For those who are planning or are considering taking performance enhancement drugs (PEDs) or thinking of a cycle, make sure that you look into Post Cycle Therapy or PCT.
What is Post Cycle Therapy?
Post Cycle Therapy or PCT, as it is more commonly referred to, is a protocol that needs to be taken after the end of a cycle of PEDs like in the case of anabolic steroids. Steroids are being used by athletes and fitness buffs because they have shown positive effects with regards to muscle growth and recovery time.
However, the use of PEDs can affect the HPT function or the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular function because of the spike in testosterone levels. When this happens, the body shuts down the Gonadotropin-releasing hormone in order to create a balance. However, this can also lead to the shut down of two important hormones which are the luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FHS). These two play a part in synthesizing testosterone in your body.
This is why, once you come off using steroids, the natural functions of your hormones remain shut off. This poses a problem not to mention trigger several side effects such as:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low sex drive
- Atrophy of the testes
- Muscle loss or catabolism
- Low sperm count
How severe the side effects are will vary depending on the type of performance enhancement drugs taken, the dosage, as well as the length of the steroid cycle. Additionally, the low testosterone levels can continue for months which can lead to PED reliance for many. This is because they are experiencing withdrawal symptoms which can push them to start using steroids once more.
That said, the use of PCT can help shorten the lingering effects of steroid use so that your natural hormone production will get a jump start. Most bodybuilders who are cycling out of their steroid use typically use any of the following PCTs.
Introducing the Best Post Cycle Therapy Protocol
Bodybuilders who are cycling out of their use of performance enhancement drugs are guaranteed to be using PCTs to shorten their recovery period. But which one to use? There is one particular protocol that has been found to be effective in helping you recover from your steroid use within 45 days and that is the protocol designed by Dr. Michael Scally.
Dr. Scally is best known to be one of the leading experts when it comes to hormone therapy. He has special knowledge when it comes to Anabolic Steroid Induced Hypogonadism or ASIH. Dr. Scally was able to create a PCT protocol that has helped treat 19 healthy male specimens who have severely limited testosterone levels because of their use of deca durabolin and testosterone for 12 weeks straight.
The protocol that he designed successfully returned normal hormone production in his subjects within 45 days. This is an impressive feat since most bodybuilders cycling out of their steroid use can take several months before their hormone production goes back to normal.
What is the PCT protocol that Dr. Scally created? It involves the following:
- hCG – 2000IU administered every other day in the span of 20 days.
- Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) – Take 2 20mg tablets for 45 days.
- Clomiphene (Clomid) – Take 2 50mg tablets for 35 days.
It is important that you see this PCT protocol as an aggressive cycle which makes it quite useful especially if you have used strong anabolic androgenic steroids. On the other hand, if you have used mild steroids such as in the case of primobolan, turinabol, or anavar, you can stick with just one or two of these PCT will be enough. This is because mild steroid use will not completely shut down your testosterone production.
Timing is Everything
You might not realize this yet, but timing is important when it comes to starting your PCT protocol. If you start your PCT ahead of time, you will not get the best results. This is because there is still exogenous testosterone present in your system. However, if you delay its use, your body will already be entering a catabolic state where your muscles are being consumed and that you have already started experiencing various side effects because of your withdrawal from steroid use.
The PCT must fit the half life of the type of steroids you have taken. For example, if you have been taking several anabolic androgenic steroids, you should only start your PCT protocol once the last of the steroid compounds leave your body. How will you know when the right time is to start your PCT? Check out the guide below:
When to Start After Last Admission
- Testosterone Enanthate – 2 weeks
- Testosterone Cypionate – 2 weeks
- Testosterone Propionate – 3 days
- Testosterone Suspension – 6 – 8 hours
- Sustanon – 3 weeks
- Winstrol – 12 hours
- Dianabol – 6-8 hours
- Trenbolone – 3 days
- Deca Durabolan – 3 weeks
- Primobolan Depot – 14 days
- Anavar – 8 to 10 hours
Clomid is technically designed to help women who are suffering from infertility, but men can be prescribed this medication too. When taken, Clomid basically blocks estrogen from having any interaction with the pituitary gland. If ever the estrogen hormone reaches the pituitary gland, the production of luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones will be affected. This in turn can cause your testosterone levels to drop and even cause your sperm count to go down. By adding this into your PCT plan, you will be able to increase your testosterone levels to their normal numbers.
Even with Clomid blocking estrogen in certain parts of your body, it does cause more of the female hormone to appear in the liver. This is actually a positive thing since it enhances your cholesterol levels. When this happens, it is easier for your cardiovascular system to get back to its normal functioning.
