Disclaimer: The following article is for educational purposes only and NOT to promote the use of illegal steroids. If you have any questions or concerns, Dr. Touliatos is currently available for consultations.
Novice weight lifters sometimes ask, “what are the best steroid cycles?”.
The correct answer to this depends on what someone hopes to achieve from a steroid cycle.
For example, if someone wanted to predominantly burn fat, they would take a drastically different cycle to someone who wanted to bulk up.
Furthermore, the best steroid cycle for a male may be completely different from an optimal cycle for a female; due to women wanting to avoid compounds that cause virilization.
In this guide, we will detail various steroid cycles; tailored for beginners, advanced users and those looking to bulk or cut.
Beginner Steroid Cycles
A person’s best steroid cycle is almost always their first steroid cycle.
This is because their body has not had a chance to build up any tolerance to anabolic steroids, thus resulting in rapid and dramatic changes in body composition.
However, a first cycle equally can be the most damaging or destructive cycle, as the body hasn’t had a chance to adapt to the compound.
Therefore, the best steroid for beginners is one that has mild side effects; yet is powerful enough to build significant amounts of muscle.
Note: Stacking steroids together is not a protocol generally adopted by beginners, as combining multiple compounds together often yields more severe side effects.
A Testosterone-only cycle is the staple protocol for many beginner weight lifters.
This is due to Testosterone producing significant muscle and strength gains, yet only causing mild side effects.
Thus, Testosterone is regarded to have one of the greatest risk/reward ratios, compared to other anabolics.
In terms of results, a cautiously dosed Testosterone cycle can add 20lbs+ of lean mass to beginners. Testosterone will also cause some fat loss, due to its androgenic nature.
Muscular strength can also increase by 50lbs or more on various compound exercises, such as squats, deadlifts and bench press.
Unfortunately, Testosterone isn’t the most convenient anabolic steroid for administration, with it being predominantly injectable. However, this method of entry means it can bypass the liver (unlike c-17 alpha-alkylated steroids), thus entering the bloodstream immediately. Consequently, Testosterone causes little to no hepatotoxic effects.
Note: Testosterone is available in oral form (known as Undecanoate or Andriol); however, this is less commonly used by bodybuilders due to its high market price.
The above cycle is commonly used by novices looking to add substantial amounts of muscle and strength. Testosterone Cypionate or Enanthate are commonly used among beginners, due to such esters not requiring overly frequent injections.
Also, the injection itself is typically less troublesome with Cypionate and Enanthate, in comparison to other variations of Testosterone.
Testosterone Side Effects
Testosterone is androgenic in nature; thus inflammation of the prostate, acne vulgaris and male pattern baldness are possible.
Testosterone will also skew HDL and LDL cholesterol ratios, causing possible hypertension. However, this negative effect on blood pressure is mild compared to harsher AAS; with testosterone perhaps being the most cardiovascular-friendly steroid.
Water retention is also probable, due to Testosterone having the aromatase enzyme present.
Therefore, when exogenous Testosterone converts to estrogen, fluid can accumulate; causing bloating and puffy muscles. It also has the potential to cause gynecomastia and thus estrogen may need to be controlled to avoid female breast tissue forming in the pectoral region.
Testosterone also causes hypogonadism i.e. a significant decline in natural testosterone production; caused by the pituitary gland signaling to the testes. This process occurs due to excessive amounts of exogenous Testosterone present in the bloodstream, and thus the body trying to maintain homeostasis.
Anavar (Oxandrolone) is classed as a cutting steroid in the bodybuilding community, often being utilized in competition prep.
It has anabolic effects in regards to muscle-building; however, such properties are only moderate compared to bulking steroids.
Instead, Anavar is primarily coveted due to its potent fat-burning properties, in addition to its ability to shed water, increasing vascularity and muscle tone.
Anavar’s ability to add lean muscle and strength, whilst simultaneously stripping fat, makes it popular among beginners. It is also an oral steroid, thus no injections are required.
Anavar is also suitable for women, with it rarely causing virilization in low to moderate doses.
Beginners can expect to gain 15lbs of lean muscle, whilst significantly reducing their body fat percentage with Anavar.
The above cycle is dosed for a male beginner. Women may take 10mg/day for 4 weeks; however, anything higher than this may cause masculinization effects.
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Anavar is a c-17 alpha-alkylated oral steroid, thus it is processed by the liver upon absorption into the bloodstream.
However, Anavar’s hepatic effects are relatively mild compared to other oral steroids; therefore this side effect isn’t typically worrisome for bodybuilders.
Anavar will alter a user’s cholesterol profile, causing imbalances in HDL/LDL levels. This can cause hypertension; however, BP is unlikely to rise to excessively high levels.
