By Justin Alexander Ed-in-Chief Mind and Muscle Magazine
Prohormones are a form of Anabolic Androgenic Substances (AAS) that are in many countries legally available for human consumption. AAS are synthetic derivatives of the male sex hormones, anabolic encapsulating something that causes muscle growth and androgenic meaning anything that generates masculanizing effects, such as deepening of the voice, increased oiliness of the skin, body and facial hair, etc. Prohormones are a naturally occurring form of AAS that, once ingested, convert via metabolic precursors into active anabolic compounds, also called target hormones. This process requires enzymes found naturally within the body; prohormones require these enzymes to work, and these enzymes are limited in the amount of hormone they can convert within any given period. This conversion process which takes place in the body is what differentiates prohormones from steroids, and allows the former to remain legal—though whether they will remain so is at this very moment the topic of a congressional bill. The downside of this conversion process is that the enzymes required to execute this sequence become saturated at a certain point, necessarily limiting the amount of active hormone that can effectively be used in any given period of time (i.e. 24 hours). Because of this dose ceiling, one cannot endlessly increase prohormone doses for enhanced results. There is a limit to how much can be used effectively. Note: This is not true with 1-Testosterone, which is technically a steroid; it does not require conversion, and is thus not limited by a conversion enzymes.
Once converted into active hormones, prohormones interact with what are called androgen receptors. Located throughout the body, it is the stimulation of androgen receptors that triggers the anabolic cascade that is responsible for the size and strength gains associated with AAS. Prohormones indirectly stimulate muscle and strength gains in other ways as well, such as ADD. Prohormones drastically accelerate the accumulation of strength and lean mass. Furthermore, all AAS are unique in that they significantly alter the manner in which the body utilizes ingested calories, diverting far more of the incoming energy to the addition of lean tissue and away from adipose tissue. AAS are generally lipolytic as well, meaning that they enhance the rate at which fat is used for energy. These positive effects on nutrient partitioning increase—often considerably—the amount of calories a user can “get away with” before seeing accumulations in fat mass.
Prohormones are not only useful in one’s quest for mass, so too can they be highly effective in one’s attempts at becoming leaner. As androgens enhance the partitioning of nutrients toward lean mass, they necessarily reduce the threat of catabolism (muscle wasting) during periods of calorie restriction. Because of this, dieters can “get away with” a far more drastic calorie restriction than would be possible without AAS. We’ll touch upon this more in greater detail later on. Suffice it to say that prohormones are not merely useful for mass gain, but equally potent for retaining—and sometimes gaining—muscle while dieting.
Prohormones can be used safely, and effectively, so long as one is well educated and proper precautions are taken. As is the case with illegal steroids, prohormones are not without side effects. Because AAS alter male and female hormone levels, they stand to potentially induce side-effects. Typical side effects include, but are not limited to: testicular atrophy (shrinkage), temporary shutdown of natural testosterone production, increase or loss of libido, acne, hair loss, liver stress, swelling of the prostate, increases in cholesterol levels, and gynecomastia (development of breast tissue). These side affects vary greatly from individual to individual, and compound to compound. Certain individuals may be more susceptible to certain side effects than others. For instance, those who experienced bad acne while a teenager are at greater risk for a flare up on-cycle. Along the same lines, those who think themselves disposed to Male Pattern Baldness (MPB) may very well find that the use of androgens accelerates their loss of hair.
Who Should Take Prohormones, and Who Should Not
Prohormones are powerful compounds that manipulate hormone levels to achieve effect. These are serious substances, and should only be used by individuals above the age of 21. Those under the age of 21 potentially put themselves at risk of permanently stunting their growth, as AAS use can cause the premature closure of growth plates. Furthermore, the use of these compounds at a young age can seriously affect the endocrine system, resulting in long-term health problems.
Those wishing to increase strength, add muscle mass, decrease bodyfat, or a combination of the above can use prohormones in pursuit of these goals. Prohormones should not be used by those individuals who have less than one year of training experience under their belt, as said trainee’s natural growth potential is far from exhausted. Furthermore, said trainee will not have the training and dietary experience to capitalize on the use of AAS.
