Steroid Cycles Introduction
Upon first glance, anabolic steroid cycles would appear quite a dangerous endeavor according to what the mass media and the government informs the general population. The truth is, however, that anabolic steroid use under various judicious and stringent guidelines and conditions can in fact be a very safe practice when done responsibly, sensibly and properly. With possession of the adequate knowledge required in order to fully understand the dynamics of anabolic steroids, how they work, what they do in the body and under what circumstances, proper safe anabolic steroid cycles are indeed a very real possibility. It must be made clear, however, that there is no such thing as one hundred percent safety when it comes to anabolic steroid use, or the use of any types of compounds, substances, chemicals, or even the consumption of foods. There exists only the concept of safer use.
But what defines safe cycles, safety, and safer use? This will be covered here in the introduction to this article. It is important to first understand that the use of anabolic steroids for the purpose of physique and performance enhancement is not a recognized legitimate use for anabolic steroids. This has severely limited the amount of clinical studies and clinical data available in regards to the effects and dynamics of real world anabolic steroid cycles and doses for the purpose of performance/physique enhancement instead of therapeutic medical use for the treatment of medical indications. Therefore, it is unfortunate that as a result of the distance that the medical establishment has placed on the use of anabolic steroids for the purpose of physique/performance enhancement, that anabolic steroid users and the anabolic steroid using community over the past several decades have been forced to develop protocols and methods of use on their own without proper advisement from the medical establishment. However, a small degree of this has changed over the course of the past decade or two in which there have been increasingly greater amounts of clinical studies performed in which real world doses and conditions were utilized in order to study the effects and dynamics of anabolic steroid use for the purpose of physique and performance enhancement.
Within the medical establishment, anabolic steroids are used on a widespread scale therapeutically for the treatment of many different diseases, debilitations, and medical indications. The doses and protocols required for medical use of anabolic steroids are vastly different than the doses and protocols for the purpose of physique and performance enhancement, and so there is quite a dichotomy between the two different applications of anabolic steroids in this sense.
This article will therefore clarify the issues in regards to appropriate safe, responsible and effective use of anabolic steroids and anabolic steroid cycles.
Safety of Steroid Cycles
Safety is of the absolute paramount concern and this should be the case for every individual considering anabolic steroid use for the purpose of physique and performance enhancement. Therefore, 5 basic rules (or stipulations) of safe and responsible anabolic steroid use has been developed. There also exist additional safe guidelines in addition to the 5 solid stipulations provided. While anabolic steroids themselves are considered some of the safest drugs in medicine, and the medical establishment regards anabolic steroids as low-risk therapeutic compounds with a high degree of safety, there are also some very prominent health risks involved when these substances are abused (especially when abuse slowly transforms into excessive abuse).
There exist a large number of anabolic steroid users that upon first taking up anabolic steroid use will slowly delve into increasingly greater and greater degrees of abuse and harm all the while convincing themselves that what they are engaging in is perfectly safe. These anabolic steroid users commonly underestimate the vast power of these drugs while simultaneously expecting far too much too soon from them. This is essentially a disrespect and underestimation of the magnificent power of these hormones. The fact of the matter is this: these individuals (and there are many among the anabolic steroid using community) just do not realize the potential caliber of damage that can be brought upon on the human body when these powerful substances are abused. All potential and existing anabolic steroid users must understand where the line is drawn when it comes to use and abuse, and when that line has been crossed. Anabolic steroids do hold the potential to cause very serious short-term as well as permanent damage to the human body when improperly and ignorantly used, and anabolic steroid use for the purpose of performance and physique enhancement is not considered a safe practice. The general description as to the safety of anabolic steroid use as expounded by different people can be summed up in the following two points:
– Anabolic steroid use is not as lethal as many individuals claim
– Anabolic steroid use is not as safe as many individuals claim
The Five Basic Stipulations of Proper Steroid Cycles and Responsible Steroid Use
1. No individuals under the age of 24 should engage in any anabolic steroid cycles what so ever.
2. Testosterone must be the very first and the ONLY anabolic steroid used in the very first beginner anabolic steroid cycle, and Testosterone must also be included in all cycles, no exceptions.
