Check your calendars: it's September.

For the handful of truly blessed individuals who make a living through bodybuilding, September means just one thing: the Olympia, the biggest show on the books, is just mere weeks away. Training and cardio gets stepped up even more, and the mere thought of a cheat meal becomes completely out of the question.

As big as the stakes are for the competitors, it's an even bigger deal for the guys behind the scenes. Have a couple dark horse clients crack the top 5 and your consulting business can double overnight; have just one high profile star show up fat, watery, or even blow his or her peak, and watch your client base start to crumble.

Despite his hectic schedule, we got the Drug Dragon to answer a few of your questions. Remember, he's here to give you the straight goods, so if you want to learn from the guy the pros and top amateurs go to, now's your chance. Jump into the discussion thread and fire away.

T Nation: I'm 24 and have been lifting for about 8 years, 100% natural. Lately, I seem to have hit a big time plateau. What would you say is the perfect "first cycle" to pop my steroid cherry? I keep hearing that your first cycle is your best cycle so I don't want to screw it up.

First off, why does your first cycle have to be your best cycle? Who the hell comes up with these rules? Likely the same expert that told you steroids made you infertile (tell that one to my buddy who just knocked up his girlfriend while on a gram a week of T).

Here's the deal: A new user is much further away from his or her genetic ceiling than a more seasoned vet, so a 165-pound bean pole who gains 30 pounds the first time he takes Test and D-bol likely won't gain another 30 pounds if he repeats that cycle, simply because he's now that much closer to his genetic limit. Hence the need to escalate dosages and/or get a little more aggressive in the approach.

That said, there is some truth that a first cycle has the potential to be the most productive cycle. The concept of "virgin receptors" may sound like voodoo bullshit, but there's actually something to it. But it doesn't mean jack if it's not paired with proper nutrition and recovery.

The beauty of a first cycle is that you don't have to get fancy to see great results. In fact, going too crazy with gear your first time out may be counterproductive long term for reasons I'll get into later.

For someone in your shoes, I'd go with 500 mg. of Testosterone a week for 12 weeks. That's it. I wouldn't bother pussyfooting around with weaker anabolics or fancier protocols; go right to Testosterone at a moderate dose and reap the rewards. "Stack" it with a ton of good food, train hard, and watch yourself grow.

In my opinion, Testosterone by itself is a great first cycle, and even beyond; I know a LOT of seasoned, established bodybuilders that stick with pretty much just Testosterone for all their cycles, with maybe a small amount (200-300 mg.) of Deca-Durabolin thrown in for joint lubrication.

I can already hear the clickity-clack of the keyboard gurus typing away: "Five hundred mg. of Test? That's a pussy cycle! WTF? What a waste!"

Spare me. 500 mg of (real) Testosterone is certainly not pussying around if it's real Test and it's truly a first cycle.

This brings up a larger issue that I just have to comment on: A current trend I see that irks me are all these guys getting into complicated stuff like insulin, Growth Hormone, IGF-1, and the various peptides WAY too soon. It just doesn't make sense to go the complicated, expensive route when you can milk good old AAS (Testosterone, Deca, Equipoise) for a seriously long time before ever needing to even consider the other stuff.

I tell all the young guys I coach that you never want to pull out all the stops right in the beginning because then you won't have anything to do when you plateau. If you're using GH and insulin to get from 190 to 200 (unless you're a woman), what the hell are you going to use to get from 240 to 250?

That's how I feel anyway. Testosterone is a great androgen and anabolic, and 500 mg. a week is a very effective yet very healthy (and reasonable) dose for a first cycle.

T Nation: An old guy at my gym says to never take an oral steroid for longer than six weeks cause it will jack your liver enzymes up. But my buddies say that stuff like Tylenol and prescription meds are way harder on the liver, and that as long as you stay away from the harsher orals you're fine. What are your thoughts?

Have you ever noticed that nine times out of ten, the know-it-all who tells you that oral steroids are hard on the liver is usually a smoker, overweight, rarely exercises, eats fast food, takes a number of prescription and over the counter medications daily, and drinks several times a week, often to excess? But yeah, those oral roids are cirrhosis in a bottle. Please.

Hypocrisy rants aside, I'm not a fan of too many orals in a cycle or for too long a stretch. Although I know many guys that run orals for much longer than six weeks, I simply don't recommend it; except for maybe an 8-week Winstrol run before a contest. My logic is: With everything else that bodybuilders do to their bodies, why stress it even more with a long run of something that stresses the liver at all?

Even pre-contest, I only suggest my guys take oral Winstrol when the injectable version is not available, although I will have some add in Halotestin the last two weeks or so at 20 mg. per day (some run more but it's not needed).

My feelings are that orals just aren't necessary; injectable steroids are all you need to grow (along with GH and insulin for the more advanced competitors). I realize this flies in the face of the current fad of running a low dose of Dianabol (20 mg. a day) or Winstrol during off-season mass cycles for a little extra hardness, but all this does in my opinion is place an additional strain on the liver.

If you ignore everything I've said and insist on running an oral, limit use to 4-6 weeks and only cycle them in a couple times per year. Don't forget to take plenty of liver support supplements (ALA, NAC, milk thistle, Liv-52) and to watch the OTC meds as well.

T Nation: I'm an aspiring MMA fighter who needs an extra edge. What's the best steroid for a fighter? None of the guys I train with use--we're all supposed to be clean--and I don't want them to notice. I'm looking for strength and recuperation, with as little added size and bodyweight as possible.

Gotta love guys like you. Let me guess, you're getting your ass kicked cause you're lazy and lack skill, so now you want to juice up a bit and dominate like Brock Lesnar in a ring full of midgets? Are you going to compete in the Special Olympics to further bolster your street cred?