The use of Clomid can trigger some side effects particularly with regards to your vision. Some may experience blurring or flashes at times but don’t worry. These are temporary. It is not clear what causes problems with vision in those who are using this PCT, but in some cases, the effects are irreversible. If you do experience some changes in your vision, you should stop using the medication and have your eyes checked.
Other side effects that are linked to the use of Clomid include:
- Abdominal pain
- Blurred vision or poor eyesight
- Liver problem
The Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is often referred to as the hormone in pregnant women. It is typically used to detect whether a woman is pregnant or not. Women who are injected with hGC are those who are having some issues with their fertility. In men, hCG is used to help with hypogonadism where there is not enough testosterone being produced by the gonads.
Bodybuilders make use of hCG to help with the effects of the anabolic steroids that they have been taking. This medication can help reverse low testosterone levels and can even treat infertility in men. When used, it functions just like the LH which boosts the Leydig cells that are present in the testicles to help increase testosterone levels.
Another advantage to using this treatment is that it can help men deal with obesity. Some people believe that the hCG can stimulate the T3 levels, but there is not enough evidence to support this. Instead, it acts as an appetite suppressant meaning that people are less likely to eat more than they can consume. When this happens, it is possible for them to achieve weight loss faster. This is why hCG has been in use since the 1950’s to help suppress one’s appetite to much success.
It is not surprising that it is also included in Dr. Scally’s PCT Protocol since it inhibits any possibility of weight gain as you cycle out of your steroid use. The hCG has been proven to be effective in treating shrinking testicles because of its ability to stimulate testosterone production.
Nolvadex or Tamoxifen Citrate is one of the oldest and most used selective estrogen receptor modulators that is known to treat the early stages of breast cancer in both women and men. It is also prescribed to patients who have metastatic breast cancer. It was first synthesized in 1962 and is still being used today for treating female breast cancer.
Aside from that, studies have shown that it also has anti-mitogenic properties where stimulation of breast tissue growth is slowed down. This is helpful in preventing the spread or growth of the cancer cells in the breast. Additionally, it has been found that Nolvadex contains anti-cancer properties where it prevents the protein kinase C from being produced.
Nowadays, this medication is being used by bodybuilders as a way to prevent gynecomastia from forming or the appearance of man boobs especially when taking steroids.
When used as part of the PCT plan, Nolvadex works much the same way as Clomid meaning that it also boosts the production of both LH and FHS in the body. It achieves it through inhibiting the negative effects of the female hormone in the hypothalamus. This, in turn, helps in restoring the normal testosterone levels in the body.
There are several side effects associated with taking this medication which are:
- Hot flashes
- Visual problems
- Skin rash
- Reduced white blood cells
- Liver stress
- Blood clots
There have been reports that the use of Nolvadex can also lead to endometrial cancer as well as uterine sarcoma but this happens rarely. These side effects usually manifest themselves when there is prolonged use of the medication.
Is Post Cycle Therapy Necessary for Women?
The use of Post Cycle Therapy in women may not be necessary since they have smaller amounts of testosterone in their system. But just like men who are using steroids, women can experience little to no testosterone in their system since the body shuts it down when it feels that there is an excess amount of this male hormone. Take note that women do need testosterone in their system as it plays a role in their energy levels, their sex drive, as well as their muscle mass. Once their testosterone levels go down, their estrogen levels can get affected too.
Dave Crossland has found some evidence of side effects in women who are taking steroids which include low mood, low sex drive, depression, and low estrogen levels post-cycle. Those who have used the PCT Nolvadex with a dosage of 5 to 15 mg within four weeks reported positive changes to their body including faster regulation of their hormones. But some are still experiencing delays in their period.
As for the use of hCG as part of their PCT plan, health experts do not recommend it since it has the ability to cause the ovaries to become larger and it can lead to virilization. The same goes true with the use of Clomid since it can cause hypersensitivity in the ovaries.
The ideal treatment for women who have low androgen levels is DHEA or dehydroepiandrosterone. This is a critical hormone in the female body as it helps with the synthesis of both estrogens and androgens. There is a study that points to the positive effects of taking 50mg of DHEA per day in women who are 70 years old and up. The results show that they have an increase in libido after a year of use.
Another DHEA study showed that following a DHEA cycle of six weeks led to an increase in libido, quality of orgasm, as well as arousal. Even symptoms of depression were reduced significantly through this treatment. The DHEA cycle started women on 90 mg of DHEA everyday for 3 weeks then upping the dosage to 450 mg per day for the remaining weeks.
There is also research (Morales et al. 1998) showing an improvement in women’s overall well-being after taking 50mg of DHEA within 3 months. The subjects also stated that they experienced positive effects on the quality of their sleep, stress levels, energy levels, plus they feel more relaxed compared to before.
