Right off the bat, we’re going to make things clear about what this article is about. This is an article that will take a relatively uninformed trainee – someone who has obviously heard about steroids and may have done some casual reading- and increase their level of knowledge dramatically. It will be a broad overview of the topic of steroids in general. If you’re looking for a an in-depth thesis with multiple references, dedicated to helping advanced users learn more, this isn’t going to be it. We can certainly cover more advanced topics in later articles, but my goal right now is to make sure that we’re all on the same page, or at least in the same book. Having said that, let’s get right down to it.
The Complete Idiots Guide To Anabolic Steroids Part I
What are they and what do they do?
Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids (AAS) is a term used to describe testosterone or a derivative of testosterone that either occurs naturally or is produced in a lab. The “anabolic” part of the name refers to the ability of the hormone to cause muscular growth, while the “androgenic” part refers to the ability of the hormone to cause an increase in secondary sexual characteristics or masculinizing side effects (i.e. deepening of voice, hair growth, etc.). Many people will refer to a particular steroid as being more anabolic than androgenic or vice versa, but let’s keep in mind that they all have both characteristics, as the same receptors mediate both responses.
We also like to talk about lots of different kinds of AAS, but they’re all very similar in one regard. They’re based on the same structure with some modifications added to affect various binding affinities, half-lives, etc. With a small change in chemical structure, we can see a very large change in what the hormone actually does. To illustrate this point, look at this picture and see how very closely related plain androstenedione and estrogen are to the testosterone molecule.
Now if you’re still truly unaware of what they do, we may have to have a little talk about taking some remedial reading classes. Obviously, people use AAS to increase muscle mass and decrease body fat. Of course, if you listen to many within the medical community, you’ll hear that it’s all the placebo effect. You should tell that to the largest meathead you can find and see if roid rage is true too! Okay, okay, we can be serious and get a little more into what AAS actually do on a practical and an academic level here. When used in a supraphysiologic dose, AAS cause a great deal of nitrogen retention, nervous system activation (to the point of insomnia for many users), increased strength, increased recovery, as well as the aforementioned increase in muscle mass and decrease in body fat.
How does all of this happen?
Well, we know some of it, and we just plead ignorance for now about other parts of it. The main actions of AAS seem to be mediated through the androgen receptor. Testosterone molecules either float free in your bloodstream or are bound to sex hormone binding globulin (or testosterone binding globulin). If they’re free, they diffuse across your cell membrane and directly bind to the androgen receptor. If it’s bound, the entire complex enters the cell through a specific receptor mediated mechanism, then binds the androgen receptor. Once the androgen receptor is bound, it is ACTIVATED FULLY. Things aren’t done half-assed by certain molecules and better by others. This is an important concept to remember when we talk about how certain steroids work. Binding affinity is how long each molecule stays bound to the androgen receptor and activates it. This trait varies widely among such otherwise similar molecules. Once bound, the complex travels to the cell nucleus and promotes protein synthesis.
There is also some research that seems to show us that AAS work through mechanisms other than the androgen receptor as well. Proposed mechanisms include reaction with glucocorticoid receptors, differentiation of muscle satellite cells into mature muscle cells, and a host of others that aren’t necessarily as well substantiated as of yet. For this reason, people often do their best to combine steroids that seem to work primarily through the androgen receptor with those who seem to exert their effects primarily through other mechanisms. Is this grounds for a black and white, two class system of categorizing steroids? My honest answer is that I don’t know just yet. From what I’ve seen, there seems to be a continuum of steroids from those that cause nearly all of their action through the androgen receptor and those that seem to act primarily by other mechanisms. The truth is probably that most act through a combination of the two. Time will tell.
Who should use them?
I’m a realist here, folks. I realize that there is probably nothing that I can say that will convince you to either use or not use steroids. In fact, I’m not even going to try. What I can do is give you information and my opinion about who would best benefit from use with minimal long term side effects.
First of all, I don’t think that any teenager should ever touch a steroid. I’m sure you’ve all heard the line about how teenagers are a raging ball of hormones, blah, blah. Sure that’s true, and they have tremendous potential for natural growth with lots of food and hard training, but try telling that to a young kid who wants to get “swole”. So, we can appeal to their vain side. The truth is that AAS can cause a premature closure of the growth plate in long bones in anybody not fully physically mature. Want to take steroids when you’re 15? Hope you like how tall you are now, buddy, cause that’s likely how tall you’re ever gonna be. On a practical note, if you’re using before you have at least five or so years of training under your belt, how can you ever know what you’re capable of naturally? How will you ever learn to fine-tune your diet and training if you’ve always been assisted? Take the time to learn your body and how it responds to various things. Get near that magical natural limit or at least somewhere in the ballpark, THEN assist yourself in getting over that limit.
