My intention in preparing this article was to focus attention on some of the common theories about post-cycle strategies that are widely being practiced today and hopefully prevent some common mistakes. I am also going to explore some of the lesser known ergogens used to maintain size post-cycle. This article is geared primarily towards the recreational athlete or occasional steroid user, although it can be of value to the professional athlete.
You just finished a steroid cycle and have made significant gains. Through brutal workouts, proper and generous food consumption, rigid supplement use, proper psychological attitude, and lots of rest, your performances have improved, and your physique has made a significant progress. You are satisfied with the accomplished results.
However, there is more to proper steroid use than making gains while on a cycle. Successfully maximizing your gains while on is only part of the bigger picture. The toughest part – that of keeping your gains – is yet to come. Through improper and erratic steroid use, your hormonal system will be disturbed. Even if you used steroids and other ergogens properly, your organism will still have to readjust to normal physiological hormonal levels.
Let me explain. Given proper training, food consumption, steroid use, attitude, and rest, it is relatively easy to gain quality weight while on a cycle. If you never have to discontinue steroid use, it is even easier to keep your gains. Unfortunately for most of us, that is not a viable option. Some of us have financial problems, making constant or at least frequent steroid use prohibitive, others have health concerns and don’t want to take the risks associated with long term steroid use. Other individuals (primarily professional athletes) have an upcoming drug test, and if they are to make a decent living, they have to pass clean. There is also a question of being stigmatized if they test positive. All of their previous achievements become questionable, even if the athletes were genuinely clean while accomplishing them.
So we all face the same dilemma: HOW TO KEEP ALL OR MOST OF THE GAINS OBTAINED ON A STEROID CYCLE?
Most of the readers of this article are familiar with relatively widespread underground anabolic steroid handbooks. There is undoubtedly a lot of useful information contained between the covers of those books. The authors report the proper use of various ergogens based on anecdotal use of the athletes “in the know.” Well, I guess you have to be selective about what advice you are going to take.
A case in point:
Clenbuterol has become a preferred pharmaceutical for maintaining size after discontinuing a steroid cycle. The reason, it is thought to be mildly anabolic and anti-catabolic. Hey, it is even illicitly fed to race horses and cattle with intent to produce leaner and meatier animals. A lot of money is won and lost at the race tracks
Here comes the revelation: IT IS TRUE that clenbuterol can significantly increase meat production in animals (muscle), but in MILLIGRAM dosages, not in the MICROGRAM dosages suitable for human consumption. Try taking even half a milligram of clenbuterol per day and see what happens (I definitely don’t recommend it)! You will suffer blinding headaches, experience cardiac arrhythmia, tachycardia, and high blood pressure. If you are lucky, you will not suffer a heart attack or a stroke. This next story is completely anecdotal, but none-the-less, do any of you remember an incident with those pink pentangular Thai Anabols a few years back? There were a few batches of the stuff around, counterfeit of course, that were supposed to contain 5mg of methandrostenolone, but instead contained between 2 and 5 mg of clenbuterol instead. An athlete in my country took a few of these tablets and had to be taken to hospital. Luckily, he didn’t suffer any permanent consequences.
Back to the analysis. Now don’t get me wrong, clenbuterol is a useful addition post-cycle. It increases strength temporarily, allowing harder workouts, which in turn helps preserve lean body mass. It also increases thermogenesis, aiding in the lipolysis of fat accumulated while on the cycle. Another benefit is its excitatory effect, causing a feeling of well-being and mental focus, thus potentially relieving some of the possible depression and lethargy associated with discontinuing steroid use (especially in conjunction with piracetam). But in my opinion, it has no direct effect on anabolism and anti-catabolism, at least not in human dosages.
