Revision 1.3 - 6/12/03
Special thanks to Tkarrde & roobear - as requested to be posted @ AM by Kitchen Chemist
Included here are some of the most common questions asked about prohormones. This has been compiled into information based on some scientific studies, but mostly from user feedback after years of success using prohormones. Please keep in mind that this document might have some errors and you will need to do much more reading before you decide whether or not use prohormones.
1. What are prohormones?
Prohormones are synthetically manufactured compounds which convert to anabolic hormones via enzymes in the liver; hormone precursors. They are commonly abbreviated as PHs.
2. What are they used for?
Prohormones are used by athletes looking to increase size, strength, endurance, reduce recovery time or add lean body mass. They are most often used for increasing muscle mass or reducing bodyfat levels. Life extension groups are also increasingly using prohormones as a means of hormone replacement therapy, as an alternative to prescription drug use.
3. Do they have side effects?
Yes. Prohormones can have the same side effects as anabolic steroids, and are dependant upon the user as to which side effects one might experience. Some side effects are acne, hair loss, breast tissue enlargement, and prostate swelling. The potential for these side effects does exist, but it can be reduced if one uses proper precautionary measures (see below). Generally, if a person is genetically predisposed to a side effect it will occur (i.e.: if someone has a history of male pattern baldness in the family, it could be assumed that this could be a side effect experienced if certain prohormones are used)
4. Which prohormones convert to which compounds?
Here is a list
4 androstenediol (4AD or 4diol) converts to testosterone
19 nor-4-androstenediol (Nordiol or nordiol) converts to nortestosterone or nandrolone
1 androstenediol (1AD) converts to 1-testosterone (dihydroboldenone)
1,4 androstenedione and 1,4 androstenediol (1,4andro or Boldione) converts to boldenone and slightly converts to estrogen (the diol version does not convert to estrogen)
5 alpha androstenediol (5AA) converts to DHT
3 beta androstenediol (3 beta) converts to DHT
3 alpha androstenediol (3 alpha) converts to DHT
4 hydroxy androstenedione converts to 4 hydroxy testosterone which is an aromatize inhibitor (blocks formation of estrogen)
7-KETO-DHEA does not convert to any active anabolic compounds
1-testosterone (1-test) is already an active compound and does not need to undergo conversion
Compounds you want to avoid.
5 androstenediol (5AD or 5diol) converts to testosterone at a very low rate and is an estrogen agonist
4 androstenedione (andro) converts to testosterone and estrone (estrogen)
19 nor-4-androstenedione (norandro) converts to nortestosterone and estrogen
DHEA converts to androstenedione and can be converted to all other hormones
Pregnenolone converts to progesterone and can be converted to all other hormones
5. How do prohormones work?
Basically, when they are administered into the system, they are broken down in the liver and converted to their target hormone via certain enzymes. There have been a number of quotes describing how much of the hormone is converted, but there is no definitive answer as to how much of the prohormone is converted into its target active. Once a certain amount is created, the enzymes used for conversion become saturated and no more can be converted. This is true with all the compounds, except for 1-testosterone which really isn’t a prohormone.
6. What do the target hormones do?
Each hormone works in different ways once it is converted, but essentially it attaches to an androgen receptor in the cells of your body. This in turn increases nitrogen retention and protein synthesis, meaning that your body is in a constant anabolic state (assuming you are continuously supplying your body with the hormone). Here is a brief description of each hormone and what it does.
Testosterone is the primary male hormone responsible for development of the sex organs and muscle growth. Testosterone is both anabolic and androgenic—anabolic meaning it causes muscle growth and androgenic meaning that it causes development of secondary sex characteristics. Testosterone converts to both DHT and estrogen in its parent form. Testosterone is often the primary hormone used on a cycle of steroids. It is a mass builder, and will often help with unwanted androgenic side effects of other steroids. Although conversion to estrogen can cause many unwanted side effects on its own, testosterone should generally be the base to any cycle.
Nandrolone is an anabolic hormone, with not as much androgenic potential. It attaches to the androgen receptor with greater affinity than testosterone, but can cause a loss of libido and generally stays active in the system much longer than does testosterone. This is the “safest” choice for users who want to avoid most common side effects.
DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is the primary androgenic hormone in the body. It is responsible for increases in strength, as well as most of the unwanted side effects common with steroids. DHT is converted from testosterone via the 5 alpha reductase enzyme. DHT receptors are high in the scale, skin and prostate; high DTH levels are the most common cause of prostate swelling, acne, and male pattern baldness.
Boldenone is a veterinary hormone, which is commercially sold as Equipoise. Equipoise is known as an alternative to nandrolone when using steroids. It provides an increase in appetite, with some fat burning potential. Boldenone converts to estrogen at about half the rate of testosterone. Those who are looking to avoid some of the stronger androgenic side effects also commonly use it. 1-testosterone is the 5 alpha reduced version of Boldenone.
7. How do I take prohormones?
There are three common routes of administration for prohormones. These are usually based on their efficacy (i.e. how much is absorbed). Since the liver and stomach lining breaks down prohormones rather efficiently, taking them orally is the poorest route of administration. Most users prefer transdermal (topical) administration. When taken this way, you apply it to your skin and it will continue being absorbed over a period of 12 hours or so. Cyclodextrins or sublingual methods are also commonly used, which is where the prohormones are dissolved under the tongue. This also has a high level of absorption and works well. There are also some products on the market which are sold as “intraoral” or “intranasal”. These are meant to be sprayed into the nostril prior to your workout, and are generally only meant as preworkout boosts, not for a cycle of prohormones.
Some manufactures have started selling prohormones in oral form with an ester attached. This, in theory, will allow it to be slowly absorbed for many hours similar to the other methods, but to my knowledge, there have been no studies demonstrating that this method increases bioavailability.
8. What is a cycle? What does stacking mean?
A cycle is generally used to describe a length of time and common dosage when taking prohormones. Stacking means taking more than one prohormone at a time to increase gains or reduce side effects. Common cycle lengths are 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, and 8 weeks. I recommend 4 week cycles, which seem to give the most gains with fewer sides. I would not recommend going beyond 8 weeks.
Common stacks are 4AD and Nordiol, 1AD and 4AD, 1-test and 4AD, etc. You will notice most everything is stacked with 4AD. This is because testosterone gives you a bit more leverage, providing good gains and overall anabolism, with reduced androgenic side effects. Each of the prohormones can be taken alone, or taken together. The choice is yours and should be made from reading this text, and all the user feedback from this board and others. Research, research, research!
9. What is post cycle therapy?
Post cycle therapy is a tried and true method of helping to solidify your gains by raising natural testosterone levels and lowering estrogen levels once your cycle is over. When you add external hormones to your body, your own natural production becomes suppressed. Your body attempts to compensate your endocrine system by stabilizing the other hormones, which results in an increase in estrogen. Once you quit supplying your body with external hormones, your natural testosterone will be low and estrogen will be high. Therefore, anti-estrogens are taken to halt the manufacture of estrogen in the body. This will result in higher testosterone levels, hence making it easier to keep your gains. Post cycle therapy should begin the next day after the prohormones have stopped being taken. Common post cycle therapy drugs are listed below with dosages:
6oxo is an aromatize inhibitor sold by Ergopharm. It is the best over the counter anti-estrogen available for post cycle use.
Week 1 – 600mg daily in two divided doses, morning and night
Week 2-3 – 400mg daily
Week 4 – 300mg daily
Note: 4 hydroxy androstenedione acts as a weak androgen and can cause further suppression of natural testosterone, but can be used post cycle.
Dosages should be 250mg a day for the first two weeks, followed by anywhere from 50-250mg a day for the next two.
Clomid is a prescription fertility drug, but is highly available and highly effective at blocking estrogen and increasing LH output.
Day 1 – 300mg
Day 2-11 100mg
Day 11-21 50mg
150mg daily for 2 weeks
100mg daily for 2 weeks
Nolvadex is also a prescription, which is highly available and blocks estrogen at the receptor.
