Hey, I’m Juice and I consider myself just a regular mid-30s guy who happens to have a big interest in steroids and what they can (and can’t) do for us.
I’ve been involved in learning everything there is to know about steroids for most of my adult life, and my goal is to help others like you learn about your first steroid cycle.
As a beginner to steroid cycling, it’s critical that you’re well informed about what you should and shouldn’t be doing. This guide is intended for informational purposes only and does not take the place of professional medical advice.
My guide has been broken down into the following sections:
Table of Contents
- Introduction to Anabolic-Androgenic steroids
- Injectable and Oral Steroids
- Which Steroid Compound to Use for My First Cycle?
- Steroids Half-Lives? What is a Half-Life?
- Cycling, Stacking, and Pyramiding Steroids
- Cycle Length
- Beginner Steroid Cycle
- Advanced Steroid Cycle
- Common Side Effects of Steroid Use
- Post Cycle Therapy (PCT) After Your First Cycle
- Common Q&A Related to Your First Steroid Cycle
Introduction to Anabolic-Androgenic steroids
Like most people, you more than likely think of powerful, muscle building anabolic steroids when you hear the word “steroid“.
But there are many types of steroids – in fact, a steroid is just an organic compound that includes all different types of hormones and even one of the most well known vitamins (Vitamin D) is in fact a steroid.
When it comes to bodybuilding and athletic performance, we mainly talk about steroids in the form of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS). These steroids include both natural and synthetic androgens which are derived from or based on testosterone.
The anabolic component relates to the promotion of muscle growth, while the androgenic aspect relates to the stimulated development of male attributes that testosterone is responsible for.
Below are some of the most common AAS you will come across with their anabolic/androgenic values:
|Compound||Androgenic Value||Anabolic Value|
* Clenbuterol is a beta-adrenergic agonist, not an anabolic–androgenic steroid (AAS).
Editor’s Note: For real, NO-BS information on cycling steroids from someone who explains it based on first hand experience be sure to check out Straight From the Underground (my recommended underground steroid handbook). Everything in this book is a real-life experience, not theory.
Injectable and Oral Steroids
Some steroids come in an injectable form only, while others are available as an oral form. Very few, such as Winstrol, can be injected or taken orally.
Understandably, if you’re new to using steroids then starting with injections is going to seem daunting; you may even want to avoid it altogether and select only those steroids which are orals. But this does limit you to a small number of steroids like Anavar and Dianabol.
Oral forms are taken by mouth. They include:
- Methandrostenolone (Dianabol, Danabol, Metandienone) or Dbol – The primary areas where Dianabol excels is for mass and strength building. Dbol gives you the type of strength that is unreal. It’s often used at the beginning of a bulking cycle to bring about fast results early on.
- Oxandrolone (Anavar, Oxandrin) or Var – One of the best anabolic steroids for cutting overall. It’s known for its powerful effect on fat burning and metabolic activity, ultimately helping you obtain a lean, hard and ripped physique. Usually stacked with Winstrol or testosterone.
- Oxymetholone (Anadrol, A bombs, A50) or Drol – Anadrol is one of the most powerful steroids for raw strength and mass gains and quoted as having triple the anabolic power of testosterone. Most people will combine Anadrol with slow acting injectable steroids in a stack.
- Methasterone (Superdrol, Methyldrostanolone) or SD – it is a versatile steroid that fits well into both bulking and cutting cycles, having great benefits for building muscle, cutting and toning, hardening the physique, and boosting strength and overall performance.
- Stanozolol (Winstrol) or Winny – Despite its negative effect on the liver, oral Winstrol is often the first choice particularly for those new to steroids. It’s a well known steroid for its ability to boost fat loss while helping retain muscle, and will also help you recover faster.
- Methenolone Acetate (Oral Primobolan) or Primo – Unlike many other oral steroids, Primobolan doesn’t come with the high risk of liver toxicity and its mild anabolic effects make it an ideal choice for women who can see excellent results at low doses.
- Halotestin (Fluoxymesterone) or Halo – The main use for Halotestin is to experience a substantial increase in strength. Halotestin excels at boosting strength significantly and for that reason it can be valued by competitive strength athletes.
- Turinabol (Oral Turinabol) or Tbol – Turinabol is particularly beneficial for enhancing performance rather than acting as a mass gaining steroids, although it can provide some moderate clean gains in mass.
- Mesterolone (Proviron) – Proviron is rarely used to give you direct results itself, but instead to work with the other compounds you’re using. It is very useful as both a mild and effective aromatase inhibitor during a cycle, or to use as a powerful muscle hardener towards the end of a hardcore cutting cycle.
- Clenbuterol or Clen – Not a steroid but a stimulant, Clenbuterol has a reputation as one of the best fat burners around, so we know this is the main area it excels at. Used often by women.
- Cytomel T3 (Liothyronine Sodium) or Triiodothyronine – It is a synthetic form of a thyroid hormone called T3. Athletes and bodybuilders use Cytomel to promote fat loss by providing the body with an additional source of the thyroid hormone to stimulate the metabolic rate.
Injectable forms include:
- Nandrolone Decanoate (Deca-Durabolin) or Deca – Perfect for bulking and strength, Deca is well known for its power in stimulating massive gains in lean muscle mass. The nitrogen retention from Deca is great and it gives your muscles a nice, full look. It also directly contributes to the repair and recovery of muscle tissue and joint pain.