Anavar’s cardiovascular strain is thought to be slightly more than Testosterone. This may be due to Anavar not converting to estrogen, plus being oral; thus stimulating hepatic lipase in the liver.
Anavar will also cause testosterone suppression; however, serum levels often peak back to normal levels within several weeks. This recovery process post-cycle is relatively short with Anavar, due to testosterone production not being completely shut down.
Bulking Steroid Cycles
Bulking cycles are utilized by bodybuilders seeking immense increases in muscle hypertrophy (size).
Many of these cycles are harsh on the body and thus only suitable for intermediates and advanced users.
The only exception to this rule is a Testosterone-only cycle, which is considered a relatively safe bulking protocol.
Dianabol is the famous oral steroid thought to be used by the ‘Austrian Oak’, aka Arnold Schwarzenegger; helping him to become a formidable force on the Mr. Olympia stage.
Dianabol was formulated by Dr. John Bosley Ziegler, with the purpose of synthesizing a compound more anabolic than Testosterone, yet less androgenic.
Thus, Dianabol will produce similar (if not slightly superior) results to Testosterone; in regards to muscular strength and size. However, it does not mimic the androgenic effects of Testosterone, thus incidents of prostate enlargement, male pattern baldness or acne are less common.
Dianabol is sometimes taken by beginners; however, this is not recommended due to its harsh cardiovascular and hepatic effects. Thus, it is more suited for intermediates who have already taken a milder steroid previously, such as Testosterone.
Dianabol Side Effects
Dianabol is a toxic oral steroid, thus it has a detrimental effect on AST and ALT liver values.
Thus, a liver support supplement such as TUDCA is often taken to reduce such strain.
Dianabol aromatizes and thus has high estrogenic activity. Consequently, water retention and gynecomastia are possible side effects from high levels of the female hormone.
Dianabol will have a particularly negative effect on cholesterol, potentially causing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Water retention and stimulation of the hepatic lipase enzyme in the liver are the main culprits for such cardiovascular stress on Dianabol.
Dianabol will also shut down testosterone levels, requiring an effective post-cycle therapy treatment to resurrect natural endogenous production.
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Anadrol’s benefits largely mimic Dianabol’s; producing colossal increases in muscle hypertrophy and strength.
It is also an oral steroid, making it a preferable compound for those looking to avoid needles.
A first-time Anadrol cycle is likely to cause weight gain of 30+ pounds.
Advanced steroid users may also take dosages reaching as high as 100mg/day.
Anadrol Side Effects
Anadrol is not suitable for beginners, with it being one of the most toxic steroids available; causing large fluctuations in blood pressure and liver enzymes.
Anadrol is among the harshest steroids on the cardiovascular system; as well as being one of the most devastating AAS on the liver. Extreme caution must be used with this anabolic, particularly for users who regularly drink alcohol or have experienced high blood pressure in the past.
Anadrol is also a wet compound, causing noticeable amounts of extracellular fluid retention, that may temporarily obscure muscle definition; making it a common off-season drug.
Anadrol is also estrogenic; however, this is not due to the aromatase enzyme being present, but instead, direct stimulation of the estrogen receptors.
Therefore, a SERM (Selective estrogen receptor modulator) may be taken to reduce the chances of gynecomastia forming; as opposed to taking an AI (aromatase inhibitor).
Androgenic side effects are also common on Anadrol, despite its low androgenic rating of 45.
Therefore, male pattern baldness, seborrhoea (oily skin), acne vulgaris or/and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) may occur.
Anadrol will shut testosterone levels down, requiring a well-thought-out PCT to restore normal testosterone function. Failure to implement an effective post cycle therapy, may result in low testosterone levels for several months, or permanently (if abused).
Trenbolone is a very unique bulking compound, as it does not convert to estrogen; and thus causes weight gain that is virtually 100% lean muscle tissue.
If bodybuilders could choose one steroid to transform their bodies as quickly as possible, many of them would choose Trenbolone.
Trenbolone doesn’t cause any water retention, creating a very dry and ripped physique; despite being used primarily as a mass-building compound.
Therefore, the weight gain on Trenbolone won’t compete with Dianabol or Anadrol, however strictly in terms of its ability to build muscle tissue; it is equally as powerful. One difference is — when users come off Trenbolone, they often maintain their weight; whereas on Dianabol or Anadrol they commonly experience water loss.
However, Trenbolone doesn’t just add muscle; it also burns fat fast, due to its high androgenicity causing atrophy of adipose tissue. This has resulted in Trenbolone also being utilized as a cutting steroid, enabling bodybuilders to accelerate fat loss, whilst retaining (or even building) muscle on fewer calories.
Trenbolone Side Effects
Trenbolone is one of the harshest steroids on the market, unsurprisingly, as it produces remarkable results in its users.
