Post Cycle Therapy
Coming Off A Cycle - Post Cycle Therapy (PCT)
by Marcus Haidam
A few minor inconveniences aside, the only really bad thing about steroids is that you have to come off of them. Technically, of course, you don't HAVE to, but this
article isn't intended for those who fall into that category. Nor is it intended for the athlete who uses a gram per week for long periods and then typically uses
insulin, DNP, prostaglandins, and other such compounds if they ever do actually come off (That topic, though quite fun to fantasize about, has nothing to do with most
athletes). The recommendations in this article will do very little for maintaining the unnatural degree of muscularity attained with such methods. It's instead
intended primarily for the moderate user, whom I'll (arbitrarily) define for our purposes as someone using 400-600 mg/week of steroids -- or very high doses of
prohormones (1g/day of a topical, 100+mg/day intranasal). I don't recommend continuous lower intakes as suppression will still occur without the concomitant
s in LBM.
To start, we should mention a little bit about the "on" part of the cycle. We'd like to maximize gains and, at the same time, put ourselves in an optimal position to
keep them once the cycle is stopped. What to do during the cycle could be an entire article itself, so I'll merely cover the areas where what we do has a direct
influence on the recommendations while coming off.
Training during the cycle should be high volume because muscle contraction upregulates androgen receptors (AR), and with supraphysiological levels of
androgens, it's in our best interest to have as many AR's as possible. It will be very difficult to overtrain while "on", assuming optimal nutrition and rest, so
basically do as much volume as you can handle and still have energized workouts and muscles that are not sore. This might be as much as 2 workouts/day (of about 45
minutes), 6 days per week for the genetically gifted)
We should avoid going to failure as it will ultimately limit our volume, plus we'll want our CNS fresh when we come off the cycle. So, no HIT shit, if you please. HIT
type training is primarily effective in a situation where overtraining of the endocrine system has occurred (from 2 hour a day workouts) leaving the athlete with
a poor testosterone to cortisol ratio. Again, we have supraphysiological levels of
androgens, so that issue goes out the window.
The eccentric portion of the exercises won't be overemphasized because steroids cause increased muscle protein breakdown/fiber damage (with an even greater increase
in muscle protein synthesis), so the high degree of muscle fiber trauma inflicted by eccentric training isn't only unnecessary, but it's probably counterproductive.
The preceding training strategies will not only maximize our gains while on the cycle, but as you will see later, will leave us primed for optimal retention when we
Our other area of focus will be the hypothalamus-pituitary-testicular axis (HPTA).
An 8-10 week, 24-7 cycle will almost certainly cause full suppression despite any
strategies we might undertake, so it's a mute point in that situation, but with the 2 week mini-cycles that are becoming increasingly popular, it's likely that we can
still have significant testicular function when our cycle is stopped.
There are two mechanisms by which negative feedback inhibition of the HPTA occurs, estrogen binding to the estrogen receptors (ER) and androgens binding to the
androgen receptors(AR), both of which occur in the hypothalamus. We could prevent binding to the AR by using a receptor antagonist, but it would also antagonize the
AR in the muscle, thus defeating the purpose of taking steroids -- unless, that is, significant non-AR mediated anabolism occurs, as has been suggested by some.
Editors note: I really wish someone would take 100mg/day of d-bol with cyproteron acetate (AR antagonist) and see if they Get Hyooge (tm) or not -- that would go a
long ways toward settling this dispute.
Another option here is to be "on" only during the mornings, using either orals or intranasal (or possibly a fast acting topical when/if an effective one becomes
available), leaving us with normal systemic androgen levels at night when LH release
occurs. This has been found to avoid significant alterations of the HPTA, even with
as high as 100mg d-bol/day.