3. Cycle lengths should be kept as short as possible.
4. The lowest effective dose in order to provide gains should always be utilized before increasing doses.
5. An absolute minimum of stacked compounds (no more than 2 at any given time unless absolutely necessary) should be used in any given anabolic steroid cycle.
Detailed explanations of the five stipulations:
1. There is no specific age for each and every human that has been determined to be the age by which the human body and its subsystems (especially the endocrine system, which is our primary concern here) have fully matured and developed. The ultimate final age by which we all reach full growth and maturation is determined by our genetics and to a lesser extent, our lifestyle habits. Every individual’s genetic ‘programming’ is different, and therefore some individuals will fully mature at a younger age while others may reach full maturation at approximately 24 years of age, and others will perhaps mature at an even older age. It is general knowledge concerning the endocrine system that Testosterone levels in males are continually rising until the median average age of approximately 24 – 25 years old, at which point these levels reach their peak and begin to decline. The Hypothalamic Pituitary Testicular Axis (HPTA) which controls endogenous natural Testosterone production is a very sensitive network. Furthermore, there is no specific ‘test’ that one might be able to undergo in order to determine if he/she has reached full maturation of the human body’s subsystems. Therefore, the average median age by which almost all human beings reach maturity has been determined to be 24 – 25 years of age. Some may mature earlier (as mentioned earlier) and some later than this. By engaging in anabolic steroid cycles and introducing anabolic steroids to the body prior to the age of 24, the risks of severely and permanently disrupting and damaging the endocrine system is extremely high. Only after the age of 24 – 25 do the risks of considerable and permanent HPTA damage drop drastically.
2. Testosterone is literally the original anabolic steroid, produced naturally within all humans and most animal species. It is considered the safest anabolic steroid one could use for this reason, due to the fact that it is the hormone that each individual’s body already produces, already uses, and is already accustomed to. Therefore, the use of Testosterone for the purpose of performance and physique enhancement is simply the equivalent of introducing more of a hormone into the human body that it already manufactures and uses.
Furthermore, all first cycles for bare beginners to the world of anabolic steroids should always use some form of Testosterone-only as their very first anabolic steroid cycle. Solitarily run Testosterone cycles provide the user with a safe compound (Testosterone) that the human body is already accustomed to naturally, as all humans already produce Testosterone endogenously. This will allow the user to gauge their response to the most basic anabolic steroid, Testosterone. It is from this gauging process that individuals can assess their potential responses to other anabolic steroids, as the chances are that if an individual responds horridly to a basic Testosterone cycle, then there will likely be a higher chance of the individual responding even worse to most other compounds which are essentially modified analogues of Testosterone.
As explained above, solitary Testosterone-only cycles are the ideal beginner first-time anabolic steroid cycles. The problem with stacking multiple compounds in a beginner first-time cycle lies in the fact that it is quite a potentially dangerous practice. A hypothetical beginner who has never used anabolic steroids or whom has never run a cycle before would not know what to expect upon use. It stands to reason that if a stack of several different compounds are run for a first cycle and the individual reacts in a very negative manner (or experiences a particular very undesirable side effect), there will be no possible means for this individual to figure out which anabolic steroid is responsible for the bad reaction if a cocktail of several anabolic steroids have been stacked in one cycle. This would become possibly life-threatening if said reaction were to be a very serious mortal reaction (such as an allergic reaction, for example).