Again, I realize I’m probably not convincing anybody with their mind made up already, but I can’t say that I didn’t try.
Also, it’s my opinion that you should be fairly lean before you embark on a cycle. Twelve percent bodyfat seems like a good number to start at. If you’re above that, then you need to diet down. Research shows that overfeeding a lower starting bodyfat percentage leads to a greater percentage gain of lean mass than in those who start out with high bodyfat levels. If you’re going to make the effort to do a cycle, then why not get the most you possibly can out of it?
Orals vs. Injectables
Orals are a man’s best friend and we tend to like them from hot blondes. Oh wait, we’re still talking about steroids, aren’t we. Hmmm…Anyway, it’s pretty obvious that orals are the more convenient to take. The same reason that we can take some steroids orally is the reason that we tend to limit their use to short periods of time. The steroid is modified by adding an alkyl group to the 17th position on the steroid molecule. Whenever we ingest something orally and it is absorbed by the GI tract, it must pass through the liver before it gets into the general circulation. This alkylation of the steroid molecule allows the steroid to survive this pass through the liver and enter our general circulation. The unfortunate part of this is that these groups seem to impart some liver toxicity to the steroid. Invariably, after several weeks of oral steroid use, you will see a rise in your liver enzymes. They most often return to normal after the use is discontinued, but whether this is doing any permanent damage or not is still up for debate. Keeping this in mind, do you have to use orals? Absolutely not. Will you grow three heads and will your liver explode if you use orals? Nah, but don’t discount the possibility that long-term use of oral AAS could have the possibility of giving you long-term liver damage. The risk is probably overstated, but I’d rather be safe than sorry when it comes to my body. Bottom line, keep your oral use to a relatively brief time. Six to eight weeks seems to work for most people.
Now onto injectables. I know, you big sissy, that you want no part of sticking a needle in your silky smooth skin. Well, you’re just gonna have to get over that one. If you want to fully take advantage of AAS, you’re going to have to use injectables. In fact, many very good cycles are only injectables. After you get over the initial fear and just do it, you’ll be just fine with it and might even look forward to injecting like some sick puppy. Based on real world feedback, there are a lot of sick puppies out there!
We won’t go over injectable steroids in too much detail as they’re pretty self explanatory. Briefly, you inject intramuscularly (NOT intravenously!) either an oil-based or water-based solution containing the steroid. Water-based are fairly short acting and need to be injected more frequently. Oil-based are generally longer acting (although this doesn’t apply to all) and need to be injected less frequently as the oil tend to slow the absorption of the steroid. Other factors come into play, such as the half-life of the steroid itself, which is the time is takes for half of the steroid to disappear from the bloodstream. The shorter the half-life, the more frequently you have to inject to keep blood levels at a constant level. You would tend to think that injecting more frequently is simply a pain in the ass, no pun intended, and that a once-a-week injection would be preferable. Shorter acting steroids have the advantage of being cleared more rapidly, which is great for those who undergo scheduled drug testing. Some people also claim to “feel” the steroid working more rapidly when using short acting versions.
Since we’re in to being practical with our information and assuming that nobody knows anything about the steroid game, we can go over basic injection technique. If you want a great website that goes over this in even more detail than I will, please visit www.spotinjections.com.
Transfer of the liquid from amp or vial to your syringe will depend on how your prize comes packaged. An amp can be opened by simply grabbing the top part and snapping it off. Some people like to use pre-made amp openers. Some use the cap of a ball point pen. You can use your fingers with a towel if you want. Just don’t cut yourself on the glass. Once you snap off the top, you can just suck out the liquid with your syringe, and you’re ready to go. If you’ve got a sealed vial with a rubber stopper, we have to do things as cleanly as possible, as we’re going to use the same vial repeatedly. The first thing to do is to clean the top of the vial with an alcohol wipe. Simple but effective. Next, we take the vial and turn it upside down with the rubber stopper facing the floor. Take your syringe with the needle on it and before you stick it in the vial, pull back the plunger to the number of cc’s that you want to inject. Now, with the vial still upside down, stick the needle through the rubber stopper. Push the plunger all the way in to inject air into the vial. This creates positive pressure in the vial that will allow the fluid to more easily flow into your syringe. Now, pull back the plunger to whatever amount you need and remove. This probably sounds more complicated than it really is, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. Quickly, clean vial, pull back, stick in, push in, pull back. Once you do it a few times, you won’t even think about it.