The final option is to decrease estrogen binding in the hypothalamus. This can be accomplished by lowering systemic estrogen with an aromatase inhibitor (and/or
choosing anabolics that do not readily convert to estrogen) such as Arimadex, Cytadren, and perhaps high delivered doses of chrysin (whose in vivo potency equals
that of Cytadren, but whose oral bioavailabilty is extremely poor, making sufficientdelivery by that route basically unattainable for all practical purposes). We can also block access to the ER with an antagonist such as Clomid, Proviron, or Nolvadex(which, unfortunately, also interferes with a couple of enzymes involved in steroid production in the testes, thus canceling out its benefits on the AR, making itinferior to Clomid in that regard). Or, we could use a combination of aromatase inhibition and receptor antagonism. This strategy should prevent negative feedbackto some extent, perhaps leaving us with testosterone levels of 400 instead of 200 (again!, being rather arbitrary).
We have done all we can during the cycle, and now we have stopped and must do all wecan to preserve our gains. If steps have not been taken to reduce estrogen binding in the hypothalamus, that should begin immediately. Clomid is the preferred choicein this area at 50-100mg/day, but an aromatase inhibitor should be just as effective, but its use should begin a few days earlier as it won't do anything forestrogen that's already present. Ideally, both methods should probably be used.
We must also now decide if we want to completely stop cold or use a morning onlysystem in an attempt to maximize anabolism for as long as possible while still
allowing HPTA recovery. If we choose the latter, it would probably not be a bad ideato time workouts to occur during this period - both for CNS effects and for anabolic
effects. In deciding which is the best choice, the basic questions to be answeredare: Does this method even provide significant anabolic benefit?? How much, if any,
does it inhibit natural testosterone production?? And most importantly, do thepositives of the first outweigh the possible negatives of the second?? My guess
based on the available data and anecdotal reports is that is does. I would recommendthis strategy for 2-3 weeks. At that point either go off completely or start a new"on" cycle.
When we stop our cycle, androgen levels are going to be below normal. That is a
given, even with the afore mentioned strategies. What we can do something about is whether the other anabolic hormones (insulin, IGF-l, GH, thyroid, etc.) aremaximized or not. Being handicapped by the first, we want to make the second as optimal as possible (hint: DO NOT START A DIET AT THIS POINT!!). Overeating (editorsnote: gluttons "overeat", athletes "overfeed") has been shown in numerous studies to maximize these factors, so I recommend continuing with above maintenance caloriesfor the first week of "off" time. This will result in a bit of extra fat gain, but I've found it (when combined with all the other strategies in this article) to allowfor almost total retention of LBM gains (again this is on a "moderate" cycle). As testosterone production returns to normal, calories can be lowered to maintenance orbelow.
During the cycle, we trained using a high volume approach. During the "off" cycle, we will change things up (which, in itself, will be helpful for growth). As much
shit as HIT gets (and deservedly so), it does have its uses. This is one of them. As mentioned earlier, the primary benefit of HIT type training is its beneficial
effects on the endocrine system, and that will be very helpful now, as we
desperately want to maximize testosterone levels.
Long workouts lower testosterone to cortisol ratios, so we are going to keep our workouts under ? hour, no more than 4-5 times per week. We are going to stick to
heavy, basic movements such as squats, deadlifts, pullups, etc, which also tend to
increase testosterone levels. We'll also make heavy use of eccentric training during
this period, as it is the eccentric part of a lift that causes most of the muscle
fiber damage of weight training (hence, most of the gains). I have had a good deal
of success doing one set per exercise, 2 sets per bodypart of drop sets that consist of 2-3 eccentric reps at 110-120% of 1-RM, followed immediately by 2-3 eccentric reps at 90-100% 1 RM, followed immediately by 2-3 full reps at 80-85% - taking 5-6seconds for the eccentric portion on all 3 mini-sets.
Clearly, if you are doing the mornings only "off" cycle, then the appropriate prohormone or oral is a necessity. I think creatine and a protein powder shouldalways be used, and glutamine or BCAA's in fairly high doses (20+g/day) might also be helpful, but other than that, I won't make any specific recommendations at thistime. I have a few thoughts on a combination of supplements in conjunction with a specific training method that I think is very promising , but I think I will refrainfrom mentioning it until a bit of real world testing is done.
Post Cycle Therapy