For women who are considering a PCT plan, the recommended therapy is taking 50mg of DHEA per day for 12 weeks.
Is PCT essential?
A post cycle therapy is not essential given that testosterone levels will eventually go back to normal. But if you are wondering, “Is PCT optimal?” then the best answer here is yes. This is because the use of PCT will help you retain most of the gains you earned during the cycle and it can also help boost both sexual and mental health.
Following PCT when taking mild steroids like Anavar is not essential because studies show that there is only a moderate reduction of estrogen when taking 20 to 40 mg per day for 12 weeks.
How Will I Know If I Need PCT?
The best way for you to determine if you need to do a post cycle therapy is by having your testosterone checked. If you don’t have time yet to visit your doctor, there are some signs that your testosterone levels are low and these are low libido, shrinking testicles, and depression.
Where Can Bodybuilders Purchase PCT?
Bodybuilders can approach their doctors to ask if they can be given a prescription for PCT medications, otherwise the black market is the next option. If it will be at the black market, finding a source is essential with payment being either online payment or cash.
The Cost of PCT Medications
source of anabolic steroids from the UK has disclosed the current price of the PCT medications in the market. Here is the converted price in USD.
- Clomid 50 tablets (50mg) – $49
- Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) 50 tablets (20mg) – $49
- HCG 11,000IU – $75
Is PCT Required for SARMS?
Since selective androgen receptor modulators or SARMS are designed to be suppressive, it is essential to use PCT after the cycle. However, you will need to determine how diminished your testosterone levels are before using a PCT protocol to know if you need an aggressive plan. Just like with the use of some steroids, SARMS can also reduce endogenous testosterone significantly.
A basic rule in the use of SARMS and PCT is that you should stick to using a low to moderate dosage in PCT for 8 weeks or even less. This will lead to a moderate decline in testosterone.
In this situation, using Nolvadex for 3 weeks will be enough to restore your endogenous testosterone levels back to normal. The suggested dosage is to take 30mg per day for the first week, 20mg for the second week, and 10 mg for the third week.
If you are taking a slightly higher dosage of SARM, you will need to match it with a higher dosage of Nolvadex and at a longer cycle. You can start with 40mg per day for the first week, then reduce it 10mg for the succeeding weeks until you complete the four-week plan.
For higher dosage, you will need a more aggressive approach with the Nolvadex PCT plan. This will run for four weeks starting with 40mg per day for two weeks then 20mg per day for the remaining weeks.
However, there are some individuals who are more than willing to take risks when it comes to SARM use that they stack multiple compounds like Rad-40, Ostarine, and LG through excessive cycling which can last around 12 to 16 weeks. If this is something that you are following at the moment, you will need a stronger PCT protocol which is what Dr. Scally’s plan is all about.
Based on Dr. Scally’s outline, you will need:
- hCG – 2000IU taken every other day in the span of 20 days
- Tamoxiflen (Nolvadex) – take 2 tablets of 20 mg for 45 days
- Clomiphene (Clomid) – take 2 tablets of 50 mg for 30 days
There are some instances where people assume that the compounds that they are using, like MK-677 and cardarine, fall under the SARMS category. The good news is that they are not, which means that you don’t really need to follow a PCT protocol. The MK-677 is a type of growth hormone while cardarine is a compound that burns fat. They are not, in any way, suppressive.
How Much Muscle will be Retained on PCT?
It has been found that a cycle of PCT can help you retain between 50% to 70% of the muscle that you have gained from the steroid cycle. The use of anavar or even primobolan has been found to help you retain more muscle gain since there are less spikes in the exogenous testosterone thus ensuring that no shut down of the hormones will occur.
It is important to note that it is not uncommon for you to shed weight after your steroid cycle especially when you are taking compounds that are wet and bulking. Your body will start to shed both intracellular and extracellular fluids from your body hence the weight loss. This is in no way related to losing muscle mass.
Diet and Supplements for PCT
Your diet can also play a part in increasing your anabolism and testosterone levels post-cycle.
According to Dr. George Touliatos, following a diet that is rich in egg yolks and meat can help with testosterone synthesis. There are studies that show a link between high levels of cholesterol to testosterone levels. Dr. Touliatos further stated that D-aspartic acid, maca, ZMA, tribulus terrestris, as well as taking Vitamin D3 supplements can boost your natural testosterone production.
Pros and Cons of PCT
- Enhances overall well-being
- Retains more lean muscle
- Boosts the quality of erection and libido
- Boosts production of testosterone
- Enhances your energy levels
- Improves size of testicles
- Improves fertility
- Added expense on top of steroid use
- Side effects especially on users who are sensitive