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Testosterone is king when it comes to steroids. This hormone increases muscle size and strength. The majority of steroids you hear about are one form or another of testosterone, and usually synthetic derivatives of testosterone. And a testosterone only cycle is usually the first step taken for a new steroid user.
When going on a testosterone cycle you get to quickly find out how your body, and your performance and results, change as a result of boosting your testosterone to previously unseen levels. And yes, you will also get to find out what, if any, side effects you might be prone to.
From there you can tweak and adjust your cycles to get the best results. So let’s look into the popular testosterone cycles in more detail so you can make the best informed decisions about which direction you want to go in.
My Testosterone cycle guide has been broken down into the following sections:
- What is Testosterone?
- Ester: What is it and why does it matter?
- The Most Popular Testosterone Esters: What’s the difference?
- Testosterone in Every Cycle
- What Results Can I Expect Using Testosterone?
- Side Effects from Testosterone Cycle
- Testosterone Cycles For Beginners
- Testosterone Cycles for Those with More Experience
- Testosterone Post Cycle Therapy
- Common Q&A Related To Testosterone
- My Conclusion and Recommendation
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is the main sex hormone in males which gives you all the characteristics that make you a man.
Testosterone is mostly produced in the testicles, where it ramps up production beginning at puberty and continuing at full throttle until you’re around 30 years old; although this can vary between individuals.
In addition to being essential for life as a man, testosterone is also a natural anabolic steroid that promotes the building of muscle and strength – these are the anabolic properties of testosterone.
The androgenic effects of testosterone are what give you a deep voice, facial and body hair, and all the things that differentiate you as a man to women.
Ester: What is it and why does it matter?
Understanding esters in organic chemistry can be difficult for the non-scientist, but you will soon come across several different esters of testosterone in the world of steroids and needless to say, you will want to know what it all means.
In basic terms, an ester is a synthetic derivative of testosterone. Different esters have a shifting around of atoms to form very slightly different compounds to the original organic compound.
Although there might only be one or two atoms different between one ester and another, this can be enough to change properties like how slow or fast a particular ester will be released into the body, and this is often the main difference between different esters and the one that may determine which one you’ll want to be using.
Most testosterone esters are suspended in oils like sesame oil or cottonseed oil. This provides a slower release of testosterone so it is not all used up by the body very quickly. The reason oils are used is because once an ester group has been added to testosterone, it becomes less soluble in water and more soluble in oil.
All the testosterone esters we come across are injectable and the dosage you use will depend on which ester it is and what your goals are for your overall steroid cycle.
The Most Popular Testosterone Esters: What’s the difference?
There are over 20 known esters of testosterone, but you will only come across a small number of these being available for use.
Most of these synthetic derivatives of testosterone have been developed for medical use to treat conditions like low or no testosterone in men. These compounds are able to provide a massive boost to testosterone levels, which is what makes them so attractive to us in the bodybuilding world.
The main testosterone esters you’ll see consistently talked about by bodybuilders and athletes are:
- Sustanon 250 (Propionate, Phenylpropionate, Isocaproate and Decanoate)
- Testosterone Cypionate (Depo-Testosterone, Andro Cyp, TC, TCPP, Testosterone Cyclopentylpropionate)
- Testosterone Enanthate (Delatestryl, Xyosted)
- Testosterone Propionate (Testoviron, TP, Testosterone Propanoate, Propionyltestosterone)
- Testosterone Suspension (Sterotate, Andronaq, Aquaspension Testosterone, Virosterone)
Testosterone cypionate and testosterone enanthate are considered to be very similar and even in the medical field these two esters are often interchangeable. The main difference between these esters is how slow or fast they’re able to be released into the body after an injections, and how long they elevate your testosterone levels.
Some esters will therefore need to be injected much more regularly than others if you are to maintain a consistent testosterone supply. This is why learning about the different esters, that I’ll cover in more detail below, is important.
The half life of each ester is one of the main differences between them.
|Compound||Active Half-life||Detection Time|
|Testosterone Cypionate||8-12 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|
|Testosterone Phenylpropionate||2-3 days||1-3 days|
|Testosterone Undecanoate||18-21 days||3 months|
|Sustanon 250||15-18 days||3 months|
Cypionate has an approximately 8 day half life, enanthate and propionate have a short elimination half life of about 4.5 days, undecanoate has a long half life of over 20 days, and phenylpropionate has a very short half life of less than three days.