Other people who should avoid prohormones include: individuals with prostate problems, individuals with heart, liver, or kidney conditions, those who already suffer from gynecomastia, and/or those who or susceptible to male pattern baldness. As with all supplements, it is always wise to seek the advice of a physician before initiating use.
There are a number of delivery methods available to prohormone users. Oral delivery, liquid delivery, topical delivery, sublingual (under the tongue) delivery, intranasal application, and direct injection are some of the more common delivery systems. Though each approach has its merit, oral, liquid and transdermal are by far the most commonly used methods, and those that we will discuss today. There is much debate, among users and prohormone manufacturers alike, as to what delivery method is “best.” The bottom line is that there are benefits and drawbacks to each.
The greatest benefit of oral capsules lies in their convenience—the user simply swallows them. No mess, no gels, no needles. Oral capsules should be taken with food; dosings should be dispersed into three 8-hour intervals per day.
Oral delivery’s chief drawback is that the majority of prohormones have poor bioavailability when administered in this fashion (1, 4 Andro being the exception). When swallowed, much of the active compound is broken down during hepatic (first pass) metabolism in the stomach lining, and by the liver, before it can positively affect blood levels. This means that significantly higher amounts of the active compound must be administered to see results. This can often become quite costly. Oral capsules also cause rapid blood level spikes, both high and low, which is generally not optimal for sustaining a favorable anabolic milieu.
Another common delivery option is liposomal, which requires that a liquid be administered and briefly suspended between the gums and lower lip. Liposomal delivery is less convenient than oral capsules, but easier to use than transdermal gels. On the plus side, because of the chemistry behind their structure, liposomal liquids disperse slowly and steadily, thus providing a substantial benefit over oral capsules. Administration is thus generally required twice daily. User feedback certainly validates the efficacy of this delivery method, though whether it surpasses transdermal technology in efficacy is unclear.
The third administration method we’ll touch on is transdermal, in which the active hormone(s) are suspended in a gel that carries them through the skin, and into the bloodstream. Generally, of the three methods outlined here, topical delivery allows the highest amount of hormones to actually enter the bloodstream where we want them. Furthermore, when topically applied, hormone blood level concentrations will remain steadily elevated for approximately 12 hours, requiring that they only be applied twice daily. After application, one should avoid heavy sweating, swimming, or showering for at least one hour. It is also beneficial, before applying the gel, to lightly scrub the intended area with a louffa to ensure optimal absorption.
The biggest disadvantage with transdermal carriers lies in their inconvenience. Applying the gels can be a hassle and can often cause skin irritation. Furthermore, applied areas cannot come into contact with children or females, as the inadvertent transmission of AAS could have potentially harmful consequences for those exposed to them.
Cycles, and Cycle Lengths
Prohormones alter the body’s endocrine profile; this is how they achieve effect. However as with all things, this is not without a price. When the male body senses an overabundance of androgens as occurs when on-cycle, it sees no need to continue its own production. This is because the body is always in search of balance. When met with supraphysiological amounts of exogenous hormones, the body will try to compensate for this imbalance by slowing down, and eventually shutting off, its own production of similar hormones. When on a cycle of AAS, this results in the body’s suppression of its own testosterone production via what’s called a negative feedback loop in the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Testicular axis (HPTA).
Doesn’t sound good, you might be thinking. Well, this effect is temporary, and can quickly be reversed so long as one has not been “shutdown” for too long (continuous use of AAS makes recovery of natural testosterone production difficult). We will discuss later how best to initiate and support this reversal quickly and safely. It is important to note, however, that there is no way to prevent this suppression of natural testosterone production from occurring; it is a natural consequence of introducing supraphysiological levels of androgens into the body, and an inevitable byproduct of extended prohormone use.
Because of this, athletes must “cycle” AAS use to avoid any long-term health complications. Cycling is best way to minimize the potential that this temporary suppression will result in long-term problems with natural testosterone production. A cycle generally runs anywhere from 2-8weeks. Generally, after 3-4 weeks on prohormones, natural testosterone production will be essentially shutdown. Other side effects such as hair loss become a much greater risk with longer cycles, and make a length of 4 weeks a good median for those looking to explore prohormones. Anecdotal feedback indicates that gains significantly slow after the 4-week mark, further supporting the prudence of a 4 week cycle.
