Originally posted by Basskiller, who I suppose authored it.
To Cycle Off or Not to Cycle Off
As many people have seen, there is always a great deal of attention given to steroid cycles, a little less attention given to post cycle therapy (PCT), but coming off of a steroid cycle or cycling off seems to merely appear as a side note if it appears at all. Aside from the obvious post cycle therapy that should be done when coming off of a cycle, should a person consider cycling off of a cycle or merely come off the cycle of steroids? The difference is that cycling off means that non-steroidal drugs are used post cycle after discontinuing steroid usage as opposed to coming off a cycle without the use of non-steroidal drugs. It is quite obvious that long term usage of steroids or never taking a break from a cycle can have adverse consequences such as cardiovascular problems (enlargement of the heart as an example), other enlarged organs, hepatotoxicity, HPTA down-regulation in men, excessive virilization in women, psychological disturbances (“roid” rage and/or depression), as well as possible psychological and/or physiological addiction to steroids.
Some athletes do not necessarily feel they have the luxury to discontinue steroid usage due to scheduling constraints of bodybuilding shows, guest appearances, photo-shoots, and interviews whereas most users should take breaks from steroid usage. For those athletes who feel that they don’t have the luxury of taking breaks from steroid usage, there is a solution that they should strongly consider, and that solution is cycling off. Cycling off of a cycle for the elite athlete on a tight schedule should be done to minimize the adverse side effects of long-term steroid usage while retaining lean body mass and retaining a low body fat percentage. The average user should also take breaks away from steroid usage but cycling off for the average steroid user is not a necessity, and his or her gains can be maintained quite well with proper nutrition and training when coming off of steroids as opposed to cycling off of steroids.
The Goals of Post Cycle Recovery and Maintenance:
Ideally, the steroid user should strive to achieve the maximum amount of lean body mass and gains as possible while on the steroid cycle; this way it will help in maintaining a larger net gain of lean body mass while off of the cycle. Ideally, the goals for post cycle recovery should always be:
· Maintenance of lean body mass gains and minimization of muscle catabolism.
· Minimize gains of body fat or fat deposition in adipose tissue.
· Maintain a healthy psychological state and remain motivated.
· Maintain strength gains while avoiding injury.
· Normalize endogenous testosterone levels.
· Normalize healthy, internal organ function.
Coming Off of a Cycle:
Coming off of a cycle does not mean that drugs have to be used to maintain lean body mass, however, it should be noted that PCT should be used with clomid, nolvadex, and HCG. More lean body mass may be catabolized compared to cycling off of a steroid cycle, but, if both methods are done properly, all or most net gains can be maintained. The steroid user should have a solid plan intact prior to ending the steroid cycle to efficiently make the most of his or her recovery. With proper post cycle planning, net lean body mass gains can be maximized with proper diet, training, and even non-drug supplementation.
Post cycle training should focus on minimization of catabolism and keeping the recovery time between workouts optimal for quality rest. While training during the post cycle recovery, the workout time should be reduced compared to the workout time while on a cycle. Over-training is a real possibility while endogenous testosterone levels are lower at this point. While on cycle, one can normally endure a heavy volume routine, but off cycle the volume should be reduced due to the lowering of testosterone/cortisol ratios in favor of cortisol during heavy volume routines. Instead, while recovering, more basic movements that focus on large muscles or muscle groups should be used with fewer sets, less reps, and heavier weight. The basic movements will be very beneficial to the endocrine system to aid with the increase of endogenous testosterone production. The same muscle group should be avoided in conditioning at least two days in a row to allow proper recovery at this point. 85% of a person’s one-rep-maximum should be done for 2-3 reps at the most to aid in boosting endogenous testosterone production. The anaerobic training should be kept short and intense. Also, each person should use these ideas as guidelines since no one has identical genetics, so some experimentation may need to be done.
Nutrition is another key factor to consider when coming off of a cycle. Ideally, during the first one to two weeks post cycle, the person should eat above maintenance requirements. A little bit of fat may be acquired but this method of over-feeding greatly aids in the retention of gains. If the person wishes, he or she may opt to use clenbuterol to minimize fat deposition as well as block the catabolic effect of increased cortisol levels. The beta-2 sympathomimetic clenbuterol can block cortisone receptors to prevent catabolism of lean body mass gains obtained from the steroid cycle. If clenbuterol is used, it should be used immediately after discontinuation of steroid use and continue over an 8-10 week period during recovery.
