A Beginners look at Steroids (WIP)
This post is solely for educational purposes and is specific to steroid use in the male bodybuilding community. I will not address other sports in this post. This post addresses many of the questions asked by novices and first time users and does not go in depth for the more experienced individuals.
Gear – another word for steroids
TRT – testosterone replacement therapy
PIP – Post injection Pain
Anabolic – The gaining of muscle tissue
Catabolic – The loss of muscle tissue
Androgenic – the process of masculinizing
AAS – Anabolic Androgenic Steroid
PED – Performance enhancing Drugs
PCT – Post cycle therapy
AI – Aromatase inhibitor
UGL – Underground lab
Who should take steroids?
I will start off by saying that I do not condone the use of AAS. There are a lot of mixed opinions on this subject ranging from “you should never take steroids” to “who cares, I am my own person” and everywhere in between. My personal take on it is that you meet three criteria: you’ve been training regularly for at least a couple years as an intermediate or advanced weight lifter and know how to train to make progress, you understand the legality of using AAS (this varies by country), and you are of good health and know the health risks associated with steroid use. This post goes over some of risks, but more in depth research on each and every drug should be done before considering using them. The purpose of this guide is to answer some of your questions, not to give you all the information you need to know to make a decision.
Steroids are a lot more common than you might think. Ranging from a vast number of celebrities, Olympic athletes, and your favorite “natural” YouTube celebrity, Chef Javaliere. The truth is, you cannot just take a beginner, put them on steroids for 6 months or even a year and get them to look like these guys (unless you’re a genetic freak like Kumail Nanjiani). It takes years of proper training, diet and may cycles of the right steroids, and for some, they still might not get there if they do not have the genetics for it. This is not a one and done type deal.
Now you might be thinking, well, I will just take steroids until I hit the physique I want, then quit the steroids and maintain my physique. Wrong. You cannot do that either. You are still going to lose a large amount of your steroid gains if you go off them for an extended period of time. This is because steroids can help you gain muscle on suboptimal training and diet, as well as have a cosmetic effect that is only there while using them. The guys that hit their genetic limit naturally have painstakingly practiced every exercise they do. They know exactly how to train and know exactly how much intensity and volume they need for any given workout to inch out progress. If you’re on steroids and don’t periodize your training properly and have not mastered every exercise you do, you’re going to go backwards after removing steroids from the equation.
Steroids are not the easy ticket you might be thinking. It still takes years of training and dedication to get the physique you want, with or without steroids. This is why some will argue that one should only take AAS once they’ve hit their natural genetic potential, and I can’t really fault anyone for having that viewpoint.
Steroids vary in legality depending on where you live. For example, Steroids are illegal to buy from the black market in the USA, which can result in large fines or jail time. There are many steroids legal in the USA, however, you need a prescription for them. There are some hormone clinics that will prescribe them to you without even meeting you in person. The doses that are prescribed, however, are usually fairly low from a bodybuilding standpoint, but depending on what you get, you could make decent progress legally. In Canada, it is legal to buy steroids on the black market, however, it is illegal to sell them. In Russia and Ukraine, many steroids are legal to buy over the counter in pharmacies.
Steroids are not healthy for you. Depending on the drug and the doses, steroids can kill you. Many professional body builders have either accidently killed themselves by overdosing on drugs like insulin or have died very early due to continued steroid abuse. For the person that is using them smartly and sparingly, the health risks range from minimal to the risks comparable to chronically smoking or drinking alcohol. In general, steroids will most likely take some years off your life. A final piece of advice is to listen to your body, if the drug is making you feel like shit, then back off or stop it all together. Your body is telling you something for a reason, and some people just do not tolerate certain drugs or dosages.
I am only going to go over the drugs that should be considered by a beginner. For the first 3-5 steroid cycles, these are the only drugs one should consider using. There are many nuances to steroids, and you need to learn how your body reacts to each drug and how to combat side effects before taking on drugs that have a more complicated side effect profile. The dosages I have written down are those of what a beginner would be taking. In reality, professional bodybuilders are taking much higher doses, and hopefully they know how to control the side effects and have carefully considered the risks they are taking on.
Esters – Most injectable steroids are a hormone attached to an ester. The ester determines the length of time the injected hormone will stay in the body. I will not go over all of the esters here, but you should be paying attention to what esters you are using and what their elimination half-life is, the time it takes for half of the medication to clear the body. It is also important to note that the ester has a weight. For example, the propionate ester is lighter than the Enanthate ester. So, someone injecting 100mg of testosterone enanthate is really only injecting about 70mg of raw testosterone. Whereas someone injecting 100mg of testosterone propionate is injecting about 90mg of raw testosterone.