For those who wish to evaluate their reaction to a compound(s), a 2-week cycle might be the safer option. Depending on the dosage, a 2-week cycle will not appreciably affect natural testosterone production, making recovery an easier task.
Many also opt to “stack” two or more compounds in hopes of accelerating gains, and in some cases reduce or neutralize side effects. We will soon explore the more common prohormone stacks available, and the benefits and drawbacks to each, while also outlining optimal dose ranges.
Dose Ranges and Example Cycles
The optimal pairing of prohormones depends largely on the characteristics of each compound involved. When we discuss each of the most prevalent prohormones available, I will touch on how each is generally categorized. But for now, it is important to realize that the response to certain prohormones varies tremendously from individual to individual. While one user may experience excellent results from 1AD alone, another might suffer from terrible lethargy and/or oily skin. Some will see great gains on 4AD, while others will be at high risk of gynecomastia. Because of this, it is good to begin at low dosages and closely monitor how you are reacting—physically, mentally, and even emotionally—to these substances. Finding what works for you here is no different than it is with training style—we all respond a little differently, and you may need to experiment a little to see what works best for you. Always remember: when introducing a compound into your body that you have never previously used, you should always begin with a low dose and build upon that amount as you see fit.
It is also important when choosing a prohormone to understand a little about estrogen, as some of these compounds do convert to estrogen (a process called aromatization). Estrogen, in small amounts, can be extremely anabolic due largely to its effects on cell hydration as well as its positive impact on CNS stimulation, which in turn facilitates strength increases. Estrogen may also affect IGF-1, and can aid in maintaining—and in some cases enhancing—libido. For these reasons, aromatizing compounds are generally regarded as essential components of all mass-building stacks. We will cover what prohormones convert to estrogen a little later on. Also of importance, we must be clear that when estrogen exceeds typical levels, it can exacerbate water retention, increase body fat levels, and cause the development of female breast tissue (gynecomastia). Thus, adding just the right amount of estrogen, but not too much, is essential.
With that out of the way, let’s now turn to the various prohormones themselves, how they differ from each other, and how they are most commonly paired together.
The most consistently successful PH pairings are as follows:
1AD or 1-test coupled with 4AD
1AD or 1-test coupled with 1, 4 Andro
19-Nordiol coupled with 4AD
19-Nordiol coupled with 1, 4 Andro
4AD coupled with 1, 4 Andro
Let us now briefly discuss typical dosage ranges for each, as well as how one might arrange dosages for each stack outlined above.
Optimal dose ranges are different for the different routes of administration and for the different hormones taken. Here is a basic outline for each prohormone along with typically effective dose ranges. For your first cycle, I recommend sticking to a lighter dosing schedule for 2-4 weeks. Note: This is a general guideline. These recommendations have emerged from the feedback of users. The author does not assume responsibility for any side effects experienced should one follow these general guidelines. As always, follow the recommendations laid forth by the manufacturer.
1-Testosterone is very unique. Because it is an active compound itself, and requires no conversion by enzymes in the body to achieve effect, it is a genuine (and still legal) steroid. It is fairly androgenic, but is also an excellent mass builder as well. 1-test does not convert to estrogen, and is considered excellent for those seeking lean gains. It is undoubtedly the most potent legal AAS available. The most commonly reported side effects are lethargy and loss of libido. To combat this, many stack 1-test with 4AD, which is quite effective in neutralizing these unwanted sides. Also frequently reported are acne and hair loss (if susceptible).
Typical Dosage Ranges:
Oral: 75-300mgs per day, taken in three evenly dispersed intervals.
Liposomal: 75-200mgs per day, taken approximately twelve hours apart.
Transdermal: 150-400mgs per day, taken approximately twelve hours apart.
