When you’re fully focused on planning your steroid cycle, your workouts and your nutrition, it’s all too easy to give little thought it what could essentially be the most critical aspect of your steroid use: post cycle therapy (PCT).
A cycle of steroids completely changes the functioning of your natural hormone system. You might stop producing natural testosterone altogether. One of the big goals of post cycle therapy is to get your hormone balance back on track.
Post cycle therapy (PCT) is a critical action to take and one that deserves just as much thought and planning as your steroid cycle itself. It involves taking several prescription medications that may or may not be easily available to you, while also requiring you to understand how they all work together and what is the best combination, dosage and length of time to run your post cycle therapy protocol.
This guide covers everything you need to know about post cycle therapy and how to incorporate it into your routines. Treating post cycle therapy as high a priority as every other aspect of your bodybuilding program will not only enhance your results, but also protect your health.
Author’s Note: This guide is based on personal experience and does NOT promote the illegal use of steroids. If you want to know what I am currently using (and why), jump to my source list here.
- Do I Need a PCT After Using Steroids? The Importance of PCT
- Top 3 Primary Testosterone Stimulating Agents for HPTA Recovery During PCT
- SERMS for PCT
- Aromatase Inhibitors for PCT
- HCG for PCT
- SERMs vs HCG vs Aromatase inhibitors
- Ideal Post Cycle Therapy Protocol To Use?
- Do I Need a PCT After Using SARMs?
- Common Q&A Related to PCT
- My Conclusion and Recommendation
Do I Need a PCT After Using Steroids? The Importance of PCT
Post cycle therapy is essential and you need to do it because your body’s normal production of testosterone has been interrupted. Depending on which steroids you’ve been using, how long your cycle was, and other individual factors, your natural testosterone production could be very low to non-existent following a steroid cycle. So getting your test back on track is a critical reason for undertaking PCT.
Just as importantly is the fact that once you stop using steroids at the end of a cycle it stops the anabolic state your body is in, which can lead to difficulty in maintaining the gains you’ve worked so hard to make. So the importance of doing post cycle therapy is centered on:
- Restoring natural testosterone production
- Maintaining muscle mass (muscle gains)
- Getting your body’s natural systems back on track after steroid use
Post cycle therapy (PCT) can be thought of as a post-cycle detox. You are essentially going to be telling your body to work properly again without the influence of steroids in your system. The ultimate goal is to be able to come out of your steroid cycle while maintaining as much of your muscle gains as possible, and a fully functioning, normal hormonal system.
Top 3 Primary Testosterone Stimulating Agents for HPTA Recovery During PCT
The three main categories of compounds are (in order of importance):
- SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators)
- Aromatase Inhibitors (AI)
- HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin)
SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators)
There are different types of SERMs that each come with their pros and cons. When it comes to using SERMS in post cycle therapy (PCT), the names you will most commonly come across are:
Clomid is considered the more powerful of the three, but with that comes a higher risk of more serious side effects.
SERMs are designed to block the effects of estrogen. But as the term “selective” in the name implies, SERMs don’t provide a complete mitigation against estrogen. Instead, while the effects of estrogen might blocked in some areas, in other areas of the body it can actually bring about an increase in estrogen effects.
This means there’s a balance between the potential positive and negative impact of SERMs which makes it clear that it, like any class of drugs, is not a cure all for your estrogenic side effects post-cycle. However SERMs are considered to be a popular option in post cycle therapy and still provide satisfactory results for bodybuilders when they are used correctly.
As SERMs are often used as a breast cancer drug for women, they act as an estrogen antagonist (reduce estrogen) on breast tissue and so are useful for mitigating the effects of one of the most dreaded and distressing side effects of using anabolic steroids in gynecomastia (gyno).
The main benefits of using SERMs are:
- Stimulate the production of testosterone
- Block the effects of estrogen (reduce estrogen)
- Help restore the body’s natural hormone function
- May help keep cholesterol low
While SERMs are a critical aspect of a post cycle therapy protocol no matter which steroids you’ve been using, they should not make up the entire post cycle therapy protocol due to their mixed effects on estrogen.
