Post-Cycle Therapy, or PCT for short, refers to the practice of using certain medications to assistant in the discontinuance of anabolic steroids. While steroids are not addictive drugs in a classical sense, they do suppress your own hormone production, at least temporarily. This is an issue that should be addressed at the conclusion of use. If the steroids are discontinued abruptly without addressing internal hormone production, the result could be a prolonged state of hypogonadism (low androgen levels) characterized by a substantial loss of muscle mass, reduced energy levels, depression, and impaired libido/sexual functioning. Steroid-using bodybuilders refer to this as the “post cycle crash”. In this section, we will examine the natural control of hormone production as it relates to this crash.
We will also discuss certain medications that are commonly used during the postcycle window to help stimulate natural testosterone production and correct the hormonal imbalance.
The HPTA Axis
In the human body, the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Testicular Axis (HPTA) controls testosterone
biosynthesis. The HPTA is a tightly regulated system of checks and balances that works to assure the correct level of testosterone is maintained. We can look at this regulating process as having three levels. At the top is the hypothalamic region of the brain, which releases GnRH (Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone) when it senses a need for more testosterone. GnRH sends a signal to the second level of the axis, the pituitary, to produce Luteinizing Hormone (LH). LH in turn sends a message to the Leydig’s cells in the testes (level three) to secrete testosterone. Given this role, LH is regarded as the primary direct messenger controlling testosterone synthesis. Testosterone and other sex steroids that are produced as a result of this LH stimulation serve as a counterbalance. They provide negative feedback to lower the secretion of LH and testosterone, preventing overproduction. Synthetic
anabolic steroids, of course, send the same negative feedback. The serum level of testosterone is, therefore, a reflection of both positive and negative stimulation fighting each other for hormonal control.
The suppression of natural testosterone synthesis by steroid use is typically a temporary phenomenon. Even if you do nothing, your body’s normal androgen synthesis will usually return a few to several months after the cycle is concluded. The problem is, this can be a very long time when you are relying on testosterone for so many things, including the maintenance of muscle tissue. In fact, much of the muscle mass achieved during AAS administration can be lost in the weeks and months to follow if low androgen levels are left unchecked. Post-Cycle Therapy is widely used by bodybuilders and athletes to stimulate the HPTA, so normal hormone production levels may come back more quickly.
PCT involves the use of drugs whom through different mechanisms help restore hormonal balance after a steroid cycle. The two drugs usedfor this are Clomid and tamoxifen. These drugs are antiestrogens and are used to block the negative feedback inhibition of estrogen, which occurs primarily at the hypothalamus.356 This may foster the heightened release of GnRH, and subsequently LH and testosterone. While estrogen levels are not especially high in men, it is still a very strong inhibitor of testosterone release.357 Since it is also formed from the aromatization of testosterone in peripheral tissues, its role in the regulation of androgen biosynthesis is regarded as a fairly direct one. The purpose of using anti-estrogens is to both trigger correction in LH levels more quickly, and to augment total LH. They may also be necessary to combat gynecomastia in some individuals, which can occur even with low estrogen levels (it is partly a function of the androgen to estrogen balance in the breast).
For some people tamoxifen alone is enough for PCT. It depends on how heavy the steroid cycle was and how well the body responds to PCT. But in general it is a good idea to use tamoxifen and Clomid.
The exact timing for PCT program is determined by the elimination half-life of the drugs used. Here is a list with the most used steroids and when to start PCT.
Clomid and tamoxifen both have a long half life so one dose a day is sufficient.
The doses of tamoxifen for the PCT:
| Day 1
| 100 mg
|Next 10 days
|Last 10 days
Doses of Tamoxifen and Clomid for PCT:
HCG in PCT
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) is a fertility drug that mimics the actions of luteinizing
hormone. It was commonly used during the post-cycle period to address testicular atrophy, which as we have seen is one of the fundamental roadblocks to hormonal recovery. The hCG was typically taken at a substantial dosage for a period of 2-3 weeks.
But now we know that there is a better way. HCG produces aromatization in the testicules, so it is not effective at restoring natural testosterone levels.
It is more useful to use HCG for two weeks, in low doses, before the start of PCT, when testicular atrophy has happend. Usually, the administration of HCG is accompanied by 20-40 mg of tamoxifen to prevent estrogenic side effects. 500-1000 IU administration over a period of two weeks in small doses evenly divided, it is enough to benefit from the positive effects without much adverse effects. To read more about HCG and its administration's click here.
HCG is monst comonly used during steroid cycles. It is inejcted two times a week, at doses of 250 - 500 U.I.per shot, to prevent testicular atrophy and ease the recovery period. It is used during the cycle, and intrerupted 2 weeks before the start of PCT.