1AD (1-androstene-3beta, 17beta-diol)
1AD is the precursor to 1-testosterone, meaning that it converts to 1-testosterone upon ingestion. 1AD is almost exclusively used in oral form. 1AD carries with it all of the characteristics of 1-test; its effects on the body are virtually identical. For all intensive purposes, these two compounds can be used interchangeably.
Typical Dosage Ranges:
Oral: 300-900mgs per day, taken in three evenly dispersed intervals.
4AD is a precursor to testosterone, which makes it an excellent choice for pairing with 1AD or 1-test. This is because, as we’ve touched upon, testosterone converts to estrogen (a process called aromatization). In small amounts, estrogen can be extremely anabolic due to its effects on cell hydration, joint lubrication, CNS function and the like. Furthermore, many find that 4AD is an excellent compound for neutralizing the lethargy and libido-killing effects some experience with 1-test/1AD. In fact, most find that 4AD use significantly elevates their sex drive and energy levels beyond what is typical.
Typical Dosage Ranges:
Oral: 300-1500mg daily, taken in three evenly dispersed intervals.
Liposomal: 350-750mgs per day, taken in two or three evenly dispersed intervals.
Transdermal: 300-600mg, taken approximately twelve hours apart.
Nordiol is the best choice for those who wish to increase muscle growth and strength while accelerating fat loss, yet wish to minimize the androgenic side effects associated with AAS. Nordiol is typically considered the “gentlest” of the prohormones, making it an ideal candidate for anyone wanting to broach prohormones with caution. Because of its low androgenic activity, Nordiol is also the ideal option for individuals who fear they may be candidates for hair loss. It should be noted that though it does not directly convert to estrogen, Nordiol still does so indirectly, and can cause gynecomastia in those who are susceptible. Amongst users, Nordiol has also earned a reputation for both taking a relatively long time to “kick in,” as well as being heavily suppressive of natural testosterone; for this reason, 4-6 week cycles are advised. Lastly, many report that Nordiol has a strong effect on reducing libido.
Typical Dosage Ranges:
Oral: 600-1500mg daily, taken in three evenly dispersed intervals.
Liposomal: 350-750mgs per day, taken in two or three evenly dispersed intervals.
Transdermal: 300-700mg, taken approximately twelve hours apart
Nordiol is commonly stacked with 4ad for mass, or 1,4andro for purposes of leaning out.
1,4andro (1, 4-androstadiene-3, 17-Dione)
1, 4 Andro is an ideal option for those wishing to accumulate mass without the degree of water retention often seen with 4AD. It is highly anabolic with some androgenic properties, yet possesses a small conversion rate to estrogen as well. This estrogen is slight enough to ensure one remains relatively bloat-free during the cycle, yet is still receiving some of the benefits associated with estrogenic conversion. 1, 4 Andro has also earned a reputation amongst users for stimulating appetite, though the degree to which this is a strict result of the 1, 4 Andro is unclear. Users also report that, unlike 4AD for instance which is known to yield results quite quickly, 1, 4 Andro’s effects take longer (2-3 weeks) to make themselves known. It is also the most orally active PH available, and is generally not recommended for use in transdermal solutions.
Typical Dosage Ranges:
Oral: 300-600mg daily, taken in two or three evenly dispersed intervals.
Liposomal: 175-500mgs per day, taken in two or three evenly dispersed intervals.
Transdermal: Not recommended.
You can certainly combine these compounds to produce one of the stacks outlined earlier. Should you choose to do so, begin with the lower end of the dosing spectrum for each compound. Evaluate progress—if you are not seeing the gains you had hoped for, increase how much you are using. If you are experiencing unwanted side effects, either reduce the dose or cease use. Generally, 1-test/1AD coupled with 4AD is the preferred stack, and is well regarded as the best mass option to increase overall size and strength. Conversely, 1-test/1AD and 1, 4 Andro is considered an excellent pairing for those wishing primarily to reduce bodyfat levels while retaining strength and lean body mass. The other stacks mentioned above are also excellent, and should be chosen depending upon your goals or susceptibility to side effects. Reading about each should give you a sense of what best suits you, your goals, and your physiology. Lastly, it is important to note that there is no need—at all—to stack more than one compound. Excellent results can be had with the use of one prohormone alone.
