Post Cycle Therapy
(PCT): Post Cycle Therapy or PCT is a period of medication treatment that follows the use of anabolic steroids. Post Cycle Therapy is also one of the most confusing topics for many steroid users; this is largely due to misconceptions. When to start PCT, which meds to use, how long to use them and what you should expect, these are all common questions and ones we’ll address here.
The Purpose of PCT
When we supplement with anabolic steroids we suppress our natural testosterone production. Testosterone, the primary male hormone, is essential to our very well being. Most men who supplement with anabolic steroids will always include at least a minimal amount of testosterone in their cycle due to this suppression factor.
Testosterone is manufactured in the testicles. For testosterone to exist the pituitary releases two gonadotropins Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FHS); this tells the testicles to make testosterone. When we take anabolic steroids the signal that tells the pituitary to produce LH and FSH is reduced and therefore less testosterone is produced. If we are supplementing with testosterone this suppression is of very little consequence as we’re providing our body with what it needs through an outside source. However, once the steroid use comes to an end we have the issue of a suppressed signal that must be dealt with. That is the purpose of PCT, to stimulate natural testosterone production so that we are not left in a low testosterone state.
The Suppression Myth
It’s often said that if you take any anabolic steroid you now produce no testosterone but this isn’t exactly true. All anabolic steroids will suppress natural testosterone production, but the rate of suppression is dependent on the steroids. A steroid like Nandrolone (Deca Durabolin) will result in 100% suppression of natural production after a single 100mg dose. However, a steroid like Oxandrolone (Anavar) will not result in full suppression. With milder steroids like Anavar how much suppression exists will be dependent on dose, duration of use and genetics. However, even though suppression may not be 100% it will still be enough in every case for there to be a need for testosterone supplementation during use. Even if a steroid does not cause full suppression it will be enough to put your testosterone into a low level state.
What to Expect from PCT
The biggest problem with most PCT plans is the individual having unrealistic explanations. Most PCT plans will last 4-6 weeks and many men expect everything to be back to normal once this 4-6 week period is complete. PCT does not work this way. Many men also expect for all their gains be they weight or strength gains to be maintained post-PCT if the PCT plan was proper and appropriate. Again, PCT does not work this way.
A good PCT plan will help you protect and maintain some of the progress you made, but if the high influx of hormones is no longer there (the high influx of hormones that helped you make your gains), without that support system you will lose some of your gains. A good way to look at is as we look at food – the nutrients you eat help you buildup your body. The nutrients you eat become the support system. Take away the nutrients and the support system goes away with it and the “Building” begins to collapse. For this reason it’s not uncommon for some men to begin consuming extra calories during PCT in order to protect their gains – in simplistic terms they’re substituting in nutrients for the hormones that have been taken away. This can help maintain weight but it’s not always a good idea. Weight is just weight and if it’s not weight that’s muscle tissue it’s rather useless. It’s not uncommon for some men to put on a good bit of body fat during this phase due to their desperation to hang onto gains.
The primary purpose of PCT is to stimulate natural testosterone production. Some gains may be lost during this period, but it’s not the end of the world. For the steroid user he will be on cycle again one day. For the present period he should focus on his hormone recovery, continue to train and eat properly protecting the gains he can without putting on excess body fat. This is truly the only logical long-term approach.
When NOT to Run PCT
If you’re a hardcore steroid user, meaning you’re on cycle more than you’re off, running a PCT can be counter productive. For example, a man completes a cycle, implements PCT and then jumps back on cycle right after or soon after PCT. This is a very harsh practice and terrible for your body. You are shutting down your natural testosterone production, stimulating it through PCT and then shutting it right back down. You’ve put yourself on a never ending rollercoaster with your hormone levels that’s going to wreak havoc on your body. For such an individual he would be better off running a low dose of testosterone, therapeutic levels, during his time between cycles. This is not an approach most men should take. Most men who use steroids need to come off and stay off after PCT is complete for a time if long-term health is important to them.
Another time not to run PCT is if you are a low testosterone patient. A low testosterone patient has no natural ability to produce enough testosterone on his own, which is why he needs testosterone supplementation. If he happens to implement a cycle at some point during his treatment, once the cycle is over he should simply continue on with his previous Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). If you implement a PCT plan you’re only attempting to stimulate what is naturally a low level, and it will serve no purpose.
There are many medications that can be theoretically used for PCT but only two that should be primary, Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) and Clomiphene (Clomid). Both Nolvadex and Clomid fall in the class of drugs known as Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs). As with all SERMs ‘Nolva’ and Clomid stimulate the release of LH and FSH thereby increasing natural testosterone production. For most PCT plans these will be the only two medications needed.
HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadatropin) is also sometimes used during the PCT phase. When supplementing with testosterone, especially in modern times, many men include low doses of HCG in their steroid cycles, normally 250-350iu a couple times per week. HCG mimics LH and therefore actually keeps the testicles producing testosterone even when anabolic steroids are present. However, it does not induce the production of actual LH. The use of HCG on cycle, this is primarily done so that post cycle recovery is easier (theoretically). HCG is also used on cycle to prevent or at least minimize testicular atrophy that occurs due to the use of anabolic steroids. The testicular atrophy that occurs is not permanent but will reverse once steroid use is discontinued and natural testosterone production begins again.
If HCG is used on cycle there is no need to use it post cycle. However, some men will not use HCG during their cycle for a variety of reasons. Although it is not extremely common, HCG use can increase estradiol levels significantly in some men even with the use of an Aromatase Inhibitor (AI). AI’s are regularly used to combat estrogenic issues during a cycle, but it’s generally best to keep them as minimal as possible. If HCG is not used on cycle it may be the preamble to the PCT plan in some cases. We’ll go over this more later.
AI’s are also sometimes used during PCT because of their ability to stimulate LH and FSH. However, they also lower estrogen levels and often too much during this phase. Part of the PCT plan is to allow the body to normalize and part of that is maintaining normal estrogen levels. Estrogen is not an evil hormone many men, especially steroid users often believe it is. Estrogen is extremely important for muscle building, sexual health, mental health and a host of other areas. Estrogen levels that are too high or too low, both can be very problematic.
When to Start PCT
Timing is a very important factor when it comes to PCT. If all short ester base steroids are used, such as Testosterone Propionate, Trenbolone Acetate, etc. PCT should begin 3-4 days after your last injection. However, if any long or large ester base steroids are used, such as Testosterone Cypionate, Nandrolone Decanoate, etc. you’ll want to wait at least 14 days before beginning PCT. If Nandrolone Decanoate is used it may not be a bad idea to wait a full 21 days before beginning PCT.
If HCG is used as part of the PCT plan (generally not recommended if used on cycle) if all short ester base steroids are used HCG use will begin approximately 3 days after your last injection and last for 10 days of treatment. If any large ester base steroids are used HCG will begin approximately 10 days after your last injection and last for 10 days of treatment. In either case, once HCG use is complete the use of SERMs will immediately begin.