What are Steroids?
Testosterone is the main male sex hormone which is naturally produced by the human body. Steroids are a synthetic form of testosterone or its derivatives. Bodybuilders mainly use testosterone. Testosterone is what you can thank for Strength and Size.
Am I old enough?
Yes if you're over 21, No if you're under. You run the risks of premature closing of growth plates which means you won't get any taller and your shoulders won't get wider, etc. if you use them too young. Your endocrine system is also at a vital stage in your life, which should incidentally provide you with plenty of natural testosterone anyway!
Of course there are other considerations such as training experience of the individual. For example, it would be unwise for a 25 year old who has been training only a few months to want to use steroids. Their training and diet knowledge are likely to be limited (these should be 100% in check to make 'proper use' of a steroid cycle). Not only that, but there will be massive potential for natural gains, without the need to even think about steroids!
I hate needles, can I just take pills?
You've decided to take steroids, now the next thing to decide is whether you should take tablets or inject? What's the difference? Let's look at each in turn: Well the obvious difference is that one is swallowed, the other is injected. But let's be more specific; most oral steroids are hepatotoxic (i.e. toxic to the liver). As the tablet/pill travels through the body it passes through the gastrointestinal tract, then to the liver which has a mission to destroy it, thus preventing the steroid from entering the bloodstream. As a result, scientific boffins replaced the hydrogen atom with a carbon atom to the 17th position of the steroid molecule, which for the most part, will enable the steroid to survive the first pass hepatic metabolism. This process is commonly referred to as 17-alpha alkylation (17-AA or C-17).
Whilst this alkylation is desirable for the athlete in terms of improving the bio-availability of the oral steroid, it does however, place undue stress on the liver. Liver values (a set of markers which are used to assess liver function) may be elevated whilst using 17-aa steroids and as such, they are generally used sparingly to compliment an injectable cycle. Certain nutritional supplement products are often used for liver protection:
* Milk Thistle
* ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid)
Injectable Steroids are not for intravenous use (into the vein). Doing this could result in serious injury or even death. They must be injected intra-muscularly (into the muscle) and therefore avoid the 'first pass' through the liver; though some the harsher steroids will place a strain on the kidneys in large doses.
There are two main different types of injectable steroids: Water or oil based. Water based steroids are metabolised quickly, requiring frequent (often daily) injections. Oil based ones are released more slowly into the bloodstream and are generally injected once or twice weekly.
Where do I inject?
You should inject into your gluteus maximus muscle (the muscle under your flabby bum!). A good, sterile technique is well worth emphasising as this can avoid experiences ranging from abcesses to death (yes, it really is that serious!). If the proper procedure is implemented, then the occurrence of abcesses can be substancially reduced and death is avoided completely.
Step by step instructions can be found via the following links:
Glutes and quads (thigh muscles) are the 'normal' places for injections as they are large muscle groups, though other sites can be used, particularly for heavier cycles where there is a greater volume of oil being used each week.
What's an Ester?
A Steroid Ester refers to the chain of carbons attached to the steroid molecule at the 17th position. The longer the chain, the greater the time taken for the steroid to be released into the bloodstream. Testosterone propionate, for example, is a relatively short chain ester and therefore makes the parent hormone fast acting and requiring more frequent injections. The opposite is the case for longer chain esters e.g. enanthate, cypionate, undecanoate.
What should I take?
An example of a beginner's cycle might be 8 weeks of testosterone at 500mg per week and 4 weeks of Dianabol at 25mg daily. This utilises one injectable (testosterone) and one oral (Dianabol). The testosterone would be injected twice per week, i.e. one ampoule of 250mg on Monday, the other on Thursday or Friday.
When shall I take it?
It makes absolutely no difference what time of day you inject. Whatever suits you.
Injection frequency - Aim for Mon/Thu for longer acting esters (sustanon, enanthate, cypionate, deca). These could be injected just once per week for the needle-shy, though twice is better for even blood concentration levels.