- Nandrolone Phenylpropionate (NPP) or Durabolin – NPP is considered an excellent mass building steroid. Although gains are not as rapid and extreme as some other compounds, they are slow and steady. NPP also helps you retain lean muscle mass when cutting and during the off season.
- Methenolone Enanthate (Primobolan Depot) or Primo – Just like oral Primobolan, Depot isn’t a mass gaining steroid but provides the most benefit during cutting cycles where you need to retain maximum muscle while burning fat and eating a lower calorie diet. It is one of the best suited steroids for females.
- Masteron (Drostanolone, Dromostanolone) – Masteron is put to best use in a cutting cycle. Masteron gives you a granite hard look, it’s very effective when getting ready for competitions and it’s something that is mild enough to be used in longer cycles.
- Testosterone (Cypionate / Enanthate / Propionate) – Testosterone is considered the base of each steroid cycle, whether you’re cutting or bulking. It’s basic, it works, and it’s rarely faked. A great choice for beginners (first cycle).
- Sustanon 250 (contains four esters of testosterone: propionate, phenylpropionate, isocaproate and decanoate) – Sustanon 250 is a group of both slow and fast acting esters and that makes it useful for contributing to muscle building, fat loss, energy and strength by providing critical testosterone support during a steroid cycle.
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH) – not actually a steroid, HGH has been the hot topic for the past few years. HGH will reverse the aging process, improve sleep, build new muscle tissue, regenerate tissue, and heal the body.
- Trenbolone (Trenbolone Enanthate – Trenabol; Trenbolone Acetate – Finajet, Finaplix) or Tren – considered a steroid on steroids, Tren will give you crazy strength and also help with getting harder. It’s something that can be used for building up or cutting down.
- Parabolan (Trenbolone Hexahydrobenzylcarbonate, Hexabolan) or Tren Hex – it is a versatile steroid that is useful for a range of goals but not surprisingly is prized for its mass gaining benefits and the fact you can gain mass without water retention.
- Boldenone Undecylenate (Equipoise) or EQ – a very versatile steroid and can be used when bulking up or cutting down. It works extremely well for both. It’s slightly similar to Deca but it holds much less water and I get better vascularity from it. Usually stacked with testosterone.
- Stanozolol (Winstrol Depot) or Winny – an oral and injectable steroid that works for both cutting and bulking cycles as it increases muscle mass and hardens the appearance of the body. Usually stacked with Deca, EQ, Primo, Anavar, testosterone, Trenbolone, and Masteron.
One of the big downsides to oral steroids is their toxicity to the liver. The level of liver toxicity differs between steroids, dosage, duration of use and your individual response.
Choosing injectable steroids opens up your choices to a wider range of products. Oral steroids are generally taken daily due to their shorter half life, while an injection might be once or twice weekly.
Which Steroid Compound to Use for My First Cycle?
Remember, when it comes to steroids, beginners have one simple rule: KISS, or “Keep It Simple Stupid”. I believe KISS applies to all steroid cycles. Below is a brief summary of the most popular anabolic-androgenic steroids which may (or not) be suitable for your first steroid cycle:
There are several testosterone esters including Enanthate, Cypionate and Propionate. You don’t need a chemistry degree to work out which one is the best option for you, but it does help to know the differences between them.
Testosterone Enanthate is a hugely popular steroid and comes in dozens of brand names. It’s used for treating low testosterone and provides all the effects you’d expect from a test booster: muscle and strength gains along with enhancing male sex characteristics.
Its use by athletes focuses on its ability to boost muscle growth, help burn fat and speed up recovery. Testosterone Propionate is ideal for shorter cycles as it is slow release with a short half life.
There’s little difference between Cypionate and Enanthate with the most notable being that Cypionate has a longer half life. With such similar characteristics, both Testosterone Enanthate and Cypionate are generally considered interchangeable. All of these testosterone derivatives are injectable. If you are thinking of running a Testosterone cycle then take a look at my full Testosterone cycle guide.
Sustanon 250 is a popular synthetic testosterone androgen-anabolic steroid often medically used as an injection to treat the problem of low testosterone in men.
There are four testosterone ester compounds in Sustanon 250 (Testosterone Propionate, Phenylpropionate, Isocaproate, Decanoate) and all these active substances become testosterone once in the body once Sustanon 250 is injected.
Because testosterone is an androgen, this steroid brings about effects of increased masculinization but in men this can result in hair loss due to excess DHT. But it also stimulates red blood cell production which is a critical aspect of muscle growth.
Bodybuilders use Sustanon 250 to gain bulk and muscle mass, improve recovery, increase stamina and energy, and to retain a heightened anabolic state. If you’re interested in running a Sustanon 250 cycle, take a look at my Sustanon 250 cycle guide.
Dianabol is the most well known of the Methandrostenolone group of steroids and was the first ever androgen and anabolic steroid steroid to become available way back in the 1950s where it was used for increasing muscle mass and strength – just as it continues to be used today.
It is very effective for bulking and gaining mass during short time periods. Dianabol can also increase levels of estrogen because it can aromatize, which brings some potential side effects like gynecomastia (increased breast tissue) and fluid retention. For more information see my in-depth Dianabol cycle guide.
This is an AA steroid that’s used in the livestock industry to increase muscle growth in cattle. Only some esters of Tren are available with Trenbolone itself not available. In veterinary use the ester Trenbolone Acetate is used, while other Trenbolone esters include Enanthate and Hexahydrobenzylcarbonate (Parabolan).