By acting as an estrogen agonist in some areas, rather than an antagonist, estrogen’s effects may be enhanced. However it is disturbances of the vision that is possibly the most worrying side effects when it comes to some SERMs. Clomid in particular presents a risk of this potentially serious health problem as it is one of the more powerful SERMs available.
Aromatase Inhibitors (AIs)
Like SERMs, aromatase inhibitor drugs also mitigate the effects of estrogen when normal levels rise too much as a result of bring converted from the higher testosterone levels present from steroid use. Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) include:
- Arimidex (Anastrozole)
- Letrozole (Femara)
- Aromasin (Exemestane)
- Arimistane or 1,4,6-Androstatrien-3,17-dione (ATD)
However unlike SERMs which work to block estrogen in the tissue cells, AI’s reduce the amount of estrogen that is circulating in the body by inhibiting the conversion of androgens into estrogen which ultimately results in higher estrogen levels and lower testosterone levels.
The main benefits of using aromatase inhibitors include:
- Block the enzyme aromatase to stop androgen converting to estrogen
- Bring about an increase in testosterone by lowering estrogen
- Prevent or reduce Gynecomastia
- Also mitigate estrogenic effects of HCG
While we can clearly see the benefits of using aromatase inhibitors, there are also some negative effects, such as possible hair loss, hot flashes, increased risk of blood clots, abnormal heart beat, joint and muscle pain.
The purpose of using aromatase inhibitors as part of your post cycle therapy (PCT) protocol is to prevent that cycle occurring, reversing it, and bringing about an increase in the production of testosterone.
AIs are also important for post cycle therapy when you’re including Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) in your post cycle therapy protocol, since aromatase inhibitors are needed to moderate the estrogenic effects in HCGs.
HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin)
HCG is a hormone that can help reverse or prevent some of the more serious side effects we see with steroid use like shrinking of the testicles and the potential infertility that comes along with reduced sperm production. Medically it is used by men who have low testosterone and infertility.
Benefits of using human chorionic gonadotropin include:
- Restores and increases natural production of testosterone
- Returns testicles to normal size and function
- Increases sperm production
- Prevents breakdown of the muscle tissue you’ve gained
Some potential negative effects of HCG are fatigue, headache, depression, gynecomastia, leg, feet and hand swelling, prolonged use can inhibit sperm and testosterone production.
In a post cycle therapy protocol, HCG should be used with aromatase inhibitor and also a SERM. Not only is there no use or benefit in using HCG alone in your post cycle therapy (PCT), but doing so will bring about a reduction in leutinizing hormone.
Instead, always use HCG with an aromatase inhibitor and a SERM to counter the effect of a rise in estrogen levels caused by HCG’s impact of increasing aromatase activity in testicles.
SERMS for PCT
Clomid is designed to improve fertility in women. The way it goes about this is to stimulate the pituitary gland to increase LH (luteinizing hormone) levels and follicle stimulating hormone which leads to a stimulation of testosterone production in men.
Clomid is most commonly used in post cycle therapy (PCT) to restore natural testosterone producing function. Some of the benefits of using Clomid for post cycle therapy include:
- Considered stronger than Nolvadex
- Can block estrogen
- Stimulates natural testosterone production
- Positively impacts on cholesterol levels through the liver
Potential side effects with Clomid include problems with vision and mood swings. Visual problems can include blurriness, floaters, light sensitivity and more. While most of these visual complications are often reversible, some more serious and permanent disorders can come about from heavier or longer term use of Clomid. At the more serious end this can include cataracts, build up of fluid in the macula, and even loss of vision.
Starting Clomid in post cycle therapy two weeks after your steroid cycle ends is most recommended. However if you’re using a testosterone ester with a shorter half-life (Propionate for example) then Clomid can be started as soon as 5 days after the end of your cycle.
50mg per day for 3 weeks following a mild to moderate testosterone cycle is considered sufficient for Clomid.
