The Lowdown on the Latest in Bodybuilding Chemistry
by Bill Roberts
Finding a PhD candidate in pharmaceutical science isn't all that hard. There are hundreds of them working around the country, mostly in the white, sterile, back rooms of drug company giants. Finding one, however, who's interested in all the chemicals and drugs that bodybuilders and strength athletes find so spay-shul is a little harder ... why, you could count them on one hand – a hand that was involved in a horrible chemical accident and lost a couple of fingers in the process.
Luckily, we've got one of those mangled digits working with us. His name is Bill Roberts, and he may just be one of the country's leading thinkers in the fields of supplementation and bodybuilding drugs. If you can swallow it, inject it, or spray it on, Bill knows about it! In fact, he's pretty darned knowledgeable in just about every area, including training and nutrition.
Bill's agreed to start writing a Q and A column for us, and although he might occasionally handle some of the same ground as Brock Strasser or Cy Willson, it's always cool to get a second opinion, especially since Bill's area of specialization is delivery systems and drug design.
Q: How should I train in order to keep my gains after a cycle of androgens? Heavy, but with less volume? Light to facilitate recovery? Should I take a few days off of training right after a cycle given the previously high volume when "on"?
A: LBM retention seems clearly better when weights remain relatively heavy, say 80% 1RM or whatever percent you were using when the steroid cycle ended, whichever is higher. This is necessary for only one or two weeks, at which time the periodization plan may move to a relatively lighter weight such as 60% 1RM.
Volume should be cut about in half in the first one or two off weeks.
If body parts were trained twice per week during the cycle, then taking a few days off is fine, but if they were trained only once per week, I don't think added rest days (beyond 7 days) are beneficial for the upper body, but they can be acceptable for the lower body. Simply reducing the volume is all that's really needed.
Value of Androgens When Dieting
Q: I'm thinking of trying MAG-10 during a diet phase. Is this a good idea? The articles seem to always talk about bulking. I'm assuming it will help me preserve muscle, too.
A: This depends somewhat on where your body fat currently is. If you're at say, 15% or 20% body fat and are looking to drop a modest amount like 10 pounds of fat, you can have excellent LBM retention without androgen supplementation, provided that you keep calories and diet reasonable, taking in at least 12 cal/lb LBM/day.
But if you're wanting to lose fat from a starting point like 8% or 10% body fat, or if you want to lose fat very rapidly with a more severe diet, then androgen supplementation makes a tremendous difference. With MAG-10, for example, calories can be reduced to about 8 cal/lb LBM/day, with about half coming from protein and the other half from carbs and/or fats.
I'd particularly recommend John Berardi's method of consuming principally protein and carbs in the earlier part of the day, and protein and fats in the later part of the day, while getting at least 6 grams per day of combined DHA/EPA from suitable supplements. Personally, I use Twinlab's Dale Alexander Super MaxEPA, which is so concentrated as to provide this amount in only 100 calories. There may be other good brands, however.
Q: I hope I have a question worthy of an answer – a search of your site found nothing. I really haven't been able to find an honest assessment anywhere.
Here's the scoop: I would like to know your thoughts on supplementing with 19-norandrostenedione in women?
I have been a fairly high level athlete (triathlete,strength-endurance competitions - anything with sweat!) for many years and would like to see what a "mild" enhancer would do. I'd like to see if I can get to 8-9% body fat, normal off-season is 15%, competitive is 12ish. That translates to about 3 or 4 more pounds of body fat replaced by a few more pounds of muscle.
The female body really rebels against low body fat levels, as I am sure you know. My husband has some reservations about me using a pro-hormone - I think I may be on the verge of "too muscular" as it is!
A: 19-norandrostenedione is an unusual prohormone.
In men it's often a horrible inducer of gyno, which quite likely is due to a progestagenic effect. So 19-norandrostenediol (nor-4-AD), which does not have this problem, is a superior compound. It's also superior because it's active all by its lonesome, without requiring conversion in the body, whereas the dione version does.
I'm not entirely sure whether a progestagenic side effect would necessarily be adverse to a female competitor, but I suspect it might be, and there's no reason really to add that complicating factor.
If you must use a prohormone, nor-4-AD would be a better choice. While Nandrosol (which contains nor-4-AD) is no longer produced, it's still available from some vendors. I'd recommend no more than 7 sprays twice per day, and that with the understanding that there still could be a risk of virilization.
An alternate would be no more than 200 mg/day of powder, perhaps from oral capsules, preferably divided into four doses per day so as to minimize "spikes" and reduce risk of virilization.
