Post-Cycle Therapy: What Is PCT And Is It Necessary?

Bodybuilder during post cycle recovery phaseresting after workout.

The Importance Of Post-Cycle Therapy

If you’re thinking about using performance-enhancing drugs, then you’re likely wondering about PCT (post cycle therapy).

Although it’s certainly possible to achieve the body you want through hard work, professional bodybuilders aren’t getting their amazing physiques solely from endless amounts of training and eating. To achieve the monstrous amounts of muscle they have requires more than what humans are naturally capable of. This is where anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs enter the picture.

We generally do not recommend steroid use for recreational purposes. Instead, we encourage you to use natural steroid supplements, which are legal to use and far safer. However, for those of you who are thinking of taking this path to achieving the body you want, the information provided here is meant to help you stay safe as well as mitigate the potential risks.

Being a synthetic version of testosterone, anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) can cause hormonal imbalances and other negative effects. If you’re taking steroids, post cycle therapy is a practice that we strongly recommend. This comprehensive PCT guide will hopefully address all your concerns and help you determine if it’s worth it and why.

What Is Post-Cycle Therapy?

Synthetic anabolic steroids are a form of exogenous testosterone. Taking these substances suppresses your natural endogenous hormone production. This is because your body is receiving a lot of testosterone from a new source, and (from the body’s point of view) natural production is no longer necessary.

When taken over prolonged periods, steroids can have side effects that are unpleasant and even dangerous. As a result, your body’s natural ability to produce testosterone will be negatively affected after you stop using steroids.

Steroids are typically used in cycles in order to prevent developing a tolerance to the drug. However, another reason for cycling is to give the the system that oversees hormone production (the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, or HPTA) time to resume normal testosterone production after going off steroids.

Because the body is thrown off balance due to the surge of synthetic hormones, the body takes a while to return to normal testosterone levels following the use of anabolic steroids. Post-steroid users can experience a wide variety of negative side effects, including mood swings, fatigue, water retention, depression, gynecomastia (enlarged breasts), and decreased sex drive, as well as loss of muscle mass and higher estrogen levels.

Post-cycle therapy (PCT) is a protocol that utilizes nutritional supplements and/or pharmaceutical drugs to help reduce these side effects and accelerate the transition back to normal testosterone production. A combination of medications can be used to restore hormonal balance under the supervision of a qualified doctor.

After doing PCT, estrogen levels become lower and normal testosterone production resumes. If you use steroids, it goes without saying that this process is critical to effectively restoring the function of your hormonal system.

Skipping post-cycle therapy after using performance-enhancing drugs is not something you should do. It will make it more difficult for natural testosterone to be restored, and could lead to the loss of the muscle gains that you worked so hard for.

When Should You Begin Post-Cycle Therapy?

It is recommended that you start a PCT protocol post-cycle if you are taking any drugs that reduce your natural testosterone production. For anabolic steroids, you should wait one week before you start your PCT in order for the PEDs to be completely cleared from your system.

However, when using SARMs (selective estrogen receptor modulators) or prohormones, PCT can be started immediately after your cycle ends. In either case, you should seek guidance from a qualified doctor to help you plan your treatment and monitor your progress.

How Long Does PCT Take?

A PCT program should begin when anabolic steroids are no longer present in the body. PCT typically lasts around 4-6 weeks. The length of time will mainly depend on specific circumstances, for example the type of steroid, dosage, and for how long it was taken.

If you use steroids regularly, be aware that in order to keep hormone levels regulated you may need to use prescription medication under a doctor’s guidance.

The post-cycle therapy period can also be extended for several weeks if needed. Steroids that are slow-release will take longer to clear from the body. It could take several weeks after administering the last injection before the body is totally free of synthetic testosterone.

Types Of Post Cycle Therapy

Post-cycle therapy requires that some form of medication or supplementation be taken in order to correct the hormonal imbalance in the body. Depending on the circumstances, this can be in the form of nutritional supplements, or the use of prescription-based drugs may be required.

PCT Supplements

If taking prescription medications is not right for you, it is recommended that you try using an over-the-counter PCT. These products don’t require a prescription, but can safely bring testosterone levels back up after a mild to moderate steroid cycle.

Our top choice would be Test Stack No.17, which is well-reviewed and trusted within the community as a top-notch testosterone supplement. Besides boosting the body’s own natural testosterone production, Test Stack 17 simultaneously inhibits the production of estrogen and lowers SHBG levels.

Test Stack No. 17 Bottle

Using a powerful one-of-a-kind formula, this product will have your natural testosterone levels up and running again in no time. Additionally, the elevated amounts of free testosterone will ensure you don’t lose any of your precious gains.

It’s recommended that you use this product following a mild-to-moderate cycle to help restore your body’s hormonal balance. Dosage is 3 capsules in the morning and 3 more at night. For best results, continue using for 2-3 months.

Additionally, supplements like phosphatidylserine and acetyl-l-carnitine can also be used during PCT to help reduce cortisol levels. A catabolic effect can result due to high levels of this stress hormone following a cycle.