Post Cycle Recovery
As we touched upon earlier, prohormones do have a powerful effect on our endocrine system. Use of AAS for periods in excess of two weeks will result in the suppression of natural testosterone levels via a negative feedback loop in the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Testicular axis (HPTA). As we established previously, there is no way to prevent this from occurring—it is a natural consequence of introducing supraphysiological levels of androgens into the body. This is of no concern on-cycle, when you are supplying the body with constant external supply of hormone. However, this does become an issue when you wish to terminate your cycle. When you stop supplying the body with that steady stream of hormone, there is a transition period (lasting weeks) during which your body has to work to reinitiate the production of testosterone it earlier stopped to once more reestablish balance. Decreased testosterone levels significantly reduce your training tolerance (thereby increasing the likelihood of overtraining), as well reduce your body’s ability to retain muscle mass. We must then do everything we can to resuscitate natural testosterone as swiftly as possible. But how do we do this?
Estrogen is a primary post-cycle concern, and has to be addressed as such. Elevated estrogen levels will suppress testosterone production. When you come off cycle, your natural testosterone levels are extremely low, though your estrogen levels are high comparatively. Because of this, you must reduce estrogen production in order to reinitiate testosterone production. This is all rather confusing, and far more complex than how it is presented here. Suffice it to say that you must, must use an anti-estrogen post-cycle to ensure that natural testosterone levels are restored. Ignoring this crucial step places you at great risk. It places you at risk of losing the gains you made during your cycle, gaining fat, experiencing a failure of the testes to resume their original size (if atrophy occurred), suffering from losses of energy, etc.
Though there are a number of post-cycle products on the market today, it is my firm belief based on the feedback I’ve seen, as well as research into the science behind those products, that there is one over-the-counter anti-estrogen that stands alone in terms of efficacy. Note: Prescription anti-estrogens such as Clomid and Nolvadex are beyond the scope of this article, and will not be addressed. The anti-estrogen of choice—indeed the only one I recommend at this time—is Ergopharm’s 6-OXO (3, 6, 17-androstenetrione). Usage of this compound for post-cycle recovery purposes should begin the day after your final day on a cycle of prohormones. Dosing recommendations are as follows, assuming a 4 week cycle:
Week 1: 600mgs per day, either taken all in the evening, or split into two doses—one in the morning and one in the evening.
Week 2: 400mgs per day, taken all in the evening.
Week 3: 400mgs per day, taken all in the evening
Week 4: 300mgs per day, taken all in the evening (Optional for a shorter cycle, necessary for those that are 4 weeks or longer. Cycles of 6 weeks or longer should be followed with 5 weeks of 6-OXO, with the dosage for Week 4 being repeated for an additional week.)
A Little More on Side Effects and How to Manage Them
As we’ve discussed, prohormones are powerful compounds with the ability to generate unwanted side effects. Typically, these side effects are “tolerable” for most, though occasionally they become so severe as to warrant the discontinuation of a cycle. Fortunately, there are supplemental methods of prevention that you may use to minimize—and often neutralize—these potential distractions. Below, we will briefly touch upon the most common side effects associated with prohormone use, and what you can do to diminish them.
Acne is one of the more typical androgenic side effects. Prescription remedies aside, high doses of Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) are highly effective at reducing oil production in the sebaceous glands (the glands responsible for the skin’s oiliness). It is generally recommended that the user “load” with 5-10 grams of Pantothenic Acid per day for one week, followed by a maintenance intake of 2-3 grams per day until cessation of the cycle. In addition, cleansing the skin with salicylic acid and/or benzoyl peroxide (found in many over the counter acne treatments) is quite helpful for acne prevention.
Hair loss is another androgenic side effect, most typically seen with compounds that possess high conversion rates to the hormone DHT. It is important to note that not all users will experience hair loss; susceptibility is highly contingent on your family history and your predisposition to male pattern baldness. That aside, if you fear that you may be at risk, the best preventative step is to apply topical Spironolactone (2% concentration) to the scalp. *Note* Spironolactone requires a prescription, though many procure it via overseas pharmacies.