Trenbolone is an injectable steroid, therefore like Testosterone, it doesn’t pose any major risks to the liver.
However, it will cause huge surges in exogenous Testosterone, that fail to convert into estrogen; causing vast fluctuations in cholesterol and blood pressure.
Trenbolone will also shut down endogenous testosterone levels aggressively, causing male hypogonadism.
Incidents of acne vulgaris or high due to excessive stimulation of the sebaceous glands. Hair follicle loss is also likely on Trenbolone versus other anabolic steroids, due to it causing DHT (dihydrotestosterone) levels to rise exponentially. To put Trenbolone’s androgenicity into perspective, its androgen rating is 500 (5x higher than Testosterone).
Trenbolone is also known to have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, causing thermogenesis (increased body temperature). This can result in adverse effects such as insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, increased sweating and even paranoia in sensitive users.
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Deca Durabolin Cycle
Deca Durabolin is another effective bulking steroid; however, it is best utilized in a stack due to its low androgenicity (usually cycled alongside Dianabol, Testosterone or Anadrol).
Deca Durabolin increases nitrogen retention uptake in the muscle cells, and enhances protein synthesis.
Deca Durabolin also causes exceptional muscle fullness, successfully shuttling more intracellular water inside the muscles.
It is difficult to assess the power of Deca Durabolin individually, as it is almost always stacked with other potent steroids. However, when users remove Deca from a stack; they quickly notice a considerable difference.
Deca and Testosterone Cycle
In comparison to other bulking stacks, this combination of testosterone and Deca Durabolin will cause the least side effects. This cycle may be administered once a user is comfortable taking Testosterone alone.
Deca Durabolin and Dianabol Cycle
This duo was one of the most popular steroid cycles from the golden era, used by Arnold Schwarzenegger and other greats from the ’70s. This steroid cycle is suitable for an intermediate steroid user.
Deca Durabolin and Anadrol Cycle
The above cycle has relatively high dosages, which is reflective of it being utilized by an experienced steroid user (based on Anadrol’s high toxicity).
Deca Durabolin Side Effects
Deca Durabolin is an FDA-approved medication for muscle-wasting ailments, albeit illegal to use for bodybuilding purposes.
Its FDA approval is indicative of the drug’s mild nature, being regarded as one of the safest anabolic steroids on the market.
Blood pressure will rise, albeit subtly and more to the level of Anavar than other bulking compounds.
Liver stress is not a concern with Deca Durabolin, being a non-hepatotoxic injectable steroid.
Deca Durabolin is notorious for causing sexual side effects, such as erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. This is referred to in the bodybuilding community as ‘Deca dick’.
Cases of ED are caused by Deca Durabolin’s weak androgenic nature, combined with high prolactin levels.
When androgens in the body are low, nitric oxide levels can plummet; which are crucial for supplying blood flow to the penis.
Low nitric oxide levels can be counteracted by stacking Deca Durabolin with an androgenic steroid, such as Anadrol, Testosterone or Trenbolone.
Deca also causes high prolactin levels in the bloodstream, which can cause low libido in men. Bodybuilders can often reverse this effect by supplementing with Cabergoline, a dopamine receptor, that has an inhibitory effect on prolactin.
Testosterone suppression is almost certainly going to be dramatic with Deca Durabolin, thus ample time will be needed to recover post-cycle. During this period, a PCT should be utilized and users should refrain from taking any other steroids; until natural testosterone levels return back to normal.
Cutting Steroid Cycles
The main objective of a cutting cycle is to shred fat, whilst retaining muscle tissue.
Anavar and Trenbolone are very effective cutting cycles (that we have already documented above).
Below we will list other steroid cycles that enhance fat burning, whilst simultaneously promoting muscle gain.
Winstrol (Stanozolol) has a similar steroid profile to Anavar, building moderate amounts of muscle, whilst enabling users to burn significant amounts of fat.
Winstrol, like Anavar, doesn’t convert to estrogen and possesses diuretic qualities.
If a person is relatively lean, a Winstrol cycle has the power to get them into low single digits of body fat; in conjunction with intense workouts and a disciplined diet.
Winstrol is regarded by many bodybuilders as being slightly stronger than Anavar, in terms of its benefits and side effects.
Thus, users will build slightly more muscle, whilst experiencing harsher side effects. Therefore, Winstrol is not for beginners or the faint-hearted.
Winstrol Side Effects
Winstrol causes hefty shifts in cholesterol, thus users should expect a significant rise in blood pressure. This may also be visibly apparent, with the skin becoming flushed and taking on a pink colour.
Winstrol may also cause joint pain, due to the flushing of water out of the body; which acts as a cushion to the joints.