Week 1-2 – 40mg daily
Week 2-4 – 20mg daily
There are other prescription anti-estrogens available, but these two will be fine unless side effects arise, so we won’t discuss the other options in this FAQ.
Other common post cycle favorites including high doses of flax oil, ZMA, tribulus and an ECA stack coupled with reduced training volume and increased calories (500 or so above maintenance). But, it is very important to use an anti-estrogen for post cycle. I would never recommend not using one unless the cycle length is 2 weeks or less.
10. What dosages should I use?
Dosages are different for the different routes of administration and for the different hormones taken. Here is a basic outline of each prohormone along with general cycles used, based on user feedback. For your first cycle, I recommend sticking to a lighter dosing schedule for 2-4 weeks. Note: This is a general guideline. Dosages for any cycle can be higher or lower, and some products may incorporate one or more of these compounds so that the below amount might not be able to be achieved. This is just a basic outline and is far from completely accurate.
1AD is by far the most popular prohormone. It is considered to be the most effective taken orally, and has resounding user feedback. It is best stacked with 4AD to reduce side effects, the most common of which include lethargy and reduced libido. 1AD should not be used transdermally, and could be used sublingually, although there are few products with this delivery system used. 1AD is commonly stacked with 4AD and shouldn’t be stacked with nordiol, or the DHT precursors.
4-6 week cycles are best taken at anywhere from 300-900mg daily. Take in divided doses throughout the day to keep blood levels elevated.
4AD is the next best. It is almost always used with other hormones due also to its resounding user feedback and adding large amounts of mass from increases in testosterone and estrogen. 4AD can be taken orally, transdermally, or sublingually.
2-6 week cycles are generally used. 4AD can be stacked with just about anything.
300-1500mg daily. Oral is probably the worst way to take this, but if you are simply looking to reduce sides of 1AD, etc – it works. Take in divided doses to ensure elevated blood levels.
400-600mg daily with two applications in morning at night.
Probably 15-50mg at a time, 3 times or more daily in divided doses.
Nordiol is the best prohormone for use by people who want to avoid the common androgenic sides associated with the other hormones. Can be taken orally, transdermally or sublingually. 2-4 week cycles recommended. Heavily suppressive, despite what literature says. Nordiol is commonly stacked with 4ad for mass, or 1,4andro for cutting or users wanting reduced sides effects.
500-800mg daily in divided doses
500-800mg daily in split doses morning and night
15-50mg in divided doses
1,4andro is renowned for causing appetite stimulation. It’s low in estrogenic sides and good for cutting or bulking. Some people claim that transdermal administration works well, but the feedback I’ve seen has been poor. Oral seems to be the route of administration, and the dione version appears to work better than the diol. 1,4andro can be stacked with just about anything. Taking 1,4andro for less than 4 weeks is generally a waste because it takes quite a while for the effects to kick in.
300-600mg daily in divided doses.
1-test is the active form of 1AD and is best taken transdermally or sublingually, although oral products suspended in oil with an ether attached also have very good feedback. 1-test is best stacked with 4AD for mass or 1,4andro for cutting.
150-300mg when taken in ethergel product in divided doses
200-500mg daily or more in split doses
5AA/3 beta/3 alpha
These all convert to DHT at different rates and have slightly different properties. I’m a little hazy on all of them, except that 5 alpha can compete with estrogen for receptor activity when converted to DHT. Some people have used 5AA in an oral product as a preworkout boost, while others have used 3 alpha for a “hardening” agent.
Thanks to roobear for the below info on DHT precursors
3-alpha/beta will illicit exactly the same anabolic/androgenic responses, differing only in their conversion rates - 3-alpha 43% / 3-beta 9% respectively. The bioavailability of 3-alpha/beta is purported to be relatively low (by Bill himself) and thus would serve well to be administered transdermally. These compounds are best used in conjunction with other compounds, preferably of an anabolic nature (ie Nordiol, 1,4 Andro and 4-AD) - inducing drastic increases in strength, vascularity and muscle hardness.
