The proliferation in the use of prohormones in the bodybuilding world has meant that trainees are able to acquire levels of muscularity and strength previously out of the reach of many. Prohormones have allowed even those with relatively deficient training and nutritional programs to make rapid gains. However, there has not been a concomitant awareness of the necessity to restore a homeostatic environment in the body, such that while many make rapid progress while using prohormones, many users experience a crash familiar to steroid users who use powerful ergogenics without the ancillary products needed to protect their gains. This article will cover strategies aimed at restoring normal hormonal function via the use of post cycle therapy, or PCT, supplements, with the aim of allowing trainees to maintain a greater proportion of the gains elicited by the use of prohormones.
How prohormones work
Without going into too much detail, prohormone use will cause the body to recognise that an exogenous substance has been introduced into the body. With that substance being an androgenic hormone, a process called negative feedback takes place whereby the body will reduce its own production of testosterone, the naturally occurring androgen made in the body. This is to counteract the influence of the exogenous hormone that has been introduced. While the user is on his prohormone cycle he will not be too alarmed in most cases by the fall in his own natural testosterone levels because he is 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.
Androgenic functions of testosterone, related to characteristics we consider as being associated with males such as aggression, and sex drive, can either be magnified by the use of prohormones, if the substance taken has these characteristics, or else, stay stable or possibly even fall. It is quite common for substances which are very “dry”, that is, lower estrogen in the body, to cause a reduction in sex drive whereas those compounds which allow for some estrogen formation, tend to increase the prevalence of androgenic traits such as sex drive and aggression.
Regardless of whether the user takes something that increases androgenic characteristics or not, ALL users of prohormones will expect to increase muscle mass via the anabolic characteristics of these compounds. So towards the end of a typical 4-6 week cycle a user will have gained considerable muscle mass and strength via the anabolic actions of these products while his male traits such as sex drive, and aggression will have varied depending on the nature of the supplement taken. In most cases, the user will have congratulated himself that he has done very well from the cycle, assuming adequate nutrition and training. So what happens next?
Ending a Prohormone cycle
This is where some users come unstuck. Inexperienced trainees tend to run a cycle of a powerful supplement like Nanodrol or Havoc, which will cause a great increase in muscle mass and strength, but not take into account what happens next.... Once the cycle ends you may think your body will carry on like it was before you took the hormonal product. You may even be delusional enough to think the gains made while “on” were all down to you, but you would be very wrong indeed. After a cycle is discontinued, the exogenous substance (the prohormones used) rapidly leave the body, usually in 24-48 hrs at the most. At this point, you can no longer rely on them for either anabolic or androgenic effects.
So this is where your body’s own testosterone production picks up the slack right? Wrong. Remember, during a cycle your body will gradually shut down production of its testosterone to try to maintain what it considers a normal hormonal milieu. The stronger the prohormone taken and the longer you remained on, the greater the degree to which normal testosterone levels will have been shut down. So when you come off the cycle your 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 favourable place for muscle building and strength. Instead you are well placed 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 gain actual breasts! This is known as gynecomastia, or gyno for short. That’s not all either. During a cycle, levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol are reduced, but once the cycle ends, levels of cortisol slowly rise, usually after about a week or so. This cortisol rise will cause you to lose muscle and strength very quickly, as well as cause you to gain body fat.
Clearly then, our novice user who failed to consider what would happen once he ended his cycle is in a very bad position of having low testosterone, high estrogen, and high cortisol levels. This is some place you definitely don’t want to be in for long, but without the use of ancillary supplements (PCT) it is something from which the body will only 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 Supplements
Fortunately, we have some methods by which we can restore your body’s pre-cycle environment, while protecting your gains while “on”. Generally speaking for your post cycle therapy you need to consider the following factors:
1. Testosterone recovery
2. Estrogen inhibition
3. Reducing cortisol
4. Increasing libido
5. Enhancing workout performance
6. Restoring health
7. Minimising fat gain
8. Maximising non-hormonally mediated anabolic processes
Sometimes trainees may focus on only one or two of these methods, but a comprehensive approach will lead to far superior results than a narrowly focused approach. We will go through each in turn and explore possible options in each.
1. Testosterone Recovery
This is the most important part in most peoples’ eyes and the one that most people will usually make some effort in addressing. A slew of products/ingredients are promoted to boost testosterone levels. There are far too many to mention but they include D-Aspartic Acid, Divanil, Icariin, Indole-3-Carbinol, Zinc, Resveratrol, Vitex Agnus Castus, Epimedium, and many, many more. Some seem more useful than others, but there is a relative paucity of data beyond anecdotal evidence, that prevents us from making definitive statements as to which to recommend. However, based on user feedback, the following are all highly regarded:
Activate Xtreme is our most popular test booster and increases both total
testosterone and free testosterone for much improved results
2. Estrogen Inhibition
Related to testosterone recovery, we must also look to drive down estrogen levels at the conclusion of our prohormone cycle. The sooner this is done the faster we get our testosterone levels back to normal, and the sooner sex drive rebounds, as well as limiting the potential for any unwanted estrogenic effects. A number of products have been specifically designed for the purpose of reducing estrogen. Favoured ingredients include pZole, 6, 17 Keto-Etiocholeva-3-Ol Tetrahydropyranol, 4-Etioallocholen-3,6, 17-Trione, and Chrysin. Some of the more popular and well reviewed products include:
Driven Sports Triazole boosts strength, increases testosterone
and lowers estrogen, all at the same time.
