Steroids: What the Heck are They Anyway?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic analogs or derivatives of Testosterone and nor-testosterone. In the 1930s, scientists found that these anabolic steroids could increase the growth of muscle in lab animals. The compounds were then used to treat debilitating diseases in humans.
In the 1950s, a doctor, John Ziegler had dispensed an oral anabolic steroid by the name of Dianabol. Soon after, athletes began to use this steroid in order to increase muscle mass and strength. Soon, more and more analogs and derivatives were being made available to athletes.
While all steroids have the same four ring carbon structure, simple chemical alterations produced different effects in terms of anabolic/androgenic activity. Anabolic activity refers to the steroid’s ability to facilitate skeletal muscle growth, while androgenic activity refers to how potent the drug is at inducing the development of male sexual characteristics (facial hair, deep voice, the ability to channel surf and watch six TV programs at once, etc.)
How They do Dat?
Now, even though all of the exact mechanisms through which anabolic steroids exert their effects haven’t been discovered, they all increase muscle mass to some degree. One way steroids are believed to work is by binding to the androgen receptor (AR). Once the steroid has bound to the AR, it begins to activate protein synthesis. This protein synthesis allows for an increase in muscle tissue over a rather short period of time. T-mag contributor Bill Roberts has classified steroids such as these as “Class I.”
The other side of the coin would be steroids that bind to the AR slightly, or not at all. I think most of these steroids exert their effects by inhibiting the effects that glucocorticoids have upon muscle tissue. In other words, they prevent glucocorticoids from increasing glutamine synthetase and causing muscle tissue breakdown. This would be an anti-catabolic activity. This inhibition of glucocorticoids¹ effects may explain why most anabolic steroids work fairly well in the treatment of osteoperosis, since glucocorticoids can have influence or cause osteoperosis. This also backs up my belief, that on a mg per mg basis, Class II steroids will increase muscle tissue to a greater degree than Class I steroids.
While there still isn’t a clear cut explanation of how anabolic steroids exert their effects, these two mechanisms help to explain most steroid actions. Bill Roberts refers to these steroids that don’t exert their effects via the AR as “Class II.” Also, keep in mind that some steroids work via the AR as well as through non-AR mechanisms. It should also be noted that anabolic steroids increase the retention of nitrogen, potassium, sodium, phosphorous, and chloride.
Steroid Flavors: The differences between various ‘roids
Below I’ve compiled a list of some anabolic steroids, including their relative potency and some other info. Sometimes, the names of steroids can be confusing to a newbie. This is because you have the chemical name, the various brand names, and the slang or street names for each product.
For example, methandrostenolone is known to most people as Dianabol, but you probably hear it referred to as D-bol. Of course, you’ll likely be using the veterinary version called Reforvit-B, whose street name is Reffie or Reffie-B. Got all that? Don’t worry, the more you read the more you get used to all the terminology. To help you out, I’ve listed the chemical name as well as a few of the trade names for each ‘roid.
Fluoxymesterone (Halotestin, Stenox)
This is a 17-alpha alkylated steroid. In other words, it’s been altered in order to withstand the liver’s “first pass” metabolism to a better degree, i.e., the liver doesn’t inactivate the stuff before it can exert its effects. Without this alkylation, you’d need much higher concentrations to get results, as is the case with any 17-AA. Anyhow, this steroid appears to have a lower affinity for the AR, but can agonize the receptor at higher dosages.
As far as “real world” effects, fluoxymesterone has a reputation for increasing strength to a large degree. However, gains in muscle mass on this steroid aren’t very great. In clinical settings, dosages range from 2.5 mg to 40 mg a day in divided dosages. However, bodybuilders have been known to use from 30 to 80 mg per day. It has a half-life of approximately 9.2 to 10 hours. (I’ll talk about why knowing about half-lives is important later.) Oh yeah, and it doesn’t aromatize. This means it’s not likely to convert to estrogen, the female hormone. In the real world, that means the risk getting gyno (bitch tits, i.e. breast tissue growth in males) is small to nonexistent.
Methandrostenolone (Dianabol, Reforvit, Anabol)
This 17-AA steroid was the first to be introduced to athletes in the 50s. Bodybuilders caught on soon after, no doubt. It’s aromatizable, and therefore can increase estrogen levels. Since it doesn’t bind very well to the AR, it’s thought that it works by antagonizing the effects of catabolic glucocorticoids.