Testosterone in Every Cycle
Without testosterone we wouldn’t have anabolic steroids and we can consider testosterone to be the most important steroid of all. Testosterone stacks well with virtually every other steroid and can also be used alone in a cycle with great benefit.
There are two reasons we use testosterone in a steroid cycle: either as a primary anabolic compound to directly contribute to muscle gains and other benefits as a central part of the cycle, or as a supportive compound to act as a testosterone replacement which is needed as a result of your normal testosterone production being suppressed during a steroid cycle at varying degrees depending which compounds you’re using.
In the case of the latter, the dose of testosterone is considerably lower and at just enough to maintain a healthy level of this critical male androgen hormone during your cycle. Let’s dig deeper into why the inclusion testosterone in every steroid cycle is so important.
The Importance of Testosterone Inclusion in Every Cycle
When we talk about including testosterone in a steroid cycle, it’s referred to as exogenous testosterone. That is, an external synthetic testosterone source in the form of one of the testosterone ester compounds above (although there are many others as well, but these are the most commonly used esters).
We must include this as either a primary or supportive compound in every steroid cycle because the steroids you’re taking send a signal to the testes that they no longer need to produce testosterone. All sensible steroid users will without question include testosterone in every cycle for this reason alone at the very least.
While using testosterone as a primary compound at a higher dose for its countless benefits for muscle growth, recovery and performance enhancement is hugely beneficial, if this is not desired then you can simply make use of testosterone at a lower supportive dosage that aims to maintain a functional level of the hormone while one or more other steroids in your cycle take on the primary anabolic role.
Although the dosage will vary depending on the make up of your cycle, an example of a supportive testosterone dosage is 100mg weekly, while using testosterone as a primary anabolic compound will see the dosage raised to 500mg weekly or higher.
Why Must Testosterone Be Included In Every Cycle?
There’s so much more to the testosterone hormone than just being important for muscle growth. In fact, that’s not going to be the main reason you must include testosterone in every cycle (although it can be a great benefit if you utilize the steroid in that way as well). As an adult male, you need testosterone to function, plain and simple.
When your steroid cycle is suppressing your natural testosterone production by shutting down testicular function, you must synthetically raise and maintain your T levels to avoid the downright horrendous effects that will otherwise occur, which you can read about below.
If testosterone is not included in every cycle, symptoms of low or no testosterone will happen not only while you’re using steroids, but after your cycle ends as well as it takes some time for natural production to start increasing again. Post cycle therapy is also a critical area that will contribute to getting your natural testosterone back on track after a steroid cycle.
Why Must Testosterone Be the Only Anabolic Steroid in a First Cycle?
Every single steroid compound comes with its own individual side effect risks and complications. While these can be similar across certain categories of steroids, how they affect you as an individual is entirely unpredictable – you simply will not know how your body will react to a steroid until you use it for the first time. This means that using more than one steroid in a cycle (i.e. stacking) will not allow you to determine which steroid is causing which side effects.
This can not only hamper your performance and results, but even more importantly can be downright dangerous when we start talking about side effects like high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Reading about other people’s experiences with certain steroids on web forums and social media doesn’t prepare you for what YOU will experience with the same steroid. So by making use of one steroid at a time and getting a hold of which side effects you are prone to, and how severe they are, you can slowly put together your own safe and effective stacks in future.
And starting with testosterone as the only anabolic steroid in your first cycle lets you begin with the most important steroid of all which will test your body’s tolerance and reaction to steroids very quickly.
After all, if you experience adverse effects in a basic testosterone only cycle then there is a higher chance of negative reactions to the many other steroids out there, many of which are derivatives of testosterone.
What are the Risks of Leaving Testosterone Out of Every Cycle?
Leaving testosterone out of your steroid cycles brings almost certainty to the situation of very low to no testosterone in your body. Low or no testosterone brings severe health consequences to any man in all areas of life, including both the body and the mind.