I certainly hope you have good success and no problems!
Steroid Cycling On the Cheap
Q: I have one problem with MAG-10: the cost. Basically, even if it does what you say, $99 per two weeks seems like too much to pay. I do like the idea of avoiding the legal risks involved with black market steroids, and avoiding the risk of getting bogus stuff, but I don't like how much more money it's going to cost. What kind of injectables and or/orals steroid cycle would you recommend that ares 1) available and not usually counterfeited, 2) low in adverse side effects, and 3) economical?
A: I'll gladly answer your question but I'd first ike to answer the part about the cost of MAG-10.
Most users wind up paying about $67 per bottle, either with discounts from some retailers, or "buy two get one free." So the cost, depending on dosage, is about $33 per week at one dose per day, $44 at 1.5 doses per day, or $67 at two doses per day. For most users, one dose per day is entirely sufficient for excellent results.
All that said, about the cheapest injectable and/or oral cycle would be Sustanon. This wouldn't meet all of your requirements, and would be typically be about $14 per 250 mg ampule. So this would work out to be $56 per week for a gram-per-week cycle, and this isn't counting the Clomid and Proscar (or Propecia) that would be desirable to counteract the estrogen and DHT side effects of the Sustanon.
A reasonable choice that would avoid the need for yet more drugs to counteract the side effects of the first drugs is trenbolone acetate for the Class-I steroid (binding well to the androgen receptor or AR) and Winstrol, Anadrol, or an effective 4-AD formulation for the Class-II steroid (working through other means than the AR.)
At 50 mg/day, the Humatren version of trenbolone acetate costs about $28 per week to use if buying three bottles at a time to get the discount,
and the most bang for the buck for a Class-II steroid is typically Androsol, at about $23 per week at the discount. So the total is $51 per week.
If you want an oral Class-II instead of the topical, the most cost effective choice to stack with your trenbolone would be Anadrol. I typically recommend 75-100 mg/day taken in divided doses for greater efficacy. If tablets are correctly dosed, 75 mg/day (in divided doses for greater efficacy) can be as low as about $26 per week, but unfortunately, underdosing is common so you might need to take three "50 mg" tablets to get an actual approximate 75 mg.
Primobolan and Winstrol are other steroids that would meet your requirements, except for the cost factor. They're dramatically more expensive.
Legality of Pro-Steroids
Q: How is it that prohormones and prosteroids are legal? According to the Hatch Act, aren't all these things supposed to occur in nature somewhere? Lastly, how on earth can these products be called pro-steroids, without calling down the wrath of the FDA?
A: It's basically correct that nutritional supplements need to be compounds found in nature, and these steroids do occur in nature.
For example, there's actually more 4-AD in human blood than Testosterone. It would have to be present in meat as well, though I don't have a specific reference.
Androst-1-ene is also present in man, though not in large amounts.
What you may be wondering about is why esters of a compound can be sold if the compound in question doesn't appear in nature as that particular ester. The FDA has long considered esters of a nutrient or food additive to be legally equivalent to the unesterified version occurring in nature, and esters are quite commonly employed to improve stability or absorption. For example, Vitamin A and Vitamin E are usually provided as esters.
In contrast, providing a prohormone or pro-steroid of one of the synthetic anabolic steroids would be illegal, since the parent steroid doesn't occur in nature.
As to the terminology of "pro-steroid," I can see where you might think it provocative to the FDA, but it's no issue. The term steroid simply refers to a type of chemical structure. For example, cholesterol, protodioscin (found in Tribex-500), guggulsterone (found in Prolab's Metabolic Thyrolean), and hydrocortisone are all steroids. So are 4-AD and Androst-1-ene. We could even put the word "steroid" on the bottle, instead of pro-steroid, and this would be completely accurate and no problem with the government.
We use the term pro-steroid, however, because so long as the ethylcarbonate ester is present, the compounds have no activity, but on removal by the body of the ethylcarbonate groups, they are converted essentially 100% to the parent steroids.
Human Growth Hormone
Q: What's your take on GH? I know dozens of guys who take it, and yet it doesn't seem to do squat. However, when they combine it with roids, there seems to be some sort of synergy going on. What gives?
A: It's pretty much as you said. Past age 40, and to some extent past age 30, there can be a benefit, though not a dramatic one, to a hormone replacement approach at levels such as 1 or 2 IU per day. Such a dosing can help a little with body fat and perhaps with the appearance of the skin. For very clear results in adding muscle, however, combining GH with anabolic steroids is necessary. For most individuals, a dose of 2-4 IU per day is then appropriate. Not everyone can tolerate these doses, though there are some that can tolerate more.
