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What is Testosterone?
Before going into detail about the available injectables, pills and supplements, let us examine what this hormone is. Testosterone (Chemical formula C19H28O2) is the primary male sex hormone and is classed as a steroidal hormone categorised within the androgen group. It is present in both humans and other animals (vertebrates), and is mainly secreted by the testicles in males, and to a much lesser degree the ovaries in females. In addition to this, the adrenal glands do produce a small amount, but this is only a very small percentage of total bodily secretion of the hormone.
Both males and females produce Testosterone, with men producing around 20 times more than women. Despite this, the levels present in men is only up to to 10 times greater than that found in women (usually around six to nine times more), due to the fact is it metabolised much quicker and to a greater extent in males when compared to females. Women are in fact more sensitive to the hormone, hence why such small amounts are required by females. In males Testosterone plays a vital role in the development, growth and maturation of the reproductive tissues (the prostate and testicles for example), in addition to inducing secondary sexual characteristics (including, but not limited to: body hair growth, increased lean muscle mass and bone thickness and density – if someone is lacking in area of these areas due to health or development issues, then testosterone pills may help).
What does Testosterone do?
Testosterone exerts its effects throughout the entire life cycle from pre-birth all the way through to adulthood. In this section we shall discuss the effects it has and changes it induces within the body.
Pre-birth: Between four and six weeks into the gestation period Testosterone begins to induce changes in the foetus. Firstly, the development of the prostate and seminal vesicles, and secondly (alongside dihydrotestosterone) genital virilization. It is during the second trimester that gender formation occurs, with femininization or masculinization of the foetus occurring. It is hormonal levels during this period that best predicts the eventual behavioural patterns of a person (either masculine or feminine).
Infancy: Scientists are still unsure about this period of the life-cycle in relation to testosterone levels. During the first few weeks of the male life testosterone rapidly increase, then drop away to practically unmeasurable levels. The reason suggested for this sudden increase is to ‘masculinize’ the brain, but this has never been sufficiently proven. The fact that the male brain is actually masculinize by the conversion of testosterone to estrogen (aromatisation), which then penetrates the brain through the blood-brain barrier, casts doubts upon this theory.
Pre-puberty: It is during this period that the increasing androgen levels begin to manifest themselves in both sexes. Effects such as growth spurts (in conjunction with increased Growth Hormone levels), body odour, spots and pubic hair start to occur and continue to do up until puberty begins.
Puberty: This is when Testosterone really kicks in and causes a multitude of both physical and mental changes (mainly the former). These include, but are not limited to: increased pubic, facial, arm, leg and chest hair; penile or clitoral enlargement; deepening of the voice and growth of the Adam’s apple; increase in muscle mass and strength; increased bone density; changes on facial bone contours; shoulder broadening; increased sebaceous gland secretion (which causes spots and acne); fertility; increased aggression and energy, along side a greater interest in sex and sexual relationships.
Adulthood: Testosterone levels begin to decline once puberty and development has finished (usually around 21 but can be earlier or later). During adulthood it is responsible for normal and healthy sperm development, HPTA regulation, cognitive regulation and energy levels. During this time levels may become lower than required, so supplementation through testosterone pills, injections, patches, creams, sprays or pellets may be required.
Testosterone as an Anabolic Steroid
Testosterone both in the form of pills and injectables has been used by athletes, bodybuilders and gym goers for numerous decades to enhance performance and physique. It was first synthesised all the way back in 1935 and was administered to athletes soon after. It was actually rumoured that Nazi soldiers were injected with it during the Second World War, although this has never been proven.
Why would someone take testosterone supplements or pills? It (as do all anabolic steroids) provides many beneficial effects to aid the goal of increased muscle and body mass, strength and endurance. On the flip side, however, it can induce adverse effects, which a user must be aware of before taking it. Both the positive and negative effects shall be discussed in this section.
The Benefits of Testosterone
There are numerous benefits to taking exogenous testosterone pills, the effects of which are usually dose-dependent (i.e. the more you take the greater the benefits, but at the same time the greater the side effects).
Increased Nitrogen Retention: Having greater nitrogen retention results in a drastically improved rate of protein synthesis. What does this mean? It means that the body has greater efficiency in turning over protein, leading to quicker re-building of muscle tissue, thus increasing lean muscle mass gains in shorter period of time (than usual).
Increased Recovery: A dramatic increase in recovery (partly linked to the increase in protein synthesis) means users will not only accrue lean muscle quicker, but they will also be able to workout more frequently, meaning each body part can be worked out several times per week. The combination of all of this results in….yes, you guessed it, more muscle, strength and endurance!