3. Duration of use is an extremely very influential factor but very easily understood, as it need not be explained that the longer a particular anabolic steroid cycle is run, the increased incidence of side effects will also present themselves as the duration of use becomes longer and longer. The recovery of natural endogenous Testosterone production also becomes increasingly difficult following the termination of an anabolic steroid cycle if a cycle is run for longer and longer lengths of time. Various anabolic steroids may exhibit higher degrees of HPTA suppression and shut-down than other compounds, but all anabolic steroids exhibit this effect of HPTA suppression and eventual shutdown as duration of use continues. Severely atrophied Leydig cells in the testes following extremely long cycles will have far greater difficulty re-engaging endogenous Testosterone production again due to desensitization to gonadotropins resultant of long-term suppression/shutdown. Ideal cycle lengths for short-estered anabolic steroids should be in the range of 8 – 10 weeks, and for long-estered anabolic steroids, 10 – 12 weeks. Any longer than this and the individual runs high risk of increasingly difficult HPTA recovery.
4. The issue of utilizing the lowest effective dose is simple: make progress with the lowest possible dose first, grow into this dose, and then increase the dose as required (which is on average, several cycles into beginner use). Many individuals (mostly beginners) tend to engage in extremely ludicrous activity whereby a brand-new first-timer will run 500mg/week on their first cycle, then proceed to 700mg/week on their second cycle, and then 1,000mg/week on their third, and so on and so forth. This is absolutely unnecessary, and, not to mention not very healthy at all. As mentioned earlier, many anabolic steroid users (both beginners and experienced users) severely underestimate the power of these hormones and most usually when individuals do things like that, it is because they claim their gains and progress has stopped. The culprit is usually a flaw in their nutrition or training (or both), not in how many mg per week of total steroid they are using. These details and concerns must be kept in mind. A very important detail for all individuals to understand in relation to anabolic steroid doses is that the human body only manufactures approximately 50 – 70mg weekly of Testosterone (depending on various factors such as age, lifestyle habits, genetics, etc.). Considering this, we can use logic to conclude that: 500mg is approximately 7 – 10 times the amount that the human body produces. Suffice to say, 300mg weekly should then be perfect for any first-time beginner cycle.
5. Quite simply put: the use of more than two compounds stacked in any given anabolic steroid cycle is completely unnecessary for the average casual recreational anabolic steroid user. The stacking of three or more compounds in a single anabolic steroid cycle is only necessary for competitive bodybuilders and professional athletes. Increasing the number of anabolic steroids utilized in a single cycle increases the weekly dose of total steroid, which thereby increases the risk and intensity for side effects tenfold, and presents increasingly harsh stressors on the human body
Additional Secondary Safety Guidelines
In addition to the basic stipulations mentioned, some other preliminary and secondary safety guidelines that exist will be quickly covered here.
Firstly, full medical examinations and testing by a doctor should be undergone prior to engaging in anabolic steroid cycles. This is to ensure that the individual is in the best possible health prior to use, and that no unknown underlying pre-existing medical problems exist that may be exacerbated by anabolic steroid use, or that they may exacerbate the side effects resultant from anabolic steroids. Proper organ function (the liver, kidneys, heart, etc.) should be ensured prior to use. If any individual holds a pre-existing medical indication that will be influenced by anabolic steroid use (either indirectly or directly), he or she must make the appropriate responsible decision to not engage in use.
If possible blood work is essential prior, during, and after all anabolic steroid cycles so as to ensure proper internal functioning of the human body, and to monitor any changes during use.
The avoidance of high risk anabolic steroids should be paramount at all costs. The use of very strong anabolic steroids such as Trenbolone or highly toxic ones such as Anadrol should be avoided unless absolutely necessary for very obvious reasons. Increasing risks of damage and stressors on the systems of the body are resultant of use of higher-risk anabolic steroids. Only advanced users should consider the use of these compounds, as extensive understanding and knowledge of them is necessary for as-safe-as-possible use of these higher-risk compounds.