Injection Frequency – Injection frequency is largely determined by the half-life of the medication. Shorter esters like acetate and propionate need to be injected more frequently than longer acting esters like undecanoate.
Testosterone – this is a hormone your body produces endogenously. When it is taken exogenously, your body will shut down its natural production of testosterone. In fact, you can consider this the case for just about any AAS. Consider yourself warned. It is not always easy to get your natural production working again (see PCT), and if you do, your natural levels may return to levels lower than they previously were. After may cycles, some bodybuilders natural levels become so low that they need to supplement with testosterone for the rest of their lives. If you are a woman taking this hormone, you will need to worry about that much less as your natural levels are already low to begin with and will bounce back much easier than a man’s. However, this hormone is very androgenic and will slowly turn a woman into a man, so for that reason it is not recommended that women take testosterone at performance enhancing dosages unless that is a desired effect.
Testosterone is both very androgenic and anabolic. For this reason, and because other steroids will also shut down your natural production of testosterone, testosterone is one of the few steroids that should be run during every steroid cycle. This is called your “base steroid”. If you are not adequately replacing the testosterone that is naturally produced by your body, then you will be in for a world of hurt with side effects. Other base steroids can be used, such as nandrolone, or boldenone. However, Testosterone is the most common, and has the least side effects for most people.
Testosterone Side effects – Testosterone is estrogenic – it converts to estrogen in the body. Estrogen is an essential hormone in both men and women, however if it gets too high, you may experience side effects such as gynecomastia (the growth of breasts tissue), bloating, acne, mood changes, prostate swelling, etc. The amount of side effects can vary depending on the person and are usually reduced with the addition of an aromatase inhibitor as needed. Since this is the first base hormone beginners should be considering, it is important they familiarize themselves with the side effects and how to properly combat them (see Aromatase Inhibitors and Estrogen Blockers).
Testosterone converts to DHT. This is what makes testosterone androgenic. DHT is also responsible for side effects such as prostate enlargement and accelerated male pattern baldness if and only if you are genetically predisposition for it.
Testosterone will likely increase your red blood cell count, increase blood pressure, and worsen your cholesterol. The effects of these side effects also very by individual and should be monitored while on cycle.
Testosterone Dosages – for male beginners, testosterone should be used in dosages of no more than 750mg/week. Effects of the drug will be apparent at 500mg/week, and it is a good starting point. It is run for the full duration of the cycle you are on, typically 8-16 weeks. I don’t recommend the use of this drug for women.
Masteron – Is a DHT derivative. It is very androgenic and not very anabolic. It has a very pronounced cosmetic effect on the body but you will not gain much strength or muscle on it. It will make your muscles look harder, it will make you more vascular, and gives your skin an oily sheen. The effects of this drug are noticed within a week or two. However, they will go away within a week or two of discontinuing the drug. It is commonly used for contest prep, or for looking your best during spring break or whatever you people do now-a-days.
Masteron Side Effects – Masteron will have all the androgenic side effects listed above for testosterone, however it is especially hard on your lipids. Masteron also notoriously makes you extremely horny when not combined with a drug that impaired libido. This can be good for some, or extremely annoying.
Masteron Dosages – for the sexual side effects, you don’t need to take much. 100mg/week should be enough for most men. For the cosmetic effects, about 300mg/week is plenty. I highly discourage the use of this drug for women.
Boldenone – This steroid is relatively mild and but if it is well tolerated it can be run for a long time to get slow and steady muscle gains. Boldenone is a steroid manufactured for veterinary use in race horses, and can only be found as a veterinary drug or on the black market. It has not been approved anywhere in the world for human use. It can also be used as a base steroid instead of testosterone, however, since it is less anabolic than testosterone, it is not commonly used this way.
Bolenone Side Effects – Boldenone is somewhat androgenetic and anabolic. It will most likely increase your hematocrit and blood pressure much more than testosterone. Because of this, you can get some nasty headaches and lethargy. This drug also can make you very hungry, so it is a common choice for someone having a hard time meeting their calorie goals. Boldenone is not very estrogenic, and some say it has an anti-estrogenic property, which is not true. The drug does aromatize, but only at about half the rate of testosterone.
Dosages – Due to the long ester, this drug needs to be run for a long time before it really kicks in. typically it is run for 12-16 weeks. A good starting dose would be 300-400mg/week. It is better to start with less on this drug because it takes a long time to clear from your system. If you develop side effects, they can linger around for days or weeks until it gets eliminated from your body. Again, this drug is not recommended for women as it is more androgenic than most women would be comfortable with.