In addition, Nizoral shampoo may also help to prevent hair loss, though it is not generally regarded to be as effective as Spironolactone. Lastly, if you have reason to believe yourself at risk for hair loss, 19-Nordiol may be your safest option to evaluate how your body—and hairline—respond to prohormones.
Elevated Blood Pressure
Androgens generally increase blood pressure via a number of pathways. Though this condition may be more severe for some than it will be for others, those concerned may find Hawthorn Berry Extract of aid—300mgs-500mgs should do the trick. Additionally, there is CoQ10. CoQ10 is a fat-soluble nutrient found throughout the body, and is a vital player in the production of ATP. Exogenous CoQ10 may help to stabilize blood pressure due to its positive effects on the heart’s pumping ability, to name but one of its benefits. Typically, 30mgs 2-3 times per day are required to elicit a response.
Prostate issues can sometimes arise from use of AAS, and are most likely the result of elevated DHT levels. Typically, AAS-related prostate issues manifest as inflammation and or enlargement of the prostate, which can cause general discomfort and pain in the area. If during your cycle you begin to experience difficulty urinating, problems controlling urine flow (dribbling), or begin to have trouble getting and/or maintaining an erection, the problem is most likely linked to your prostate.
The most common over-the-counter option for preventing or reversing this side effect is Saw Palmetto Extract, which can be easily found at most supplement and natural food stores. Doses are generally divided into 160mg servings, to be taken two to three times per day during the duration of your cycle. Flax Seed Oil is believed to be of aid as well, though the degree to which it’s beneficial is unclear.
As we mentioned earlier, it is the liver which breaks prohormones down, and which provides the enzymes necessary to convert them from their dormant parent compound to their active offspring. As a result of the prohormone conversion process, it is quite common for users to have elevated levels of liver enzymes circulating in their blood stream (this is theoretically more of a risk with oral capsules). Most foreign compounds of this nature are taxing on the liver, so it is important to clarify that AAS in general, and not just prohormones, can cause liver stress. In addition, the degree to which prohormones are going to stress the liver is generally low, though the new methylated compounds pose a greater risk in this regard.
Three over-the-counter preventative options are available for those concerned about liver stress. The first is N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC). NAC converts to a detoxification agent called Glutathione, which is effective in breaking down harmful compounds and detoxifying heavy metals, reducing potential liver strain. NAC is generally taken in 500mg-600mg doses 1-2 times per day. ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid) is an anti-oxidant that may also be of aid, and should be taken in dosages of 200mgs 2-3 times per day. Lastly, Milk Thistle is well known to support healthy liver function, and can be taken in 150-175mg doses 2-3 times per day. Milk Thistle should be reserved for use post-cycle, while NAC and ALA should be used in conjunction with AAS.
Some prohormones are known to cause lethargy for a variety of reasons. 1AD/1-Test is the compound with which this is most commonly reported, and there are a number of ways that we can combat this debilitating side effect. The most popular method for neutralizing this “1-Test lethargy” is to stack the compound with 4AD, which helps to not only elevate energy levels, but libido as well. Additionally, the popular Ephedra/Caffeine stack can also be used to improve energy levels on-cycle. It should be noted however that Ephedra/Caffeine stacks elevate blood pressure, as do prohormones; if using both in tandem, you should be sure to regularly monitor blood pressure levels. Those with a history of blood pressure issues should avoid this pairing.
As we touched upon earlier, certain prohormones—especially those which convert to estrogen—place the user at risk for developing gynecomastia, or female-like breast tissue (more commonly referred to as “gyno”). If left untreated, gynecomastia is a permanent condition, reversible only through surgery. Typically, gynecomastia initially manifests in the form of itchy, tender, and/or swollen nipples. Like most side effects, individual susceptibility varies, and can often not be gauged until you have begun your cycle. Fortunately if caught early on, what would eventually become full-blown gynecomastia can in most cases be reversed.