Dianabol are to be taken daily and, as they have a short half life of just a few hours, they are split throughout the day, every 4 hours or so. Take them with meals to avoid possible gastro-intestinal discomfort.
What will I gain?
Almost impossible to answer, as everyone is different, and there are a multitude of variables that will affect the amount of gains witnessed such as:
* Type of steroid and amounts used
* Length of cycle
* Cycle experience - early career cycles tend to yield greater gains purely because there is greater scope for those gains
* Training, diet & rest!
What's a Frontload / Kickstart?
A 'frontload' is used to reach peak blood concentration levels much sooner than would otherwise be possible. Double your normal weekly dose will be injected in the first week or two, depending on the drug's particular half-life (the half-life is the time taken for the body to metabolise and excrete half of the drug). So if your cycle was to use 500mg testosterone enanthate weekly, you would frontload 1,000mg during the first week.
An oral 'kickstart' describes the use of a fast acting oral until your injectables reach their peak, i.e. 30mg of Dianabol taken for the first 4 weeks.
What are Anti-Es?
Anti-Es are anti-oestrogens (or as the Americans say 'estrogens'). Certain steroids aromatise to oestrogen through the aromatase enzyme which can lead to undesirable side-effects. Oestrogen, after all is the dominant female hormone. By employing anti-Es you can reduce the chances of experiencing oestrogenic side-effects such as water retention and gyno (explained below). Proviron and Anastrozole (Arimidex and other guises) attempt to halt the aromatisation from occurring. Nolvadex however, will occupy the oestrogen receptor which renders much of the existing circulating oestrogen inert.
The varying anti-E ancillaries are therefore generally used to counter negative side effects of AAS usage. Choice of ancillary depends on many factors including:
* AAS used & dosage/length of cycle
* Susceptibility of user to sides (if already known)
* Degree of risk/sides the user deems acceptable
* Any pre-existing conditions
Gynecomastia is the build up of glandular tissue under the breast, and is an oestrogenic side-effect. Puffy, itchy or sore nipples are often early symptoms. This condition is often referred to by the slang term 'bitch tits'. Established gyno will normally require surgery for correction - needless to say, 'prevention is better than the cure!'
PCT stands for Post Cycle Therapy, and is what you do when you've finished your cycle to restore natural testosterone production. This is essential if you want to stand a good chance of retaining gains. Nolvadex, Clomid and sometimes HCG are the drugs used for pct. See the Muscle Talk article Clomid, Nolvadex and HCG in Post Cycle Recovery for more information.
However, it is important to realise that when you complete PCT it does not mean that recovery is fulfilled. You are simply using the PCT drugs to kickstart your body into action, with the actual recovery process takes many weeks, sometimes months to complete. Some like to gauge recovery from subjective factors such as libido, though ultimately for a much more accurate picture, a simple blood test will be required, discussed in further detail below.
What about pre-steroid use blood tests?
It cannot be stressed enough the importance of obtaining certain blood test results prior to commencing steroids. These personal baseline readings serve multiple purposes. Firstly, they can prove vital in uncovering any underlying medical issues that may not be already known. Should this be the case, it will determine whether the individual feels that they should avoid steroids completely, or delay use until such time where it appears health is optimal. Also, as many facets of blood readings can be affected by steroids, it is vital that you have pre-steroid use values so that comparisons can be made to baseline, which will provide a valuable insight into how 'recovery' is progressing. Such blood work can be obtained in the strictest confidence with neither the tests nor the results being disclosed to your GP.
Will this cycle have any effect on my sex drive? Gotta keep the missus happy!
You'll turn into a porn star! You'll think about it 24/7! Generally you'll feel like a Sex God! Joking aside, you should generally experience an increase in libido especially if using strong androgens, though effects between individuals do vary. If do you experience any loss of interest, or you experience problems maintaining an erection (notorious with certain steroids), the drug Proviron is often used as a counter-active measure.