From Mind & Muscle
Prohormone usage in the fitness world has provided people with the able to acquire levels of muscularity and strength previously out of the reach of many. However, there has not been a associated awareness of the necessity to restore a homeostatic environment in the body, while many make progress while using prohormones, users may experience a crash familiar to steroid users who use powerful ergogenic products without the ancillary products needed to protect their gains post cycle. We will cover methods commonly used to restore normal hormonal function with post cycle therapy, or PCT, supplements, allowing people to maintain a greater proportion of the gains produced by the use of prohormones.
Not going into too much detail, prohormones cause the body to recognize them as an exogenous substance has been introduced into the body. Being an androgenic hormone, a process called negative feedback takes place causing the body to reduce its own production of the naturally occurring androgen “testosterone” made in the body. This is to counteract the influence of the exogenous hormone that has been introduced. While the user is on a prohormone cycle, they will not be too alarmed in most cases by the fall in his own natural testosterone levels because they are taking a substance which is working via similar mechanisms, to provide many of the anabolic functions of testosterone such as increased muscle mass and strength.
The androgenic functions of testosterone, related to characteristics we consider as being associated with males like aggression, and sex drive, can either be magnified by the use of prohormones, It is common for substances which are very “dry” (lower estrogen in the body), to cause a reduction in sex drive whereas compounds which allow for some estrogen formation “wet”, tend to increase the prevalence of androgenic traits such as sex drive and aggression.
You can expect increase muscle mass because of the anabolic characteristics of Prohormones. Near the end of a typical 6-8 week cycle a user will have gained muscle mass and strength from the anabolic actions of these products while the traits such as sex drive, and aggression will have varied depending on the nature of the supplement taken. In many cases, the user will have substantial gains, assuming adequate nutrition and training were also imploded.
So what happens next? Inexperienced people tend to run a cycle of a powerful supplements like Liquid Labs Pror Te, which can increase muscle mass and strength, but not consider what happens next… Once the cycle ends many may think their bodies will carry on like it was before they took the prohormone. They may even be delusional enough to think the gains made while “on” were all down to them, but they would be very wrong. After a cycle is discontinued, the exogenous substance (the prohormones) leave the body, usually in 24-48 hrs. At this point, they can no longer rely on them for anabolic or androgenic effects.
So, your own body’s testosterone production will pick up the slack right? Wrong!
During a cycle your body will shut down production of its own testosterone to try and maintain what it considers a normal hormonal level. The stronger the prohormone used and the longer you remained on the cycle, the greater the decrease in natural testosterone production will occur. When the cycle is complete your natural testosterone levels are very low. At the same time, estrogen levels tend to rise in response to low testosterone, so post cycle you are not in a very favorable state for muscle building or strength gains. Instead you are in an environment set to lose size, strength, gain fat, and, horror of horrors, if you do not take steps to counteract it, the estrogen could even cause you to grow actual “Man boobs” (gentlemen beware-topic for later article)! This is known as gynecomastia, or gyno for short. Also, during a cycle the levels of cortisol (catabolic hormone) are reduced, but once the cycle ends, levels of cortisol slowly rise, usually after a week the levels are typically high. This increase in cortisol can cause you to lose muscle and strength very quickly and contribute to increased body fat.
Novice users who failed to consider what would happen once they ended a cycle are in a very bad position of having low testosterone, high estrogen, and high cortisol levels. A place you don’t want to remain for long. Without the use of ancillary supplements (PCT) the body will recover very slowly, at which point you may have lost all your gains from your prohormone cycle.
What can we do to accelerate recovery then? Post Cycle Therapy (PCT) Supplements
We have some methods to help restore your body’s pre-cycle environment, while protecting your gains. For your post cycle therapy, you’ll want to consider the following factors:
- Boost Testosterone
- Inhibit Estrogen
- Progesterone inhibition
- Lower cortisol
- Libido and mood recovery
- Maintaining workout performance
- Recovering health
- Minimizing fat gain
Many times, people will focus on only one or two of these methods, but a comprehensive approach will lead to superior results than a narrowly focused approach.
- Boost Testosterone
This is the most important part in most peoples’ eyes and the one that most people will usually focus their efforts on. A mountain of products/ingredients are promoted to boost testosterone levels. There are far too many to mention but they include Anacyclus Pyrethrum, D-Aspartic Acid, Divanil, Icariin, Indole-3-Carbinol, Zinc, Resveratrol, Vitex Agnus Castus, Epimedium, Magnesium, Zinc, Tribulus Terrestris, Chrysin, Cissus Quadrangulis and many, many more. We have observed that individual responses to testosterone boosting ingredients significantly vary so we recommend finding an ingredient you respond well to and sticking to it. “Note” that just because one test booster didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean none of them will.
