By now, if you have read our Guide to Prohormones, you will hopefully be in a position to make an educated choice about what prohormone is best suited to you, depending on your own personal circumstances. If you have not read this yet, we advise you to do so before proceeding any further.
Given the importance of educating yourself to the effects that different prohormones impart, it is curious that many people will take these powerful muscle building supplements and fail to do everything they can to acquire and maintain the best possible gains from the use of prohormone supplements. This article will look at different ways to improve the effectiveness of your prohormone cycle by the effective use of correct training, dietary, and supplement regimes to assist users in obtaining the maximum benefit that is possible, whilst ameliorating any potential drawbacks that prohormone usage can entail.
What makes a prohormone cycle different?
Prohormones will act on your body in a number of unique ways, which means that simply training and eating as you normally would will mean missing out on many of the benefits prohormones confer. For a start, prohormones will increase protein synthesis in the body which is the main mechanism by which they add muscle mass. They will also have the following effects:
- Increased carbohydrate storage;
- Enhanced levels of growth factors such as GH, IGF-1, MGF, etc.
- Enhanced creatine synthesis;
- Lowered levels of cortisol;
While increased protein synthesis is considered most important for increasing muscle mass, these other actions of prohormones will all have an anabolic (muscle building) effect on your body.
Furthermore, prohormones will increase recovery rates from training allowing us to train harder than before, and also enhance neural drive. Enhanced neural drive translates into increased aggression and focus when performing athletic activity. This translates into increased strength independent of the actual muscle mass increase. This is an important point and one reason why we reserve use of strength enhancing stimulants for Post Cycle Treatment.
On the negative side, prohormones have the potential to cause side effects related to excess androgen levels, elevated levels of estrogens (depending on the type of prohormone taken), lowered levels of cortisol, and actions of prohormones on the liver and other organs.
Taking the above information in mind, we can now explore potential ways we can improve the effectiveness of our cycle, maximising the benefits of prohormone usage, while limiting potential side effects these supplements can cause.
Training is the one area most people taking prohormones overlook so it is appropriate to consider it first to illustrate its importance in optimising our prohormone cycle.
Most people will just train on cycle as they would off cycle and use the greater muscle and strength increases that they experience taking prohormones to push up their training weights. This means that while taking prohormones you are able to add strength rapidly on a weekly basis which is psychologically very satisfying. But is this the right thing to do?
To answer this, let’s take a look at what happens if you follow this approach on a typical prohormone cycle of four weeks where you increase training weights rapidly every week leading up to the end of the cycle. At the end of the prohormone cycle you will no doubt be feeling very happy with yourself, but what happens next when you discontinue prohormone use?
First of all, testosterone levels as outlined in our other articles will be low which means building/supporting muscle mass will be much more difficult. In fact, even if you run our recommended post cycle treatment method to the letter, some loss of muscle mass is still likely to occur. Your body’s low testosterone levels at the end of a prohormone cycle also means that you lose the psychological benefit of taking prohormones (enhanced neural drive, which is important for strength).
So, assuming you have maxed out on training weights during your cycle you will struggle mightily trying to increase the weights any more during the period coming off. This sets up a very bad situation where we have both lowered testosterone levels AND decreased weights on the bar. Obviously, low testosterone and decreased training loads means you are not in a good position as this combination will cause loss of muscle mass even if you hadn’t just experienced a four week cycle of elevated androgen levels.
To remedy this, it is recommended that the use of prohormones be scheduled before you hit the heaviest weights in a typical training cycle. If following a periodized training cycle where you gradually move from lower weight/high reps to higher weight/low reps, you would be best off using prohormones while training weights are light. This will allow you to increase the weight on the bar when you come off since the lowered rep phase of your training cycle will permit the use of heavier weights. The heavier weight will better permit you to keep your gains coming off.
A second option for athletes who do not follow a periodized training program but usually stick to a given set/rep range is to increase training volume whilst taking prohormones. In this case the higher recovery rates while taking prohormones will permit you to increase both reps and sets if necessary which will have its own anabolic effect on muscle tissue. Then, when coming off, go back to your normal set/rep range (or even lower than normal during the first few weeks of PCT), and increase the weight on the bar.
Physiologically, the heavier weight coming off will act as a signal to the body to keep the muscle mass gained during the prohormone cycle, and psychologically, the ability to maintain and increase the weight on the bar coming off will lead to greater satisfaction for the athlete and likely help with motivation and adherence to their training.
Diet And Nutritional Needs
Given the ability for prohormones to rapidly increase protein synthesis it should be obvious that some major adjustments to diet are necessary to maximise gains.
Assuming most athletes are eating around 2g of protein per kg of bodyweight normally, it is recommended to double this protein intake while on cycle to 4g per kg of bodyweight. Ordinarily, this high a level of protein consumption is likely to lead to nothing more than the body excreting it with little to no benefit in terms of enhanced muscle mass. However, when taking prohormones, the body’s ability to utilise such a high level of protein is dramatically increased to the point that it is considered essential to adopt an ultra-high protein intake by normal standards, whenever a course of prohormones is undertaken. By doing this, the body is provided with the necessary building blocks to build muscle at a far greater rate than normal and take full advantage of the favourable hormonal environment during prohormone use.