D-bol has a great reputation for increasing both size and strength to a pretty good degree. While the half life isn’t readily available in the literature, it can be assumed through deductive reasoning that it’s around four to seven hours. Bodybuilders typically use around 25 to 100 mg per day depending on whether it’s used alone or in conjunction with another steroid (a practice called stacking).
This steroid is also17-AA. It can’t aromatize and doesn’t bind very well to the AR. Consequently, it’s likely to exert its anabolic effects in a similar fashion to that of methandrostenolone. In other words, it affects glucocorticoids in a beneficial manner.
Another benefit may be its ability to antagonize or block progesterone from binding to receptors. Progesterone is one of the reasons why certain anabolics cause water retention.
Stanozolol has a great reputation for increases in strength as well as moderate increases in muscle mass. Actually, these “moderate” gains are rather impressive, considering that this drug doesn’t cause much water retention. In clinical settings, typical dosages are between 2 to 6 mg daily. In order to see desired effects, bodybuilders typically consume between 25 to 100 mg daily. While I can’t locate any literature on its half-life, based on its molecular composition it would seem to have a slightly longer half-life than most of the other orals. I’d say it’s likely to be in the range of 7 to15 hours.
Oxandrolone (sold as oxandrolone powder or Oxandrolona)
This is yet another 17-AA. It won’t aromatize but appears as though it will bind to the AR as long as the dosages are high enough. It has a reputation for increasing strength gains, as well as having a “hardening” effect. This is supported somewhat, as oxandrolone was shown to reduce subcutaneous fat to a greater degree than testosterone. Whether this is an inherent property of all 17-AA steroids or an effect that’s unique to oxandrolone, I’m not sure.
Oxandrolone, along with most of the other synthetic steroids, are thought to be equally (if not more) anabolic than Testosterone on a milligram per milligram basis, while minimizing androgenic side effects. Oxandrolone was shown to have approximately six times the anabolic effect of methyltestosterone in human subjects, following oral doses. Oxandrolone may also increase the number of skeletal muscle androgen receptors.
In clinical settings, dosages have ranged from 1.25 to 80 mg per day. Bodybuilders may take anywhere from 25 to 160 mg per day. The half-life is approximately nine hours.
Methenolone Acetate and Enanthate (Primobolan)
This steroid doesn’t aromatize and can either be ingested via the acetate version or injected via the enanthate. This steroid does bind rather well to the AR and is known for its mild gains in muscle mass. Still, considering that it’ll cause next to zero water retention, these gains are rather good. (Note that some bodybuilders think certain steroids work better based solely on the weight they gain. In actuality, they could be just retaining a lot of water along with the muscle gains. These are the same guys who think they “lose” a lot of muscle after their cycle is completed, when they actually just lost much of the water they’d been holding.)
Clinical dosages that are commonly seen with methenolone range from 10 to 20 mg daily, sometimes a little higher for the oral version. For the enanthate version, dosages are usually 100 mg every two to four weeks. Bodybuilders typically use 400 to 1000 mg a week. The half-life appears to be very similar to Deca, perhaps slightly shorter. So with this in mind, I’d say the half-life would be around five to seven days.
This 17-AA steroid can’t aromatize, but has been known to have progestenic properties and thus, can cause water retention. It has a great reputation for increasing muscle mass and strength to a large degree. It’s also thought to have a very high anabolic/androgenic ratio.
The typical dosage in clinical settings is one to five milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight per day. So, a 150 pound person would consume anywhere from 68 to 341 mg per day. However, the higher dosages aren’t employed that often. Bodybuilders typically consume around 50 to 150 mg per day. While I can’t find info on the half-life in the formal literature, it would seem it’s similar to that of stanozolol. Obviously, this isn’t a hard fact, but the half-life should be right in the neighborhood of 7 to15 hours. Only God and Bill Roberts know for sure.
Testosterone Enanthate, Cypionate, Propionate, Suspension (commonly called “T”)
This steroid can aromatize and binds well to the AR. It’s well known for its ability to produce great gains in muscle size and strength, provided that the dosages are high enough. It does cause quite a bit of water retention and has quite a few side effects when compared to the other anabolics.
Clinical dosages vary, but cypionate and enanthate are both injected every two to three weeks at dosages of around 200 to 300 mg. Propionate and suspension aren’t preferred as they don’t provide that long of a sustained release. Bodybuilders typically use around 500 to 1,000 mg per week. The cypionate ester has a half-life of around eight days. Enanthate is just slightly shorter and propionate is quite a bit shorter. By the way, Testosterone in a suspension has a half-life of only 10 to 100 minutes.