Primobolan – Primo is very comparable to Boldenone but without many of the nasty side effects. I would say it is a much better drug overall. The catch is, it is expensive and often counterfeited. Primobolan is one of the steroids that has been approved by the FDA in the USA for medical use to treat anemia and sold under a few different brand names from some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
Primobolan Side Effects – Since this drug was manufactured to treat anemia, expect it to increase your Hematocrit and red blood cell count. Elevated hematocrit and RBC count can have adverse health effects and should be monitored closely.
Primobolan Dosages – 400mg/week is a typical starting dose for this drug for men.
Nandrolone – I will very briefly mention this as I am sure it will be asked about; however, I do not advise anyone use this drug until they have at least run a few other steroids cycles first. This drug has similar effects on the body as testosterone and it is even used for testosterone replacement therapy, albeit less common now. It can be used as a base steroid. It belongs to the 19-nortestosterone group of steroids which are notorious for some of the worst side effects of all the PEDs. One of the nice side effects of this drug is that it can significantly reduce joint pain. It is comforting for a lot of people and a drug of choice if they do not get the negative side effects below.
Nandrolone Side effects – This drug commonly causes erectile dysfunction, which can in some cases be permanent. It is so common, it is nicknamed “deck dick,” named after the ester it was most commonly manufactured with, decanoate. It now comes with a shorter acting ester, phenylpropionate (see esters). Nandrolone can cause the hormone prolactin levels to rise, which can cause gyno. Combating this is not as easy as estrogen gyno, it takes stronger drugs that have very adverse effects on the heart. This is why I don’t recommend anyone use this drug until they are more advanced and have a solid background in side effects management.
Nandrolone Dosages – dosages are similar to testosterone.
HGH – This hormone is another hormone naturally produced by the body. In this post I am speaking specifically about 191aa HGH and not the peptides. Your body will also shut down production of this hormone when it is administered exogenously. However, unlike testosterone, your natural production will bounce back fairly quickly on its own once the exogenous source is removed. There is no PCT required when discontinuing an HGH only cycle. That said, like other steroids, HGH is symbiotic with testosterone, and they should be taken together for the best results. HGH Is extremely expensive compared to most other steroids. It helps remove fat from the body, build muscle, and stimulates collagen production, making your skin thicker and younger looking, as well as strengthening bones and tendons. Furthermore, it increases your body’s ability to heal from injuries. I have heard many stories about people on HGH recovering from surgeries or injuries at a superhuman rate. HGH is perhaps one of “healthiest” steroids if taken correctly. It can be taken for a long period of time without adverse effects to your health.
The manufacturing practices of HGH is complicated. Originally it was manufactured from the pituitary glands of cadavers or animals. Currently it is manufactured by modifying the e-coli virus. Personally, I do not trust any HGH source unless it is pharmaceutical grade. It is readily prescribed to children around the world that have a deficiency, as well as sold over the counter in countries such as Russia and Ukraine. HGH is very fragile. It most commonly comes as a powder that needs to be reconstituted with water or in a premixed pen. The ladder is the best form to get it in as it has more preservatives that help stabilize it. Another thing that is worth pointing out is that the majority of UGL HGH is garbage. You should not ever need to take more than 3-5iu per day to see dramatic effects. If you do need more than that, then your source is not legit.
Finally, I need to point out that HGH reacts badly with insulin. The combination of HGH and insulin is a very potent muscle builder, but it also makes your organs grow. This combination of drugs is used by the most advanced modern bodybuilders in Mr. Olympia, for example, and is responsible for giving those bodybuilders the big, unattractive guts you see. This can be visually unappealing, permanent, and catastrophic for your health. For more information about this drug, you can visit this topic on T-Nation: HGH: A How-To Guide - Pharma - Forums - T Nation (t-nation.com)
HGH Side Effects – HGH can make you tired and lethargic if your dose is too high. It can also make you hungry.
HGH Dosages – HGH can be used by both men and women as it is not androgenic. 2iu/day is a great starting does and is where you will see the positive effects from it as well as the anti-aging properties. The effects become very pronounced starting at 3-4iu/day and you likely never need to take more than that if using pharmaceutical grade HGH.