100-300mg (lower dosage being more of a "stacking" quantity)
50-150mg (lower dosage being more of a "stacking" quantity)
Outdated - use 3-alpha
200-500mg(lower dosage being more of a "stacking" quantity)
This is slightly out of the scope of this FAQ, but is generally used for cutting. This has been shown to increase thyroid output and lower cortisol levels, without converting to target hormones. Used for cutting stacked with other thermogenic compounds for 4-6 weeks.
200mg in two divided doses
11. Are prohormones legal?
Yes, currently they are legal in the US and some other countries. Please visit www.usfa.biz and write your politicians to ensure they stay that way. Prohormones are not tested for in job drug tests, but they are probably banned and can potentially show up on a drug test for athletics. Check your local laws for specific information.
12. Who should use prohormones?
Mature adults above the age of 21 looking for increases in lean muscle mass or decreases in bodyfat levels. Most veterans will advise using prohormones after several years of training, to ensure you have a good feel for proper diet, nutrition and supplementation. Using prohormones under the age of 18 is a very bad idea; it can result in the closure of growth plates, thus resulting in permanently stunted growth; it can also result in potentially serious endocrine system problems. Those with potential for or already enlarged prostate or those susceptible to male pattern baldness should not use prohormones; nor should prohormones be used by people with heart conditions, who currently have gynocomastia, or have liver or kidney problems. If you have any doubts, see a doctor before using these compounds.
13. Can I take prohormones along with steroids?
This is a hotly debated subject. Yes, you can – but why? If you have access to steroids, why would you bother with prohormones? Anabolic steroids are already hormones in their current form and require no conversion – hence, they are more powerful, albeit illegal.
The only compound I would say that you could take with any other steroid would be
1-testosterone, which would be an equivalent of Primobolan or Equipose. The only other thing I can think of would be taking 4AD with Fina to reduce side effects. There is more information about this on boards like Anabolicminds or Animal’s board.
14. How can I avoid some of the potential side effects associated with prohormones?
There are certain ancillary compounds available to treat potential side effects of prohormones. Below is a list I compiled which is pretty basic and should help clarify some of the issues of side effects.
The prostate is an organ at the neck of the bladder where it joins the urethra. It is responsible for controlling urination and ejaculation. Common symptoms of prostate problems are frequent or difficult urination, dribbling when urinating, erection difficulty, and pain in that general area. Either a rise in estrogen or DHT levels from increased testosterone, etc., probably causes this. If you have ongoing prostate issues, it’s best not to use prohormones, though potentially the use of nordiol might be acceptable.
Saw Palmetto Extract – Usual dosage is 160mg several times daily
Beta sisterol or plant phytosterols – 300mg several times daily
Flax seed oil – anywhere from 5-20 tblspoons daily
Proscar/Propecia – blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Ineffective with DHT derived hormones (1-test, 1ad, 5aa, etc)
Spironolactone – an anti androgen. Best not used for this, but used topically (more below)
Acne is very common on prohormone cycles, and can range from mild to moderate. It will go away once post cycle treatment concludes, or within a few weeks of cession of the product. The best way to treat acne is with the soaps available at your local grocery store or pharmacy. Just pick up some Neutrogena or whatever and scrub your face twice a day or use the body wash.
Hair loss is caused by increased levels of DHT. Since DHT receptors are heavy on the top of the scalp, some people will notice a lot of shedding or a receding hairline on some cycles. There are various treatments for this; the most common is topical Spironolactone available from Nizoralman or Dr. Lee. The 2% will work as a preventative measure, while the 5% will attempt to help grow some hair back. There are also other methods, such as azelaic acid or Nizoral shampoo, but they are not proven to be effective as spiro is.
If you are concerned you are losing your hair and are currently taking something to help prevent it, prohormones are probably not the best idea. If still interested in using prohormones, Nordiol might be the best option available to you.
Gynocomastia, or development of the breast tissue, is sometimes common among aromatizing (converting to estrogen) prohormones. The first symptoms are puffy and itchy or swollen nipples. If you start to notice this while on a cycle, you need to start taking Nolvadex immediately. Formasin/Aromazap/Formastat might work, but 6oxo is not going to help this in most cases, so Nolvadex should ALWAYS be on hand for this situation. It is highly available, not very expensive, and not illegal to posses, so there is no reason not to have it. Don’t wait and order some when you start to get the first signs of gyno, because Nolvadex needs to be taken as soon as symptoms of gyno appear. Start taking 40mg a day until the symptoms subside, and you may want to continue to take 10mg the rest of your cycle as precaution.
