The Steroid Files
Anti-Estrogens, Synthol, and Johnny Law
T NATION addresses the current state of steroid science, this time addressing anti-estrogens, avoiding the long arm of the law, Synthol protocols, and the Proviron comeback.
Question: I keep reading about the different anti-estrogens (Nolvadex, Arimidex, Clomid) and have no idea when to use what drug. What's the deal with these ancillary meds and what's the best way to use them?
T NATION: Estrogen has some nasty side effects that any bodybuilder (heck, any man) would want to avoid. These sides include water retention, fat gain, and the development of breast tissue (i.e. gynecomastia). As much as these side effects suck, they're exponentially worse for a physique competitor, so bodybuilders have long sought out the best means to keep estrogen at manageable levels.
There are essentially two ways to control estrogen. The first is with a SERM (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator) such as Nolvadex (tamoxifen) or Clomid (clomephine), and the second is with an AI (aromatase inhibitor) such as Arimidex (anastrozole), Aromasin (exemestane), and Femara (letrozole).
A SERM deals with estrogen once it's causing problems, while an AI blocks estrogen at the source. In other words, a bodybuilder would use an AI to prevent estrogen issues from occurring, but a SERM might be a better choice if already dealing with estrogen-based side effects like sore nipples.
Anti-estrogens play a larger role pre-contest, when a physique competitor wants to eliminate as much estrogen as possible to present a hard, granite-looking physique. It's not uncommon for guys (and gals) to increase their doses as high as 1 mg Arimidex or 2.5 mg. letrozole every day for the final few weeks.
In the offseason, these doses usually aren't warranted – you don't want to totally quash estrogen as a little bit helps with sex drive and growth. Something like 1 mg. Arimidex every other day (or even every third or fourth day) is ample in the offseason to keep estrogen sides at bay while growing.
One thing to note is that many of these ancillaries (especially Femara/letrozole) are very harsh on blood lipids; they can drop HDL levels down to dangerous levels very quickly. However, the aromatase inhibitor Aromasin (exemestane) has shown to not have these effects, so it may be a wiser choice for the long run.
Aromasin doses are usually around 25 mg. every day pre-contest, and about half that in the offseason.
Q: I've noticed that Proviron seems to be making a comeback, at least in some circles. I thought this drug was outdated?
TN: Those of you who've been around the block a while will recall bodybuilders using the drug Proviron (Schering's brand name for mesterolone) as a pre-contest anti-estrogen before it was replaced by superior means for estrogen control (see question above).
However, don't close the book on Proviron just yet. Mesterolone has a few other very cool properties that make it a desirable addition to virtually any cycle, both offseason or pre-contest; so much so, that quite a few guys just use it year round. These properties include:
• Increased libido
• Reduced SHBG (steroid-hormone binding globulin), thereby increasing the effectiveness of a steroid cycle
• Increased muscular "hardness" by way of its androgenic properties
It's even easy on the wallet – usually about a dollar a day – so you can see with all these synergistic benefits it would be an attractive addition to a cycle.
Nowadays, it's fairly easy to get mesterolone powder from China, so many UGLs (underground labs) are capping and selling their own versions of Proviron, and for very attractive prices.
The original Schering Proviron came in 25 mg. caps, but many UGLs now make 50 mg. and even 100 mg. capsules. A good daily dose would be 50 mg. to 100 mg. a day and always used in conjunction with other steroids – Proviron is not a good stand-alone drug.
Pre-contest dosing is often ramped up to 200 mg. or more in the final weeks before a show for a maximum "hardening" effect.
Q: Do guys on the sauce need to eat more protein than someone that's natural? What other dietary changes do they need to make?
TN: Anabolic steroids do increase the body's ability to synthesize protein, but that doesn't necessarily mean that an enhanced lifter needs to consume more dietary protein – they just use what they eat with better efficiency.
All too often guys starting a cycle will begin by doubling or even tripling their caloric intake, resulting in a look that can be best described as ten pounds of cottage cheese stuffed into a Ziploc bag.
Unless you're looking to play the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in an upcoming Ghostbusters remake, it's a much better idea to approach your diet changes gradually, something that applies whether you're "on" or "off."
Since everyone's metabolism is different and can change from day to day (even hour to hour and minute to minute), it's hard for me to give a cookie cutter answer for approaching nutrition. Simply, your best bet is to monitor your progress on a regular basis and modify as needed to keep yourself progressing towards your goals. You may find that you can indeed handle more calories while on than off, but make changes in small realistic amounts, not drastic overhauls.
One final note – human growth hormone is definitely one substance that DOES increase food "utilization," for lack of a better word. Many bodybuilders have reported that they can consume far more calories once they add GH to their stack and still stay very lean. It's almost like the more food they eat, the more they grow – and no, not the expanding waistline kind of growth.
If you're an experienced lifter that has made significant gains with basic AAS stacks (Testosterone, Deca-Durabolin, Equipoise, etc.), then GH might just be what you need to take it to the next level.
Q: I'm an amateur competitive bodybuilder considering using a site enhancement oil like Synthol. What would be the best way to use this without making myself look like a complete idiot? I just need to bring up my arms a bit – they're 19 inches but at 5'8 they need to be a bit bigger to be competitive.