Leaving testosterone out of a steroid cycle and allowing your testosterone to drop to a very low level puts you at high risk of:
- Loss of muscle, tone and reduced strength
- Increase in stored body fat and difficult losing it
- Depression and irritability
- Erectile dysfunction and lowered or absent libido
- Lack of energy and motivation
As you can see, low or no testosterone is a serious dilemma and one that steroid users need to avoid as best as possible by including testosterone in every cycle and also by implementing effective post cycle therapy protocols.
What Results Can I Expect Using Testosterone?
Testosterone is a highly powerful steroid that acts in multiple ways to increase lean muscle mass by increasing protein synthesis, decreased body fat, boosted endurance and athletic performance, and improve recovery times; amongst other benefits.
It also acts as an anti-catabolic that blocks hormones like cortisol and therefore helps prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue (muscle catabolism). Stronger bones and improved mental clarity, focus and energy are often additional benefits of testosterone. Increased cardio output and blood flow to the heart assist with athletic performance.
Here are the big benefits of using testosterone in a steroid cycle:
Muscle and Strength Gains
This is the main reason we want to use testosterone: it increases muscle mass and boost strength.
By increasing the process of protein synthesis and blocking the effects of the stress hormone cortisol, testosterone is all about putting you into a prime anabolic state where you can’t help but gain muscle. Faster gains from strength training and faster recovery means you’re making gains significantly faster than could ever be possible without the use of steroids.
As I said above, you will see a noticeable improvement in your recovery time even after the heaviest, longest workouts because testosterone helps muscle tissue repair faster. This means you’re back in the gym at your next workout sooner, working those same muscles and building them up at a rate and to a size that you just couldn’t achieve without taking advantage of the power of testosterone steroids.
With increased lean muscle comes a greater ability to burn fat and keep it off, creating a cut, lean and ripped physique. Although a testosterone only cycle is not generally used for hardcore cutting, studies show that it still plays a critical role in eliminating the storage of fat and loss of muscle that comes about as a result from having low testosterone.
Other additional benefits include better endurance, energy and stamina, higher libido, better bone mass thanks to increased red blood cell production.
Testosterone is hugely powerful, but your gains will only be as good as your workout regime and your diet. Steroids and the required post cycle therapy drugs are by no means cheap, so unless you’re totally committed to sticking to a highly disciplined and very intense workout program and a diet that supports your gains, then steroids will be of little benefit otherwise.
Side Effects from Testosterone Cycle
The potential side effects with a testosterone cycle remains largely the same regardless of which ester or esters you are using. Often there is only an atom or two difference between esters, making little difference to their effects but mainly changing their uptake properties.
Testosterone is well known for its androgenic side effects due to the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, which is why the use of anti-estrogens like SERMs or aromatase inhibitors is important so you can ward off the negative effects like acne, hair loss, aggressiveness and of course the dreaded gynecomastia.
These are all common side effects with the use of testosterone steroids and it is up to the user to formulate a cycle that balances the powerful positive effects of testosterone against the negatives. Each individual will react differently which is why what works for your best buddy might not necessarily be the right method for you to follow.
Some people are more prone to side effects than others, but with standard dosages most guys can tolerate testosterone well provided essential post cycle therapy is also carried out.
Gyno is the worst nightmare of any male steroid user. This is a swelling of the breast tissue which if left too long and too severe, can only be reversed by surgery.
Proper PCT protocols with anti-aromatase drugs is critically important to keep gyno at bay as it comes about as a result from excess estrogen. First signs of gyno are often tingly, sore or puffy nipples.
Acne is a common possible side effect in guys who are prone to it. So if you had acne as a teen, your chances of having acne breakouts and oily skin from a testosterone cycle is going to be higher than someone who didn’t get acne as a teenager.
Some people might experience a skin reaction or allergic reaction to the oil that a testosterone ester is suspended in – usually sesame seed or cottonseed oil.
Water retention is another side effect risk we commonly see with a testosterone cycle. This happens due to more subcutaneous fluids being present, and quickly sees you losing muscle definition in return for an undesirable bloated appearance.
Preventing and reversing water retention is clearly a high priority for anyone taking testosterone.
Testosterone Cycles For Beginners
Testosterone puts the body into a prime anabolic environment, so little wonder it’s a first choice for a beginner’s cycle especially when bulking up is the main goal.