Prohormones have to pass through your liver in order to convert, no matter what the route of administration, so higher levels of liver enzymes in the blood is common during a cycle. Many steroid users take Milk Thistle and ALA at high doses to combat this, and if you are concerned it would be a good idea to take one or both of these to help that. Problems with kidneys have not been an issue to my knowledge, but steroid users will often also take cranberry juice extract to help with that.
Some people report mild or moderate depression, especially post cycle when using 6oxo. This can be cured with prescription drugs such as Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, etc. It can also be fought with herbal supplements such as St Johns Wort, 5-HTP or Sam-E. If you go with the herbal route, St Johns Wort should be 300mg 2-3 times daily, 5-HTP at 100mg several times daily, or 100-200mg of Sam-E once daily. You can combine all three if depression is extreme, otherwise my pick would be St. Johns Wort.
Many users report testicular shrinkage during a cycle. The testes will come back to full size once you start post cycle. If they do not, then it’s recommended you take Clomid and possibly even HCG to help restore them.
Some people report having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep on a cycle. My recommendation is to take 1mg to 3mg of melatonin 30 minutes before bed time. Some other options are Valerian root, GABA, Tylenol PM or Kava Kava (potentially stressful on the liver).
15. What kind of training should I use when using prohormones?
Everyone has their own opinion on this, and you should use whatever works for use. Most people put an emphasis on higher volume while using prohormones, and you can add more isolation sets and workout more frequently due to increased recovery time. But don’t overtrain. Just because you’re using prohormones doesn’t mean you need to train daily or twice daily. Also, doing cardio on prohormones is fine. I recommend 2-3 times weekly of 20 minutes, if at all.
16. How should I eat when on prohormones?
Try and eat 1-2g of protein per pound of body weight. Try and eat 500-1000 calories above maintenance, or more if bulking. Generally, standard nutrition guidelines should be followed. If cutting, try and eat 10-12 calories per pound of bodyweight, while keeping protein high.
17. Should I take any other supplements while using prohormones?
Take whatever you normally take. If you take creatine, it’s fine to continue taking it while using prohormones. Some people prefer to save it for post cycle to help retain some of the water weight. Otherwise, the usual stuff like a multivitamin, a good protein powder and flax seed oil should be standard issue for any athlete.
18. What are some good manufacturers of prohormone products?
My personal picks would be Molecular Nutrition, Ergopharm, Avant Labs, BDC Nutrition, San, Syntrax or 1 fast 400. These are stand up companies that generally pump out quality products.
19. Can I make my own prohormone transdermal/oral/sublingual?
Yes, there are several companies that offer prohormone powders in bulk such as Kilosports, Beyond a Century and 1 fast 400. You can buy powders from them and make your own capsules, cyclodextrins or transdermals easily. Visit Anabolicminds or Avant Labs message boards for a wealth of how-to information.
20. Can I inject prohormones?
This is out of the scope of this FAQ, but yes you can. The results have been mixed, there have been some questions of products purity used in injectables, and there is a question of whether or not using them for this purpose is legal.
21. Is there anything I should know about transdermal delivery?
Transdermals should be applied twelve hours apart. It is a good idea to apply them after showering and to rotate application spots daily. Apply lotion to application spots not in use. This is a good way to avoid a rash from the topical, which is a common side effect reported by users. Some prefer to scrub themselves with a luffa or sponge before applying them to remove the first layer of dead skin cells for optimal delivery. It is also a good idea to wear latex gloves when applying, and wash your hands when you are finished to avoid getting the solution into your eyes or other sensitive areas. Keep in mind that high amounts of sweating or getting the area wet too soon after application will wash it off, so it might have to be reapplied if this occurs.