Now, you’ve got your vial full of steroid and ready to go. Before we go injecting, a quick hint that will allow you to inject more easily and possibly with a smaller needle. Heat up the syringe for a few minutes using either hot water or a hair dryer. This allows the oil to flow more freely and makes injecting much easier.
The easiest spot to inject is in the buttocks. That’s the ass to all of you pottymouths. To find the right spot, you’ll want to draw a vertical line down the center of your cheek and a horizontal line in the middle also to make four quadrants. It’s the upper outer quadrant that we want to inject into to avoid blood vessels and your sciatic nerve. Believe me, if you hit your sciatic, you’ll never make that mistake again! Conveniently, the right spot to inject is also the easiest to reach if you’re doing your own injections. If your life partner is helping you, that’s fine as well. Now, take an alcohol wipe and clean the areas you want to inject into. There are various injection techniques that you may want to learn at a later time, but we’ll stick with the most basic for now for convenience. Take the loaded syringe and hold it at a 90? angle to the skin. Now just stick it in at that angle. No need to go slow, as you only have a significant number of pain receptors in the skin and not many deeper. Once you’re in all the way, pull back on the plunger for a second or two. If you aspirate blood into the syringe, you’re probably in a vein and need to pull out and try again. If you don’t get anything (actually, you’ll get some air bubbles), you’re good to go. Injecting too quickly is often a source of trauma to the area and unnecessary pain, so take your time. Some people will go as slowly as one cc per minute. I know you want to get the needle out of you as quickly as possible, but it’s worth in the long haul. Once you’re done, just pull it out and hold some pressure with a piece of gauze for a few minutes to make sure the bleeding’s stopped. Put a Band-Aid on (preferably a Sesame Street character) and pull your pants up. Remember that forgetting to pull your pants up is bad form and will result in style points deductions from the French judge.
If you’re doing frequent injections, you’ll want to rotate sites as much as possible to give each site a break. The thigh is another common site that people use and is easily accessed. To find the proper spot to use, you can stand at attention with your arms hanging at your sides and make note of where your middle finger reaches on your leg. This is about midway down your thigh on the outside part of it. Same techniques as before apply.
The shoulder/delt is the final site that we’ll discuss. This is one pretty simple. Aim for the middle; it’s that simple.
The issue of needle size and length is a personal one for the most part. Experience will tell you what you can and should use. For comfort’s sake, you’ll want to use the smallest needle you can pass the steroid through. Needle sizes are measured as the width across the opening of the needle and are represented as gauge (G). The lower the number, the bigger across the needle, and vice versa. So an 18G needle is very big, while a 27G needle is very small. A typical size used for glute injections is a 1.5 inch 22G needle. Leaner guys can use a 1” needle and some people will prefer a higher gauge for comfort. Just don’t go any bigger than 22G as there’s no need, and you’ll end up taking cores of skin everytime you inject. A 1” needle for thigh shots works well, and a 5/8” needle for delt injections seems to work for most. If you’re fat, you should be dieting and not using steroids, but if you do, you will have to use a longer needle to reach the intramuscular space.
Well, we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here, and we still have lots more to cover. Tune in to Part II for a discussion about common steroids and how to use them best, about cycle planning and how to best avoid nasty side effects, and about anything and everything practical I can think of to give you. I realize that this is an article at the most basic level, but as I stated earlier, I want everybody to be on the same page before we delve into deeper issues. Feedback is a plus, and we’ll go wherever you want with this in the future!
The Complete Idiots Guide To Anabolic Steroids Part II
In the first part of this series, we covered what exactly anabolic steroids are and what they do, the differences between orals and injectables, and basic injection techniques. Now you’re probably wondering what exactly to take. If you spend any time at all perusing the various steroid boards on the internet, you can easily be overwhelmed with the sheer number of drugs available. Most people don’t have a clue as to where to even begin when constructing a cycle. This month we’ll cover the most important steroid out there in brief detail but with enough information to help you construct logical, safe cycles for yourself.