In my opinion, one that I am certain is shared by many, introduction of creatine to the world of sports was a milestone that will not be easily repeated. If you noticed at the last summer Olympics, a vast number of records have been improved, some of them by a vast margin. This is the consequence of several factors, one definitely being creatine loading (others may include the increasing use of peptide hormones and growth factors, undetectable with present technology, use of the newest ergogens, drugs currently not on the IOC banned substance list, and improved training methodology). The most efficacious use of creatine (from all aspects) as far as I am concerned, is loading. Once this loading phase is completed, its use should be ceased for at least 2 weeks, preferably 3 (unless preparing for competition and not wanting to give away the possible advantage). The effects of creatine last from 3 – 5 weeks, so don’t worry about losing the benefits. Once the muscle is saturated with creatine, the organism starts excreting it at accelerated rate. I estimate that 60 percent of creatine used is wasted. I do not see the logic. Why employ a maintenance period (with 5 or 10 grams daily), if muscle is full and unable to use it. If that were true, all we would have to do is creatine load once in the lifetime, and then use only maintenance dosages and retain the fullness of the muscle. The fault for spreading this theory goes to supplement companies, which increase their profits with such dosage schedules. So use your creatine wisely and don’t waste any more money. One more thing: concomitant use of creatine and clenbuterol induces a shift in electrolyte balance, which can result in cramping. So electrolyte supplementation is necessary should such a combination be employed.
Glutamine can be of great benefit to the athlete, on or off cycle. If used in proper dosage, it can have great impact on preserving both the performance and cosmetic benefit of any cycle. The most common problem with glutamine it is rarely used in enough quantity to produce the desired effect. Athletes 200 lbs or under can benefit from using 15-20 grams of glutamine daily. Athletes above 200 lbs should use around 25-30 grams of glutamine daily to obtain maximum benefit from this anti-catabolic amino acid.
Now lets explore some of the relatively less known substances, sometimes used by athletes in an attempt to preserve or further improve their performance or physique.
L-dopa is an amino acid, chemically known as dihydroxyphenylalanine, used in the treatment of a condition known as Parkinson’s disease. L-dopa is pharmacologically practically inert. It is an immediate precursor to dopamine. Dopamine itself cannot penetrate the blood–brain barrier and as such it has no therapeutic effect in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. This is a state when the dopaminergic system in the organism is depleted in favor of the cholinergic system. Both systems belong to a group of neurotransmitters, affecting a wide variety of physiological processes in the organism. L-dopa, once ingested, readily crosses the blood–brain barrier via neutral amino acid transporters, where it is effectively decarboxylated to dopamine, thus improving the dopaminergic system in the body.
From the athletes standpoint, L-dopa seems a worthwhile addition to post-cycle stack as it is purported to have a significant effect on growth hormone release and gonadotropin release. It also can improve sleep patterns and it is a powerful antioxidant.
L-dopa sounds great, right? Unfortunately, L-dopa is a powerful drug and the majority of users suffer from related side effects. These can range from mildly inconvenient to very serious. The common denominator to both its desired effects and side effects is the dosage. Since L-dopa is heavily affected by decarboxylation (degradation) in the peripheral tissues, relatively high dosages have to be used to obtain a therapeutic effect, causing in turn a myriad of side effects ranging from nausea and vomiting to mental disturbances (such as hallucinations, paranoia, mania, insomnia (rarely), anxiety, nightmares and depression). Additionally, L-dopa can cause abnormal involuntary movements. It is even linked to malignant melanomas (skin cancer), although this is inconclusive. Serious side effects are acquired with substantial use over a long period of time. But there is a risk involved, none the less.
Some of the side effects can be avoided by using a combination of drugs – levodopa (L-dopa) with carbidopa (a peripheral inhibitor of decarboxylation), reducing the dosage required to obtain a therapeutic effect. So in effect, more of the drug can reach the desired receptors in the neostriatum (part of the brain), by crossing the blood–brain barrier. The combination used is usually concentrated 1:10 (1mg of carbidopa for each 10mg of levodopa). It has to be pointed out that the addition of carbidopa increases the effects of levodopa four-fold. Another inhibitor of decarboxylation is benserazide (with properties similar to those of carbidopa). Dosages required to obtain ergogenic benefit is about 500mg of levodopa with about 50mg of carbidopa daily. This would be the equivalent to ingesting 2 grams of straight levodopa per day. This dosage is sufficient to cause nausea and vomiting and possibly other side effects, so it would be wise not to take it all at once. My personal experience with administration of L-dopa has been using half the cited dose before the workout and the other half before bed, always on an empty stomach, as food in any form lowers and interferes with absorbtion of L-dopa. This way we obtain two additional growth hormone peak releases, both further facilitated by a natural release of GH in response to training and sleep. Ergogenic benefits of L-dopa seem to be temporary, in my experience lasting about 4 weeks, after which the positive effect is lost. At this point, continued effectiveness of L-dopa requires an increase in dosage, which I do not recommend, as the side effects are magnified overshadowing any further benefits. A possible remedy to the situation would be to add a dopaminergic agonist to the L-dopa, but again, the risk of side effects magnifies as well. I also do not recommend taking L-dopa before a workout if already using sympathicomimetic amines (beta agonists), as L-dopa magnifies the effects of the latter as well. Possible acute overdose of l-dopa is symptomatic to beta agonist overdose. This occurs due to further decarboxylation of excess dopamine to norepinephrine and epinephrine (noradrenaline and adrenaline) via different enzymatic pathways, resulting in possible tachycardia and cardiac arrhythmia, tremors, hypertension, headaches, etc. Acute overdose is treated with pyridoxine HCL (vitamin B6). If a combination of L-dopa with carbidopa is used, pyridoxine is rendered useless.