Trenbolone Acetate is considered the fastest acting form that is favored by bodybuilders with noticeable effects and progress coming on within days and with no fluid retention, compared with Trenbolone Enanthate which can take several weeks to start kicking in.
Trenbolone is considered one of the most powerful steroids which has shown to be up to five times stronger and more effective than testosterone itself. Click here for my full Trenbolone cycle guide.
Stanozolol is a synthetic AA steroid which is a derivative of dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
It’s notable for its power to increase strength, but it’s no slouch in the muscle growth department either and a benefit is that it doesn’t aromatize so is less likely to have you experiencing things like water retention.
The modified DHT that was formed into the synthetic Stanozolol has its anabolic properties increased – for muscle and strength gains, and it’s androgenic properties reduced. Winstrol is the most well known brand of Stanozolol and is used both orally and as an injectable. If you’re interested in running a Winstrol cycle, take a look at my complete Winstrol cycle guide.
Deca-Durabolin (Nandrolone Decanoate)
Nandrolone decanoate is one of the most widely used androgenic-anabolic steroids. Studies have proven that Nandrolone brings about significant muscle mass increases in male bodybuilders.
Deca-Durabolin is the most well known brand of Nandrolone Decanoate and is used by intramuscular injection.
Deca has relatively weak androgenic effects but very strong anabolic effects which gives it a reduced risk of side effects compared with some other steroids. If you are interested in a Deca-Durabolin only cycle, then check out my complete Deca-Durabolin cycle guide.
Used medically to treat osteoporosis, anemia and wasting syndrome, Oxymetholone is also used as an AA steroid by bodybuilders for its ability to boost muscle growth and strength by increasing testosterone levels plus improving recovery and stamina by reducing or delaying fatigue as a result of increased red blood cell production getting more oxygen to the muscles. Its use as a treatment for anemia is a testament to its ability to improve red blood cell count.
Anadrol is one of the most well known brand names of Oxymetholone and is a popular oral steroid known for its ability to deliver hardcore strength and mass gains very quickly. Anadrol has a reputation as one of the most powerful and effective anabolic steroids with excellent anabolic effects and weaker androgenic effects. Click here to check my full Anadrol cycle guide.
Clenbuterol is a stimulant that has some similar properties to anabolic steroids and was originally developed to treat breathing disorders, but has become popular amongst bodybuilders and athletes to reduce body fat and grow muscle due to its similar effects to drugs like ephedrine.
It’s mainly used as a fat burner and to help increase muscle definition because of its potential to increase thermogenesis and metabolism. Clenbuterol is popularly used during cutting cycles to maximize fat loss. Check out my complete Clenbuterol cycle guide here.
Anavar is the well known brand name of Oxandrolone and is an androgen and anabolic steroid medically used for promoting weight gain after illness or injury, as well as for other conditions like osteoporosis and anemia.
When it comes to bodybuilding, Oxandrolone is popular because it’s highly anabolic and minimally androgenic therefore it’s often chosen by those not wanting to use some of the more powerful steroids out there, including by women.
Anavar does not require injections and is taken orally as a tablet, which is another attractive benefit for those new to using steroids. If you’re interested in running an Anavar cycle, check my full Anavar cycle guide.
Mesterolone, under the brand name Proviron, dates way back to the 1930s when it was developed by a pharmaceutical company. This anabolic androgenic steroid is a useful cutting steroid for those who know how to make the most of this unique compound.
While it can be used for mass gains, this steroid is mostly used in cutting cycles. Proviron is derived from dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and is used as an oral steroid.
One of the downsides and reasons that this is not a widely used steroid is that compared with other oral compounds, Proviron has lower bioavailability. Proviron has relatively weak androgenic and estrogenic effects compared with other steroids, and can actually provide some mild anti-estrogenic benefits.
Mesterolone is unlikely to play a star role in any stack, but one big benefit it can have even in a bulking stack is to increase the amount of free and available hormones from other steroids in the stack because this compound binds strongly to SHGB which can boost circulating free testosterone.
Proviron is useful for cutting as not only can it help harden the muscles, but can also enhance that same effect from the other steroids in your stack. It also encourages fat burning thanks to its androgen receptor binding.
Being quite anti-estrogenic, Proviron discourages water retention. This steroid comes with low side effect risks, with some androgenic effects being the main concern including the usual culprits like acne and hair loss in some individuals. The most serious potential side effect of Proviron relates to cholesterol and those with high cholesterol are advised to avoid this steroid. For more information check my in-depth Proviron cycle guide.
Masteron was originally developed as a breast cancer medication. Bodybuilders make use of the compound Drostanolone as a powerful cutting steroid, especially those people involved in competitions where it is very popular in preparation cycles. This is another DHT derived steroid, but unlike Proviron, Masteron is injectable.
There are two esters available, with propionate being more commonly used and more available than enanthate. As you might expect from a breast cancer drug, Masteron holds some valuable anti-estrogenic properties so estrogen related side effects are not a concern with this steroid. Without the worry about water retention, Masteron makes for an excellent cutting steroid with the ability to harden the physique.
While not considered to be a bulking or muscle gain steroid, Masteron can improve strength exceptionally well making this a popular steroid with athletes who want both the performance enhancement and fat cutting benefits without building mass. Masteron is a steroid made for people who have already done considerable work in getting lean and toned, with this compound aiding in the final stages before competition where maximum hardness and detailed fat loss is required.