I'm just messing with you. As much as I hate it when enhanced guys compete in natural events, I'm fully aware that almost everyone, at some point, uses something.

I'd go with Anavar, 40-60 mg. per day for 6-8 weeks. Anavar is great for sports like MMA because it fits the guidelines the reader mentioned to a T: good strength, good recuperation, very little water weight, and not much for size gain.

Yes, I realize that this is somewhat contradictory to the previous oral steroid question, but MMA guys usually aren't, a) on a bunch of other steroids, or b) many pounds heavier than normal and eating tons of calories daily, or c) engaging in a host of other "activities" that otherwise make bodybuilding a more stressful, much more unhealthy activity than MMA. Well, internally speaking of course!

T Nation: I'm curious how much Growth Hormone you suggest be used in the morning and what your preferred insulin doses are? What about pre-contest?

Many guys are going ape-shit crazy with GH doses. I even know one guy that ran 50 IUs a day for a while; all he got was a crazy case of carpal tunnel that prevented him from doing much with his hands until he backed the dose down.

In my opinion, anything above 5 IUs per day is a total waste and will only burn a major hole in your wallet and increase your blood pressure. Still, most pros will run 8-12 IUs a day, and quite a few will even go up to 16-20. Suffice it to say, most of you are not most pros.

Insulin is another one that guys go way overboard with, often at their own peril. I always tell my guys, "Dose your insulin according to your diet, not the other way around." I rarely have any of my guys go much over 20 IUs total for one day, and it's usually closer to 10-15 (I'm speaking of longer acting insulin like Humulin-R).

As insulin sensitivity wanes, you can increase doses slightly; but usually at that point I'd rather do something to correct the insulin insensitivity issue (like "gasp" dieting) than further increase the insulin dose.

As for pre-contest, I don't like to do anything too goofy. There's no need to change GH dosages just because you're dieting, though some guys like to drop it 2 weeks out from their show because they believe it makes them hold water. I prefer running GH all the way through as it tends to make you fuller, and I've never seen one case of it causing water retention. (People like to blame drugs for issues that stem from just not being in shape when they need to be).

As for insulin, while it can be used daily in the offseason for months at a time, I don't really use it at all pre-contest, unless I give a guy a high carb day.

T Nation: I hate Arimidex. I swear it destroys your memory. What are your thoughts on anti-estrogens?

Pre-contest, I'm a huge fan of anti-estrogens. Lowered estrogen means increased fat loss, as well as creating a much harder, more polished looking physique. I have my guys run them throughout the contest diet, increasing the dose significantly the final 4 weeks to around 1 mg. of Arimidex a day or 2.5 mg. of Letrozole.

If you're not a fan of either, try Aromasin (Exemestane). 10 to 20 mg. per day would be a good dose, and it's less harsh on the lipids (HDL levels) as well.

Off-season, I like my guys to use anti-E's as well, but at a smaller dose (usually 1 mg Arimidex every other day). You don't want too much estrogen in the offseason either because it can lead to fat gain, gynecomastia, and water retention, which can lead to high blood pressure.

That said, you never want to totally annihilate estrogen. Some estrogen is good; it tends to lead to higher IGF-1 and GH levels, not to mention dropping estrogen too low can cause joint pain and lead to erectile dysfunction. Like most things hormonal, it's all about finding the right balance to accomplish the given goal.

T Nation: A few years ago everybody was talking about Trenbolone, even cooking their own Fina home brew. Has it fallen out of favor?

Fina home brew

Trenbolone is a great compound: extremely androgenic and anabolic. For sheer strength and size, it's hard to beat. It's a fairly harsh one though, so I usually like to see it run just pre-contest, for its physique-hardening effects.

Tren has an unfortunate rep for making guys more aggressive, even downright nasty, much of which I consider to be self-fulfilling bullshit. Assholes just become bigger assholes on tren. For a mild-mannered person, it might give them a shorter fuse, but it's not going to turn Gandhi into Jeffrey Dahmer.

Go to a national bodybuilding show and I'll guarantee you that at least two-thirds of the guys competing are on tren, but I've never seen any fistfights or axe murders at shows. Granted, they probably think about it, but don't have the energy.

Speaking of Fina and home-brewing, I remember the glory days of the Finaplix Kitchen Nightmares all too well. Fortunately, it's easy nowadays to get trenbolone powder from China, just like all the other hormone powders that home brewers and underground labs are using. You don't have to go through the whole extraction process, deal with messy fillers, or have to explain to Mom what exactly you were baking at 3 am last night.

You do, however, have to trust your sources! All too often I hear of sketchy sources replacing a more expensive powder like Trenbolone or Primobolan with a cheaper one like Testosterone or Boldenone (Equipoise). Primobolan often costs up to four times as much as Test, so you can see how it would be a profitable switch for a seller.

It's also a tough scam to spot, especially if the user isn't great at discerning how different compounds feel and effect their body. When you get Testosterone instead of Primobolan for example, you just end up taking more Test than you anticipated.

Unless you're intimately familiar with the look and feel of being on Primobolan, you might not even know you've been scammed. Hell, it's Test; you might even go back for more!

But that's a "good news" scam story. I know a guy that put skim milk in a vial and called it Winstrol, and sold it to the owner of a gym I used to train at. Needless to say, the gym owner got violently sick and was less than thrilled.

I've even heard of steroids being cut with motor oil and Armor All. Personally, I don't get it. Rip a guy off, whatever; but why try to kill him? These are the same assholes that sneak razors into the kids' Halloween candy.

Bottom line is, there's zero good faith in this game. Always trust your source.