TN: There are a number of different protocols floating around on the Internet and most will work just fine, ifyou stick to the recommendations. Some guys just plain get greedy, and those are the ones that end up looking like they have a watermelon attached to their arm.
A safe and reasonable Synthol schedule for biceps and triceps would look something like this:
Weeks 1/2/3: Loading Phase
• For triceps, shoot only in the long head (the biggest head) and start off with 2 to 3 cc, three times a week (every other day).
• For biceps, shoot into both heads (that's why it's "biceps" and not "uniceps") and start off with 2 to 3 cc per head, two times per week (something like Monday and Friday).
Weeks 4 and beyond: Maintenance
• Triceps (long head): 2 to 3 cc, twice a week (Monday and Friday)
• Biceps (both heads): 2 to 3 cc, once a week (any day)
Make sure to use a needle that's at least 1" long (1.5" would be better for most), allowing you to get the oil deep into the muscle.
Doing the shots before training that particular muscle group (earlier that day) seems to help minimize soreness a bit, with some users also reporting a better "mind-muscle" connection when shooting before training.
Like any injection, keep things as hygienic as possible. Getting an abscess in your arm is not the kind of swelling you're looking for.
Q: How big should I allow myself to get before starting a pre-contest diet? I've always started my diet with as much mass as possible, though I keep hearing about guys staying leaner year round.
TN: Do you mean how fat should you let yourself get? Nine times out of ten, the guys who think they're "smooth" or "bulky" are just plain fat, by anyone's standard.
True, you can't grow without a caloric surplus, and since it's difficult to pinpoint the exact amount needed to be in an "optimal surplus," many will overshoot things a bit and end up getting smoother in the process.
It makes sense in theory, as gaining a little fat is better than the alternative – not eating enough to support muscle gains. The problem is that way too many lifters develop blinders as to what's really happening to their bodies and confuse weight gain (i.e. fat gain) with muscle growth. The result is often a 40-inch waist and an ass the size of Rhode Island.
As for "how big" one should allow themselves to get, it depends on a number of factors including:
Individual metabolism – guys with faster metabolisms can get away with pushing the calories a little higher, while guys with slower metabolisms need to reign things in a bit.
The timeline – how far out is the competition? Four months from now, or 18 months? Obviously, a shorter time line would require the athlete not get too out of shape.
Enhanced or not – natural guys should stay a bit leaner, not only because they don't have access to the pharmaceutical fat loss arsenal that enhanced guys do (GH, T3, clenbuterol, etc.), but also because they don't have the hormonal support from Testosterone and other anabolics to minimize the catabolic effects of a long, severe diet.
The fact is, setting a fat-limit is very individual, and depends a bit on personal preference. Some vain bastards just don't like to get too big and bloated in the offseason, while others with an affinity for sweatshirts and baggy sweats think it's the greatest thing in the world. Find your own sweet spot that allows you to make consistent gains, but also stay sane and healthy in the process.
Q: It seems like every week I hear of a new steroid bust. What sort of precautions would you recommend for staying out of the big house?
TN: Take a lesson from Baretta and don't do the crime if you can't do the time. While many might disagree with the drug laws in the U.S. as they pertain to anabolic steroids, they do exist and you're always taking a risk when you engage in illegal activity. Many lives (and families) have been shattered by AAS, so ask yourself first if it's really worth it in the first place.
With that public safety message out of the way, let's get into some of the nitty-gritty that may save you from an extended stay in the crowbar hotel.
For the seller:
• Never deal locally. You expose yourself way too much this way. All transactions should be anonymous, i.e. through email and other "nonphysical" means.
• Anonymous, anonymous, anonymous. Never use your real name for anything. Get fake IDs if you need to, get multiple post office boxes, multiple addresses, etc., and never use the same address for ordering gear or powder that you use for manufacturing or storing. Pay bums to do your Western Union transactions for you. Ship out of different locations.
• Use a laptop with a WiFi connection in a public place, like a coffee shop or hospital. This prevents the authorities from being able to track your IP address.
• Don't get greedy. Get in, make your money (smartly and safely), then get out. The longer in the game, the more risk of getting caught. Don't make it a lifelong career.
For the buyer:
• Similar to the seller, make sure you remain anonymous at all times. Never use your real name to order, and make sure you don't keep your "stash" in the same place you have your stuff sent to (in the event that a controlled delivery is executed, and your place is searched).
• Again, use a laptop with a Wifi connection in a public place.
• Keep orders relatively small. You don't want to do a million small orders (that would increase your exposure), but a big order that gets snagged looks much more like a dealer than just a recreational user. You never want to look like a dealer... trust me.
Truth is, you can never be too cautious. There's no guarantee that you'll never get caught even if you dot all the I's and cross all the T's, but you can certainly minimize your exposure to law enforcement, and hopefully keep your freedom in the process.
So, are columns like this about steroid use and bodybuilding passé, or do you still like reading about this illicit world even though you have no intention of ever using growth-promoting drugs? Let us know.