Increased Red Blood Cell Count: More red blood cells results in greater amounts of oxygen being pumped into the muscle, which means endurance will increase. This will significantly raise the work out capacity (and possibly pain threshold), resulting in more muscle stimulation and therefore more gains.
Anti-Catabolism/Cortisol: The stress hormone Cortisol can have disastrous effects on both muscle tissue and body fat by reducing the former and increasing the latter. Testosterone can blunt the effects of cortisol ensuring that lean muscle is preserved and body fat is not affected.
The Side Effects of Testosterone
As with all anabolic steroids, testosterone can cause adverse side effects. Just like the positive effect this is largely dose-dependent, but it does vary from individual to individual with some more sensitive than others, which is why it is always advisable to start with as low a dose as possible then work your way up to higher dosages. There are many negative effects, all of which you should be aware of, but here are the most common.
Increased Blood Pressure & Cholesterol: The androgenic nature of testosterone can have a profound impact upon both of these. Higher red blood cell count can be a good thing, but if it gets too high then the blood becomes too viscous and the heart has to work much harder to pump it around the body, thereby increasing your blood pressure (this is very common with androgens). Testosterone pills may also negatively impact your cholesterol levels, with the ‘good’ cholesterol HDL decreasing and the ‘bad’ cholesterol LDL increasing. These will usually return to baseline once your cycle is completed, however taking extra omega-3 and eating more green vegetables will help immensely with this and should be employed on and off cycle regardless.
Gynecomastia: Bitch tits are probably the most feared side effect from anabolic steroid use – no one wants a pair of boobs! Excess testosterone will convert to estrogen via the aromatase enzyme, which results in higher than normal estrogen levels in the body. This can cause several issues one of which is gynecomastia. The use of an Aromatase Inhibitor such as Arimidex or the use of a SERM such as Nolvadex can help to address this issue should the need arise.
Water Retention: This, like Gynecomastia, is caused by excess estrogen (why do you think women hold so much water whilst on their period or just before childbirth – excess estrogen!). A diet high in both carbohydrates and sodium will exacerbate the problem, so ensure that carbs are kept to a reasonable level, sodium intake is not above the recommended amount and also that water intake is kept very high. On doses of 250mg or more water retention is pretty much a given so be prepared for it.
The Different Forms of Testosterone
Testosterone comes in several forms, the main two (for performance enhancement and bodybuilding use) being injectables and orals, with the former being more common than the latter. In reality, there is only one type of testosterone pills and that is a product called ‘Andriol Testocaps‘. These are small football-shaped capsules filled with testosterone suspended in oil (for absorption purposes). They contain 40mg of testosterone per pill, although in reality only a maximum of 10% will be absorbed and become bioavailable within the bloodstream, hence they need for a minimum of six or seven capsules per day to see any discernible effect(s) from them.
Injectable testosterone is by far the most common form of the hormone, with various different products containing various different esters (attached to the testosterone molecule). Esters determine how long the testosterone will remain in your bloodstream, anywhere from a few hours to a few months. They also take up a portion of the weight (mg) per ml, so not all of the advertised mg per ml will be bioavailable testosterone. Below is a list of the most common esters, their half-life (the time it takes for the amount of testosterone to exactly half in the bloodstream) and the active amount of testosterone per 100mg.
- Suspension (no ester): 2-3 hours/100mg
- Propionate: 48 hours/83mg
- Enanthate: 10 days/70mg
- Cypionate: 12 days/69mg
- Undecaonate: 17/60mg
The longer esters will usually be used for longer bulking cycles, with the shorter esters being used for cutting cycles and/or pre-workout, but there is no reason why a longer ester couldn’t be used to cut with and a shorter ester used to bulk with – it is all down to the individual and how often they are able to inject themselves.
Testosterone also comes in a variety of creams, patches and sprays, all of which are used for TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) as the amount of them that would be required for performance enhancement purposes would be very costly and take an age to apply and dry.
Stacking Testosterone with other Steroids
Testosterone, being the daddy of all anabolic steroids, can be stacked with pretty much any other steroid(s) and in my opinion should be part of every single cycle. Our natural hormone is testosterone and we need it to function properly (even though other compounds could potentially be used for HRT purposes). The steroids that could be chosen to accompany it would ultimately depends on the goal(s) of the proposed cycle – bulking, cutting or strength?
