A number of people have approached me requesting assistance with how long they should look to use prohormones, with an overwhelming number stating that the huge amount of conflicting information on the Internet, and in gyms, leaves them puzzled as to how to proceed. This article will help to go through some of the different strategies available to users, as well as clearing up some myths that have arisen around this subject.
Birth of a Myth
It is an unfortunate fact that a great deal of what passes for training and nutrition advice in the general bodybuilding press, online forums, or gyms, is out of date at best, and inaccurate at worst. Unfortunately, much of what you will see or hear is based upon hype, recycled information with no factual basis in scientific evidence, and upon occasion, outright lies.
When it comes to prohormones, what I have frequently seen is people looking at cycling strategies used by drug users taking anabolic steroids (AAS), and deciding that since a majority of these athletes appear to employ long cycles of 6 to 8 weeks (some more) that this should rationally imply that prohormones, being a related product, should be used in the same way. However, one of the distinguishing features of an AAS cycle is the use of slow releasing injectable products such as Testosterone Enanthate which take a few weeks to be fully absorbed, making the use of long cycles a sensible option for those employing these drugs.
By contrast, prohormones are all oral compounds rapidly absorbed by the body and with most, they will be processed by the body in a single day. For the user of prohormones this means that they will experience gains from day 1, at least as measured by increased blood levels of androgens. Although it may take time for muscle gains to be visible in the mirror, it is not unheard of for prohormone users to gain upto 7-10 pounds in the first two weeks of their cycle. This leads to the situation that over a short period of time the use of prohormones could lead to greater muscle gains than can be achieved by long acting anabolic steroids in the same period of time. So we have established that prohormone use, by virtue of the fact that they are oral in nature can lead to muscle growth quite rapidly, depending on the nature of the compound used. So the next question is how do we decide how long we need to stay on the prohormone cycle.
Calculating Prohormone Cycle Length
Here is a quick rundown of factors we need to consider when calculating cycle length:
1. The prohormone taken
2. Individual tolerance to potential side effects
3. Age and history of the person taking them
4. Availability of PCT products
5. Injury Status
6. Benefit to Cost Ratio Taken together these factors can help us shape our decision on what products, and what cycle length is most appropriate.
Different prohormones have differing characteristics. For a more thorough review read the following article titled Prohormones – A Comprehensive Guide. Depending on the product taken cycle length would be adjusted accordingly so that products which are most liver toxic would be taken for a shorter duration with cycle lengths of no more than four weeks at most. Fortunately, prohormones that are most liver toxic are able to provide considerable muscle gain in a short period of time anyway so this should not be a concern. Considering that the extremely liver toxic M1T was often noted to produce muscle gains of up to ten pounds in two weeks, a shorter duration cycle for products such as M14, ADD and Delta 2 should not be a problem. Apart from the liver toxicity of the prohormone taken, we need also to look at the degree of androgenic and estrogenic action exhibited. For those individuals concerned about this, cycle length would be monitored more closely and reduced if this is a major concern. Finally, some prohormones are often associated with producing fatigue, in itself a possible sign of elevated liver enzymes, so it would be prudent to keep cycle lengths short for these products as well as employing the use of a liver support product during the course of a cycle.
Individual Tolerance to Side Effects
As outlined above, individuals will differ in their tolerance and susceptibility to prohormones side effects which will play a part in the length of time they remain on a given prohormone. At one extreme, there will be those people who do not notice any androgenic side effects such as acne or aggression, and those who can find excessive use of prohormones causes them to develop these problems. Similarly, hair loss which is a concern for many can usually resolve itself by keeping cycle length short – no more than 3-4 weeks. Estrogenic side effects are more worrying for most people being as they can cause gynecomastia, water retention, and otherwise spoil our desire for an ideal physique. Keeping cycle lengths short can usually avoid these problems but the use of an estrogen blocker such as I Force Nutrition’s Reversitol v-2 is recommended for those particularly concerned by these side effects and who wish to run a prohormone cycle for longer.
We have already covered issues relating to elevated liver enzymes in the previous section but we can add effects on lipid levels as a fourth key factor which needs to be taken into account when calculating cycle length, as elevated levels of these will increase stress on the cardiovascular system. Again, assuming the user is not having blood tests to measure lipid levels, a cautious approach is recommended, especially with the stronger products on the market. One last point, but important to make, is that these side effects are only of concern to some as many an athlete will not care less about fatigue, water retention, acne etc and simply see these as necessary things to endure. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum many people will not experience any side effects from products, at least not cosmetic effects that are apparent to the user.
Age and History of the Person
If an individual has never previously taken prohormones then they should expect significant muscle and strength gains from their first cycle, especially if they are a young person with much scope for muscle growth. As such, dosages and cycle lengths should be kept short as even a “mild” cycle will produce significant benefits for the user, and by keeping the length short we can certainly keep side effects to a minimum whilst still experiencing tremendous benefits. At the other end of the spectrum, an older individual with many cycles under his belt may find that gains come a little slower, or that dosages need to be increased a little. It is my opinion that usually this is only the case when an individual is close to their genetic potential as at this point more is needed to push the body beyond its natural limits. A longer cycle may make sense, depending on the nature of the product taken, although health related side effects such as stress on liver and cardiovascular function should be carefully monitored anytime dosage or length of administration is increased, especially in older individuals.
