When it comes to the world of performance enhancement, bodybuilding, or even hormone replacement therapy, many individuals turn to anabolic steroids or other similar compounds to achieve their desired results.
These substances can undoubtedly provide significant gains in muscle mass and strength. However, they often come with a price: disruptions to the body’s natural hormone balance. This is where Post Cycle Therapy (PCT) becomes crucial.
What is Post Cycle Therapy (PCT)?
Post Cycle Therapy, often abbreviated as PCT, is a protocol employed by individuals who have used anabolic steroids or other compounds that can suppress the body’s natural production of hormones, particularly testosterone. PCT aims to restore hormonal balance within the body after a steroid cycle, preventing potential side effects and helping maintain the gains achieved during the cycle.
Why PCT is important?
Your muscles are the main tissue system targeted by anabolic steroids or bulking supplements during a cycle. During a PCT, you’ll need to give your muscles time to recover.
Some of the side effects of cycling insofar as muscle health is concerned can include
- Enlarged muscles causing tendon damage
- Tender or aching muscles
- Heart stress or heart damage
- High blood pressure
Remember, your heart is a muscle, too, and the same stress that your biceps and pecs undergo as you dose up affects your cardiovascular system, too. Allowing for muscle support after a cycle will involve a regimen of vitamins and supplements, some healthier foods, and lifestyle adjustments that can allow your body to heal naturally.
So apart from enlarging muscles, what damage is done to your tissue when you cycle? How does the process impact muscle health?
Cycling Can Stress Muscle Tissue
When you cycle with steroids or steroid-like supplements, synthetic testosterone in the supplement binds to testosterone receptors in the body. Some substances target most or all of these receptors, while others only target those connected to muscle tissue.
Either way, your muscles get the signal that your body now has way more testosterone, and begin to greatly increase muscle mass as a result. This intense change in tissue structure can cause tiny tears in your muscles, which can lead to soreness.
Your larger muscles can put undue stress on tendons, the connective tissue that binds muscles to bone. Inflamed or damaged tendons can be incredibly painful, impact normal mobility, and may require costly surgery if the damage is extreme.
Remember that your heart is also a muscle, and the stress put on upper and lower body muscles is also put on your heart. Heart attacks are not uncommon among athletes who abuse anabolic steroids, so allowing the body to ease out of a cycle is key.
Take good care of your heart, and it’ll be able to take care of you. PCT, to be done right, needs to take into account muscle health, heart health, tendon health, and overall well being. In addition, cycling can cause issues with male fertility, depression, mood swings, and liver health. Many of the same habits we’re about to teach you can help the other systems of your body recover, as well.
How Does PCT Work?
PCT typically involves the use of medications or natural supplements that help stimulate the body’s natural testosterone production. These medications fall into two categories:
- Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs): SERMs like Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) or Clomiphene (Clomid) are commonly used during PCT. They work by blocking estrogen receptors in the body, which in turn stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These hormones signal the testes to produce more testosterone.
- Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG): hCG is another option for PCT. It mimics the hormone LH, directly stimulating the testes to produce testosterone. Some people prefer hCG, while others opt for SERMs or a combination of both.
Common PCT Strategies
PCT protocols can vary based on individual preferences, the compounds used during the steroid cycle, and the duration of the cycle. However, here are some common PCT strategies:
- SERM-Only PCT: This involves using a SERM like Tamoxifen or Clomiphene for several weeks after a steroid cycle.
- hCG Monotherapy: Some individuals prefer using hCG alone for PCT, often in combination with a low dose of an AI (Aromatase Inhibitor) to control estrogen levels.
- Combination PCT: Many opt for a combination of SERMs and hCG for a more comprehensive approach to restoring hormonal balance.
- Natural Supplements: Some individuals choose to use natural supplements like D-Aspartic Acid, Tribulus Terrestris, and ZMA (zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6) to support testosterone production during PCT.
Which Vitamins And Minerals Are Essential For Muscular PCT?
When you allow muscles to recover, you need to not only give them a break from bulking agents but nourish them. A few specific supplements will do wonders here. We suggest
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Turmeric powder in capsule form
All of these supplements are great for muscle health, can aid in tissue repair, and reduce the inflammation your muscles experience during a cycle. How should you take them?
While supplements in pill or capsule form are great, it’s also possible to overload your body with too much of them. We suggest breaking the above list down into three separate groupings of two supplements per group.
For example, on Day 1 you’d take Vitamins A and D. On Day 2 you’d pop Vitamin C and Iron, and on Day 3 you’d take Magnesium and Turmeric Powder. On Day 4, you’re back to Vitamins A and D. And so on.
This allows your liver to process the higher concentration of vitamins and minerals more effectively, while still letting your body benefit over several weeks. Easing your muscles into this supplement regimen is key to allowing the body to rest post cycle.
As you keep track of your vitamin schedule, you’ll also want to be eating well. What foods are great for muscle health? Can you eat anything, or is there a special diet to consider?
What Foods Help Muscles Heal During PCT?