Bulking stacking choices: Orals – Dianabol, Anadrol, Superdrol, M1T and Turinabol. Injectables – Deca Durabolin, Equipoise and Trenbolone.
Strength stacking choices: Orals – Anavar, Anadrol and Halotestin. Injectables – Trenbolone, Deca Durabolin and Masteron.
For a first cycle I would suggest testosterone only. Most would propose that you take 500mg per week of a long acting ester such as enanthate or cypionate, and although I agree with the latter I don’t agree with the former. There is no need to go as high as 500mg per week on a first cycle, as 250mg a week will take you well into supra-physiological levels and you can also assess your tolerances for the compound. For your second cycle and beyond you can increase the dose and also include things like Dianabol or Anadrol for a four week ‘kickstart’. Always take things one step at a time, don’t just start taking every compound under the sun because everyone else or because you want faster results – more is not better.
PCT for Testosterone
Whether you have take testosterone pills or the injectable version, the post cycle therapy protocol required after you have completed your cycle will be the same (you will just it at different times as they take different lengths of time to clear the system).
As you would expect the three standard PCT drugs advised here are: Nolvadex (Tamoxifen citrate), Clomid (Clomiphene citrate) and HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) – however, you don’t have to utilise all three as I will explain below in several different protocols (all of which work equally well). One word of caution before I begin though is to ignore the old school idea that high doses are needed. You should never go beyond 50mg of Clomid and 20mg of Nolva and I would even lower that to 25mg of the former and 10mg of the latter. Why? Firstly, they are extremely potent prescription drugs with very harsh side effects (on a mg for mg basis way, way more potent than testosterone or steroids) and secondly because a lower dose will get the job done just as well. So how should the above three be used?
HCG should be used throughout your cycle to keep your testicles at least partly functioning. If they remain dormant for too long then you may experience issues when trying restart your HPTA, either in terms of them taking longer to start working again or not working at all and this is risk no-one should take. 250ui – 750ui per week is all that is needed to keep the testes functioning and this should be split up into bi-weekly sub-q injections. I would advise to keep using HCG for a week after the steroids have cleared your system just to give your endocrine system a final boost before attempting to restart it; however you must not continue with HCG once the normal PCT meds have begun as it may impair the recovery of your testicles and testosterone levels.
There are two ways to use Nolvadex and Clomid pills when trying to restore your natural testosterone levels. Firstly, you can combine them or secondly you can use just one. If you are to do the former then you must lower the doses (see below), and if you are to do the latter than I would always suggest using Tamoxifen over Clomid (because it is more powerful and causes less emotional sides which really aren’t pleasant!).
PCT option 1: Nolvadex @ 5-10mg per day and Clomid at 12.5mg-25mg per day for three to four weeks.
PCT option 2: Nolvadex at 10-20mg or Clomid at 25-50mg per day for three to four weeks.
I myself have used 5mg of Nolva and 12.5mg per day for four weeks and my recovery was just as good as using a higher dose and with less visual and emotional-based side effects. For me this (alongside on cycle HCG use) is the optimum way of restarting your natural testosterone levels.
Is Testosterone Legal?
This largely depends on the country, but in all countries testosterone is legal if you have a valid prescription for it. The only way to obtain a prescription is if you have low natural levels and your doctor has put you on TRT/HRT. In terms of using testosterone as an anabolic steroid for muscle gains, it is largely illegal to buy, sell and possess. Some countries are less strict than others (in the UK you can possess Testosterone for personal use, but in USA, Canada and Australia even personal possession is illegal). Across Europe, the Middle-East and Asia there are numerous countries where it is legal to walk into a pharmacy and buy it over the counter, which may be the best option for those living in a country where personal use is legal, rather taking the risk of importing it and having it seized. Testosterone in pill form, i.e. Andriol is only available in a few select countries and is actually very rare to find OTC.
Do Testosterone boosters actually work?
There are two types of testosterone boosters: legal and illegal ones. The former are usually herb extract based with novel ingredients thrown in and these are usually based on very questionable evidence found in at best a handful of published studies, with the latter being illegal prescription drugs such as Nolva and clomid, which certainly do work! If we are talking about the supplements you can buy over the counter then they may have a small impact, particularly if someone has secondary hypogonadism (their pituitary isn’t producing enough LH and/or FSH), but those with primary hypogonadism (testicular failure) or a normal HPTA won;t find them of much use at all. They will never raise your testosterone levels beyond the normal physiological ranges and the body will always try and compensate to create a hormonal balance, which may offset any potential benefits you may experience.