Preface – I need to add a preface here because oral steroids are different than injectables in that they are fast acting (they do not stay in your system very long), they should be taking in two or more doses throughout the day. They are generally processed by the liver, causing hepatoxicity. For this reason, you should not be running oral steroids for a long period of time as they can have some of the most detrimental effects on your health. Please familiarize yourself with symptoms of hepatoxicity and jaundice before trying oral steroids and make sure you want to take on the risks associated with them. It is also advised to take a liver support supplement such as TUDCA, NAC, or Milk Thistle, along with regular cardio to reduce the health risks of these drugs
Oxandrolone – This is a popular oral steroid because it is prescribed readily by hormone clinics around the USA. Oxandrolone (Brand name Anavar) is probably the mildest oral steroid in terms of side effects, but also one of the weakest ones in terms of anabolism. Anavar is not very androgenic, making it a popular choice for women. This steroid will increase your strength slowly over time. It is also cosmetic as it will make you look leaner and more vascular. It is commonly used along with masteron to enhance this effect for contest prep.
Oxandrolone Side Effects – This drug is different from other oral steroids because it is processed by the kidneys rather than the liver. It is not very hepatoxic, but it can damage the kidneys with overuse. This is perhaps worse, as the kidneys cannot regenerate like the liver can. This drug is not very estrogenic.
Oxandrolone Dosages – 50mg/day is where I would start. Any less, and it will be disappointing. This drug is about 5x stronger in women than men, so a woman could take 5-10mg as a starting dose. This drug can also be run a little longer than other orals as it will not make you physically sick if take it for too long. I would not take it for more than 10-12 weeks tops, but 4-6 weeks is a pretty good cycle.
Stanozolol – Commonly called Winstrol or winny, has been around a very long time, and was the preferred oral for contest prep among the golden era bodybuilders. It is a much stronger version of oxandrolone. It will make you stronger, leaner, and harder. The cosmetic effects are incredible. This drug has been used by both women and men, however it is definitely more androgenic than Oxandrolone. Stanozolol is also available in an injectable form. A common misconception is that the injectable version makes the drug less hepatoxic, unfortunately, it does not. The injectable version of this drug will sting badly, so be warned.
Stanozolol Side Effects – Stanozolol notoriously causes muscle cramps and a dry achy feeling in the joints. It is believed you can combat this by supplementing taurine; however, I am not aware of any formal research on this subject. This drug is not very estrogenic. It is very hepatoxic and should only be run for 4-6 weeks max.
Stanozolol Dosages – I would start this at 20-30mg/day for a man. You could take it at 50mg/day but you risk cutting your cycle short due to negative side effects. 30mg/day is enough for the strength and cosmetic benefits. Most likely, you never really need to go above 50mg/day as the benefits just are not really there. Women would likely only need about 5mg/day or less and should monitor the androgenic effects closely.
Methandienone – More commonly known as dbol or dianabol, this drug is another drug of choice for professional bodybuilders. Honestly, I do not think this drug belongs in the beginner section due to how much it aromatizes, but it can be taken at lower doses to mitigate that. Dbol is one of the strongest steroids out there for putting on muscle mass and strength. It is very anabolic and androgenic. It also converts very efficiently into estrogen and will make you gain a lot of water weight right out of the gate.
Methandienone Side Effects – As stated, this drug is very estrogenic. You can expect to have a hard time controlling estrogen on this drug, for some, a standard aromatase inhibitor is not enough and a stronger drug, such as letrozole, is needed. However, using strong estrogen blockers should not be done without experience, as reducing your estrogen too far can make the problem worse, and put you in a bad spot for weeks or months.
Methandienone Dosages – 50mg of this drug is very strong. I would not start with more than 25mg/day for 4 weeks.
This is perhaps one of the most important sections in this post. It is critical that you take lab work before staring any steroids. This will give you a baseline of how your body was in a natural state and flag any health risks that could persuade you against using steroids. In most states in the USA you can get lab work done by yourself through a service such as privatemdlabs.com.
I advise you get the following blood work done before your first cycle, as well as ¼ to ½ way through your first cycle, and again if any issues arise during your future cycles.
Estrodiol (sensitive or ultra sensitive)
Aromatase Inhibitors and Estrogen Blockers
There are several drugs to control estrogen, however, they all act a little differently. The two most common are anastrozole and exemestane. The main difference between these two is that anastrozole inhibits the aromatase process, conversion of testosterone into estrogen, while exemestane permanently binds to the aromatase enzyme, completely deactivating it. Both of these drugs are effective and can have long term side effects if taken regularly. They are also very strong for certain individuals; taking a little more than you need can result in temporarily crashing your estrogen levels. This can make you feel like crap, cause ED, and can take two or more weeks to recover from. It is important that you administer this drug as needed when and only when estrogen side effects occur and your blood levels show estradiol is high. With more cycles under your belt, you will learn the signs of when and how much of these drugs you need without the need for lab work. Therefore, I highly recommend trying only one steroid at a time for your first couple cycles so you can get a feeling for this.
