What Is Post Cycle Therapy?
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
How Do Anabolic Steroids Work?
Anabolic steroids can lead to a number of serious side effects and even life-threatening medical conditions. Hence, they are banned by many sports associations and are illegal in most countries without a prescription.
Steroids work by mimicking the properties of natural hormones. These hormones can boost the production of muscle tissue, bone mass, and energy. They also increase the production of red blood cells. These effects make them useful for improving body image, self-confidence and physical performance. However, anabolic steroids are not advisable for women, as they trigger the development of male characteristics and can unbalance the hormone system beyond what is safe. While some effects are reversible, changes to the voice are not.
Anabolic steroids are commonly available as gels, pills, injections and creams that are absorbed by the body and delivered to the muscle tissues. They mimic the effects of natural testosterone in the body and stimulate muscle cell growth. These steroids are often used without medical supervision and at doses ten to 100 times higher than recommended by the physician.
How Do Anabolic Steroids Affect Testosterone Secretion?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone. This hormone is important for maintaining male sex characteristics, but is also found in women's bodies in small amounts. The use of anabolic steroids is often speculated as being widely practiced among athletes in the weightlifting and track and field sports, although sometimes trying to proof this through doping tests can be difficult.
Interestingly, the literature is divided on whether they (steroids/performance enhancing drugs) improve physical performance. This could be due to the ethical issues behind doping athletes and participants to study the outcomes. As a result there are few reliable 'gold standard' studies. Therefore much of the information you can read online regarding anabolic drugs is anectodal which can lead to accidents and ill health.
While anabolic steroids do seem to be highly effective in increasing muscle mass, they also affect natural testosterone secretion in men. The main mechanism by which anabolic steroids work is by activating the testosterone receptors. This in turn leads to increased protein synthesis and increased muscle cell growth. Testosterone also affects the heart and immune system. During long-term use, it can result in changes in the sperm count, which can affect a man's ability to conceive. Furthermore, long-term usage of steroids may result in gynecomastia and chest pain, which are both common side effects of testosterone abuse.
People who regularly use anabolic steroids often experience physiological withdrawal symptoms after abruptly stopping the drug or reducing its dosage. These symptoms are a result of the hormone imbalance created by prolonged use of steroids. As a result, when stopping their use, the body is unable to naturally produce sufficient amounts of testosterone. This is because the body has stopped secreting any of its naturally produced testosterone in response to the high levels of synthetic hormones circulating the system.
After the cycle has finished, the body needs time to heal and regenerate itself, which is the main goal of post cycle therapy. This treatment usually consists of taking high-quality supplements in conjunction with comprehensive nutrition intake, and plenty of rest. It focuses on kick startng and increasing testosterone production, which will help your body get back into a balanced hormonal state.
How Does PCT Increase Natural Testosterone?
Post cycle therapy, otherwise known as PCT, is the process by which a man's body starts producing natural testosterone again after a performance enhancing drug (PED) cycle - a cycle may last for a month or two and is the duration of which the drugs are taken for. This process helps the body hold onto the progress it made during the cycle while reducing side effects. It is also known as a pharmaceutical protocol, and its main benefits include reducing side effects and accelerating the transition back to normal testosterone levels.
One of the most common methods for post cycle therapy is estrogen inhibitors or selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMS). This PCT method is most popular among bodybuilders and is usually recommended for two to four weeks following a PED cycle. For example, a bodybuilder who uses Clomid PCT may take 50mg of the drug for two weeks and 25mg for the rest of the cycle. Another popular PCT method is Nolvadex. The dosage of Nolvadex is typically 40mg per day.
However, what must be remembered is that these drugs are developed and prescribed to females who are suffering from conditions such as breast cancer or polycystic ovary syndrome, as such doses are recommended y the manufacturers for their intended use, and not as a PCT for PED users.
Other ways to stimulate your endrocine system to start producing testosterone is by using a supplement that contains natural and safe ingredients that bring together scientifically proven micronutrients and elements of ayurvedic medicine.
The importance of a PCT
Proper PCT is almost as important as the steroid cycle itself. To determine if your PCT is working, you should pay close attention to the signs of testosterone suppression. Common symptoms include low energy, libido, a loss of motivation and depression. Chronic weakness or poor performance in the gym are also warning signs of a testosterone suppression. In addition, make sure you get enough time off between cycles and listen to your body.
Another side effect of post cycle therapy is increased fatigue. Your body is recovering from a period of rapidly increased performance, this mean syou may have been lifting more weights in the gym accross more intense sessions, so you may be feeling tired and weak. However, this fatigue will pass, and your hormones should climb back to normal levels after a few weeks. However, it is important to note that the increased levels of testosterone are also associated with increased blood pressure and lower levels of HDL cholesterol, which protects the heart.
Popular PCT treatments
It may seem counterintuitive to use drugs to counter the effects of other drugs, but many people illicitly take prescription drugs that are not not being used for their intended use. These are taken to alleviate the effects of other prescription drugs that again, haven't been used as they were intended.