At least as important as a vitamin regimen is your daily basic diet. A diet of whole foods cooked at home is going to be key here. Your cells need healthy sources of protein, fats, and complex nutrients that are best acquired through healthy foods.
Avoid fast food, processed food, refined sugar, junk food, and energy drinks during this period. Buy your ingredients and cook and eat them at home. You’ll save money, and can control exactly what goes into your body. So which foods will aid in muscle recovery?
Your tired muscles need some protein. But not just any protein, but highly efficient sources that can be used rapidly for tissue repair. We suggest
- Salmon and Tuna
- Grass-fed red meat
All of these protein sources will aid in rapid muscle repair and allow your body to get a fresh blast of healthy, natural protein. Interestingly, these foods tend to also be optimal for naturally boosting testosterone, another aspect of health that can take a hit when cycling.
Your muscles will also need potassium and minerals to work their best, and here’s where the fruits and veggies come in. Stock up on and nosh some
- Sweet potatoes
- White beans
- Peanut butter
All of these foods will nourish your body, increase blood flow to tired muscles, and give them plenty of healthy protein to burn up.
Sautee your foods in butter or olive oil for the best results, and keep away from alcohol and sugary beverages during this time. Alcohol will simply further stress the liver, and sugar can leave you tired and disoriented.
Hydrate with plenty of water instead. 40 ounces a day is recommended. Moderate amounts of coffee ( 2 to 3 cups per day) can also be good for the heart, while orange juice provides a natural punch of Vitamin C.
Another factor to consider is bringing down inflammation. Your muscles are getting stressed, and a few foods and supplements can help keep this under control, too.
Can PCR Supplements Combat Inflammation?
Remember the turmeric powder we mentioned earlier? It’s a fantastic anti-inflammatory and is key in PCR muscle support. Other foods to consider include
- Kale and Collard Greens
- Whole Grains
- Green Tea
All of these foods can be added to main dishes or sprinkled on meals. Be sure to avoid the dangerous foods we mentioned earlier to combat inflammation. Keep your diet healthy, nutritious, natural, and moderate for the best results.
Now that you’ve got a healthier diet going, are there any other lifestyle changes you can implement to keep your muscles healthy?
Lifestyle Is A Part Of PCT
Allowing your muscles to recover fully after a cycle means more than just eating well. It also means making changes to how you live and spend your time. What are the best recovery habits to get into for muscle support?
Getting plenty of sleep is going to be key for muscle health. Too many guys take great pains to bulk up but spend way too much time scrolling or playing video games half the night. Get. To. Sleep.
8 to 10 hours of restful sleep is important during recovery. The muscles can’t heal or work their best if they’re exhausted, and sleep allows your body time to repair itself. The more refreshed you are, the better recovery will go when you’re awake.
In addition to getting enough sleep, get some fresh air. Fresh air is vital for heart health, mental health, and cellular efficiency. Even a gentle walk in the park or a mild hike can work wonders. This gently works the muscles without stressing them. Plus, being out in nature is great for mental health. The happier you are, the better your body functions.
Have you ever tried yoga? Studies indicate that yoga can work wonders to combat
- Sore muscles
While many men in the West sadly view yoga as a woman’s activity, this perception is slowly changing. And we’re glad it is. Yoga, after all, was pioneered by men in India thousands of years ago, as an ascetic spiritual practice of male hermits.
Use yoga to help boost mental as well as cardiovascular health, and allow your muscles to stretch and flex gently during recovery.
Many of us spend way too much time doom-scrolling, vegging out, and drinking in bad news. Turn off the news, delete or mute social media apps, and take time out to reduce stress in your life. Simplify where possible.
Simple ways to do this include less screen time, not taking work home with you, avoiding situations or people that upset you, setting healthy boundaries, and getting time by yourself every day. Stress is terrible for heart health; living a simpler, calmer life will go a long way toward PCR muscle support as well as overall well being.
Letting the body rest and cover allows steroids to fully leave your system, and reduces the likelihood of serious long-term complications such as heart or liver damage.
Post Cycle Therapy is a critical aspect of responsible steroid use or any intervention that disrupts the body’s natural hormone balance. By helping the body recover its natural testosterone production and mitigating potential side effects, PCT allows individuals to maintain their gains and overall well-being.
Gary David is the founder and CEO of CrazyMass, one of the nation’s leading supplement companies. Before starting CrazyMass in 2006, Gary was a bodybuilder and personal trainer for several gyms throughout Northwest Michigan, helping clients meet their fitness goals. Gary happily worked in this profession for over 15 years. He saw that most weight gaining products to increase muscle were made with ingredients that were dangerous or of poor quality. He knew there was a safer and healthier way to do this, so he created a special blend of herbs, amino acids, and nutrients to help bodybuilders slim down and gain muscle.
Although Gary no longer participates in bodybuilding competitions, he continues to be involved in the community, helping others prep for shows and attending events where he can advertise CrazyMass products. When Gary isn’t working long hours, he likes to spend his time working out at the gym, boating on Lake Michigan, traveling the trails around Northern Michigan by four-wheeler, and spending time with his family. He also loves to take a yearly trip to Europe with his wife and children.