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A Guide To PCT

Taking prohormones are one way to get the edge over your natural ability and they are a great option  for those not wanting to go the route of AAS (Androgenic anabolic steroids). The increase in strength, size and overall aplha mentality can be an addicting euphoria. However we must not underestimate  prohormone's effect on our body. Therefore to keep our health optimal, after a prohormone cycle it is important that proper Post Cycle Therapy is followed.

AAS users will often tout the likes of Nolvadex (tamoxifen citrate) or Clomid (clomiphene citrate).  There are known as SERMS (Selective androgen receptor modulators) and in the United Kingdom and United States they are prescription only; Nolvadex most commonly used for the treatment of breast cancer in women and Clomid used in fertility treatment. 
However because they are prescription drugs, they are illegal to buy without one. SERMs can also have side effects such as depression, reduced cognitive ability, blurred vision and mood swings. So, what can we do instead? Easily, we can use over the counter supplements. First, let me explain the point of PCT and why we do it.

Why are they used in PCT?
During a prohormone cycle, the level of androgens in the body drops as an external hormone source is  present. To compensate for this drop,  your body starts overproducing estrogen to try to balance the  hormone levels out. Once the external hormone source is removed (you come to an end of your  prohormone cycle), your natural testosterone levels are still inhibited while your estrogen levels are  still above baseline. Clomid and Nolvadex will reduce the post-cycle estrogen and the stimulate the hypothalamus to regenerate natural testosterone production in the body. This is important as the faster you can bring back your natural testosterone levels, the more of the gains made during the cycle you’ll keep. After all, what is the point in running a prohormone unless you keep the majority of the benefits?

When do you start PCT and for how long for?
With prohormone use PCT is usually started the day after your last dosage and should be run for at least 4 weeks. Once PCT has finished ideally you want to stay off prohormones for the same amount of days as your cycle length + pct length.


The factors relating to PCT are as follows;
HPTA Function
HPTA stands for Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Testicular-Axis.
The Hypothalamus is the centre of testosterone function, controlling the release of other hormones such as Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) and Luteinising hormone releasing hormone (LHRH).  These in turn signal the pituitary gland to release Luteinising Hormone (LH) which promotes the release of testosterone from the testes. It is Hypothalamus' ability to bind to the Androgen Receptors in muscle cells can lead to muscle growth. 

HPTA is important in keeping your hormone levels optimised, an effect known as Homeostasis. When one hormone is low, the hypothalamus recognises thus and then, by way of homeostasis, tries to  balance out the levels. For example when estrogen levels are low, it stimulates the release of testosterone that will then convert to estrogen via aromatisation. This is known as the negative feedback loop. Once the balance is restored, hypothalamus stops signaling the release of hormones.

When we come off a cycle, it is important that we not only try to assist the balance of these hormones, but try to control them as well.


Gynocomastia 

This is most commonly known as "b*tch tits* or "man boobs" and unlike obese men where this is called by fat storage, in this case it is caused by the feminisation of the male body. This happens when the estrogen receptors in the areola and nipple become oversensitive due to the increase in overall estrogen. This can lead to breast tissue formation behind the nipple which can be felt as a small lump as wel as swelling of the areola giving it a smoother softer look.
Estrogen levels can also cause other problems, such as libido loss, mass loss and the closing of growth plates. This is why it is important that you DO NOT use prohormones before the age of 18, as it can hinder your development.


Prolactin
Prolactin levels can be raised by the action of the steroid in the
pituitary as it suppresses dopamine production letting prolactin production
continue unchecked. This action can manifest as swollen, hard nipples that
sometimes will leak a clear fluid.


The Liver and Kidneys
Certain prohormones are methylated. The reason they are is because the methyl allows them to pass through the organs without breaking down. This makes them a good option on price as a lower dosage is needed They are also much more potent. The negative aspect of this is that in return it damages the liver and kidneys.


Blood Pressure
All hormones such as testosterone and estrogen have an effect on blood pressure. It regard to prohormones, it is usually the wet compounds that aromatise that increase blood pressure the most. This is due to the contribution of water retention. As more fluid is retained around the body, pressure on the circulatory system is increased causing a vasoconstriction affect. This in turn elevates your blood pressure as more force is needed to pump the blood around your body.

Blood pressure is also linked to kidney problems and as explained above, methylated compounds can have a negative effect in this situation.
Therefore compounds that are both wet and methylated would be ideal to stay away from if you are worried about this side effect.


Cholesterol
Prohormones can negatively affect your lipid profiles, increasing bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowering good cholesterol (HDL). Testosterone is derived from cholesterol after being converted to progesterone. Another critical role of testosterone in this equation is that it enabled HDL to remove excess LDL from the arterial wall and transport it to the liver for disposal. As natural testosterone production has stopped due to external hormone input. the effect on your lipid profiles is obvious.