Nandrolone Decanoate and Laurate (usually referred to as Deca)
This steroid binds very well to the AR and doesn’t aromatize. It can produce moderate gains in muscle mass with little water retention. However, it, like oxymetholone, can be progestenic leading to water retention when higher dosages are used.
In clinical settings, dosages are around 50 to 100 mg every three to four weeks. Bodybuilders use around 300 to 800 mg per week. The decanoate ester has a half-life of six to eight days and the laurate ester commonly seen in veterinary products has a slightly longer half-life.
How do I get these here steer-oids anyway?
Easy! Just call 1-555-I WANNA TO BE HYOOGE and tell Gunter what you want! Tell him Cy sent ya! Okay, you knew I couldn’t give you a real source, right? Still, it doesn’t take much searching to find some gear. Searching on the Web is one way, or you can do it the old fashioned and usually more expensive way and look for one of the local dealers. I mean don’t go up to the largest guy in the gym and say in a loud voice, “Hey man, do you have any of that Reforvit stuff?” Just ask around in a discrete manner. Someone always knows a certain “guy.” For a more in depth look, check out Chris Shugart’s article called Getting the Gear.
How to Construct a Cycle: The Cliff Notes Version
The dosages should be determined after evaluating two things: one, what results you’d like to see and two, which drugs you’re stacking. There are other factors to consider, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll stick with these two for now.
Regardless of what type of results you’re looking for, it would be wise to stack two drugs that work through different mechanisms in order to get a synergistic effect. For instance, you’d get better results by stacking nandrolone with stanozolol as opposed to nandrolone and oxandrolone. This is because nandrolone and oxandrolone both bind to the AR. I’ve given you a few examples of stacks below. I’ll give a quick review afterward.
- Stack 1: Nandrolone, 450 mg per week along with 50 mg per day of stanozolol
- Stack 2: Nandrolone, 450 mg per week along with 50 mg per day of methandrostenolone
- Stack 3: Oxandrolone, 40 mg per day along with 50 mg per day of stanozolol
- Stack 4: Testosterone enanthate, 500 mg per week along with 50 mg stanozolol or methandrostenolone per day
- Stack 5: Testosterone or nandrolone, 500 mg per week with 50 mg oxymetholone per day
- Stack 6: Methenolone, 600 mg per week with 50 mg per day stanozolol
Let’s take a closer look at the first stack. You’d inject 450 mg on day one and then six to eight days later another 450 mg and so on. The stanozolol (or any oral) would yield the best results when spread out as evenly as possible in order to allow the drug to remain in the bloodstream throughout the day.
Also, by knowing the half-lives of drugs, you can figure out, to an approximate level, how much of the drug is currently active in your body. So, if on day one you injected 450 mg, then on day seven or eight you should have around 225 mg that’s still active. When you inject another 450 mg, you then have approximately 675 mg of nandrolone in your body at that moment. However, that number then begins to slowly decline in an instant. By simply applying the half-life, you can figure out just how much of the drug is still in your bloodstream.
As a quick note, half-lives can vary depending on a number of factors, and this is why most texts give you a range, like four to nine hours. One such thing is the size of the person. Generally speaking, the larger the body mass of the person, the shorter the half-life is going to be. While some guys will only ingest oral steroids on the days that they work out, you don’t necessarily have to do this. Remember, you’re recovering on those off days, so why not help accelerate the process?
The oxandrolone and stanozolol stack above (#3) would be for those who are “needle phobic.” However, this particular stack shouldn’t be used for too long, because the 17-AA are the steroids that are most associated with liver damage.
As far as how long to stay “on” and how long to go “off,” here’s my take: It really depends on what your goals are. I mean, if you want to gain 35 pounds in two months, then chances are you won’t be able to cycle off and still attain that goal. If, however, you’re keeping safety in mind and would only like to gain something like eight to twelve pounds, then a two to three week “on,” followed for four to six weeks “off” cycle will suffice.
The Safest and Most Effective Cycles
The safest cycles would include, of course, the safest steroids, for a short period of time. The most effective cycle, on the other hand, is generally going to include the most risks. Such is the nature of steroids; the most effective stuff is also the most “dangerous,” so to speak. Also keep in mind that there’s no perfectly “safe” or risk-free steroid. One particular steroid may not give you gyno, but may be tough on the liver. Another may not be tough on the liver, but may increase the risk of your hair falling out. See what I mean? This is the “give and take” of the steroid game.