22. Is there anything I should know about oral/liquid delivery?
There are many products on the market with liquid delivery systems. You will need to drink these, and most of them taste badly. Just try and get them down as quickly as possible, or mix with another flavored liquid to help the taste. Also keep in mind that liquid and oral delivery methods are generally less effective. Even if the product is esterfied, it is still a good idea to take it several times daily in small divided doses to ensure saturated blood levels at all times.
23. Is there anything I should know about sublingual delivery?
Try and let the product dissolve under your tongue and do not eat or drink anything for around 10-20 minutes after you take the product. As with orals, you will need to take it several times daily to maintain blood levels.
24. Which prohormones are best used in a bulking cycle and what kind of gains can I expect?
Most people prefer the combination of 1-test and 4ad. This is a tried and true stack combination and most people seem to gain the best from it. Adding 1,4andro is also common to increase appetite and may help gains. How much one will gain off a cycle depends on your diet and training but gaining 10lbs in 4 weeks is quite common.
25. Which prohormones are best for a cutting cycle?
Most commonly, people will use non-aromatizing hormones such as 1-test or DHT precursors to act as an anti-catabolic and increase hardness. However, low doses of 4ad may help, and adding 1,4andro can also be beneficial.
26. Is it okay to drink alcohol while taking prohormones?
No, it is a really poor idea to drink while doing bodybuilding/weight lifting in general, but taking them while using prohormones is even worse. Taking large amounts of prohormones, especially orally, can cause increased liver stress. When you add alcohol into the equation it is a potential for disaster. If you have to drink, try to do it moderately and take milk thistle and/or ALA to help combat potential problems. Although, it would be best to avoid it completely.
27. Are there any other good documents I can read about prohormones or related topics?
Yes, there are several, but they are slightly dated.
4AD Information and conversion rates by Patrick Arnold
Prohormone breakdown by Big Cat
Post Cycle Therapy
Understanding Post Cycle “T” Recovery by William Llewellyn
Clomid, Nolvadex and Testosterone Stimulation by William Llewellyn
Coming Off a Cycle by Marcus Haidam
If you have any other good links, please let me know and I will add them.
28. Can I overdose on prohormones?
Possibly, if you are taking over a gram to two grams a day orally then it could cause some liver strain or stomach discomfort – it will also probably increase the side effects of the hormone. You should never go over 2 grams daily for prohormones, you will not see anymore gains, the side effects will probably be unbearable and most likely the enzymes will be saturated for them to be effective.
29. I can’t grow! Should I use prohormones?
No. Anyone should be able to grow naturally without the use of prohormones; prohormones merely speed up the process. If you can’t grow naturally, please post your diet, training and supplement routine for review. Most likely, you are making some errors—so please try and correct these basic issues before you resort to using prohormones. They are not magic and will not work without proper diet and training.
30. Can women use prohormones?
Yes, they can – but the doses shouldn’t be as high as using it for men. Using less androgenic hormones like Nordiol or 1,4andro is recommended above the others and no anti-estrogen is needed post cycle. I would recommend using nordiol at 300mg daily or 1,4andro 300mg daily for 2-4 weeks and tapering off the dosages slowly towards the end and possibly using tribulus extract post cycle.
31. When's the best time to take oral prohormones and should I take them with food?
You want to take them in divided doses through the day, the standard is 3 doses 3 times daily. Taking them with food is optional, but if you take them with a high fat meal they can help absorption. Also keep hydrated (you should be doing this anyway) so as to avoid a burning sensation when urinating, as experienced with some prohormones. Most prefer to take them preworkout to give them a little extra boost.
32. Can I be drug tested for prohormones?
Since prohormones convert into active anabolic compounds, it is the concern of some that they will be tested for in a drug test. The answer is almost always no, they will not show up in a drug test. Drug testing for anabolic steroids is very expensive and has to be asked for specifically. So, unless you are on probation for steroid use, or are a professional athlete, you will not be tested for prohormones/steroids. Also, since most prohormones have very short half lives, they will clear out of your system within a matter of days. General drug tests only test for opiates, ampetamines, cocaine and marijuana. However, if you are planning to join the military, or a sports organization that bans the use of these substances, it would be in your best interest to avoid them.