Carbohydrates should be kept high during a cycle with fats at a moderate to low level. With the fat burning properties that are an inherent benefit of prohormones, an excess of calories can be safely employed in the knowledge that, with a diet high in protein, the excess calories are highly likely to be used to build muscle rather than fat. People with susceptibility towards fat gain may not want to increase their calories by as much, but for all athletes a high protein intake during prohormone cycles is required to obtain the maximum benefit possible.
It is recommended that prohormones are taken with food, with preferably a little fat at least, to increase absorption. For those who are particularly anal, they can be taken with grapefruit juice to increase bioavailability [i] although this is not recommended as increasing bioavailability can also increase stress on the liver.
Coming off of a cycle of prohormones we encounter the same problem as noted in the training section, namely a hormonal environment characterised by low testosterone, with elevated estrogen and cortisol levels in the post cycle period being key elements that need to be brought under control to prevent muscle breakdown from happening.
At the same time, the elevated estrogen and cortisol found during the post cycle period will, if not addressed, cause an increase in body fat. Assuming that a supplemental PCT regime is being followed as outlined in our PCT article, we still need to consider the fact that it will take a few weeks for the body to revert to homeostasis (that is, the normal state before the start of the prohormone cycle). During the PCT stage it is important to remember the body is setup to gain fat and lose muscle.
Solution to the problem
The first thing to note is that although PCT supplements such as Lean Xtreme will help prevent fat gain by combating the cortisol rise that occurs during post cycle therapy, the body is nevertheless going to add body fat quickly if we carry on eating as if we were trying to pack on muscle fast as we would during the actual prohormone cycle itself.
Instead, calories should be cut to maintenance or slightly above – not so low that we put our body in a state where it loses muscle, but at the same time not eating so far above maintenance that we gain a large amount of body fat. Eating at around maintenance or just above, with the addition of appropriate PCT supplements should help to ensure we are consuming enough calories to prevent muscle breakdown while limiting the prospect for fat gain.
As for the actual makeup of what to eat post cycle, protein intake can be reduced back to more normal ranges as excess protein in the PCT stage will just be excreted or converted to glucose. Assuming our main goal is to keep muscle mass while avoiding fat gain, a diet higher in fats post cycle but relatively low in carbohydrates (around 100-150g of carbs daily only), will help to protect muscles from wasting away. The reasoning behind this is that the higher fat/lowered carb intake creates an environment of insulin resistance which helps to prevent muscle from being broken down.
The final aspect to be covered with regards to optimising our usage of prohormones is with working out the appropriate methods for utilising other supplements when taking prohormones. As the post cycle treatment article already covers the use of supplements during the post cycle stage, we will restrict ourselves to the use of supplements during the cycle.
The first thing to note is that when taking prohormones all other ergogenic aids designed to boost performance should be stopped. This is not because they cannot complement a prohormone cycle, but, on the contrary, their use is better left for the PCT period when they will be needed to help offset the loss in performance when our prohormone cycle is discontinued.
Leaving aside ergogenics, what else should we look to supplement during our cycle? Of more importance, what should other supplements be used for? To answer the first question we must first look at the second.
As outlined already, there is little reason to use anything to increase performance when prohormones are taken as the effects of other supplements will be swamped. Instead we should look at supplements whose primary function is to offset any side effects that prohormones can cause.
Our guide to prohormones article gives a detailed breakdown of the actions of different products on the market today. Some of these, as the astute reader will gather, will convert in some measure to estrogen, while others are somewhat hepatoxic (stressful on the liver). As a general rule, all prohormones will increase blood pressure and cardiac stress somewhat. Although these side effects can sound worrying they are all things which intelligent use of supplements can help to combat.
Turning first to estrogen, anti-estrogen supplements such as Erase Pro and Triazole will help to resolve any potential issues arising from certain prohormones converting to estrogen. Although they are usually reserved for the post cycle stage, it is wise to keep them to one side even during the prohormone cycle, and, should estrogenic side effects be noted, introduced by the prohormone user to help combat any problem.
As far as addressing the issue of liver and cardiovascular concerns is concerned, supplements such as Talos will effectively act to help protect and regenerate not only the liver, but also lower blood pressure, normalise cholesterol, and aid health in many other forms. In fact some people would even suggest taking them off cycle as a way to improve overall health. For the user of prohormones who is concerned about health then their use is a prudent safeguard to ensure that health is not compromised for the sake of athletic performance.
By now, we hope readers appreciate that there is more to maximising the benefits of a prohormone cycle than merely taking the products according to the label and hoping for the best. Although even a poor training, diet and supplementation protocol will still deliver some measure of results for the user, the effectiveness of prohormone cycles can be increased greatly by the careful application of the information presented in this article. We hope that with this information you can gain more muscle mass whilst limiting sides, and advancing strength and performance greatly during your prohormone cycle.