Androgenic side effects like hair loss and acne are still possible with Masteron, but are considered mild compared with other steroids. Masteron is also usable by women when careful attention is paid to dosage to avoid virilization. The downside of Masteron also relates to cholesterol and the way this steroid decreases HDL and increases LDL, meaning your cholesterol levels must be monitored and maintained as well as possible through the diet and cardio exercise. For more information check my in-depth Masteron cycle guide.
Halotestin is a unique testosterone-derived steroid in that it is extremely powerful with a sky high anabolic rating, has had many medical uses from muscle wasting to breast cancer, but is not mainly used by bodybuilders or athletes for bulking or cutting. It is mostly valued for its ability to provide incredible strength increases mostly through its activity on red blood cells.
Despite the anabolic power of Fluoxymesterone, this is not known to be effective in humans and as a result we don’t get the muscle building effect from this steroid that you might otherwise expect of such a potent compound. What it can do however is boost fat loss and greatly increase performance.
Despite the potentially very powerful benefits, Halotestin is not a very widely used steroid and this is mainly because of its quite extensive side effects. Aggression is a real issue with this steroid, so for those men who have a tendency towards a short fuse this is a steroid to avoid completely. Other men might be able to channel the heightened aggression and energy into workouts but this is a serious side effect that needs to be considered.
For people who have a specific need for the specialized benefits that Halotestin can provide, it’s a steroid considered potent for short term use where you have a specific goal at the end, making it usable mostly by strength athletes and power lifters. There are no estrogenic side effects with Halotestin but strong androgenic effects are possible in men and the strong androgenic nature of this steroid make it unsuitable for use by females. For more information read my in-depth Halotestin cycle guide.
Methenolone is a DHT derived steroid which is available in both oral and injectable forms, with the injectable known as Primobolan Depot. The injectable version is considered much more powerful than the oral form and as such is more popular amongst bodybuilders and performance athletes.
The most beneficial effects of Primobolan include its ability to boost nitrogen retention and keep the body in an anabolic state, but despite this it is not considered as a mass building steroid. Primobolan is at its most valuable when used in a cutting cycle with enhanced nitrogen retention helping to retain muscle, and the potential for excellent fat loss through the process of lipolysis.
One of the several medical conditions this steroid was used to treat was AIDS due to Primobolan positive effect on the immune system, making this a unique trait of this steroid.
Strength enhancement is another effect of Primobolan, making this steroid useful for athletes outside the bodybuilding sphere. This can translate into boosted speed and power, as well as endurance and muscle recovery. Male athletes can benefit from these positive effects without the concern of gaining excess muscle which may not be desired physically or aesthetically.
Primobolan is one of the few steroids that is highly usable by females in either oral or injectable form. While men are unlikely to see noticeable mass gains with this steroid, women will be more sensitive to the anabolic effects and can see some gains in weight.
There are no estrogenic side effects with Methenolone making it a good cutting steroid without water retention. However strong androgenic side effects are possible, and women are advised to retain a low dose and short duration of use of this steroid. Click here for my full Primobolan cycle guide.
This is a veterinary steroid used on debilitated horses to increase appetite and improve body and muscle condition. It is an injectable steroid that is long acting, has excellent anabolic properties and low androgenic activity.
For the human bodybuilder, this is a steroid that provides great benefits in the areas of strength and lean mass, although mass gains can be slow and not at the level of more powerful bulking steroids. Those wanting moderate mass gains rather than extreme ones will enjoy Equipoise for this purpose.
Some users of Equipoise report an increase in appetite while others experience no change to the appetite, indicating that effect is highly individualistic. Equipoise excels at cutting and is excellent at helping retain lean muscle and provide a general improvement in body conditioning. Strength improvements is an area that Equipoise provides great benefit, as is muscle endurance and recovery.
While these are very useful for athletes, the downside of Equipoise is its long detection time of five months. Side effects to expect with this steroid include testosterone suppression, mild negative impact on cholesterol, and relatively low risk of androgenic effects in men like hair loss and acne.
Equipoise has a low level of estrogenic activity so these side effects should be easy to control, but can include water retention and gynecomastia particularly when the steroid is used at higher doses. Equipoise can be used by women at low doses with low risk of virilization effects. Check out my complete Equipoise cycle guide.
This steroid is similar in its structure to Dianabol as it is a chemical combination of Dianabol and Clostebol. It is more mild in its effects than Dianabol. Also known as Oral Turinabol, this steroid has a low androgenic rating and does not aromatize.
This is a steroid that is not highly valued by bodybuilders, but more so by performance athletes thanks to Turinabol’s ability to enhance muscle endurance, strength and recovery. Noticeable gains in speed and power can be expected with this steroid, making it desirable for sports athletes which is why this steroid is notorious for its past use by East German Olympic athletes in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Turinabol provides its performance enhancing effects by increasing red blood cell count which gets more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles; further boosting their endurance and power. Increasing protein synthesis and nitrogen retention result in heightened anabolic activity so lean muscle is retained.
Side effects of Turinabol include a high risk of negative impact on cholesterol and suppression of natural testosterone production. Androgenic are unlikely but possible and can include acne and baldness. Water retention and other estrogenic side effects are not an issue with this steroid, making it useful as part of a cutting cycle. Check out my complete Turinabol cycle guide.
Steroids Half-Lives? What is a Half-Life?