Testosterone – this guy seems to need no introduction. He’s the daddy of all anabolic steroids in more ways than one. Other steroids are simply modified versions of the testosterone molecule meant to enhance or change various aspects of the molecule. Here’s what it looks like.
Now you’ll notice that you don’t commonly get just “Testosterone” from any legitimate or underground producer. The reason for this is that the actual molecule of testosterone – when injected unaltered – has a very short half-life and won’t be around long. So how do we solve that problem? We add an ester group to the 17 position of the original molecule. The size of that ester group gives the new molecule a distinct half-life. So, if you’d ever wondered what propionate, enanthate, cypionate, etc. mean, they’re simply added esters with differing lengths, thus giving the new molecule differing half-lives. What they DO NOT CHANGE are the effects of the steroid. Testosterone is testosterone. You’ll hear lots of people, including many veterans of the steroid game, talk about how test cypionate, test propionate, and test enanthate are different than each other. One “gives you more bloat” and another “gives you more lean muscle gains” while another might be “better for cutting.” The fact is that they simply stay in your system for differing amounts of time. Period. Do they have different uses? Of course! We’ll get into that more in a bit, but we need a little background information first. Here is a list of the various added esters and the names associated with each:
There are others and variations of the above, but this will get us through most of the basic discussion.
Now we can take a look at some common ones specifically.
Generally, this is referred to as “prop” and “test prop.” As you can see, the added ester group is quite short at three carbons long. For those who are chemistry-challenged, each end of a straight line that doesn’t have another letter (like the O in the above picture) is a carbon. So what does that mean? Prop has a very short half-life, on the order of 3-4 days. This means that it requires an every-other-day to every-third-day injection protocol to maintain steady blood levels. Some even inject it daily and swear by this frequency, but it’s probably not necessary. Because of the short half-life, this is not a drug that needs to be frontloaded. We’ll talk more about frontloading when we get to the longer chained esters. It should be mentioned that this is an oil-based steroid that is injected in a depot form so that it is released slowly into the bloodstream over a period of time, giving you a steadier level.
A typical dose of prop is 50-100 mg every second or third day, depending on the user’s size and experience. Some big guys may want to go a bit higher. The disadvantage of the higher dose and of test prop in general is the discomfort in injecting. While the frequency is bothersome to some, the actual pain of injecting seems to be the main deterrent for others. Prop has a bad reputation for stinging, painful injections, and many experience a malaise for days after an injection. Having said that, if you can get over the discomfort, prop is a great drug that yields results typical of any testosterone.
With an ester group that is seven carbons long, enanthate has a half-life of approximately 11-15 days. This half-life and the fact that enanthate is oil-based makes it ideal for people who don’t want to inject frequently. Once-a-week injections are preferred with a dosage of 250-1000 mg being common. One of the main differences between a longer acting molecule such as enanthate and a shorter one like prop is the need to frontload. With prop, you get blood levels higher quicker because of the increased frequency of injections required due to the shorter half-life of the drug. You continually supply the body with more, so the level you will ultimately achieve is done so much earlier. Without frontloading enanthate, you take MUCH longer to achieve your optimal blood level.
People frontload in many different ways, but the simplest way to do it is to take double what you plan to take weekly and inject that the first week. So, if you’re going to take 500 mg of enanthate a week, you would simply inject 1000 mg the first week to kickstart your cycle by getting blood levels much higher initially. The lack of frontloading is perhaps part of the misunderstanding of the differences between the different testosterone esters. If you were to compare two individuals who take either test prop or test enanthate without a frontload, you would find that they would have two different experiences. The prop guy would say that his test kicked in very quickly and he saw results from it almost right away. The enanthate guy would say that it took weeks before he ever noticed a thing. So that means that test propionate has a greater kick and takes effect sooner, right? Well, not exactly. Now compare the two guys with the enanthate guy starting off by frontloading. He would dramatically cut down the time between first injection and the seeing of results. I’ll say it again: Testosterone is testosterone. The ester is stripped from the molecule once in the body, only at different rates for different esters. Once that happens, the parent molecule is the exact same thing.
The ester group of cypionate is eight carbons long, although the end of it is a ring structure. As such, its half-life is just a touch longer than enanthate, but the two are often used interchangeably. Dosage and injection frequency are comparable, as is the frontloading protocol for the two. Some people swear up and down that there is a difference between the two, but I don’t buy it. If you use 750mg of similar quality (By that I mean real; we don’t need to be comparing fake drugs.) enanthate or cypionate once per week for 10 weeks, and you’ll see similar results.