A problem with high dose GH is that some of the side effects are irreversible. For example, once you've noticed that your face looks like Lou Ferrigno's or Kim Chizevski's, it's too late.
Uses of Trenbolone Acetate
Q: Is Fina a mass drug, or a strength drug? It's the only steroid I can get, so what can I expect? Also, I'm intrigued by oxandrolone... it's supposed to be a great strength drug and to be very low in toxicity. Should I combine it with trenbolone, if I can get it?
A: Trenbolone (Fina) can be very effectively used in a mass cycle, since androgen receptor mediated activity (which is how trenbolone works) is important to mass gains. But using it by itself to put on mass isn't the best approach since non-androgen-receptor-mediated mechanisms of muscle growth are apparently not being adequately stimulated.
A trenbolone-only cycle is like a Primobolan-only cycle in terms of mass gains. In other words, usually moderate. However, it differs from Primo in that it's effective as a CNS (central nervous system) stimulant, whereas Primo has little or no effect in this regard.
You can expect some good strength gains with nothing but trenbolone, if you're not already stronger than you could have gotten naturally. However, the amount of strength that can be gained without also gaining a lot of mass is limited.
I know that some steroid books on the market give an implication that oxandrolone has some unique properties with regard to strength, or even more inaccurately, with regard to phosphocreatine, but this isn't the case. It doesn't do anything trenbolone doesn't do, except for being toxic to the liver. Contrary to what had been believed a few years ago, oxandrolone is actually about as liver toxic as any of the orals.
Two Week Cycles: Ivory Tower Theory?
Q: Bill, your two-week cycle method seems to have a serious problem with it. I've done many steroid cycles, typically at about a gram per week of Testosterone, and my results don't even start kicking in really until about the third week. If I'd quit at the end of the second week, I would have experienced hardly any growth. All your other advice seems highly practical and clearly based on experience, but this one, I dunno.
A: Most definitely the two week cycling method is based on experience. I can't take the credit for inventing it, however. Those honors go to Alexander Fillipidis, a colleague in Greece.
Having said that, I'd bet about anything that you didn't front-load your injectable steroid cycles. This is important with drugs that have a relatively long half-life.
Let's say it's the third week of your cycle and let's assume you'd just injected 500 mg. You have more in your body than the 500 mg you just injected. That's because you have a considerable amount remaining from previous injections, whereas in the first week and even into the second, you had little or no steroid in the system from previous injections, and therefore experienced slow gains.
To properly front-load a steroid cycle, inject the same amount you ordinarily would, plus an amount equal to the average amount you'd inject during the half-life of the drug. For example, let's say the half-life is 5 days, and your usage level is 1000 mg/week which works out to about 150 mg/day average, but is actually divided into two injections of 500 mg.
So on day 1, for your front-load you should inject 500 mg plus 750 mg (five times 150 mg), or 1250 mg total. If you inject only the 500 mg, your levels will be considerably less than what will be the case later on in the cycle.
A serious steroid cycle should show obvious results within 3-5 days.
Why Choose Fat Over Carbs?
Q: Why do you always stress eating a lot of carbs and not much fat when on a mass-gain steroid cycle?
A: While I wish everyone could eat all they liked while on a steroid cycle and not get fat, unfortunately, the fact is that for most men, fat gain remains possible while on androgens. For any given caloric intake, calories from carbs and protein contribute more to muscle gains than fat calories would, and therefore it's best for the dietary intake to be principally carbs and protein.
Or more importantly, practical results have shown that this is so.
An excellent approach is consuming about 2.0 - 2.5g protein, 2.5 - 3.0 g carbs, and roughly 0.5 g fats per lb LBM per day. It's not a disaster to allow somewhat more fat than this, but it may lead to more fat gains during the cycle.
Some may prefer reducing carbs below this somewhat, but reducing carbs too much definitely tends to hurt gains.
While dieting, protein and carbs can be reduced to values well below this. Furthermore, in my opinion, there's little or no value when dieting to maintain protein intakes over about 1.0 g per lb LBM per day.
T3 for the Long Haul?
Q: You've written before about using low dose T3 for an extended period of time without side effects. How low and for how long?
A: For long term use, by which I mean many months, 12.5 mcg/day is a dose which gives quite noticeable benefit with no noticeable adverse effects, and no problems of low thyroid on discontinuance.
Fat loss is somewhat faster at 25-50 mcg/day, but along with that comes more suppression of natural thyroid production, and such a dosage is inappropriate for long term use.