The eye-popping physiques of professional bodybuilders are not just a result of eating zillions of calories and spending hours pumping iron in the gym. Those bulging muscles need a helping hand, and that is where anabolic steroids come in.
A synthetic form of testosterone, they can cause hormonal imbalance when their usage cycle is stopped. Kick-starting the natural testosterone cycle at this point via post cycle therapy (PCT) involves more drugs to maintain muscle gain and allow the body to find its natural hormone balance. Is PCT worth doing – and, if so, why?
What is post cycle therapy?
Post cycle therapy (PCT) is a pharmaceutical-based method of speeding up the transition of exogenous testosterone (a synthetic anabolic form of hormone) to endogenous testosterone (a naturally-occurring anabolic hormone). As anabolic steroids swamp the body’s hormone system, the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Testes Axis (HPTA), which governs human testosterone production, is suppressed. It is like putting the body’s hormone system into automatic gear.
However, once the user ceases anabolic steroid use, the saturation of the HPTA and its slow recovery to normal levels can leave the body short of natural testosterone. Aside from ill health, the post-steroid user can also be vulnerable to muscle mass loss, along with increased estrogen levels. The latter can cause a deeper voice, loss of libido, water retention and even breast production. So, a real risk of crash and burn, once steroid use is stopped.
This is where the many benefits of PCT come into play. Under the care of a qualified clinician, a combination of legitimate medicine is used to restore the hormonal balance of the user. The HPTA is accelerated towards recovery, estrogen levels are reduced, and a natural level of endogenous testosterone is reached. This method, with its regulated healing of the hormone system, is a real no-brainer.
What drugs are used in PCT?
This can vary depending on individual circumstances, but the following medication is commonly used:
● Clomiphene citrate (brand name: Clomid)
● Tamoxifen citrate (brand name: Nolvadex)
Clomid and Nolvadex are SERMS (selective estrogen receptor modulators) which regulate post cycle estrogen production and block the negative effects that it has on the body. After stopping anabolic steroids, estrogen levels can rocket and cause hormonal mayhem.
Clomid influences the estrogen receptors in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. This helps in releasing luteinizing hormones (LH) along with follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), both of which are crucial to fertility. A normal hormone balance is essential for healthy sperm production.
Nolvadex is Clomid’s stronger brother. The power king of the SERMS world, it also brings reliability to post cycle therapy. It stimulates sky-high rates of LH increase and prevents estrogen surges, which can be dangerous.
Stroke, prostate disease and heart issues can occur if estrogen levels suddenly rise and are not addressed. Nolvadex is the top dog at reducing estrogen levels, helping to bring that precious endogenous testosterone back to a stable, healthy level.
Likewise, supplements, such as phosphatidylserine and acetyl-l-carnitine, may also be used within the PCT to lower cortisol levels. High post cycle levels of this stress hormone can lead to catabolism. Think of the term anabolic as building up, as in new tissues, complex compounds and muscle bulk. Catabolic is its opposite, breaking down components that are vital to human wellbeing, such as those same body tissues and complex body compounds.
The pair make up metabolism. An unhealthy post cycle catabolism can lead to excess fat and loss of muscle mass – and all that hard work will disappear! More seriously, catabolism can lead to general ill health if uncontrolled.
It should now be crystal clear to you that a post cycle therapy is not just a great idea to return endogenous testosterone to its peak natural levels but is also an essential part of post cycle healing. To not have a recognised PCT after stopping anabolic steroid use is dangerous.
How long does PCT last?
Starting from when the body is completely free of anabolic steroids, the PCT drug programme usually lasts for around one month to six weeks. However, this is dependent upon individual circumstances.
If necessary, this therapeutic period can be extended for several weeks. Naturally, slow-release steroids will take longer to leave the body, so it could be several weeks after the last injection was administered until the body is free of artificial testosterone.
Is post cycle recovery as simple as PCT?
Very simply, no. Post cycle therapy involves taking more drugs, so the opinion of a qualified clinician should be sought before you embark upon PCT.
Additionally, the body needs other forms of nourishment to return to normality. Nutrition is, as always, a key part of healing. Eating sensible, high-protein food and hydrating the body is very important at this stage. Any supplements can affect the hormonal balance of the body – so, again, the clinician overseeing the PCT should be consulted beforehand.
Overtraining should also be avoided. The body needs time to recalibrate and restore itself to where it was before synthetic hormones were introduced. While it is understandable to want to keep the muscle bulk from the steroid cycle, PCT should mean a slight change of training routine.
It might mean cutting back on reps, or not adding extra weight onto usual lifts and training heavy. That said, the intensity should still be high enough to maintain muscle bulk. Just like the recuperating body, the training also needs to settle down and find its level during PCT.
Not too little, not too much – it’s all about finding the balance. This is why PCT is worth its muscular weight in gold.