indicated the common anti-estrogen agents may not be as effective as they were once thought to be. Therefore, think of HCG as the plan B in a post cycle therapy.
And there you have it, these are the main mechanisms involved in post-cycle testosterone recovery.
If you’re someone who is considering doing an anabolic steroid cycle, be sure to keep these 4 elements in mind. An effective PCT is the only way to ensure you will preserve your health, as well as your muscle.
In case your objective is to have more testosterone in your body, to increase muscle mass, but you want to stay away from anabolic steroids, don’t throw in the towel just yet. There are several ways to increase our own natural testosterone production, through relatively simple processes that do not entail illegal or dangerous substances. A short while ago, we posted an article called “Simple Steps To Boost Your Natural Testosterone Production“, in which we included several tips to that effect.
Additionally, there are products that, instead of being composed of synthetic testosterone or testosterone-like substances, they are constituted by nutrients that encourage the body to produce more testosterone by itself. These products are called prohormonal supplements, they are completely safe, legal, and available at Prozis. You may want to take a look at those products before diving into the dangerous world of anabolic steroids.
Note: please be sure to consult a qualified healthcare professional before using anabolic steroids, or PCT related drugs. These substances produce powerful and potentially dangerous effects in the body, and no one should use them without proper medical guidance.