The elimination half-life of any drug or substance, including steroids, is a measure of how long it takes for a 50% reduction of the steroid concentration to remain in the blood or body. Knowing the half life of a steroid you’re taking makes it easy to plan your cycles, know which steroids to use and how long you should use them for.
It will also allow you to know what’s happening in your body if you’re faced with substance testing. The half life of a steroid remains the same no matter what your dosage is or how long you’ve been using it. The following is a list of the most popular anabolic steroids and their half-lives:
|Compound||Active Half-life||Detection Time|
|Anadrol||8 to 9 hours||8 weeks|
|Sustanon 250||15-18 days||3 months|
|Deca-Durabolin||15 days||18 months|
|Dianabol||4.5 to 6 hours||6 weeks|
|Anavar||9 hours||3 weeks|
|Winstrol||9 hours||3 weeks|
|Winstrol Depot||1 day||9 weeks|
|Testosterone Cypionate||12 days||3 months|
|Testosterone Enanthate||10.5 days||3 months|
|Testosterone Propionate||3-4.5 days||2 weeks|
|Testosterone Suspension||1 day||1-2 days|
|Trenbolone Acetate||3 days||5 months|
|Trenbolone Enanthate||8 days||5 months|
|Clenbuterol||1.5 days||4-6 days|
|Proviron||12 hours||5-6 weeks|
|Masteron||3-4 days||3 weeks|
|Superdrol||6 to 8 hours||8-10 weeks|
|Halotestin||9.5 hours||2 months|
|Primobolan Oral||2-3 days||4-5 weeks|
|Primobolan Depot||10.5 days||5 weeks|
|Equipoise||14 days||4-5 months|
|Turinabol||16 hours||11-12 months|
|Arimidex*||2-3 days||2 weeks|
|Clomid*||5-7 days||2 months|
|Letrozole*||2-4 days||2 weeks|
|Nolvadex*||7-14 days||2 months|
Half life length can vary considerably between different steroid types. For example, Deca-Durabolin has a long half life of 15 days, while Winstrol has a very short half life of just 9 hours. Steroids with a longer half life take longer to withdraw from compared to those with shorter half lives.
Cycling, Stacking, and Pyramiding Steroids
These are three of the usage methods or patterns that can be applied to steroid use. The one you select will depend on what goals you have, with bodybuilders and athletes requiring different methods to achieve the maximum possible effect.
Cycling is used by people who know exactly what they want to achieve and when, as well as when they want to be steroid-free when it comes to being tested.
Cycling is essentially an on-off strategy and one of the big reasons it’s done is to avoid the diminishing effects of steroids after they’ve been continually taken for around two months, where muscle gain can start to slow. Cycling requires a plan as you’ll be deciding how long you want to take the steroid for, and how long the break in between will be when you stop using it.
A cycle can range anywhere from a few weeks up to several months of usage, followed by a period of time with either no steroid use at all, or using at a lower dosage. Your cycle length will depend on your experience with steroids, which steroid you’re taking, and what goals you’re trying to achieve.
Bulking, cutting, strength and performance are the big reasons that anyone uses anabolic steroids.
You might have one or more of these goals, but ultimately what you want to achieve from your steroid cycles is going to determine what you take and how you take them. Bulking and cutting while retaining muscle mass are two areas I focus on below with these steroid stack examples.
As you would expect, added benefits like increased strength, endurance and performance are going to come with the use of these compounds which is ultimately what helps you break through all your plateaus and previous records at the gym once you’re on a cycle.
More experienced steroid users might try stacking and as you might guess, this involves using more than one type of steroid at a time. Combining two or more steroids that each have different actions or effects on the body is one way of attempting to achieve a much more powerful result.
One of the main steroid stacking strategies is to stack a short acting and long acting steroid, or to combine oral and injectable steroids in a stack. Stacking steroids comes with greater potential results but also with increased risks, and these also need to be considered.
Just like the shape of a pyramid, this method is centered on beginning with a low dose and gradually increasing your steroid dosage so that your peak dose is in the middle of the cycle. This is the top of the pyramid, after which you then begin gradually decreasing the dosage until you get back to zero.
Unlike cycling where you might abruptly stop using steroids completely at the end of a cycle, pyramiding allowed you to slowly taper off. One of the main reasons users choose the pyramid method is to help adjust to higher doses while trying to avoid overloading the natural hormone system of the body and giving it time to readjust when the dosage is lowered in the second part of the pyramid.
How long should you run your steroid cycles for? This will depend on several factors but the main ones are going to be which steroid compound (or compounds) you want to use, and what your overall goals are (plus if you expect to be faced with any sort of drug testing at any stage).
Short Cycles (2-4 weeks)
Lasting just two or three weeks, a short cycle can be useful at two extreme ends – either for getting very rapid gains by essentially blasting the body with very high doses (not recommended for any beginner), or if you’re happy with some steady but slower gains without overloading your body with substances.
The benefit of the latter is, when done with 3 or 4 weeks off cycle, a short and steady cycle reduces health and side effects risks to the lowest possible level.
Medium Cycles (6-8 weeks)
A 6 to 8 weeks cycle is useful for gaining lean mass or cutting over a moderate period of time where you put in serious diet and gym work, while allowing to run around 3 cycles per year with adequate time during the off cycle period without the risk of diminishing gains which can happen if you’re cycle extends for too long.