The common brand name for Nolvadex is Tamoxifen and its goal is to stop the binding of estrogen to receptors, especially in the breast tissue as it was developed to treat breast cancer.
Nolvadex helps reduce the side effect of gynecomastia. This is a useful and very popular post cycle therapy compound for most people on a regular steroid cycle. The main benefits of Nolvadex are:
- Helps prevent gynecomastia
- Restores natural hormonal function
- Less side effect risk than Clomid
- Provides both anti-estrogenic and pro-testosterone
- Can maintain low cholesterol due to estrogenic agonistic effects on the liver
- Helps keep estrogen levels at a low level
Potential negative effects of using Nolvadex include headache, digestive upset, hot flashing, possible reduction in levels of IGF-1, reduction in libido and potential thinning or loss of hair.
Nolvadex Dosages and Administration
If you’ve done a basic testosterone cycle, Nolvadex can be started two weeks after the end of your cycle. However, some bodybuilders tend to take it during the cycle as well as right after it, in order to keep testosterone levels high by preventing the binding of estrogen. The recommended period for using Nolvadex is 4 weeks, although some protocols exist that cover as little as 21 days.
Like all SERMs and any drugs that you use in your post cycle therapy protocol, you need to dose Nolvadex properly if it is to work the way you need it to. There are a number of example and recommended protocols for dosing Nolvadex for post cycle therapy, and they can vary markedly.
One recommended dosage is 40mg per day in the first week, 20mg per day for the next two weeks, and 10mg daily for the fourth and final week. In a 3 week protocol, one of the recommended dosages is to take 100mg on the first day, followed by 60mg for 10 days then dropping to 40mg for the final 10 days.
Clomid or Nolvadex? Which one for PCT? Or Both?
Nolvadex comes with the benefit of a reduced risk of serious side effects when compared to Clomid. The most concerning possible side effect from Clomid is the vision problems and potential long term eyesight issues that are certainly enough to raise alarm. Clomid is considered very strong, while Nolvadex is weaker and for this reason some people consider using them both. But this does not remove the risk of side effects; in fact it’s likely to increase them.
There’s little point in combining these two SERMs for post cycle therapy, and instead select one based on the type of steroid cycle you’ve done. Nolvadex can suffice for a basic or moderate cycle, while a heavier or stacked cycle, or a much longer cycle, the extra strength of Clomid might be required to get you back to regular hormone function and mitigate the more severe drop in natural testosterone and rise in estrogen.
Aromatase Inhibitors for PCT
Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) prevent estrogen formation and lower circulating estrogen. Many steroid users will take an AI throughout the steroid cycle, as well as during post cycle therapy.
Arimidex is an estrogen lowering breast cancer treatment drug and is useful for bodybuilders due to being able to lower the levels of existing estrogen and stop the formation of more estrogen.
Here are just a fraction of the Arimidex benefits:
- Stops more estrogen forming
- Lowers existing estrogen levels
- Helps prevent gyno
- Reduces acne risk
- Prevents water retention
- Lowers blood pressure
- Restores testosterone
There are also some negative effects. For example Arimidex becomes ineffective when used with Nolvadex; headache and nausea; sore joints.
Like Aromasin, Arimidex is often taken during a steroid cycle as well as for post cycle therapy in order to prevent a rise of estrogen from occurring at any part of the cycle.
0.5 to 1mg daily Arimidex is generally recommended, depending on your steroid cycle. If you’ve been in a lighter or shorter steroid cycle, reducing Arimidex to just 0.5mg every two-three days can be sufficient for some guys.
Aromasin is a breast cancer treatment drug commonly used in post cycle therapy to reduce estrogen related side effects like gyno and water retention.
Compared with other AIs, Aromasin has shown to have less negative impact on cholesterol which is one of the reasons it is often the most popular choice in this category of PCT compounds.