This ‘drying out’ effect (of the joints) is the opposite effect of Deca Durabolin and may not complement bodybuilders who enjoy lifting heavy.
Winstrol also decreases collagen production, increasing the risk of injury and accelerating the aging process.
Winstrol causes significant hepatotoxicity, thus cycles should be kept relatively short to avoid excessive damage to the liver. Winstrol should not be stacked with any other oral steroids, to prevent the onset of jaundice or liver cholestasis.
Testosterone levels will also become shut down, decreasing sperm quantity and quality. Avoid regular steroid cycles, containing potent AAS like Winstrol, to give the body enough time to recover; otherwise low testosterone or infertility may become a long-term reality.
Women should avoid Winstrol, as it is prone to causing masculinization (at least in moderate dosages).
Primobolan is a mild anabolic steroid, available in oral or injectable form.
It is very similar to Anavar, in regards to it producing few side effects; whilst promoting moderate amounts of muscle tissue and fat loss.
Primobolan will not replicate the rapid and impressive results of Winstrol or Trenbolone, but instead is a safer option for the more ‘health-conscious’ steroid user (if such a thing exists).
Primobolan was widely used during the golden era when dieting down for a show; however, more potent cutting compounds are used today among IFBB pros.
Primobolan may add up to 10lbs of muscle, whilst providing noticeable fat loss. Primobolan, like Anavar, is a female-friendly steroid unlikely to produce virilization effects.
The above cycle is tailored for men; however, many women can take 50-75mg/day without experiencing masculinization.
Primobolan Side Effects
Primobolan will cause some testosterone suppression, albeit very mild compared to other AAS.
It will also cause a mild peak in blood pressure levels, which is manageable for most users (especially among those who perform regular cardio).
Primobolan is not a c-17 alpha-alkylated compound, thus despite being available in oral form; it does not provide high levels of stress to the liver.
Primobolan is also commonly stacked with Anavar and Testosterone for enhanced results.
Clenbuterol isn’t a steroid, but instead a bronchodilator; prescribed in medicine to optimize breathing in asthma patients.
Due to Clenbuterol displaying anabolic effects (at least in research), it is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a cutting steroid.
Clenbuterol’s most potent effects however come in the form of fat loss and its potent metabolic effects on the metabolism.
Clenbuterol stimulates the nervous system, triggering lipolysis via the process of thermogenesis.
A user’s body core temperature increases for several weeks, resulting in their basil metabolic rate shooting up.
In this case, the body temperature can rise by 1 degree, although once the body eventually cools itself back down (in approximately 4-6 weeks); fat loss is inhibited. This is why some bodybuilders only choose to cycle Clenbuterol for short periods, being as little as 2 weeks on/2 weeks off.
As Clenbuterol doesn’t greatly affect hormone levels, women can also take it in the same dosages without any complications, such as affecting their femininity.
Clenbuterol Side Effects
Clenbuterol can elevate the heart rate to high levels, as well as causing cardiac hypertrophy. Thus, dosages should be increased gradually to assess how a person responds to this drug.
Anxiety, insomnia and depression are common complaints that can be attributed to over-stimulation of the nervous system and excess adrenaline output.
Any supplement used to reduce the heart rate, in a bid to prevent such side effects, may also reduce fat loss (as the thermogenic effect is reduced/lost).
Advanced Steroid Cycles
Note: These steroid cycles should only be attempted by experienced bodybuilders who are healthy and have built up a tolerance to AAS.
Any steroid cycle that contains Anadrol, Superdrol, Trenbolone or Winstrol in a stack, can be considered an advanced cycle, as these are potent steroids (even when taken alone).
Anadrol / Testosterone / Trenbolone Cycle
This is the most potent bulking cycle advanced users can administer.
It combines three of the most powerful mass-building steroids simultaneously, causing incredible results, in terms of raw strength and size.
This cycle is also a very desirable trio for powerlifters looking to set new PR’s (no matter what their experience level).
However, the side effects are going to be extreme, thus if someone were to implement this trio, it should be done very rarely.
We encourage our readers not to utilize such cycles, due to the long-term implications of such drugs.
Winstrol / Proviron / Trenbolone Cycle
This is the most potent cutting steroid cycle a bodybuilder can take (suitable only for advanced users). Men may utilize such a stack in preparation for a bodybuilding competition, where exceptionally low levels of body fat are rewarded.
A cycle like this will cause users to see their body changing rapidly before their eyes, with diuretic, fat burning and muscle-building effects taking place simultaneously.
This cycle should only be utilized when a person is already lean and thus looking to get increasingly ripped. This cycle may not be appreciated by someone higher in body fat, as although it would stimulate considerable weight loss; the diuretic effects would be more difficult to gauge.