This time frame also reduces side effects, although this will heavily depend on what compounds you’re using. Medium cycles do restrict you to making the gains you want during these few weeks so you’ll be fairly limited to faster acting compounds. Testosterone propionate injections are often the ester of choice for a medium cycle
Standard Cycles (10-12 weeks)
Lasting from 10 to 12 weeks, standard cycle lengths are suited to new steroid users as well as those with more experience, with benefits for both bulking and cutting depending on you goals and which steroid compounds you’re using.
This period of time is considered optimal because it allows you to make gains for the longest possible time, until you reach the point where gaining muscle starts to diminish and plateau, and potentially stop altogether. This eliminates any wasting of time (and steroids) if your body is not going to make gains – instead allowing you to go off cycle and clear your system in preparation for the start of the next cycle.
Long Cycles (3-9 months)
This is only recommended for long-time, highly experienced or older users who have no concern about natural testosterone levels. Some people believe that very long cycles ranging from 3 to 9 months can bring about permanent gains.
Testosterone enanthate or cypionate are the compounds most commonly used in a long cycle. As expected, the heightened risk of serious side effects of these extra long steroid cycles makes it a strategy that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Beginner Steroid Cycle
Which compounds to use for my beginner steroid cycle?
Selecting a shorter half life steroid as your first makes it easier to get over any initial side effects when the steroid eliminates from your system sooner. Striking a balance between effective results and mild side effects is important for a beginner. That means keeping the dosage moderate and carefully considering which compounds to use first.
The biggest factor you’re probably thinking about is “Do I go orals or injectables?“.
Orals are no doubt much less daunting than injecting for the first time, but it does significantly limit the compounds you’ll be able to use, plus how long you’ll be able to use it. While orals are easier to take, they come with toxic side effects to the liver so.
Whichever form you decide to use for your beginner cycle, your next step is to figure out which steroid compounds you’re going to kick things off with. Here are some of my favorite cycles for beginners:
Testosterone only cycle
Testosterone only cycle will help keep your testosterone levels up if you’re going to be using other steroids in your cycle that can suppress test levels. The goal of using Test enanthate is to retain your testosterone levels at the highest possible level throughout your cycle, so dosage across the cycle can vary but as a beginner you’ll be looking at using up to 500mg each week. This compound boosts production of red blood cells and gives noticeable gains in muscle mass and endurance.
Dianabol only cycle
Dianabol only cycle is a common beginner choice because it’s an oral compound, so it’s simple to take and helps you avoid injecting. You’ll only be doing a 6 week cycle on Dianabol to avoid liver toxicity. You will also need to watch out for androgenic side effects and considering taking aromatase inhibitor drugs alongside it to reduce estrogen and minimize these side effects. A big benefit to Dbol as a beginner cycle choice is its very short half life, so if you change your mind it won’t take long to exit your system.
Nandrolone only cycle
A cycle of Nandrolone for your first beginner attempt puts you in a class of steroids that are very popular but does require intramuscular injections. As a beginner cycle, you will want to start at a half dose twice a week, then increase the dose to the full level of 200mg as a weekly injection.
Beginners need to remember that steroids are not going to build muscle or give you massive strength on their own: your results will come down to your dedication in the gym, to your diet and how hard you’re willing to train to get the absolute maximum results your body is capable of with the use of steroids.
Side effects from your first steroid cycle
It’s really important to play close attention to how you’re responding to the effects of steroids after you start taking them.
You’ll soon notice which, if any, particular side effects are going to start causing issues for you, and it won’t necessarily be the same effect that you’ve heard of someone else experiencing with the same steroid: every person is different.
It’s the androgenic type side effects from some steroids that you’ve probably heard about often: oily skin, acne, anger issues. Not everyone will experience these side effects, with some guys being more prone to them.
If you’ve never had acne in your life you’re less likely to get it after using steroids compared with someone who had massive breakouts in his teens. The same goes with baldness and whether there’s a genetic predisposition for it in your family history.
Advanced Steroid Cycle
Advanced cycles are only to be considered if you’ve been doing less powerful cycles for some time and have got a comfortable grip on what effect certain steroids have on your body, and have gained the confidence that you’re ready to move up the ranks to a more advanced user of steroid compounds.
A more advanced steroid cycle might consist of several steroid compounds; in essence a stack that is used on a cycle schedule. A common example of this could be combining Testosterone (cypionate or enanthate), Deca, Dianabol and Anavar.
Consider this advanced bulking cycle: A 16 week cycle consisting of 1000mg of Testosterone weekly, 600mg of Deca weekly, 70mg of Dianabol per day for the first 5 weeks, which is then stopped and substituted with Anavar from week 6 to 16 at 100mg daily. As with all cycles, post cycle therapy is critical.
Common Side Effects of Steroid Use
There’s no denying that using any steroid is going to put you at risk of some side effects. You can reduce the risk of unwanted side effects by using steroids in lower doses, however there is no way to completely eliminate both the mild and potentially dangerous risks involved in using anabolic steroids. Some of the common side effects people experience include:
Due to the quick increases in muscle gain that anabolic steroids product, soft or bloated looking muscle can occur because of fluid retention. Water retention can also make your face look bloated.
Acne and oily skin
If you were prone to acne before starting steroids, you’re more likely to experience this as a side effect in addition to acne related conditions like oily skin as well as noticeably more oily hair. The acne can become severe for some people. The skin’s oil glands are more susceptible to infection and inflammation because of the steroid’s effects on the sebaceous glands.