Below is an abbreviated list of the safest and most effective steroids in my opinion. “Gains” is basically defined by how much muscle mass you’ll put on. Side effects include the risk of liver damage, gynecomastia, water retention (edema), and possible hair loss.
|Fluoxymesterone||Risk of liver damage||Low-Moderate|
|Methandrostenolone||Hair loss, edema, gyno, liver||Moderate|
|Methenolone *||See below||Low-Moderate|
|Testosterone||Edema, hair loss, gyno||Moderate-High|
* Methenolone – As with all anabolic steroids, methenolone will cause some inhibition of your own Testosterone production and may cause some testicular atrophy, i.e. your balls may shrink a little. (They usually return to normal after you discontinue use, however.) You can greatly reduce these effects by simply using something like clomiphene (Clomid) both during and after the cycle.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. When I give these ratings for gains, I’m taking into account the dosages that people typically use. Any anabolic steroid can produce great gains in muscle mass if high enough dosages are used. However, it isn’t very feasible to ask someone to use 1,000 mg of oxandrolone per week.
The Tool Box
If you’re going to use any injectable gear, then of course you’re going to need some “darts.” You can pick up syringes at your local pharmacy unless your state has certain restrictions. Also, you can purchase needles online. Just do a little searching around and you’ll find several places that’ll hook you up. Syringes will run you around 50 cents apiece. Note that it’ll be more difficult to obtain needles (at least from the larger, more “legit” companies) if you live in California and Illinois. You’ll usually need a doctor’s prescription in those states. Still, if you look around enough, you can get what you need.
You’ll need anywhere from a one inch to 1.5 inch, 25 to 22 gauge syringe. Remember, the bigger the gauge, the smaller the needle. Bill Roberts also writes about using super tiny insulin needles (29 or 30 gauge) and compensating for their narrow size by injecting very slowly, like for a full minute.
You’ll want to get around ten or more syringes, depending on how many injections you plan on doing. Just go up to the pharmacist and ask for them. Try not to be wearing your Testosterone T-shirt. In most cases the pharmacist won’t ask you anything, but some are “funny” and like to play God by telling you that they won’t sell them to you or that they don’t have them. If they do ask, simply tell them that you take injections of Testosterone for replacement therapy and you have to pick up some syringes. After this, go and get a bottle of rubbing alcohol and some cotton swabs. You may also want to get some band-aids.
Next up, you’ll need to get some products that are a little more difficult to obtain. These are clomiphene, tamoxifen (Nolvadex), and possibly anastrozole. Whether you choose tamoxifen or clomiphene is up to you. If you have an aromatizable steroid, it would be best to use tamoxifen or high dosages of clomiphene in order to prevent the large increases of estrogen from binding to receptors in areas like breast tissue. If you don’t do this, you could end up with gynecomastia, aka bitch tits, dollies, and formerly known as Pamela Lees.
If the steroid doesn’t aromatize, you’ll still need something to help your endogenous (natural) Testosterone levels recover. That something should be clomiphene. While tamoxifen can also increase Testosterone levels, you’ll need to use higher dosages to do so. Regardless, think of these things as necessary tools. These two will help save you a lot of trouble! Don’t do a cycle unless you have one of them.
Anastrozole can be an alternative when using an aromatizable steroid, although it’s rather expensive. Remember, place clomiphene or tamoxifen in the same class as syringes and rubbing alcohol. In other words, you can’t start the cycle until you have them. Most sources that sell steroids also sell Clomid and the like.
Now, the injectable steroids are meant to be delivered intramuscularly, meaning, that you’re going to have to inject relatively deep into the muscle. The “standard” needle is 22 gauge, 1.5 inch. This is used for injection into the buttocks. You can also use a smaller needle, like a 25 gauge, one inch, but it will take longer to inject and there’s a chance you may not inject into the muscle fibers, depending on how much fat is on your ass. Generally though, most guys can get away with using a one inch needle. Also, you should take into account that although it will inject a lot faster, a larger gauge like 20 or below, will cause more pain and will damage more tissue.
The second most common injection site is the thigh. With this, you should only need a one inch needle. You can also inject into the shoulder as well as other places, but I’d prefer if you stuck with these two for now.