Occasionally you hear reports of users reporting issues with gyno from compounds that do not directly agonise the estrogen receptor such as superdrol or tren products in particular. In this situation the culprit is more than likely a related steroid hormone called progesterone. To inhibit progesterone during PCT is therefore a wise move for people who wish to cover their bases during PCT. The primary ingredient used to lower progesterone is those including the herb Vitex in the product. This is one case where propietary blends are best avoided in our view so the only supplement we would advocate for progesterone control would be Vitex itself. Note, this can be used on cycle to help prevent the possibility of gyno via progestogenic pathways. NOW Foods Vitex is a good choice.
3. Reducing Cortisol
Failing to address rising cortisol levels post cycle can crucify training gains as well as help cause the fat gain typically seen post-cycle. The use of ingredients such as 7-OH, Phosphatidylserine, 5-AT, Vitamin C and Glutamine are typically used to address the problem of high cortisol. Popular products include:
PES Erase Pro is a hugely popular estrogen blocker
that also lowers cortisol
4. Increasing Libido
Increasing libido or sex drive may at first glance be considered more of a means to make yourself feel psychologically better post cycle. While there is an element of this, an 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. Ingredients such as Divanil, DMA, Horny Goat Weed, and Maca are typically used. Popular products include:
5. Enhancing Workout Performance
A big factor in keeping muscle gains is to try your best to keep your weights up post-cycle, or, if at all possible, even try to increase your strength post-cycle, as strength is a powerful signal to the body telling it to maintain muscle mass. A variety of approaches can be used to improve strength either through the use of ergogenics compounds such as creatine, beta-alanine, or the use of stimulants to increase strength. If using stimulants, it is advised to not use them while using prohormones as they are best used they have not been used for some time. Popular products to enhance workout performance naturally include:
Driven Sports Frenzy is by far our most popular and
best rated preworkout supplement
6. Restoring Health
This should be an obvious one really but it is something that too many trainees omit. During a prohormones cycle you will place extra strain on your body systems so it is important to restore optimal health as rapidly as possible. Apart from the obvious, this will help your body to help retain muscle gains since a healthy body is one which will recover sooner. You should also take these products whilst on cycle, particularly if using a methylated prohormone. A host of ingredients such as minerals/vitamins, fish oils, adaptogens such as Ginseng and Rhodiola Rosea, liver support substances such as N-Acetyl Cysteine and Milk Thistle can be employed to restore health. Popular products include:
Antaeus Labs Talos protects the cardiovascular system from damage
7. Minimising Fat Gain
Nobody wants to gain loads of muscle only to get fat after their prohormone cycle is over. At the same time it is not advised to rely too much on stimulants to prevent fat gain as we could end up eating too little, or, by releasing too many catecholamines (adrenealine like hormones), actually cause increased stress levels which is the last thing we want post cycle. Besides, stimulants should be used sparingly to maintain/increase strength before workouts not used every day. Therefore, if you are using such products, it would be best to spare them for your most intense workout sessions. It is important to 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 muscle gains).
It is better to employ ingredients which can limit fat gain, causing some fat loss without any of the problems of overuse of stimulants. TTA based products, Forskolin and fish oils are popular choices to minimise fat gain, as well as the use of a high protein diet. Probably one of the best fat burning supplements you can choose for your PCT is Lean Xtreme. This is a supplement that will reduce cortisol levels (which are rather high after a cycle) and optimise your testosterone levels, which is exactly what you should aiming for. On the top of that it is non-stimulating fat burner, which makes it easy to be stacked with pretty much any other supplement.
Once you are a few weeks into your PCT you can consider other fat burners such as:
8. Maximising Non-Hormonal Anabolic Processes
In the past few years there have been several innovative formulas hitting the market which increase the rate of protein synthesis compared to baseline levels. Given that during PCT your body’s rate of protein accretion is sub-normal the use of such supplements is highly recommended as they provide another dimension to a PCT program by not relying on simply restorating the body’s hormone levels to normal. Based on user feedback the best of these are as follows:
Molecular X-Factor makes your muscles more responsive
to training so you gain muscle faster.
An optimum post cycle therapy program
Okay, so now that you have a good 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. In order of priority the following is suggested for cycles of mild prohormones such as Cynostane, Protodrol,and Halodrol:
For stronger cycles such as those containing Methdrol, Nanodrol and Dienazone:
Other Supplements Not Discussed
Additional supplements are always being released which can help to maximise anabolic processes. Supplements such as Anabeta, Ursobolic and X-Factor Advanced to name just three could all potentially help enhance muscle and strength gains during the post cycle therapy period however, given they do not work via hormonal pathways, they have not been included in this article. Similarly, amino acid and protein supplements and the use of nutrients which can boost androgen receptor status such as LCLT are not specifically listed in this article but should nevertheless be considered an essential part of your supplementation regime.
We hope this article has helped you to understand that through proper planning and supplementation, the risks of prohormones use can be mediated via the intelligent use of appropriate ancillary supplements, whose use can help users maintain the gains made using prohormones, while accelerating recovery of optimal body function.