Mood swings, irritability and anger
Heavy use of anabolic steroids is known to heighten the risk of negative emotional and behavioral changes like aggressiveness and mood swings. This has been linked to the term “roid rage” and can, in severe cases, has a disastrous effect on personal relationships, employment and other aspects of life.
Research has found that many people who use anabolic androgenic steroids reporting experiencing a sleep disorder, and one sleep study showed that steroid users are prone to reduced efficiency of sleep and alterations to normal sleep patterns.
Using androgenic steroids can induce male pattern baldness in young guys who are predisposed to it – so if your dad has a receding hair line then you’re at a higher risk of this side effect no matter how young you are.
Otherwise known as the dreaded man boobs or simply as gyno, this is an enlargement of the breast tissue in males. A method of reducing or eliminating the risk of gyno when using steroids is to make use of anti-aromatase and anti-estrogen substances. Once gynecomastia is allowed to develop, you can’t reverse the effects except with surgery, so it’s critical you get on top of any signs of breast enlargement as soon as you notice it, including sensitivity and itching of the area which are usually the first noticeable signs.
No guy wants shrunken testicles, but this is a real side effect risk with some anabolic steroids because of the massive boost of synthetic testosterone you’re getting, which tells the body it doesn’t need to keep producing testosterone the natural way – via the testicles. So they start shrinking. It’s not just the size that reduces though, with sperm count also decreasing bringing about reduced fertility. This is one of the most dreaded of all side effects from steroid use.
The most severe side effects that heavy and long term users of steroids are at risk of can extend to liver damage, kidney cancer, stroke and heart attack.
|Testosterone||Edema, acne, hair loss, gyno||Moderate-High|
|Sustanon 250||Acne, liver, nausea, gyno||Moderate-High|
|Dianabol||Hair loss, edema, gyno, liver||Moderate|
|Anadrol 50||Liver, edema, gynecomastia||Moderate-High|
|Trenbolone||Oily skin, acne, hair loss||Moderate-High|
|Clenbuterol||Insomnia, headache, nausea||Moderate|
|Primobolan Depot||Testicular atrophy||Low-Moderate|
Note: “Gains” defines how much muscle mass you’ll put on.
If you’re a male in your late teens and early 20s who is still physically developing you have a higher risk of negative side effects like acne and scarring, stunted growth, stretch marks and aged skin.
Stopping the use of a steroid cycle or quitting steroids altogether can bring about depression, tiredness, weight loss and loss of strength while your body takes several months to build testosterone levels back to where they naturally should be.
Post Cycle Therapy (PCT) After Your First Cycle
Beginners might overlook the necessity of PCT after a steroid cycle, but post cycle therapy is just as important as the cycle itself. Steroids cause havoc with the body’s natural processes, including testosterone and other hormone production, so once you come off a cycle you need to encourage your body to begin producing hormones naturally again, without relying on artificial steroids.
PCT is important both for preventing steroid side effects as well as for helping maintain the muscle gains you’ve made during your cycle. But when to start your PCT protocol after ceasing your cycle? Here is a quick reference table:
|Compound||When to start after last admission||Duration of PCT|
|Testosterone Enanthate||2 weeks||3-4 weeks|
|Testosterone Cypionate||2 weeks||3-4 weeks|
|Testosterone Propionate||3 days||3 weeks|
|Testosterone Suspension||6-8 hours||3 weeks|
|Sustanon 250||3 weeks||3-4 weeks|
|Winstrol||12 hours||2-3 weeks|
|Dianabol||6-8 hours||3 weeks|
|Trenbolone Acetate||3 days||4 weeks|
|Deca-Durabolin||3 weeks||4 weeks|
|Superdrol||6-8 hours||3 weeks|
|Anavar||8-10 hours||2-3 weeks|
|Anadrol||8-9 hours||2-3 weeks|
|Primobolan Depot||2 weeks||3 weeks|
|Equipoise||17-21 days||3 weeks|
PCT usually lasts between 3 to 6 weeks or a little longer. These are some of the most common PCT drugs people use for their post-cycle therapy:
- Clomid PCT: 50mg/day for 3 weeks (or 100mg/day first 10 days, then 50mg/day for 10 more days)
- Nolvadex PCT: 40mg/day week 1-2 and 20mg/day week 3-4
Making PCT a critical part of every steroid cycle is a habit you will need to get into, starting from your very first cycle as a beginner. These and other PCT drugs come with their own potential side effects so always do your research before deciding which ones to use. Check out my full comprehensive PCT cycle guide to fully understand what is required for a productive post cycle therapy.
When you’re new to steroids you are likely to have a lot of questions. Below are some of the most common questions I see being asked by people considering using steroids for the first time.
What are anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS)?
These are steroids which are synthetic derivatives of testosterone which give similar effects to that male hormone. Because testosterone is so critical in the process building of muscle and strength, taking AAS substances substantially boosts your ability to gain muscle mass, burn fat, and recover faster. The androgenic side of some of these steroids can result in masculinizing side effects which is why advanced users aim to use steroid types that have more powerful anabolic effects, and reduced androgenic effects.
Is it safe to inject steroids? Does it hurt?
Maintaining common sense hygiene and safety practices ensures you won’t be risking your health with any sort of infections when using steroid injections. When it comes to the best location for your injections – as a beginner it’s often recommended to start at one of the biggest muscles – the buttock area. The top right or left area is the gluteus maximus muscle and is going to be the least painful location. To avoid pain and irritation, rotate your injection sites each time and don’t inject into the same muscle without letting it recover.