Testosterone Only Cycle
A very simple beginner cycle is to make use of either testosterone cypionate or enanthate for 8 weeks. A simple pyramid style cycle sees you starting low, increasing the dose in the middle, then decreasing again. For example: 125mg/250mg/375mg/500mg/500mg/375mg/250mg/125mg (each is per week). PCT should be started 2 weeks after your last injection at 50mg/day Clomid for 3 weeks.
Low Dose Testosterone Cycle
Even a low dose of testosterone can provide a solid boost to performance and gains, and if you’re just starting out you might want to test the waters with the lowest most effective dosage. These so called mild cycles of around 250mg per week still provide benefits, while reducing the impact on side effects.
Going any lower than 250mg is unlikely to provide many benefits since you will only be at testosterone replacement levels by replacing your natural testosterone but not exceeding that level – in other words, a low dose cycle of 250-300mg weekly may provide the best balance between gaining benefits and minimizing side effects.
Another option is to use testosterone in a gel form as a first line treatment during a testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
Regardless of what your testosterone cycle is, doing post cycle therapy is critical if you not only to maintain your hard earned gains from the cycle, but also get your natural hormone functionality back on track once the synthetic testosterone injections have stopped.
Testosterone Cycles for Those with More Experience
A more advanced testosterone cycles will almost always involve stacking it with other types of steroids like Dianabol, as well as combining multiple testosterone esters into the one long cycle; often using one ester for half the cycle and switching to another for the second half of the cycle.
Testosterone Cycles for Cutting and Fat Loss
12-week Testosterone/Winstrol/Anavar Cycle
This is a good cutting cycle containing Test and Winstrol (or Anavar).You will inject twice a week for 12 weeks. Keep in mind that 1ml=1CC when preparing your injections.
- Week 1-12 – 125-250mg/e3.5d Testosterone (Enanthate or Cypionate)
- (Optional) Week 1- 6 – 40-80mg/day Winstrol or 40-80mg/day Anavar
- (PCT) Week 15-17 – 50mg/day Clomid for 3 weeks or Nolvadex 20mg/day for 4 weeks
Throughout the cycle (or at least on hand) it’s good to take an aromatase inhibitor (AI) like Arimidex at 0.5mg/eod or 12.5mg/day Aromasin.
12-week Testosterone/Clenbuterol/Trenbolone Cycle
Here is an example of advanced cutting cycle containing Tren, Clenbuterol and Test Prop.
- Week 1-12 – 50-100mg/day Trenbolone Acetate
- Week 1-12 – 50mg/day Testosterone Propionate (or 250mg/e3.5d Testosterone Enanthate)
- Week 1-2 – 80-120mcg/day Clenbuterol
- (PCT) Week 15-17 – 100mg/day Clomid for the first 10 days, then 50mg/day Clomid for another 10 days (20 days in total). You can replace Clomid with Nolvadex for 4 weeks at 40/40/20/20.
Throughout the cycle you can also use 0.5mg/ed Arimidex. Also keep on hand a Dopamine agonist like Dostinex to reduce the amount of prolactin if necessary.
Testosterone Cycles for Bulking (Muscle Gain)
15-week Testosterone (Enanthate/Cypionate) Cycle
This is a good Testosterone bulking cycle.
- Week 1-15 – 250mg/e3.5d Testosterone (Enanthate or Cypionate)
- (Optional) Week 1-6 – 30-60mg/day Dianabol or 50-100mg/day Anadrol
- (PCT) Week 18-20 – 50mg/day Clomid for 3 weeks (Nolvadex at 40/40/20/20)
Throughout the cycle (or at least on hand) use an aromatase inhibitor (AI) to combat estrogen related side effects (0.5mg/eod Arimidex or 12.5mg/day Aromasin).
12-week Testosterone/Dianabol Cycle
An example of an advanced Testosterone and Dianabol 12 week bulking cycle would be:
- Week 1-6 – 40mg/ed Dianabol
- Week 1-12 – 500-750mg/week Testosterone (Enanthate/Cypionate), 0.5mg/eod Arimidex
- (PCT) Week 15-17 – 100mg/day Clomid for 10 days, then 50mg/day for another 10 days.
12-week Testosterone/Deca/Dianabol Cycle
For this advanced bulking cycle you’ll need Testosterone Enanthate or Cypionate, Dianabol, Deca-Durabolin, Arimidex and Clomid.
