What is PCT?
When exogenous substances are supplied to increase or decrease the production of organic substances (such as prohormones), the human body starts a series of processes designed to adapt to the situation.
This is what happens, for example, when an athlete uses anabolic steroids – also known as “synthetic testosterone” -: to prevent overload, the body either reduces or stops producing the male hormone entirely.
The latter can be especially dangerous as an athlete cannot stay on steroids forever given its well-known, dire side effects – impotence, testicular contraction, painful erections, and the like.
In addition, when endogenous testosterone production decreases, levels of estrogen and progesterone (the female hormones that men have a 1: 100 ratio of testosterone) skyrocket.
The effect of this increase is disgusting for bodybuilders: muscle formation decreases and the waist begins to accumulate fat; energy levels drop sharply and there may be signs of depression.
There have even been reports of men growing their breasts.
In addition, two other elements come into play when testosterone production decreases: cortisol and a protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).
Cortisol, in addition to being called the “stress hormone” for some reason, is bad for muscles. The presence of testosterone is largely inhibited, but with low levels of the male hormone, cortisol can do what it likes best: break down muscle tissue.
SHBG, on the other hand, binds to and retains testosterone. There will be too much SHBG after the steroid cycle and the show will continue until testosterone production exceeds its limits again.
So to summarize: As a way to prevent the body from completely stopping the production of testosterone and instead producing higher levels of female hormones, cortisol and SHBG, in the late 1980s the bodybuilding industry came up with the concept of post-cycle therapy or PCT.
Rather than letting the body cleanse itself out of the chaos caused by anabolic steroid use – which can take up to four months – athletes are now using PCT supplements that cut the duration to an average of six weeks.
What PCT does is return hormone production to baseline levels, and also makes sure that every internal organ is in good shape and health.
Thanks to PCT, athletes can get out of the anabolic steroid cycle and preserve their muscles, restore testosterone production and keep cortisol and other irritants at bay.
Why do some SARMs need it?
As a way to provide fitness enthusiasts with something to help them get the results they are looking for without the dangerous side effects of anabolic steroids, the pharmaceutical industry has developed selective androgen receptor modulators, also known as SARMs.
Anabolic steroids, as previously mentioned, cause unwanted side effects that can range from simple acne to an enlarged prostate and an increased likelihood of blood clots, which in turn increases the risk of a heart attack.
On the other hand, SARM, although not yet approved by any regulatory body in the United States and Europe, has proven itself well in clinical trials as a safer way to increase testosterone levels with the desired effects of muscle growth, increased endurance, and faster recovery periods, among others.
In addition, athletes can find a specific SARM that suits their needs, whether they want to build muscle, improve performance, or improve endurance.
SARMs mimic the action of the male hormone instead of synthetically replacing testosterone, as anabolic steroids do; that is, they open the floodgates and release body components that aid in protein synthesis, muscle growth, and prevention of bone wasting.
The beauty of this is that they do not bind to the endocrine system in the process, which is why most SARMs do not require PCT when taken at the prescribed dosages.
However, while SARMs are not as harmful or aggressive as anabolic steroids, some may still require PCT.
To begin with, there are two main types of SARMs: steroidal and non-steroidal. Remember how SARMs opened the gateways for some body components?
This is what protein-based nonsteroidal SARMs do: they differentiate, they can tell which cells to stimulate and which ones are intact.
Steroid SARMs don’t have, and because they don’t, they can stimulate parts of your DNA not related to building muscle or strengthening bones.
In addition, SARMs are most likely used in sets of two or three.
For example, if you are an advanced SARM user looking to gain weight, experts recommend that you take 10 milligrams of LGD 4033 (ligandrol) in a stack of 25 milligrams MK 677 (ibutamoren) and 10 milligrams of yen 11.
Only in such cases can it be useful to introduce a short PCT, just to independently bring the level of hormones in the body.
How does the PCT work?
As mentioned, PCT can be very helpful in restoring the body’s ability to produce the most important hormones on its own. This is a must for athletes traveling on anabolic steroids, as endogenous testosterone production decreases or stops completely after the synthetic substitute takes over. On a more detailed level, what is happening is that steroid use can upset the balance in your hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the name given to the set of interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal (or adrenal) glands. Among many homeostatic systems throughout the body, the axis is HPA regulates the reproductive system, which contains the testes, which in turn produce the highly demanded testosterone. However, PCT will want to stimulate the pituitary gland to produce luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which will subsequently promote testosterone production by the testes. L The best way to do this is to use a Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (also known as SERM). In addition to helping the body produce testosterone, these substances will antagonize and deactivate estrogen so that men do not suffer from hypogonadism (small testicles) and infertility. Options include nolvadex , clomid, raloxifene and farston. Experts advise that SERM should not be excluded from PCT under any circumstances. Other compounds that may be beneficial for PCT are aromatase inhibitors (AIs). They work a little differently than SERMs, but with similar results.
What they do, as the name suggests, is to suppress the aromatase enzyme responsible for converting androgens to estrogen.
Some AI options are Aromasin, Arimidex and Letrozole.
The last substance that can be used in PCT treatment is human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the name of synthetic LH.
As mentioned, LH stimulates testosterone production, which is good. However, hCG has a downside: it also stimulates aromatase activity in the testes of men, which, in turn, increases the level of estrogen in the body.
For this reason, experts recommend taking HCG with aromatase inhibitors.
Last but not least, high doses of vitamin D (cholecalciferol) have been shown to be effective in both increasing testosterone levels and reducing SHBG levels in the body.
Good news: Vitamin D is very easy to find – look up! It comes naturally with sunlight and can also be found in egg yolks, fish, and mushrooms.
If that’s not enough, you can always resort to supplements.