Availability of PCT Products
At some point, many a user has decided to commence a prohormone cycle and throw caution to the wind by failing to have any PCT products to hand. This article on post cycle treatment should be read for a fuller understanding of this subject. Suffice it to say that the last thing an individual should do is run a cycle without appropriate use of PCT products at the conclusion. In fact, products such as estrogen blockers should be kept to hand DURING the cycle, especially if running products with the potential for causing gynecomastia such as Pheraplex clones or M1,4ADD. They can then be taken to prevent issues arising. For those people who fail to plan for PCT cycle length should certainly be cut down to no more than two weeks.
Something that is often overlooked by users who are healthy and physically fit is that prohormones can have an impact on injuries. In some cases they can accelerate recovery from injury especially in the case of muscle injuries making them an attractive option for athletes who need to get fit. In other cases, some prohormones, especially those which are very androgenic with an absence of estrogenic effects, can drive down cortisol levels which is usually a good thing and excellent for muscle gains and fat reduction. However, the flip side of lowered cortisol is that the joints become exposed to more stress and over time painful joint function can mean that cycle length should be kept shorter to prevent long term problems with joint function. Many an athlete has experienced irreparable damage to joints from non-aromoatizing (meaning they do not convert to estrogen) drugs such as Winstrol. The prudent user of non-aromatising prohormones such as Havoc or Nanodrol, should not make the same mistake.
Benefit to Cost Ratio
One thing which is sometimes overlooked by users in the quest for maximum muscle and strength size is that there is a definite saturation point that is reached where further time on/increase in dosages does not produce a commensurate improvement in muscle and strength gains. Indeed it is commonly noted that as time spent on increases, gains come slower while side effects increase more quickly. Increasing time on/increasing dose by 50% may produce a linear improvement at low doses but as time spent on increases gains tend to level off. This makes it a better idea to keep cycles short and then, after post cycle therapy is finished, to start again. That is far better than staying on for much longer with the last half of the cycle producing meagre gains and side effects outweighing gains.
What this article should hopefully highlight is that there is no requirement to spend too long on a course of prohormones. Instead, a user can capture the benefits of prohormones while keeping side effects to a minimum by keeping cycle lengths short and also keeping appropriate liver support and estrogen blocking supplements to hand. Although the length of cycles may need to fluctuate slightly depending on individual tolerance to side effects one of the following two approaches is recommended:
1. 2 weeks on 2 weeks off,
2. 2 weeks on 4 weeks off
The 2 on-2 off approach was made popular by renowned US writer Bill Roberts. By keeping cycle length to just two weeks, followed by two weeks of PCT, the chance of side effects is reduced significantly. Although gains will not be as high as the approach below, this approach has the advantage of allowing you to commence a cycle again after just two weeks off. At that that point you could go on for two further weeks followed by a full four weeks off (where you would use PCT products again). At that point many users will start over again. The major advantage of this approach is it will produce steady gains over time, and because time off is reduced on this type of cycle, losses post cycle will be reduced or even eliminated making it very attractive psychologically, as nobody wants to run a cycle and get great gains, only to lose most of it during a long recovery period.
By keeping time spent using prohormones to a minimum at any one time the chance of side effects is reduced massively. At the same time gains will not come all at once with the inevitable issue of suspicion being aroused in your associates. For individuals who are worried they will be stigmatised by their associates for being a steroid user due to seemingly overnight gains in muscle mass, this cycle approach is better as the gains are less sudden, coming more gradually over time. The 2 on-2 off cycle is best for beginners, and those worried about side effects producing steady, consistent gains with a minimum of adverse effects. 2-4 weeks on, 4-6 weeks off This approach is probably the most popular and best overall for size gains while keeping side effects lower compared to longer cycles. By staying on for four weeks, users don’t have to come off early and get to experience a considerable increase in muscle mass and strength. This cycle will produce great gains but users need to be more careful and pay attention to liver function while keeping anti-estrogens to hand to combat any issues with gynecomastia. Although four weeks is not too long to stay on a prohormone cycle, it will mean that users need to run a full post cycle treatment course of up to four weeks and it is prudent to stay off for a further couple of weeks, making six weeks off in total. The four week cycle is rightly popular with users and is about as long as is required. Any further gains during a longer cycle have to be set against the increased risk of side effects and longer time spent recovering post cycle which will cause muscle loss. By staying on for just four weeks, users maximise muscle gains while keeping side effects and losses in mass post cycle to a minimum.
Although there are many different approaches to running a prohormone cycle, users should err on the side of caution first and remember that these are powerful products. Used properly, with time spent on limited and appropriate use of liver support and post cycle anti estrogens and testosterone boosters, prohormones can generate a tremendous impact on your overall physique and strength levels.
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