While anabolic activity occurs during the process of building up (this can be in the form of new tissue, complex compounds, and increased muscle mass) catabolic activity is the opposite. It breaks down crucial components that are essential to the body’s well-being, including the body tissues and complex compounds mentioned.

These two processes (anabolism and catabolism) create metabolism. Poor post-cycle catabolism can cause excess fat storage and muscle loss, potentially making all your hard work vanish. If not controlled, catabolism can lead to illness and poor health.

Test Stack No. 17 screenshot

Drugs Used For Post-Cycle Therapy

The prescription-based medications that can be used to perform a post-cycle therapy protocol will depend on your personal circumstances. Some individuals may opt to use over-the-counter supplements, such as testosterone boosters or estrogen-blocking agents, but these may not strong enough to support long-term steroid users.

Although we can’t make any specific recommendations, the following prescription medications are often used in post-cycle therapy:

  • Clomid (clomiphene)
  • Nolvadex (tamoxifen)

Clomid and Nolvadex, a category of drugs known as SERMs (selective estrogen receptor modulators), control the production of post-cycle estrogen and prevent its negative effects on the body. These type of drugs are necessary because estrogen levels can soar after stopping anabolic steroids, leading to hormonal chaos.

Clomid box and pills on white background.

Clomid affects the estrogen receptors in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, helping to release luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These two hormones are both vital for male fertility and healthy sperm production.

Clomid is very effective when used as a PCT. In combination with other PCT supplements such as Nolvadex, it can help restore normal testosterone production and minimize the risk of side effects in just 4 weeks. However, Clomid is a prescription medication and will need a doctor’s approval.

A typical dosage is between 50-100 milligrams per day. Possible side effects include headaches, nausea, or breast tenderness, but these symptoms should subside after the first week.

Nolvadex substantially increases LH levels and prevents surges of estrogen, which can be harmful. Sudden spikes in estrogen can lead to heart problems, stroke and prostate issues. Nolvadex works exceptionally well at decreasing estrogen levels to help restore healthy, stable levels of endogenous testosterone.

Like Clomid, Nolvadex requires a prescription. A standard dose of Nolvadex will range somewhere between 10-20 milligrams twice daily.

Typical Nolvadex PCT cycles will last from 4-6 weeks, and may be accompanied by adverse side effects, including headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and/or fatigue. However, these side effects are normally mild and should go away after the first week of using the drug.

Clomid is very effective when used as a PCT, and when both Clomid and Nolvadex are taken together, they can help to normalize testosterone production and reduce the risk of side effects in as little as four weeks. However, both of these drugs require a doctor’s prescription for use.

Which Type Of PCT Is Right For You?

Without knowing your exact circumstances, it’s difficult to recommend a specific post-cycle treatment protocol. When choosing a product, you will need to take into account your personal preferences and needs.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a PCT:

  • Type of PCT: Some PCTs can only be obtained with a prescription. Both Clomid and Nolvadex can be very effective, but are also hard on the system.
  • Steroid Dosage: Depending on how long your cycle was and what type of steroids you have taken, you may need something that’s stronger. On the other hand, if you’ve only taken a short, low-dose cycle, an over-the counter PCT may be sufficient.
  • Price: Prescription drugs are typically much more expensive than those available over the counter. We recommend that you avoid higher pharmacy prices if you are able to get by with using non-prescription PCT.

Whenever possible, we recommend that you use Test Stack 17 or some other over-the counter brand. If your cycle wasn’t more than 8 weeks and you used milder doses, then you probably won’t require the powerful effects of SERMs like Clomid and Nolvadex.

That said, you may consider going with the stronger prescription medicines if you’ve just completed a very heavy cycle.

Side Effects Of Post Cycle Therapy

Because PCTs are a type of hormone therapy, there will be side effects. These side effects may include fatigue, mental fog, decreased sex drive, and breast tenderness.

However, your testosterone levels will eventually increase to a normal level and you’ll feel better, more energetic, and generally happier. Within a few weeks, any negative side effects you experience should fade away.

Should You Keep Training During PCT?

This is a time when it’s important to avoid overtraining. The body needs to rebalance and adjust itself to the way it was before introducing the synthetic hormone. Although it is natural to want to maintain the muscle mass gains from the steroid cycle, you should slightly alter your training regimen.

While you shouldn’t stop training altogether, you should avoid heavy training. Additionally, you might want to reduce your reps and not add weight to your usual lifts.

However, you should still keep a high enough level of intensity to maintain muscle mass. Your body will be recovering, so your training should slow down to match. Find the right balance by not doing too much or too little.

Go easy on yourself and understand that some of the unpleasant side effects you experience are normal. Your body will require some time to rebalance and to get back to normal.

Of course, nutrition is a crucial factor when it comes to healing. Keep your body hydrated with lots of water and eat healthy foods rich in nutrients and fiber.

Conclusion

Hopefully you will now see why post-cycle therapy is an excellent idea. It can help to restore endogenous testosterone levels to their optimal levels and is also crucial for post-cycle healing. Skipping your PCT after finishing an anabolic steroid cycle is something that is definitely not recommended.

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