As you may guess this can lead to complications or other health risks, and human trials for use as a PCT seem to be self-administered and then written about online in forums. Again, doses appear to be combination of user expereince and recommendations form the manufacturers.
Let's take a look at these forms of treatment.
There are a couple of different types of post cycle therapy (PCT) drugs available. Some people choose to use clomid while others use nolvadex to stimulate LH production. Both of these drugs are effective for PCT and may be used together in a variety of circumstances.
When combined with Human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), the combination can promote faster recovery. The recommended dosage is 1,000 iu a day. The duration of the PCT can range from 6-8 weeks to six to 12 months. In general, the more powerful your steroid cycle, the longer your PCT regimen should be.
Nolvadex can cause a number of side effects for its intended use amongst women, including hot flashes and vaginal itchiness. Some women may experience headaches or dizziness. Other side effects include cholesterol changes, bone and joint pain, and skin rashes. Rare but serious side effects can include pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. Obviously male side effects aren't openly available from the manufacturer but you may experience some of those listed for females.
Clomid is used for post-cycle therapy, a process that helps restore the body's natural hormones after a cycle of steroid use. If you're thinking of taking Clomid for post-cycle therapy, here are the dosage guidelines, again these can vary from user to user and caution must be heeded:
The normal Clomid post-cycle therapy dosage ranges from 50mg to 100mg a day, and can last anywhere from a few days to two weeks. It is important to note that the dosage will depend on the type of steroid cycle you've been taking. Some men will need a longer duration, while others may need just a week.
Clomid is easy to take and comes in a pill form. The dosage for women varies, but is typically 50 to 100 milligrams once daily. therefore men using it may wish to start at the lower end of the recommendations and gradually increase the dose as required. Moreover, the dose is usually increased over the course of the cycle.
HCG is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy and it is reportedly used by people used during and after anabolic steroid use. Athletes who use steroids often take them in the late-middle of their cycles and then continue to use them afterward. Typically, the HCG dosage is 1500 to 2500 IU every three to four days.
HCG is a messenger hormone that promotes ovulation in females. It also increases the production of testosterone in males by acting like luteinizing hormone (LH). This hormone is often used in conjunction with anti-estrogens. The anti-estrogens used during and after HCG therapy are Nolvadex and Clomid. These anti-estrogens have a desensitizing effect on the pituitary gland.
When injected, HCG starts to affect the body in four to twelve hours. It is highly concentrated in the blood and has a half-life of 30 hours. It is excreted in urine. It has effects similar to those of the luteinizing hormone on women, while its effects on men are similar to those of dihydrotestosterone.
If you're thinking about taking steroids to gain muscle mass, you should be aware of the potential risks of the drug.
The liver is the largest organ in the body and is responsible for filtering the blood of harmful toxins and storing specific nutrients. It also produces bile, which is necessary for digestion. Steroids may harm the liver, making it less efficient at repairing itself. The liver also has the capacity to cause jaundice and edema.
Anabolic steroids can increase levels of bad cholesterol in the body. They may also lead to increased levels of LDL or bad cholesterol. High cholesterol levels lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease. They can also cause elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. High levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) can predispose you to cardiovascular disease, and may cause other health problems.
Due to the risks associated with organ damage, particularly the liver and especially if steroids are orally administered, a supplement that can help with protecting the liver should be taken throughout your cycle.
Some nutrients are able to enhance and support testosterone production. And, unlike some of the aforementioned drugs, these are largely risk free. It can be the use of selected micronutrients such as zinc, or amino acids like d-aspartic acid or ayurvedic plant extracts, it could be a combination of all.
Hard training (and anabolic steroids allow you to recover faster and train harder and more often) increases nutrient turnover (the body's requirements for nutrients) therefore it is advisable to increase your intake of micro and macronutrients to support this recovery and growth.
Post Cycle Therapy Conclusion
After a steroid cycle, the body needs post cycle therapy to restore normal hormonal levels and repair muscle damage. This cooling off period can last anywhere from four to nine weeks. Many body builders plan for this before a PED cycle to ensure a safe transition back into normal life. This treatment helps to correct the shutdown effect, which suppresses the production of the body's natural hormones.
Post cycle therapy can be extremely tiring. The hormones are at an all-time low during this period and are slowly re-climbing to their normal levels. During this time, you may experience some fatigue and bone pain. However, it's important to listen to your body and rest properly. Ideally, you should get about 8 hours of rest per day.
A standard PCT protocol is three to six weeks long, depending on the PED used. However, you can always take a longer or shorter duration, depending on your needs.
Depending on the dosage and length of your cycle, you can choose the best Post Cycle Therapy supplement for you. Choosing the right one will make the difference between a successful cycle and one that doesn't. If you're planning on taking PEDs, it's important to understand that they have some negative side effects. A PCT supplement that reverses these side effects can help you retain the gains acheived through hard training routines.