Okay, so now the question is, “Where exactly should you inject?” Well, if you’re going to inject into the buttocks, you’ll need to pick a cheek and then imagine a horizontal line beginning at the crack of your butt and extending outwards. Next, imagine a vertical line right down the middle of the first line. So now your butt cheek should be divided into four squares. The place to inject is in the upper most corner on the outermost section, i.e. the top right square.
For the thigh, a quick way to do it is to look at your hip and knee, and then imagine a line in between the two. This and a little bit lower are the areas you can inject. Make sure this is on the outside of your thigh!
Okay, so now you’re ready. First thing? Wash your hands. Now find the spot, take a cotton swab and put some rubbing alcohol on it. Swab the area that you’ll inject. Grab the syringe and push it in at a 90° angle. (Some say to hold the needle like you’re about the throw a dart.) Once the needle is fully submerged, pull back on the plunger just slightly and look to see if any blood enters. If it does, pull out and find a new place, as you’ve entered a vein and you don’t want to inject into a vein.
If no blood appears, begin to push the plunger. Remember, the slower you push, the less pain you’ll feel. Once the liquid is gone, pull the syringe directly out and apply a cotton swab to the site. Hold tightly for about 30 seconds and then either tape it on or put a bandage on it. Pull your pants back up; you’re done!
There’s also an old trick that involves pulling the skin slightly over to one side before you stick in the needle. After you inject, let the skin go back to it’s normal place. This is said to close the little path made by the needle to keep all your gear in your ass where it’s supposed to be. This isn’t that much of a worry in all honesty, but it’s an option.
Discard the syringe in a safe place and use a new one for the next injection. Never use the same needle twice (it’ll be dull, plus you’ll risk infection by reusing it) and, of course, never share a needle with anyone, especially if your training partner just happens to be a Haitian hemophiliac homosexual intravenous drug user.
The Quality of Human vs. Vet Steroids
Chances are, if you get a hold of some gear, it’s going to be a veterinary product. The reason being is that it’s much cheaper than human versions and is often just as good. Not to mention, it’s also more available. The question that some people have is whether or not the vet steroids “work as well” as the human versions.
The fact is, as long as they’re dosed correctly, they’ll work just as well. I’ve heard some people say that nandrolone decanoate in veterinary form doesn’t work as well for humans because it’s meant for animals. This just isn’t true. Look, the fact is nandrolone decanoate is nandrolone decanoate. Just because the label says it’s for animal use only doesn’t decrease the effectiveness.
Now, the only two things that should be of concern are under-dosed and unsterile products. Make no mistake about it, most of these “vet” companies know that humans consume much of their marketed products. They also know that a bad reputation will soon leave them broke. So most companies make sure that their products are sterile and dosed correctly in order to have repeat customers.
However, there are a few companies that screw up here and there. One such company is Brovel. According to Brock Strasser, quite a few guys report infections and such while using their products. In all fairness, I know a few guys who have practically lived on Brovel’s T-200 and Norandren for years and have never had a problem. Still, Brock knows his stuff when it comes to this type of issue, so I personally wouldn’t take the chance. Stick to what Brock deems as clean and correctly dosed and you should be fine.
How Much is this Going to Cost Me?
Costs can vary greatly depending on where you are, who you go through, and what brand you’re getting. Just as with anything that you may purchase, shop around for the best deals or go directly to the source, if possible. In other words, bringing it back from Mexico yourself will be much cheaper than buying it from a local dealer. Each method has its own set of risks, of course.
How to Avoid Side Effects
Side effects seen with steroid use include gynecomastia, alopecia (or hair loss), acne, and edema or water retention. Most of these can be avoided or the risks can at least be minimized. To prevent gyno, either use non-aromatizable steroids or nolvadex/clomiphene. Alopecia can be helped by using finasteride (Propecia). Acne can be helped by keeping your skin clean, using an over-the-counter product containing salicylic acid, and avoiding the more androgenic steroids.
Water retention can be avoided somewhat by closely monitoring sodium intake as well as sticking to non-aromatizable steroids. (Excessive sodium intake usually leads to excess water retention whether you’re juicing or not.) As far as minimizing liver damage, simply don’t use 17-AA steroids, and if you do, don’t use them for prolonged periods of time. In truth, most of the horror stories you hear about steroid side effects come from people who didn’t do any research and didn’t put any thought or planning into their cycle. Still, there are risks.