There are a number of prescription drugs that can help with gynecomastia, most notably Nolvadex. We will keep our discussion to over-the-counter solutions, however, in keeping with the design of this article. Before we continue, it is important to note that you have two options should symptoms of gynecomastia arise. You can either (1) discontinue your prohormone cycle and immediately begin anti-estrogen use, or; (2) opt to continue your cycle while concurrently using an anti-estrogen to neutralize the unwanted estrogenic effects.
Regardless of which option you chose, there are few over-the-counter anti-estrogens to chose from when faced with the symptoms of gynecomastia. A number of supplement companies market a specific anti-estrogen called 4-hydroxyandrostenedione (also called 4-hydroxy-andostenedione or 4-hydroxyandrostene-317-dione), otherwise known as “Formestane.” This is widely believed to be the ideal supplement for combating gyno-related issues. Advertised as Aromazap, Formasin, and Formastat, to name a few, 4-hydroxyandrostenedione is widely available in oral form.
Provided you decide to continue your cycle once symptoms arise, Formestane should be added at an oral dose of 150-250mgs per day (administered in one daily serving) to reverse estrogenic side effects. Continue use of 4-hydroxyandrostenedione until the cycle concludes, at which point you should initiate standard post-cycle recovery as outlined above.
Alternatively, should you wish to play it safe and discontinue your cycle, it is still imperative that you use Formestane at 150-250mgs for 2-5 days (depending upon how long you had been using prohormones prior to developing side effects), after which you should use 6-OXO to ensure complete recovery. If your cycle lasts two weeks or less before you discontinue use, you need only use a low dose of 6-OXO after the Formestane. 200mgs of 6-OXO for seven days should suffice to ensure that, on top of neutralizing the potential gynecomastia, you restore natural testosterone to normal levels as well.
Note: Note: This is a general guideline. These recommendations have emerged from the feedback of users. The author does not assume responsibility for any side effects experienced should one follow these general guidelines. As always, follow the recommendations laid forth by the manufacturer
Training Considerations While on Prohormones
AAS enhance recovery and promote training endurance; as a result they allow for the use of significantly higher training volume, frequency, and intensity. The type of muscle contractions stimulated during resistance training upregulate androgen receptors, increasing the rate at which the prohormones can stimulate hypertrophy. And, as the user is supplying the body with supraphysiological levels of AAS, the threat of overtraining-induced reductions in natural testosterone levels is no longer a concern. For these reasons, regardless of the training protocols you typically prefer, a high volume routine should definitely be used on-cycle. One such example would be German Volume Training, in which the trainee performs 10 sets of 10 reps in one exercise for each bodypart by means of a 3-5 day split. I highlight GVT as one of many potential approaches you can use. The important thing to ensure is that you capitalize on your body’s supraphysiological condition. To do so, it is generally recommended that someone on a moderate-high dose of AAS dedicate 6-8 hours in the weight room while on-cycle. This number should be reduced slightly for the trainee opting for the lower end of the dosage spectrum.
Dietary Considerations While on Prohormones
If there is one thing most experienced trainees will tell you, it is that even the best training will do little if performed in the absence of adequate nutrition. Though androgens do skew the role diet plays in muscle growth and/or fat loss, dietary considerations are still imperative if you wish to capitalize during a cycle. Protein intake should hover in the range of 1.5-2grams per pound of bodyweight. Fat and carbohydrate ratios are frankly less important than most make them out to be, and can be arranged to your liking (though, I would generally advocate keeping fat to 20-25% of intake, with carbohydrates supplying the remainder of what is not met with protein).
As mentioned early on in our discussion, because AAS significantly increase protein turnover, as well as the partitioning of incoming nutrients toward muscle and away from fat, they allow for the user to “get away” with far more food than is typical. There are no set formulas, and everyone responds differently. However, many can consume 20-23calories per pound of bodyweight during a bulking cycle and gain little fat. A more moderate guideline, for those looking to gain mass, is to set intake at 500-1000 calories above maintenance and adjust accordingly, depending on how your body responds.