Here are some of the Aromasin benefits for steroid users:
- Reduce estrogen levels and allows normal testosterone levels to rise
- Help you avoid gyno
Possible negative reactions are hair loss from conversion of testosterone to DHT, some reports of increased anxiety and depression, increased blood pressure, reduced bone density, bone and joint pain, fatigue, hot flashes and headache.
Many users will take Aromasin both during and right after a steroid cycle to keep estrogen levels down. 10 to 25mg daily is the range of dosages for Aromasin, depending on the strength and length of your steroid cycle.
This is another aromatase inhibitor that stops testosterone converting to estrogen and thus preventing the estrogenic side effects of anabolic steroid use.
Arimistane is used both during a cycle and for post cycle therapy to prevent estrogen levels from rising. This compound has few reported negative effects. Some of the Arimistane benefits for steroid users include:
- Increases testosterone normal levels
- Has less negative impact on cholesterol compared with other AIs
- Helps retain your gains
- Brings about a fast decrease in estrogen
- Reduces estrogen over the short and long term
- Used to prevent gyno
- Positive effect on cortisol
Heavier Arimistane doses or prolonged use can strain the liver. Anything between 25 and 75mg daily is considered an effective PCT dosage for Arimistane, with new users starting at the lower dose and raising it as needed.
HCG for PCT
HCG has a medical use for stimulating the testicles to produce testosterone. When it comes to steroid use, HCG is used in post cycle therapy to perform the same task, due to the reduction in normal testosterone production activity.
HCG acts similar to luteinizing hormone which stimulates the testicles to produce testosterone and sperm. When this happens, the testicles can begin growing back to their normal size. HCG is considered a fast and effective way to restore your testosterone function and to recover from a steroid cycle.
Because of the risk of gyno being caused by HCG, it should always be used with an aromatase inhibitor. Cycle length of HCG is normally 4 to 6 weeks.
2500iu weekly for a two week period is generally considered effective dosage for steroid users who want to make quick use of HCG to get leutinizing hormone levels back to where they should be.
SERMs vs HCG vs Aromatase inhibitors
Because HCG actually increases estrogen, it needs to be combined with an aromatase inhibitor to combat the estrogen. This can bring about some potential conflict when adding a SERM into the mix, depending which compounds you select or are able to get your hands on.
There are known interactions between Arimidex and Nolvadex where one may counteract the other, essentially making it pointless to combine these drugs. Selecting Aromasin as an AI in PCT along with Nolvadex and HCG is not known to cause these negative interactions. The issue that most bodybuilders face is not always having the ability to obtain the specific drug of choice to create the most ideal and effective PCT combination.
To mitigate the heightened aromatase activity that HCG causes, Aromasin is considered the most effective option for combining with HCG in post cycle therapy, with the most recommended daily dosage being 25mg whilst HCG is being taken. Both of these compounds should be stopped at the same time. This can be followed by several weeks of Nolvadex at a daily dose of between 20 and 40mg to stimulate natural testosterone production.
Ideal Post Cycle Therapy Protocol To Use?
While there are many recommendations, opinions and examples out there regarding the most ideal PCT protocol, these differ for reasons including the type, length and strength of the steroid cycle and ultimately which PCT products an individual is able to access. However, a general recommendation for the most ideal post cycle therapy protocol to use in general can be considered as follows:
- The first two weeks: HCG – 1000iu/E2D, Aromasin – 25mg daily, Nolvadex – 40mg daily
- Starting at week 3 and continuation for between 2 and 4 weeks: Nolvadex – 20mg daily
This results in a total post cycle therapy period of between 4 and 6 weeks, the duration of which will depend on your individual ability to recover adequately.
Do I Need a PCT After Using SARMs?
While SARMs don’t convert to estrogen like many anabolic steroids do, they can and almost always will bring about a suppression of your normal testosterone production. This can range from mild suppression to almost a complete shut down of the body’s activity in producing testosterone.
This leaves you at great risk of a testosterone crash once the cycle is finished. And while estrogen normal levels don’t rise with SARMs because of aromatization, the levels of this female hormone can still rise for another reason: because of an interruption to your regular hormone function. This estrogen level increase can then bring about the same side effects we see with steroids like gyno.