Additionally, this extends to oral anabolic steroids that exhibit hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity). When possible, individuals should always engage in the use of injectable compounds that are not hepatotoxic. In order for an anabolic steroid to become effective through oral administration, it must be modified at the 17th carbon where a methyl group (also known as an alkyl group) is bonded to it, known as C17-Alpha Alkylation (also known as methylation). This alkylation grants the anabolic steroid further resistance to hepatic (liver) metabolism. The greater resistance a substance has to hepatic breakdown, the more toxicity and strain on the liver will be experienced. This modification, however, allows the anabolic steroid to survive liver metabolism and introduce a high percentage of the anabolic steroid into the bloodstream. Injectable anabolic steroids that do not possess C17-alpha alkylation (which is most of them) do not present any problems, for the most part, where the liver is concerned.
Moderate and sensible doses of aromatase inhibitors should always be used (if they are to be used at all). An aromatase inhibitor (AI) works to inhibit the enzyme responsible for the conversion of androgens into Estrogen, which is the aromatase enzyme, thereby reducing the cause of rising Estrogen levels at the root cause. The problem with excessive use of aromatase inhibitors lies in the fact that the reduction of Estrogen levels below normal physiological levels has been demonstrated in studies to impart an even worse impact on cholesterol profiles than when anabolic steroids are administered alone without an aromatase inhibitor. Testosterone in particular has demonstrated in one clinical study to have only a mild impact on HDL cholesterol after a 12 week period where 280mg of Testosterone Enanthate was administered weekly. The cholesterol profiles had later changed for the worse when an aromatase inhibitor was included, which resulted in a significant 25% drop in HDL cholesterol. This must be remembered by any anabolic steroid users considering the inclusion of an AI, and Estrogen levels must be closely monitored so as to ensure Estrogen levels are not reduced to the point whereby cholesterol profiles are impacted negatively.
All potential anabolic steroid users must ensure at least a sub-20% body fat level prior to anabolic steroid use. Dropping down to sub-20% bodyfat is advised before jumping into a cycle and many individuals further recommend that one should be 15% body fat or less prior to use. This is why individuals should not rush into anabolic steroid use. Higher than 20% body fat not only presents increased risk of Estrogenic side effects due to aromatization, but also blood pressure issues, cholesterol issues, and increased stressors on the cardiovascular system due to the strain of excess weight. Clinical studies have demonstrated that a higher body fat percentage will present a higher risk of Estrogenic side effects. This is because the aromatase enzyme is highly abundant in adipose tissue (fat), and so it stands to reason that the higher an individual’s body fat percentage is, the greater the rate of aromatization of androgens into Estrogen will result. This is also why it is important to engage in a Testosterone-only cycle as a first-time beginner first cycle in order to gauge each individual’s response. It is for these reasons that every prospective anabolic steroid user should attempt to reduce body fat levels to at least below 20% before engaging in any cycles.
Along the same lines as body fat reduction, all individuals considering anabolic steroid use should have a solid 5 years of natural training at a minimum before considering anabolic steroid cycles. By no means should anyone attempt an anabolic steroid cycle without a few years of serious consistent training and dieting experience behind them. Anabolic steroid use in novice trainees presents a very serious injury risk. The reason is because of proper form required on exercises that must be perfected with years of training prior to generating even stronger muscular contractions resulting in immense force generation required for the lifting of much heavier weights that will result from the strength gains resultant of anabolic steroids. Another reason is the increased risk of connective tissue damage. Tendons, joints, and connective tissue must all grow and strengthen in order to accommodate the increased strain caused by increasing strength. However, these different connective tissues do not repair, grow and strengthen quickly as muscle tissue does. When anabolic steroids are used by a novice too soon into training, muscle tissue tends to grow at a far greater rate than connective tissue can keep up with, and therefore the connective tissue cannot possibly handle with the increased generation of force from the now larger and stronger muscle tissue. The result of this type of rushing towards premature use of anabolic steroids are tendon and ligament rips and tears during lifts in novice individuals who engaged in anabolic steroid use far too soon into weight training. The other issue of concern is that that it is much more difficult to retain muscle gains from anabolic steroids after a cycle is complete if an individual have not attempted to put on as much muscle as possible naturally before delving into anabolic steroid cycles.
All natural muscle-gaining potential should be absolutely and completely exhausted prior to the commencement of anabolic steroid use.