There is no picture associated with this one because it’s a blend of four different testosterone esters. There are now many versions of testosterone blends on the market, but the most well-known is Sustanon 250. This contains testosterone propionate, 30 mg; testosterone phenylpropionate, 60 mg; testosterone isocaproate, 60 mg; and testosterone decanoate, 100 mg. The beauty of this mixture is that it includes both long- and short- acting esters, so we get the best of both worlds. Ideally, Sustanon should be injected at a similar frequency to test prop, so as to not lose the full effects of the prop in it. Real world frequency ranges from 1-3 injections per week with a typical total dose of 250-1000 mg per injection. Again, bigger guys, bigger doses. Also, this is another drug with a reputation for painful injections. It works, but it hurts. Suck it up.
Now that I’ve gone and told you that we don’t typically inject plain testosterone, I’ll tell you that some do. Test suspension is a water-based (as opposed to oil-based) UNesterified testosterone molecule. Because you’re injecting the active form of the drug, this is a “hit it hard and hit it now” drug. You will feel suspension right away, and you’ll see results right away. All of the side effects of the various testosterone esters are a bit worse with suspension, because your body has no need to alter the molecule to get to the parent molecule. This means more unaltered test in your system at one time, and this leads to an accentuation of side effects.
Being a water-based rather than oil-based drug means that you can use a smaller needle to inject test suspension. Typically, oil-based drugs will require a 23 gauge (23G) or lower (you can use a smaller needle if you know what you’re doing). A water-based drug-like suspension can be easily pushed through a 27G needle. Sounds good, right? The problem is that the injection itself is painful, regardless of needle size. Suspension is also an every day injection, so those who want to avoid pain will probably want to stay away from suspension.
So why would we ever want to use this awful steroid? Because it works. Guys who use 50-100 mg of suspension per day and don’t mind the pain will get dramatically stronger and bigger if their nutrition is sufficient. Increased aggression, even beyond what esterified molecules deliver, is a hallmark of suspension use. For this reason, it’s very popular with powerlifters and strongmen.
It hurts, but it works. What else is there to say?
This obviously isn’t a comprehensive list of all testosterones available today, but it covers 99% of what you need to know. Underground labs put different esters on their own testosterones and make up different blends. With knowledge of the basics, you can easily figure out the best way to use these if that’s what you so choose to do.
It can’t all be good, can it? Obviously there are side effects from using testosterone, many of which are common to all anabolic steroids. They can be minimized with proper measures (We’ll cover them in a later article; patience, grasshopper!), but not everything can be avoided entirely. This isn’t meant to scare but to inform. If you choose to use, then you choose to risk some side effects. The majority of testosterone’s side effects are from its conversion to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and estrogen. In those tissues that convert test to DHT more efficiently (skin and prostate), we see more of those side effects. A brief list follows:
* Liver Damage – Whether this is transient or not is highly debatable, but you will get a rise in liver enzymes during a cycle; this rise may indicate liver damage.
* Gynecomastia (growth of breast tissue in males) – This is due to aromatization of testosterone to its sister, estrogen.
* Male sexual characteristics in female users – Deepening of voice, clitoral growth, hair growth. If that’s your thing, then okay, but most women will want to avoid these side effects.
* Decrease in testicle size/impotence/infertility – These typically go away when you’re not using but can affect a man’s psyche a great deal.
* Heart disease – Long term abuse has been known to cause the heart to work overtime and lead to premature coronary disease.
* Oily skin/acne/balding – If you’re genetically predisposed to male-pattern baldness or getting acne, the use of testosterone will only speed up the process and make each worse. * Stunted growth in adolescents – Young people can experience premature closure of the growth plates of long bones. You might be big, but I hope you’re not planning on getting any taller, cause it ain’t gonna happen.
* Prostate enlargement – While this is not a risk factor for prostate cancer, a big prostate does impinge on your urethra and can give you nasty urinary problems.
While I hate to end the article on a sobering note by talking about side effects, it’s necessary that everybody who is considering anabolic steroid use be informed of both the good and the bad. Just keep in mind that the bad can be managed somewhat, and we simply haven’t covered that just yet. I hope that if you’re reading this and are considering using that you’ll bear with me through this series and take this all as a whole rather than the sum of its parts. In other words, don’t read the first two parts and go injecting without reading the rest of the series. There are important things still to cover.