To combat this, some SARMs users will take an aromatase inhibitor drug during the cycle, but this can have the opposite effect in reducing estrogen levels to near zero. Men still need small amounts o estrogen so in most cases you’ll find most AI drugs to be far too powerful to use alongside SARMs.
SARMs Post Cycle Therapy
Arimidex and Letrozole are powerful AI drugs used by steroid users, but SARMs users will be better served by using the less powerful Arimistane at low doses starting at 25mg daily while on a SARMs cycle.
To prevent the inevitable low testosterone you’ll find yourself in at the end of a SARMs cycle, post cycle therapy should be started the day following the end of your cycle. The short half life of most SARMs compared with steroids means that you don’t have to wait days or weeks before starting post cycle therapy.
Nolvadex (Tamoxifen Citrate) and Clomid (Clomifene) are the two most popularly used PCT medications. These can be combined together and used for a 4 week post cycle therapy cycle at dosages from 20mg to 50mg daily for each drug, depending on the level of suppression you’ve experienced or how powerful the SARMs were that you used.
Common Q&A Related to PCT
What are the main benefits of PCT?
PCT is critical if you want to maintain the gains you made on your steroid cycle and to regain a naturally functioning endocrine (hormonal) system, especially when it comes to stimulating testosterone production. Reducing the effect of gyno is a high priority of PCT.
When should I start PCT?
The timing of your PCT depends on which steroids you’ve used and how long lasting they are. Generally PCT starts 2 weeks after your last steroid injection, although shorter acting steroids like Testosterone Propionate will have you starting PCT within a few days of ending your cycle. Steroids like Winstrol can require PCT to begin in as little as 12 hours.
What happens if I don’t do PCT?
Several things can happen: you can lose the gains you sweated over during your cycle, making the whole thing almost a complete waste of time (and money). More seriously when it comes to your health though is that your testosterone levels can be out of whack for a long time after a steroid cycle, bringing about problems like gyno, high blood pressure, no libido and the list goes on. In short: you don’t want to do a steroid cycle without PCT so don’t think about taking shortcuts in this area.
How long is a PCT Cycle?
A PCT cycle can last anywhere from three to six weeks depending on the steroid cycle you were on and the PCT drugs you will be using. My ideal post cycle therapy protocol above lasts between four and six weeks for a standard user.
SARMs vs SERMs – What’s the Difference?
SARMs bind selectively to androgen receptors and are used medically to treat conditions like muscle wasting and obesity. They are often used by bodybuilders and athletes to build muscle mass quickly, to bulk up and for cutting.
SARMs come with a low risk of side effects although some can cause some suppression in natural hormones, nausea, as well as potential vision problems. SARMs are often used instead of steroids with some SARMs having a similar effect to anabolic steroids without the more serious side effects.
SERMs on the other hand target specific estrogen receptors and so are used to treat serious conditions like breast cancer, as well as menopause, osteoporosis, and infertility. SERMs block the effects of estrogen in selective tissue. Bodybuilders use SERMs in post cycle therapy to combat the appearance of gyno that comes about from elevated levels of estrogen following a cycle of steroids.
What does “Anti-E” mean?
This is short for anti-estrogen, which are also sometimes called estrogen antagonists or estrogen blockers. Anti-E is simply a more common term used to describe the various SERMs and aromatase inhibitors we use during PCT to lower estrogen and increase testosterone production.
My Conclusion and Recommendation
Choosing the right PCT protocol is based on so many variables: your age, time on cycle, steroid compounds, dosages throughout cycle, time in between cycles, and what you have available. I hope this guide helps explain post cycle therapy in a little more detail. There are some products that I didn’t mention here simply because I’ve never used them.
If you enjoyed this guide and would like more real, NO-BS information on cycling steroids, then pick up Straight From the Underground (my recommended underground steroid handbook). Everything in this book is based on first hand experience, not theory.