Alternatively, since androgens enhance muscle preservation when dieting, users looking to lean out can decrease calorie intake far more drastically with less concern over muscle wasting. Typical recommendations for a natural trainee wishing to minimize muscle loss advocate that he or she not create a calorie deficit in excess of 500 calories below maintenance. If the natural trainee creates a greater calorie deficit, lean body mass will surely be lost in addition to fat. Androgens however change the rules. On-cycle, calorie deficits of 1000 calories to sometimes even 1500 calories are tolerable, and will not result in appreciable muscle loss while accelerating the rate at which fat is lost. Do note that large calorie deficits increase the importance of emphasizing protein intake.
Training Considerations during the Post-Cycle Period
Just as one should tailor his or her on-cycle training to accommodate the increased work capacity it affords, so too should the post-cycle period by crafted to avoid overtaxing the body while it restores its natural testosterone levels.
During this period, training volume should be reduced significantly. This is a time of recuperation. Natural testosterone levels are low, cortisol levels are high, and the inverse of what was true on-cycle now holds: recovery time is extended, training tolerance is reduced, etc. Your only goal during this period is to avoid catabolism. Your goal is muscle retention, not growth; your focus is the minimization of strength losses, not strength increases. While most acquired mass can be retained if one is careful, strength losses during the post-cycle period are generally inevitable.
Strength and size losses can be minimized if the trainee 1) focuses on retaining newly gained strength with brief, near-maximal work sets; and 2) does so without the use of overly taxing training methods and/or extremely high volume. Strip sets, supersets, forced reps, etc., should be avoided during the post-cycle period. These are highly stressful techniques, and will induce catabolism. Workouts should be kept to 45 minutes to an hour at most. Adhere to these guidelines for at least two weeks post-cycle, though if your cycle was four weeks or more, three to four weeks with a reduced training volume is a safer approach. Conversely, if your cycle was only two weeks in length, these considerations are not as important, as post-cycle recovery will be relatively swift.
Dietary Considerations during the Post-Cycle Period
During the cycle, metabolism was humming, nutrients were more likely to be directed toward lean tissue, glycogen compensation was above baseline, and lipolysis (fat burning) was enhanced. Now things are different: with suppressed testosterone, elevated cortisol and potentially elevated estrogen levels, your body is not in a good place for holding onto that hard-earned muscle you’ve just acquired. Any dips in calorie consumption or protein intake will likely be much more catabolic than is typical. Your goal then is to minimize this catabolism, with food, as best you can. Because of this, if you want to retain your new mass, it is essential that you keep calories elevated at approximately 500 above maintenance. Hold this calorie surplus for at least two weeks post-cycle, after which you may contemplate a return to maintenance intake. “But I’ll gain fat” you say. Yes, but it’s much easier to diet off that small amount of bodyfat than regain the 10lbs of muscle you gained during your cycle. If you employ the use of two week cycles, you can probably skirt by with keeping calories at 250 above maintenance post-cycle, though whether you decide to risk it or act more conservatively is your decision.
Supplements Both On-Cycle and Off
There are very few supplements you cannot continue to use during a cycle of prohormones. Creatine may be continued, as may protein powders, BCAAs and the like. Fat-loss products revolving around ephedrine and caffeine, or thermogenics in general for that matter can and are used by some in conjunction with prohormones. However, as both prohormones and thermogenics have the potential to elevate blood pressure, the decision to stack the two should not be taken lightly. Were you to use thermogenics with prohormones, it is imperative that you monitor your blood pressure. Post-cycle, creatine may aid with strength-retention. During this time, an ephedrine caffeine stack is also of benefit, as it is known to prevent catabolism—albeit minorly—and will help with energy levels if you find yourself struggling. Flax seed oil and/or fish oil supplementation is beneficial as well.
Well, we have covered the basics behind prohormones. We’ve discussed what they do, touched on how they work, and outlined how they can be used. Following the guidelines laid forth above, prohormones can be safely and effectively used in pursuit of a variety of fitness goals.
Purchasing Muscle Building Nutrition also gets you access to our members only forum, where JustinAL moderates the Pro Hormone section and offers advice to our members, alongside Gurus such as Will Brink, Charles Staley, Bryan Haycock and others.
Llewelyn, William. Anabolics 2002. Patchogue, New York: Molecular Nutrition, 2002.