Prostate
Increasing androgens in the body enlarges the prostate via Benign
Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). This can negativelly affect your ability to urinate as well as the ability to get an erection. The nerves sitting on either side of the prostate send messages to the penis to initiate erections. The relaxation of the prostate also increases blood flow which affects erection health. A swelling of the prostate delays this blood flow and the messages reaching the penis.


Now that we know what can happen when using prohormones, let us build the foundation of an OTC (over the counter) PCT program.

Milk Thistle & N-Acetyl Cycstine (NAC)
Two of the most proven ingredients regarding liver protection. The Silymarin content extracted from milk thistle has been shown to protect the liver and keep it's values in check. Silymarin prevents liver destruction and enhances liver function largely to its ability to inhibit the factors that are responsible for hepatic damage such as free radicals and leukotrienes. It also has the ability to stimulate liver protein synthesis.

NAC has also shown to protect and detoxify the liver. It is a building block to glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps the body defend against toxicity. Because prohormone use can deplete glutathione levels, supplementing with one of its precursors such as NAC helps defend against liver damage.

While these are mostly used during cycles, they have a place in PCT as well. As your liver values rise during the cycle, supplementing with NAC or Milk Thistle may help keep them as close to the healthy range as possible. However they will still be out of the normal range. Once you stop the prohormone, it takes time for your liver values to return to their baseline. Taking these during PCT can speed up the process.

Saw Palmetto & Nettle Root
The most proven ingredient in regard to prostate health is Saw Palmetto. In studies, it has concluded: "The evidence suggests that Serenoa repens provides mild to moderate improvement in urinary symptoms and flow measures. Serenoa repens produced similar improvement in urinary symptoms and flow compared to finasteride and is associated with fewer adverse treatment events."

Nettle interferes with an enzyme that is responsible for conversion of androgens. The high amount of androgens in the body caused from prohormone use increases the prostate. Inhibiting the androgens helps keep the prostate healthy. Stinging Nettle Root is also being studied as an anti-inflammatory and a blood pressure regulator in the medical community.

Hawthorne Berry & Celery Seed

This berry has shown to enlarge the blood vessels, helping to control blood pressure by easing the pressure it takes the heart to transport blood around the body.


Celery seed has been shown to treat degeneration diseases of the joints such as arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. While on cycle and especially on drier compounds, the synovial fluid in the joints is dried up which leads to joint pain.

Celery seed can help lubricate the joints, lessening pain. It has also shown to help optimise cholesterol levels.


Red Yeast Rice
One popular ingredient in terms of keeping blood lipids and
triglycerides healthy is Red Yeast Rice extract .It contains several compounds collectively known as monacolins, substances known to inhibit cholesterol synthesis. 

D-Aspartic Acid
DAA is on most effective natural testosterone booster in today’s sports supplement market. It has more scientific research backing it up than any other with blood lipid profiles showing the direct increases in testosterone that it causes. There are even cases of it showing up to a 70% increase in testosterone levels. 


Aromatase Inhibitors
Most commonly known as anti estrogens, the likes of 6-Bromo, ATD, 6-Oxo and Arimistane. Aromatization is the process of conversion of testosterone to estrogen by the aromatase enzyme. An AI controls estrogen by binding to the aromatase enzyme, rendering it inactive. By rendering aromatase inactive testosterone cannot be converted to estrogen and the level of testosterone rises to compensate for the lower level of estrogen. 


Mucuna Pruriens & Chlorophytum Borivilianum
These ingredients can be found standarised for L-DOPA content. L-DOPA works by decreasing plasma prolactin levels, namely by stimulating the uptake of this hormone in the periphery.

 


These ingredients can be an asset to any PCT. One way to help control these side effects is to use some of them during the cycle, such as celery seed, milk thistle and NAC. This makes the strain a bit easier to put up with during the cycle so the recovery in the PCT stage is enhanced.

The most popular products for cycle support is Nature's Aid Milk Thistle and Pure Labs Cycle Shield. Cycle Shield, while pricier is a far more complete formula for on cycle protection.

In regard to complete PCT products, two of the best are Pure Labs Clomadex PCT. A potent AI known as arimistane, but also tackles other issues.

In the case of Clomadex, it is a masterpiece of formulation. You have proven ingredients such as Fadogia, Vitamin D3 and Mucuna for testosterone, libido and helping with prolactin. Arimistane anti-estrogen for controlling estrogen levels so they don't rebound, which helps combat gynocomastia as well. 

Don't forget to keep your intensity up during the PCT stage. This helps keep gains.

Besides the above mentioned ingredients, there are other ways to combat each side effect and it is up to you to do your research and find out what you would prefer to use. Use this article as a starting point to expand your knowledge. After all, knowledge is power.

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