With that in mind, I’ll be back next month with another piece of the puzzle!
The Complete Idiots Guide to Anabolic Steroids Part III
In the last installment of this series, we covered the most basic of basics, testosterone. However, calling it that shouldn’t imply in any way that there’s anything ordinary about testosterone. In fact, I think it should be the foundation for probably 95% of all steroid cycles constructed if you want to maximize those cycles. It’s great for adding lean body mass, retaining muscle when on a diet, and athletic purposes. You could run very effective cycles with testosterone alone. Now, having said all of that, there are other steroids and ancillary drugs that should be discussed, as they will further add to your arsenal of knowledge and your ammunition for building a muscular, lean physique or improving your athletic performance. I’ll present each in alphabetical order and in brief detail, giving you practical information about each. If you want to know about the more academic points of information, I’d highly advise you to either visit any number of anabolic steroid forums on the internet or buy a comprehensive review book about the subject.
Anavar is not your drug of choice when trying to build massive amounts of muscle or increase your strength to any significant degree. It’s more of a regular hammer compared to the other sledgehammers that you normally hear about. Anavar is an oral steroid with weak anabolic effects and very low androgenic effects. Gains are gradual and slow but the tradeoff with quicker acting drugs is that you are spared many of the androgenic side effects, namely bloating, of those drugs when using Anavar. Because of the low androgenic effects, this is a steroid preferred by women who want to reduce the risk of virilization when using. Anavar is a 17-alkylated drug, as are most orals, and shares the same potential liver toxicity as others do; therefore, cycles should be limited to the same range as most 17-alkylated drugs, about 4-6 weeks. Liver function tests will no doubt rise while on and drop back down to normal when off. Anavar doesn’t aromatize and isn’t converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Dosages range from 15-150mg a day, although the upper number is the extreme end of the range, and most will stick with 50mg or under per day. Tabs are mostly 2.5mg, but occasionally you will find 5mg tabs to make getting the proper dose easier. This is also an expensive steroid, and other than for women, it probably doesn’t have much of a place in your arsenal if you’re looking for big gains. However, if you have the money and are looking for small but steady increases in muscle mass and/or want to be on something that perpetuates less of a bloat while cutting, Anavar may be a drug you can benefit from.
Deca-Durabolin (Nandrolone Decanoate)
Deca-Durabolin is one of the more famous, or infamous (however you view it) steroids in the world. Its popularity surged in the 80’s and 90’s as it has very few nasty side effects when compared with other steroids. However, the one side effect that it does have turns many off to its use. We’ll get to that little surprise in a bit.
Deca is an injectable steroid with a long half-life on the order of a week or so. Because of this, it is more suitable for long cycles and should be frontloaded to get your blood levels up quickly. If you’re going to be drug-tested anytime in the near future, you’ll want to stay away from Deca and its long half-life. So why do people use Deca? Well, first of all it works. Deca binds to the androgen receptors in muscle better than testosterone; however, it exhibits somewhat weaker activity in muscle building when compared to testosterone. This is no doubt due to its lack of non-AR mediated effects. In other words, testosterone exhibits activity through both the anabolic receptor and other mechanisms, while Deca probably derives most of its benefits solely through the anabolic receptor.
What separates Deca from others is what happens to it in the body. Testosterone is reduced to DHT by an enzyme called 5?-reductase, which exhibits more androgenic activity than testosterone. Deca is reduced by that same enzyme to a compound called dihydronandrolone. This is a weaker androgen than Deca and affects your hairline, prostate, and your propensity for steroid-induced acne far less than the metabolites of other steroids. People typically see fewer of those side effects when on a cycle in which Deca is the foundation. Still, Deca can indeed be converted to estrogens by the liver, but it occurs at a much lower rate than testosterone. Gynecomastia is uncommon but possible. This is probably mediated by both the conversion to estrogens and by Deca’s activity as a progestin.
The one side effect that was mentioned earlier but not stated is, unfortunately, the one that keeps people away from this steroid. Known rather unaffectionately as “Deca Dick”, erectile dysfunction is an unfortunate side effect of using Deca only cycles. It happens relatively commonly, but the solution to this is actually very simple. You just have to add testosterone, and the magic begins again. Your dick will love you for it. The typical ratio is using twice as much testosterone as Deca, so if you were using 400mg of Deca, you would simply use 800mg of test. Simple but effective.