Once endogenous testosterone production increases, the caloric intake can be reduced to maintenance levels. There are also nutritional supplements that can be used such as desiccated beef liver tablets, branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s), creatine, and, of course, protein powders. Supplementation can help, but diet and training will remain the crucial elements of maintaining gains.
Cycling Off of a Steroid Cycle:
Cycling off of steroids is a different approach to retaining lean body mass gains post cycle and, if done properly, additional lean body mass can be achieved as well. Cycling off is not an “off-drugs” cycle though, and cycling off can be quite expensive for the average steroid user. Many athletes live in scheduling hell with back-to-back bodybuilding competitions, photo-shoots, interviews, and guest appearances, so cycling off of steroids is the preferred option for these athletes when they want to give their bodies a break from steroid usage.
Human growth hormone (hGH) will probably be the most important drug for cycling off of a steroid cycle so that lean body mass can be maintained and to prevent deposition of fat in adipose tissue. HGH is effective as an anti-catabolic drug as well as an anti-proteolytic drug that will alter the body’s metabolism from utilization of amino acids and glucose to utilizing fat for fuel. This is preferable because the user wants to preserve glycogen and protein in the muscle. HGH should be used once per day, but some may use it twice per day; although it is difficult to see any real advantage of injecting hGH more than once per day. Proper dosage for hGH should be a minimum of 4 I.U. and not more than 12-14 I.U. per day. If the dosage goes much higher than 14 I.U. per day the user may run the risk of nerve impingement and/or adema.
Also, since hGH primarily works through its conversion to Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, insulin is also very helpful to use while cycling off. It is not only helpful in unison with hGH, but insulin is beneficial for shuttling nutrients and glucose into the muscle cells and helps to protect muscle protein. A fast acting insulin such as Humalog would be quite beneficial to use post workout. The philosophy of using Humalog post workout is because this insulin peaks in the blood approximately 90 minutes after its injection, which will coincide well with muscle insulin sensitivity being peaked two to three hours after the workout. 20 minutes after injecting the insulin, simple carbohydrates should be consumed to shuttle nutrients into the muscle cells as a kick start to the recovery process and block catabolism that is prevalent to the post training state. The dosage of Humalog should be one unit of insulin for every ten kilograms of bodyweight. One pound of bodyweight is equal to 0.4536 kilogram. For a person weighing 200lbs the units of insulin would be (200x0.4536)/10 = 9.072 or 9 I.U. of insulin. For the carbohydrate and protein loading, a person should use whey protein and glucose or maltodextrin at ten grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of protein per I.U. of insulin used. Also, to really aid in the muscle recovery a person should also use 5-10 grams of glutamine and 5 grams of creatine with the feeding.
There are other drugs that can be used during the cycling off period. One of these drugs mentioned is clenbuterol (this information can be found earlier in this article). Another drug that some people may use is erythropoietin (EPO). Anabolic steroid usage will normally stimulate erythropoiesis (increase of the hematocrit or RBC). The increased hematocrit is beneficial for muscle cell recovery as well as leaving the user being able to train at a higher intensity. EPO is also thought to have a slight anabolic effect on the muscle cells as well, but only a limited number of studies suggest this. The EPO should be injected subcutaneously at 20 I.U. per kilogram of bodyweight three times per week. Also, it is important to wait 2 to 3 weeks after discontinuing steroid usage to prevent an excessive hematocrit that can clog arteries, cause cardiac failure, and can cause pulmonary adema. After two weeks of using EPO, a maintenance dose of 20 I.U. per kilogram of bodyweight can be taken once per week following. It is very advisable to have periodic blood tests to determine if the hematocrit is at a safe level. Donating blood could even put cash into someone’s pocket as well as getting hematocrit results from the nurse or phlebotomist taking the user’s blood.
With proper planning prior to ending a steroid cycle, will power, and self-discipline, a person can keep most if not all of his or her gains after discontinuing a steroid cycle. Too often people grow stagnant in their growth by taking two steps forward, only to take one step backward in post cycle recovery, but by properly coming off of a cycle, the two steps forward should remain at two steps forward. Also, if a person is using highly androgenic steroids such as dianabol or anadrol, these steroids should be discontinued two to four weeks prior to coming off of a cycle. Once the cycle is finished cortisone receptors will be freed up and this is why it is important to come off of a steroid cycle properly.