- Weeks 1-6 – 25-35mg/day Dianabol
- Weeks 1-15 – 300mg/week Deca, 500mg/week Testosterone, 0.5mg/eod Arimidex (12.5mg/day Aromasin)
- (PCT) Week 18-20 – 100mg/day Clomid for the first 10 days, then 50mg/day Clomid for 10 more days.
Testosterone Post Cycle Therapy
As with all AAS use, post cycle therapy after a testosterone cycle is critical. The timing of the beginning of your PCT will depend on which ester you’ve used and what its half life is.
For example, you can start PCT three days after the end of a propionate cycle, while waiting two weeks to start PCT after using enanthate. These steroids cause your natural testosterone production to shut down, so PCT is vital to get it kickstarted again not only for your health and to mitigate estrogenic side effects, but also to stop your body remaining in a catabolic state after a testosterone cycle where you’re at risk of losing gains.
PCT options include SERMs and aromatase inhibitors to block estrogen. A basic Clomid PCT protocol would run for four weeks at 50mg per day for the first two weeks and dropping to 25mg daily for the final two weeks of PCT. Please refer to my full post cycle therapy guide to fully understand what is required for a testosterone post cycle therapy.
Are anabolic steroids and Testosterone the same?
Testosterone is a male androgen hormone which is also often known as a steroid hormone or an anabolic steroid. Testosterone has both androgenic (male traits) and anabolic effects on the body like building and repairing muscle.
Increasing muscle mass is the main reason people use testosterone in the form of an anabolic steroid. Testosterone steroids are synthetic derivatives of the hormone with slight modifications to the original chemical composition of testosterone.
Do steroid injections hurt?
Injecting testosterone can be painful, particularly for beginners who are not used to the feeling of intramuscular injections. The most common injection sites are large muscles like the butt, shoulder or thigh. However even long term steroid users can find the pain of injection the least pleasant part of using steroids.
Since most cycles require injecting at least twice weekly (with a notable exception being testosterone suspension which normally requires daily injections), learning to tolerate the pain and discomfort of intramuscular injections is a must if you want to be able to use these compounds.
Is Testosterone bad for your liver?
The highest risk for liver disease when it comes to steroids comes from those which are taken orally due to the slower methods of clearing the liver. Increased risk to liver health can also come about when people combine multiple steroids and medications, or abuse the substances at high dosage levels over a long period of time.
Is a Testosterone only cycle the best first steroid cycle?
It’s often recommended to go for a testosterone only cycle when you’re starting out because it brings about fast strength and mass gains and gives you the chance to see how your body reacts to having a greater amount of testosterone circulating.
Stacking multiple steroids when you’re a novice is going to confuse not only your results, but your side effects and the steps you need to take in post-cycle therapy. Keeping it simple for your first steroid cycle is ideal, and testosterone is the best way to do that.
Do Testosterone esters show up in a drug test?
Different esters have a different detection time based on their half life and how long they take to clear the body to a low enough level to avoid detection. This can be anywhere from a few weeks to three months after your last injection.
For example, Testosterone cypionate and enanthate have a detection time of three months. On the other hand, Propionate has a quick 2-3 weeks detection period.
What are the long term health effects of using Testosterone?
It’s well know that long term use of any steroids can cause damage to your health, especially when you’ve been doing many years of heavy use. In the most extreme cases, failure of the kidney, liver or heart can occur resulting in death.
Other risks over the long term include mental health problems like depression, increased mood swings and rage, more severe acne and skin problems, baldness, gynecomastia requiring surgery, and shrinkage of the testicles. Abscess and other complications are injection sites are another risk factor in both the short and long term.
What is a Testosterone half life?
The half life of a testosterone ester is simply the measure of how long it takes for your body to eliminate half the dose.
This is important to know when it comes to planning your cycle and understanding the most effective timing of your injections so you experience the maximum benefits, while minimizing side effects as much as possible.
Of course, if you also think you’ll be exposed to drug testing, it’s important to know the half life of what you’ve taken so you know how much remains in your body at any point in time.
My Conclusion and Recommendation
You can’t go wrong with Testosterone. It stacks well with basically every other steroid, particular for mass building when used with Dianabol and Deca-Durabolin. Also essential for fat loss and prevention of excess fat storage, Testosterone plays a vital role in any cutting stack or cycle.