Cycling vs. Blasting and Cruising
As I mentioned before, most steroids will shut down the body’s ability to produce testosterone on its own. This is particularly concerning for men as it can be difficult to get your body to produce it again, and often the body permanently sets a lower baseline of how much testosterone it will produce. This is one of the reasons it is vital to take pre-steroid bloodwork, so you know exactly how much testosterone your body produces before introducing drugs. In order to restart your testosterone production, you will need to undergo a PCT, where certain drugs are taken to get your body working again. The length of this PCT is a few weeks or more and during this time it is very common to lose a lot of the muscle gains you made while on steroids since your testosterone will be very low for some of this time. Instead, many people who plan to run steroids for several cycles over the long term consider “blasting and cruising” as an alternative. In this scenario they are running a replacement dose of exogenous testosterone between cycles, called the cruise. Essentially, this is TRT. A typical protocol for this is 150mg/week of testosterone cypionate or enanthate.
For someone that does not want to commit to TRT for the long term, a PCT is required after any cycle that shuts down your natural production. PCTs can vary depending on the cycle, and the esters used so it is important that you plan this out well before staring a cycle. It is also extremely important to have all these drugs on hand before starting a cycle. You do not want to be stuck in a spot where you are not able to get the drugs you need when your cycle is over.
A typical PCT for a cycle looks like this:
Take HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) the day of your last steroid dose and continue this until your body’s testosterone level is near your natural baseline level.
When you discontinue HCG, then start taking a SERM (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator), such a Nolvadex or Clomid for approximately 4 weeks at starting at 40mg/day for the first two weeks and dropping down to 20mg for the next 2-3 weeks.
Take an aromatase inhibitor as needed during this process
After your PCT, check your bloodwork and specifically compare your testosterone, FSH, and LH to your pre-cycle bloodwork.
First three cycles
As stated several times, it is important to plan a cycle and have all drugs on hand before beginning. Hopefully, it is understood that starting slow and with less drugs is the best course of action as you are gaining knowledge about your body, the side effects of each drug, and how to combat them. It highly advised to introduce only one drug or less at a time for each cycle. I also need to point out that you need an adequate break between cycles to let you body go back to homeostasis for an extended period. I usually take 6-12 months off between cycles depending on what I was taking and how I felt. Here is an example of 3 different cycles for a male.
Week 1-6 - Testosterone Cypionate 500mg-750mg/week
Week 1-12 – Testosterone Cypionate 500mg/week
Week 9-12 – Winstrol 30mg/day
Week 1-16 – Testosterone Cypionate 400mg/week
Week 1-16 – Masteron 200mg/week
Week 14-16 – Winstrol 30mg/day
A note about dosages here. You need to find what works for your body, some people will experience bad side effects at low dosages, and some people will not get any side effects at extremely high dosages. A lot of this is experimentation and learning. Professional body builders will typically be on a cycle of a minimum of 1500mg/week of total steroids, and that is what it takes to be at that level. However, you do not need anywhere near those dosages to make good progress. It is recommended that people take the minimum effective dose to achieve what they want. Usually this comes out to be 500-1000mg/week of total steroids, and sometimes less depending on the drugs that are used.
While on cycle, nutrition is more important than ever. Steroids work by optimizing nutrient partitioning and increasing protein synthesis. They are also detrimental to your health, so now is the time to get your diet in order and eat to most nutritious foods you can find. Since you have already been training efficiently before starting any steroids, the I can only assume you know how to diet. If you do not, then perhaps you should fix your diet for an extended period of time before trying steroids as you will likely get steroids like results just from that alone.
Your training will remain largely the same, however progressive overload will be easier. Certain drugs like Dbol can skyrocket strength like you never thought possible. My one take away from this section is that you need to rein that in. While it might be possible to add 10lbs to your bench every week, you need to allow your bones and tendons to catch up to that amount of weight. It is common to injure yourself by going increasing the weights too aggressively. The last thing you want to get a pec tear mid cycle and spend the next several months out of the gym.
This post is a work in progress, and I certainly do not know all the answers. There is a lot to be learned from this community, and a ton of false or misinformation out there. What I have written here is what I have learned and experienced so far and I am always open to updating my work if I am shown to be incorrect about something. Feel free to post questions below; however, please keep it specific to this post. If you would like advice on an individual plan, then please post a new thread where you can get a more tailored response.