IMPORTANT POINT: While estrogen blockers will both reduce estrogen AND increase testosterone, the reason you would want to include a supplement which purely focuses on testosterone enhancement/boost alone is they can help to increase bioavailable testosterone in the body (free testosterone) and provide support to mood and libido.
Juggernaut Labz UltraTEST is a properly dosed natural test booster using only the highest quality raw ingredients which support your body’s natural testosterone production.
- Inhibit Estrogen
Driving down estrogen levels at the conclusion of our prohormone cycle. The sooner this is done the faster testosterone levels get back to normal, and the sooner sex drive rebounds especially if we combine an estrogen blocker with a test booster which is the classic way to maximize testosterone, free testosterone, mood and libido, as well as limiting the potential for any unwanted estrogenic effects caused by the rebound effect seen at the end of a prohormone cycle.
This rebound effect can occur when a non-aromatizing prohormone is used during a cycle, this compound will drive estrogen levels way down. But, once you stop the exogenous prohormone, the body tends to ramp up estrogen production above baseline levels and if testosterone is also not recovered, this is a classic cause of post-cycle gynecomastia (Man boobs).
A number of products have been specifically designed for the purpose of reducing estrogen, with some adding additional ingredients to facilitate other effects we desire such as not only increasing testosterone but variable such as controlling cortisol and bodyfat or increasing performance – all key components of an intelligently constructed PCT regimen or Product.
Juggernaut Labz RechargePCT boosts strength, increases testosterone and lowers estrogen, all at the same time.
- Progesterone Inhibition
You will occasionally hear reported issues with gyno from compounds that do not directly agonise the estrogen receptor such as methasterone (super-drol), 19-norandrostenediol or dienolone focused products in particular. In this situation the cause is likely a related steroid hormone called progesterone. To inhibit progesterone during both the cycle itself and during post cycle therapy is therefore a wise move for people who wish to cover their bases during a prohormone cycle and afterwards.
There are not many natural options for those seeking to control progesterone. The primary ingredients used to lower progesterone naturally include the herb vitex agnus, Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate and mucuna pruriens in the product. In this case proprietary blends are best avoided as the dosing is very important. Both options given include all three ingredients and disclose the dose in each (Olympus Labs Arimacare & Pro Serious Nutrition Solutions Inhibit-P).
- Lower Cortisol
Not addressing rising cortisol levels post cycle can tank training gains as well as help cause the fat gain typically seen post-cycle. Like the situation described for estrogen, it is important to understand that one of the ways prohormones exert their muscle building benefits is the reduction in cortisol and consequent enhancement of anti-catabolic processes. As much as prohormones are anabolic (directly increase the rate at which new muscle is formed), they are also very much anti-catabolic (reduce the loss of muscle). By both reducing muscle loss and increasing muscle gain the net effect is obviously superior muscle gains.
Unfortunately, once prohormones are removed from the equation there is a rapid rise in cortisol and this happens at a time when anabolic hormones such as testosterone (or similar androgens) are not only down from their cycle peak, but below the baseline level they were before the prohormone cycle. Resulting situation where you go from an inflated anabolic and anti-catabolic environment to one where anabolism is minimal and catabolic actions leading to muscle loss are very high.
If you ever wondered why so many prohormone/steroid users lose so much muscle quickly at the end of their cycles, it’s clearly the consequence of failing to take action to remedy this situation.
The use of ingredients such as 5-AT, Phosphatidylserine, 7-OXO, Forskolin, Dehydroabietic Acid, Vitamin C and Ashwagandha are commonly used to address the problem of high cortisol among many others with more ingredients being discovered all the time to help modulate cortisol.
- Libido and Mood recovery
Increased libido is a sign that the body is working optimally and is a signal that a normal hormonal environment is likely to have been attained. Libido is tightly linked with mood and as such a key requirement of a post cycle therapy protocol. Lowered libido and mood can cause people to make bad choices on their diet as well as being less likely to exercise.
An obvious conclusion might draw us to simply take a testosterone booster described previously to address these issues but testosterone by itself is not sufficient to increase libido as can be seen in anabolic steroid users abusing testosterone for a long time who often find that they eventually experience diminished sexual desire and function.
The key area that a libido/mood focused supplement regimen should focus on is the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is released in limited quantities only naturally such as when you may eat some chocolate or have an orgasm but which can be boosted significantly if someone is using a drug such as cocaine and the reason why that drug has been used by some people as an aphrodisiac. Of course, cocaine is disastrous in many ways and can never be recommended to anyone under any circumstances, but the point remains that by harnessing the power of dopamine, we are able to boost both libido and mood and make our post cycle therapy more productive.
To boost dopamine, we have a relatively limited amount of nutrients and unlike class A drugs like cocaine they work to produce sustainable increases in dopamine and as a further benefit, they can also enhance neurocognitive processes and act as neuroprotectants. While ingredients such as mucuna pruriens may have some promise to boost dopamine, there is one standout ingredient and that is 9-methyl-beta-carboline. Not only has it got clinical research supporting its efficacy in promoting focus, memory, concentration, libido, respiratory efficiency and mood, it also stimulates neuron and neurite growth as well as enhancing dopaminergic action. It’s not a stimulant and works better the longer it’s used. It boosts both cognitive and physical functions for the long run.