Similar effects to that of L-dopa can be obtained by implementing compounds from the group of dopaminergic agonists. These include ergot derivatives (BROMOCRIPTINE, PERGOLIDE AND LISURIDE). They are not as potent as L-dopa, but are potentially useful none the less. Bromocriptines can be used as an adjunct to L-dopa, once the therapeutic effects of L-dopa are lessened. Initial dosages range upwards of 25mg per day with a maximum dosage of 100mg per day. Extreme caution should be used when first using bromocriptine since it has a significant first dose phenomenon – sudden cardiovascular collapse. It should be used under medical supervision at first. Pergolide and lisuride have somewhat similar effects to those of bromocriptine.
Another possible course of action would be to prolong the effects of endogenous dopamine by inhibiting its degradation mechanism by using selegine (ELDEPRYL, DEPRENYL), a monoaminooxidase (MAO) inhibitor.
Other potentially useful compounds post-cycle include nootropic drugs (smart drugs) such as PIRACETAM and another ergot derivative dihydroergotoxinic methanesulphate (HYDERGINE), 5-HT (5-hydroxytryptamine, better known as SEROTONIN). A combination of insulin, clenbuterol and T3 can also be used, but there is a possibility of significant fat gain, regardless of the clenbuterol and T3. DNP can also be used at this stage, although I do not recommend its use for the vast majority of the individuals.
Some athletes use andro products, which in my opinion should not be used at this particular time. Post-cycle is a period when maximum endogenous testosterone production is desired, and by supplying raw materials (andro products) for this production, we purposely sabotage the first part of the production process itself (conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone to DHEA to androstenedione).
As we have seen, most of the pharmacological activity in the post-cycle period is geared towards selectively activating GABA-ergic, dopaminergic, serotoninergic, adrenergic pathways, thus preserving the acquired athletic and cosmetic benefits.
An example of post-cycle stack for the 200 pound athlete would look like this.
- Immediately after the conclusion of steroid cycle, heavy antiestrogen therapy is initiated. Also a creatine loading phase is implemented (30 grams/day, for 5 days) in conjunction with glutamine (20 grams per day for the duration of the stack). At this stage, if so desired, insulin can be used to assist in creatine transport (20 I.U./day, 10 I.U. upon waking and another 10 at 2 P.M., with at least 10 grams of glucose or table sugar per each unit administered). T3 is used conditionally, only in conjunction with insulin.
- Clenbuterol is used daily (100mcg), to increase thermogenesis and preserve strength. Another beta agonist can be used to the same advantage. Electrolytes should be used as well, to prevent possible cramping. Piracetam is also used daily (loading pattern, 10X400mg for the first 5 days, afterwards a lower dose can be employed (4X400mg).
- Every other night, diazepam is used (5-10mg). As diazepam is habit forming, it should be used only 1 – 2 weeks at a time. L-dopa/carbidopa combination can be used as a substitute (500mg/50mg per day, twice daily – 250/25 before workout and 250/25 before sleep).
- This post-cycle stack is employed for at least 4 – 6 weeks. This is, in my opinion, the minimum time required to at least partly recover your hormonal status, before engaging in another steroid cycle.
This practical application concludes this article. I hope I have at least partly introduced the theories behind the aforementioned applications, and the means of employing them relatively safely.