Why would you risk playing Mr. Limpy when you can use other steroids? Well, you certainly don’t have to and many people shy away from it, but Deca has its place. Gains are steady, but unspectacular. Having said that, if you ever have joint problems when on, Deca can be a God-send. Talk to one person who’s used it and has had previous joint problems, and you’ll probably find a convert. Deca apparently promotes the production of synovial fluid in our joints, providing nice lubrication that many seem to lack. For that purpose, it’s probably a good drug to use while rehabbing injuries; that is, if you decide to use while recovering.
Typical doses are 200-600mg a week, and this can all be injected at once (with a frontload of twice that dose on the first week) due to the long half-life.
Now we get to a sledgehammer. Dianabol (D-bol) has been increasing people’s muscle mass and strength in huge amounts for many, many years now. Its popularity seems as big as ever these days, despite the fact that it’s one of the older steroids out there. Why mess with a good thing?
Dianabol is a 17-alkylated oral steroid with strong anabolic properties and fairly strong androgenic properties. As such, it produces very good muscle mass and strength increases, and has the potential for numerous and common side effects to occur. The actual mechanism of action for Dianabol is likely to be non-AR mediated, as it is a fairly weak activator of the AR. Stacking it with a steroid that has predominantly or strong AR mediated activity would tend to produce a synergistic effect rather than an additive one and should be the preferred method of use.
Any number of side effects from aromatization to estrogens, conversion to DHT, and the mere fact that it is 17-alkylated, are possible when using Dianabol. This includes worsening of male pattern baldness, acne, gynecomastia, bloating/water retention, elevation of liver enzymes, elevation of blood pressure, increased aggression, etc. Most of this can be avoided by using an aromatase inhibitor and by keeping your cycles short. The elevated liver enzymes and high blood pressure both tend to trend back down to normal after the cycle is terminated.
“D-bol pumps” are known to be both famous and infamous. Granted, they’re pretty cool when working out your chest or arms, but can be excruciating when attempting to deadlift and/or squat due to the intense pump in the lower back region.
Typical doses are 20-50mg per day. The half-life of Dianabol is around 4-6 hours, so the most optimal dosing strategy is to divide up your daily dose into 4 or so smaller doses taken throughout the day. Cycles should be limited to 4-6 weeks to minimize potential liver toxicity.
Equipoise (Boldenone undecylenate)
Equipoise (EQ) is often associated with and compared to Deca in its activity and effects. EQ is an injectable veterinary steroid that exhibits moderately strong anabolic and somewhat weaker androgenic properties. Yes, it’s a drug produced strictly for veterinarians to give to animals, but that hasn’t stopped people from using that version. There is also underground production of EQ by steroid bootleggers for human use.
Much of what can be said of Deca can also be said of EQ. Gains are slow and steady with relatively few side effects. Erectile dysfunction doesn’t seem to be reported like with Deca use, nor does the joint protection seem to carry over to EQ. EQ is generally less expensive than Deca and some seem to think that it works a bit better. If joint problems aren’t an issue with you, you could probably substitute EQ for Deca in any cycle without missing much, and you may actually gain a bit.
The one side effect that seems to be most associated with Equipoise is polycythemia, or an increase in red blood cell production. This actually happens with almost all AAS, but it seems to be more pronounced with EQ. This can cause a rise in blood pressure and can manifest itself as more outward appearing vascularity, which is so coveted by lean bodybuilders. Again, this goes away when you come off your cycle.
Other side effects include increased aggression, acne, and worsening of male pattern baldness. Are we sensing a trend here, people?
A typical dose is about the same as Deca, 200-600mg a week. It can also be injected once a week with a proper frontload, and it can be detected for months, so it’s a no-no for drug-tested individuals.
Finaplix (Trenbolone acetate)
As you can see, most steroids tend to go by their most popular brand name. Trenbolone is one exception. It’s almost universally referred to as tren and is our second sledgehammer on the list. Tren is another veterinary steroid, but it was once made for human use and has been since discontinued. Luckily, that hasn’t stopped its use or production by bootleggers. The only caveat that I’ll mention is that it’s an injectable drug, but it’s produced in pellets that are injected under the skin of cattle, so it must be converted to an oil-based product before it can be used by humans. How to do that is readily available on the internet and can be found with a simple search.