Exclusively manufactured by Hydrapharm, their 9-MBC product is the perfect choice to combat post-cycle blues in general.
Other option are supplements that features mucuna pruriens (Perform RX) or trans-resveratrol, both shown to support mood and libido while Bulgarian sourced tribulus terrestris (UltraTEST) has a huge amount of empirical and clinical evidence supporting its libido boosting properties (although it is commonly marketed as a testosterone booster, it is nowadays becoming accepted that it is essentially a mood and libido booster which exerts its effects via dopaminergic pathways).
- Maintaining Workout Performance
The most misunderstood factor of how much muscle you maintain post cycle has nothing to do with hormonal state but instead the degree you’re able to subject your muscles to the same forces that encourage them to acquire the newly added size originally.
You lift weights to gain muscle and the more our strength goes up the more we gain all other things being equal. Many people tend to train in a way “on” cycle that is not maintainable “off” cycle to retain all the muscle post cycle.
A factor in keeping gains is to keep your weights/lifts post-cycle as similar as possible to when you were “on”, or, if possible, even try to increase your strength post-cycle, as strength is a powerful signal to the body telling it to maintain muscle mass. There are is a variety of supplemental approaches which can be used to improve strength either through the use of ergogenic compounds such as creatine, beta-alanine, or the use of preworkouts based around stimulants and nootropics that help to increase strength.
If using stimulant based preworkouts, it is advised to not use them while using prohormones as they are best used when they have not been used for some time as your tolerance to them is so low even a small amount will provide a huge boost to strength – possibly enough to meet or even beat the strength feats you achieved without stimulants while on a prohormone cycle. Popular Ergogenics Include: APS Mesomorph and Jack’D UP
If a person using a prohormone omits the use of any stimulants at all during their cycle and then runs one for a few months after their cycle, they should be able to maintain reasonable amount of strength if they reduce the training volume (to take into account diminished recovery ability during PCT) is an excellent way to maintain a good portion of their gains.
- Recovering Health
A prohormone cycle will place extra strain on your body’s systems, so it is important to restore optimal health as rapidly as possible. This will help your body to help retain gains since a healthy body is one which will recover quicker. You should also take these products on cycle, particularly if using a methylated prohormone. A host of ingredients such as minerals/vitamins (Juggernautlabz Multi-vitamins), fish oils, adaptogens such as Ginseng and Rhodiola Rosea, liver support substances such as TUDCA and Milk Thistle can be employed to restore health. When select cycle support or post cycle support, products should pay attention to liver support as the priority if you are using a methylated prohormone. Otherwise, an all-purpose product which supports blood lipids, the cardiovascular system and so on is a smart choice.
- Minimizing Fat Gain
Don’t wants to gain loads of muscle only to get fat after a prohormone cycle is over. At the same time it is not a good idea to rely too much on stimulants to prevent fat gain or end up eating too little, or, by releasing too many catecholamines (adrenaline like hormones), actually cause increased stress levels which is the last thing we want post cycle. Stimulants should be used sparingly to maintain/increase strength before workouts not used every day.
It would be best to save them for your most intense workout sessions. Remember that we are trying to limit fat gain, but not go on a diet or starve ourselves (which will rapidly lead us to lose all our gains given both the calorific deficit and negative hormonal environment during PCT).
It is better to use ingredients that can limit fat gain, causing some fat loss without any of the problems of overuse of stimulants. These supplements should include things likes 7-hydroxy-4-imidazolyl-flavan, Forskolin, 7-OXO (Laxogenin), Maslinic Acid, Ursolic Acid, Ecklonia Cava, Berberine and even fish oils all of which can help enhance body composition but without causing negative effects on muscle mass. By coupling them with a high protein diet you are doing all you can do to avoid the usual post cycle fat gain.
An optimum post cycle therapy program
Now that you have a grasp of the various supplements available you will no doubt be feeling you had better go rob a bank! Not necessarily… In terms of supplementing during the post cycle period it is possible to narrow some of the above down to a smaller number of supplements which can then be used to promote recovery during the post cycle period. We would encourage you to study each compound you are using or considering using to determine what’s best for you depending on factors ranging from if the prohormone is methylated, whether it aromatises, its degree of androgenicity. How suppressive it is, the length of cycle, and potential scope for adverse effects on progesterone and blood lipids to name just a few considerations, it will require a different strategy for each individual case.
Hope this has helped you to understand that with proper planning and supplementation, the risks of prohormones use can be mediated via the intelligent use of ancillary supplements, which can help you maintain the gains made using prohormones.