How to inject steroids?
Steroids are injected intramuscularly – directly into the muscle – and not intravenously. Learning how to inject steroids properly and safely is critical if you are to gain confidence in using this form of androgen and anabolic steroid.
Like doing anything for the first time, injecting steroids will take some time to become used to. But you can significantly decrease your risks of having anything going wrong just by following some basic safety and common sense procedures, by taking your time the first few times. It won’t be long until you feel confident with injecting.
Hygiene is critical: wash your hands, only used new and sterile needles and clean the injection site with an antibacterial cleanser both before and after injecting. And it goes without saying – don’t share needles.
Steroids are injected straight into your muscle. Choosing the best muscle or the one you are most comfortable with is something you’ll want to think about as there are pros and cons to selecting various muscles.
The glutes are large muscles with less nerves and are a popular newbie choice, despite the fact you need to twist to get into position – after a few times this will become easier. Other muscle injecting sites include the thigh which is easily accessible, plus the deltoids, triceps and biceps. Injection sites should be rotated so each location can recover.
You might feel tense on your first few injection attempts, but it’s important to remain calm and allow the muscle to relax. Once you’ve drawn up your measured dose into the syringe, place it over your injection site.
You’ll want to be sure you haven’t hit a vein and the best way to do that is to pull back on the plunger to see if any blood is extracted. If so, try another spot (using a new needle if you wish). Once you’re happy with the location, push down on the syringe plunger at a steady pace: not too fast.
Once you’ve removed the needle, swab the site for a for a minute and ensure it’s kept clean. The better your injecting technique becomes, the less risk of soreness you’ll experience. For more information read my in-depth steroid injections guide.
What age should I start using steroids?
Many people think it is a waste to begin using steroids use below age 30, and particularly below age 25 because natural testosterone levels are so high during this time that you should be making the most of it. Older guys who are seeing a natural decrease in testosterone as they age will often turn to steroids to maintain the positive benefits of testosterone – including gaining muscle, but most also note a significant boost in all over mental and physical well being so long as the steroids are not abused.
What should my diet and training be like when I’m on a steroid cycle?
Plenty of protein is a must while on a cycle since steroids boost protein synthesis which in turn is what builds muscle. You want to maintain your fuel and never allow the muscles to become depleted. The better you eat while on a cycle, the better your results will be.
The same goes for your training: while on a cycle your body is ready to be pushed to the maximum limit. Your gains will come on thick and fast, but only those who are dedicated to lifting the heaviest weights and pushing through the toughest reps until absolute muscle exhaustion will reap the maximum potential benefits that can be had by using steroids.
What is an ester?
Ester is a chemistry term relating to the modification of compounds. This gives us varying forms of similar steroids: for example, there are multiple types of testosterone esters which are very similar in chemical structure, but with slight differences which are enough to give each ester a different effect on the body. There are dozens of testosterone esters but only a few are commonly used by AAS users.
Should I take anti-estrogen drugs with steroids?
Some steroids can increase the female hormone estrogen by bringing about an imbalance in hormones that leads to the aromatase enzyme converting too much testosterone into estrogen, causing distressing side effects. For this reason, users of steroids that are known to have this effects will make use of anti-estrogen drugs known as aromatase inhibitors. Many of these are cancer medications made for women and are not always simple to get your hands on.
What is gyno?
Short for gynecomastia – male breast growth which is a common side effect of some steroid use. If too much estrogen conversion happens, gyno comes about and it’s not reversible besides with surgery like liposuction. This swelling of the breast tissue is one of the most visible and embarrassing potential side effects of steroid use and undoubtably one that guys to great lengths to try and prevent. Anadrol and Dianabol are two of the steroids known to come with a higher risk of gyno development.
Will steroids give me acne or make me bald?
Male pattern baldness and acne type skin conditions are certainly two possible side effects of anabolic steroid use. Out of the two, acne is considered the more common side effect, with baldness being higher risk if your male ancestors passed on baldness genes.
Acne comes about due to increased activity of the oil producing sebaceous glands thanks to the androgen effects of some steroids. One study found that over 40% of anabolic and androgenic steroid users experienced acne, particularly on the face and back. The good news is that acne can disappear once you stop the steroid, however baldness is more permanent.
Will steroids affect my sex drive?
A boost of the libido is common when using AAS compounds. Many guys notice a concerning drop in their sex drive after stopping steroids. This is due to the body’s natural testosterone production being significantly reduced or stopping altogether, which is why post cycle therapy is so important once you come off a steroid cycle as you aim to get your natural hormone levels back to normal. For more information see my erectile dysfunction treatment guide.
How fast do anabolic steroids work?
Every steroid is different when it comes to how quick you can start seeing results, and your training and diet regime will play a significant role in how big you’re going to get and how fast you’ll get there. Injectable steroids naturally work much faster than orals like Dianabol. For most steroids you are looking at a few weeks, which is why you need to stick to a recommended cycle length according to which AAS you’re going to use.
What happens when you stop taking steroids?
Although anabolic steroids are not drugs that brings about physical addiction, users can experience mood swings, anxiety, depression and other negative effects when stopping steroid use due to a sudden hormonal imbalance and low testosterone. Steroids with a longer half life take longer to withdraw from. This is why it’s critical to work on restoring the natural hormone balance after using AAS compounds.