So why am I calling this one a sledgehammer? Well, tren is a strongly androgenic drug (with good binding to the AR) with good anabolic properties that is not reduced by 5?-reductase and does not aromatize. In other words, you are able to enjoy the good effects of the drug without having to worry as much about many of the side effects of others. It is commonly reported that tren is “toxic to the kidneys”, but this seems to be more of an old myth that will not die than fact. There is nothing special about tren that makes it anymore nephrotoxic than any other steroid. There are also reports of erectile dysfunction similar to Deca, but it’s reported to a much lower degree. Use with testosterone should greatly decrease this potential side effect.
Strength gains are simply amazing with tren, and the average user will notice them almost right away. Muscle gains are a bit slower to come, but happen moderately well without excessive bloat. Because of this and its very good androgenic activity, many people use tren when dieting with very good muscle sparing effects. Almost any cycle, including mass/strength or cutting, could benefit by including tren.
The half life of tren is on the order of a day or two, so it’s best used every day (ED) or every other day (EOD), and there is no need for a frontload. A typical dose would be 50-75mg ED or 100-150mg EOD.
Primobolan (Methenolone acetate)
Primobolan (Primo) comes most often in two forms, an injectable called Primobolan Depot and an oral form. The oral form is difficult to find these days, so the following discussion is solely about Primobolan Depot.
Primo has a reputation for being one of the “safer” steroids around. It is mildly anabolic and has very little androgenic activity, making it another good choice for women or for men who are dieting. Another common use for Primo is as a “bridge” between cycles of AAS. It’s used this way because it causes less suppression of the body’s natural testosterone production, so one can still be “on” while trying to recover from a more intensive cycle.
Gains are slow if you’re using it for building lean mass, but it comes without bloat. The muscle you do accumulate using Primo usually isn’t the kind that goes away when you terminate your cycle. Its best use is probably for preserving muscle while dieting, and this is more commonly what it’s used for. Primo is also a good activator of the AR, so it should ideally be stacked with a steroid that has predominantly non-AR mediated effects.
Side effects are minimal to none as Primo does not aromatize and is not reduced to DHT. If anything at all is noticed, it may be slight hair loss in those prone to male pattern baldness and some acne. If doses are kept at a reasonable level, there is little chance of having major side effects from Primo. As with most drugs, sides are dose dependant.
The half-life of Primo is 6-7 days, so most will inject about once a week. A typical dose range is 200-600mg per week. Women typically use 50-100mg per week.
Winstrol (Winny) is another steroid that comes in both an oral and an injectable form, however both are readily available, so we’ll discuss both. The oral form is simply known as Winstrol, while the injectable form is commonly known as Winstrol V.
Winstrol is a 17-alkylated steroid (both oral and injectable versions) that exhibits weak androgenic activity and mild anabolic activity. As with others with these characteristics, muscle accrued using Winstrol is done so without much bloat, but it comes at the price of being rather slow when used alone. Winstrol also does not aromatize, so gynecomastia by that mechanism does not happen.
As stated before, muscle gains when using Winstrol alone are slow to occur, but when stacked with other steroids, it may produce a synergistic effect. This is thought to occur because Winstrol reduces sex hormone binding globulin, a protein that binds free androgens in the blood and keeps them from exerting their effects. When SHBG is reduced, you have more free steroid to act on the appropriate tissues.
Winstrol is a 17-alkylated compound, so liver toxicity is a potential issue with chronic use. Cycles should be limited to 4-6 weeks as with other 17-alkylated steroids. The half-life is hard to pin down for the injectable as Winstrol is not oil-based. It is simply a crystallized drug suspended in an aqueous solution. After being injected, it dissolves and is absorbed, rather than simply being slowly absorbed as oil-based drugs do. The most common use is everyday, and doses range from 10-25mg per day for the oral form and 25-50mg per day for the injectable.
Well, that about covers the vast majority of what you need to know about the most common and useful steroids other than testosterone (which we covered in Part II). In the next part of the series, we’ll go over a couple more that have more specific uses, and we’ll cover all the ancillary drugs needed to keep side effects to a minimum. There’s no need to have big muscles and big breasts at the same time! I highly encourage you to go find more sources and read, read, read. By the time we’re done with this series, you’ll know all you need to construct your own effective and safe cycles.