Testosterone cycle needs no introduction.
The Primary androgen, it is responsible for a wide range of physiological functions in the human body including development of male characteristics during puberty, development of muscle tissue, bone density, strength and prostate development among others.
In a normal healthy male, the body produces testosterone to perform all these vital functions.
But not enough to produce the thick, slabs of muscle that we all yearn for.
That’s where synthetic testosterone comes into the picture.
Synthetic test increases your testosterone to supraphysiological levels allowing more of it to be used for building lean muscle tissue.
In any performance enhancement setting, it is used the foundational steroid around which, other compounds are added to a stack depending on the individual’s goals.
Ideally, there should be no steroid stack without exogenous testosterone and we’ll explain shortly the reason for it.
Irrespective of whether you are a natty fitness buff considering using anabolic steroids1, or someone who’s used SARMS but looking to use real gear, this FAQ will explain the basics of Testosterone and also show you how to use it safely for a cycle.
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What are the different forms of Testosterone?
First timers are often confused at the different names that are attached to the Testosterone hormone, like Testosterone Propionate and Test Cyp.
In essence, all of these are the same testosterone hormone. It’s just that they have different esters attached to it to control the release time.
The testosterone hormone without any ester attached to it would have an incredibly short half-life.
It would be absorbed instantly into the bloodstream following administration and it would be excreted from the system in just hours after this.
By adding an ester, this half-life is prolonged and the release is controlled.
There are three esters of testosterone that are primarily used in performance enhancement.
Also called Test Prop in short, this is a short acting ester that has a fast release time. The advantage is that the therapeutic or anabolic effects can be felt much faster, typically in 7-days or so. The caveat is that it must be injected every two days to maintain stable levels of the hormone in the system.
Also called Test Cyp, this is the most commonly used Testosterone ester for TRT in the United States. In a performance enhancement setting, it is a medium-acting ester that peaks and stabilizes over an 8-10-day period.
This is the longest acting ester of Testosterone with an active half-life of 14-days. If you hate pinning frequently, then this is the ester that you should be choosing for TRT use. However, both enanthate and Cypionate are considered interchangeable when using in a performance enhancement setting.
Irrespective of which ester of Test you choose, there will be no difference in the physical effects or results that you can achieve with it.
What are the effects of Testosterone?
Testosterone increases both strength and lean muscle tissue via different biological mechanisms.
Firstly, it increases Nitrogen retention, which allows the cells to hold more nitrogen, amplifying the rate of recovery and growth. It also increases glycogen synthesis which increases the supply of vital fuel for muscles during your workouts, increasing your muscle endurance and strength.
Secondly, it binds to androgen receptors triggering a cascade of positive effects including lipolysis and growth of lean muscle tissue. At the same time, it stimulates the production of more receptor cells in your muscles, thereby priming them for growth.
Lastly, it suppresses the release of glucocorticoid hormones which can otherwise cannibalize on your hard earned muscle tissue.
The resultant environment created due to all these effects is loosely called Anabolism, during which your body will constantly be in a state of recovery, repair and growth.
What is the right Testosterone dosage?
The right testosterone dosage for you will depend largely on your experience with the hormone and your personal goals from the cycle.
For TRT, a dosage of 200-300mg/week of Testosterone is prescribed. This is just a feather above the normal testosterone levels of a healthy, young male and it more than suffices to provide relief from the symptoms of low T.
In a steroid cycle, the recommended minimum dose is 500mg/week of Testosterone for beginners. This will put your testosterone to supraphysiological levels and if it is your first cycle, you will undergo a dramatic transformation.
More experienced users will increase or reduce the dose of Testosterone depending on the other compounds that they are stacking it with. For example, some users prefer a low dose of Testosterone while increasing their dose of 19-Nor compounds, because the risk of aromatization is lower with it.
Others will maintain a steady dose of testosterone for all their cycles.
That brings us to the most important point.
Is it necessary to use Testosterone in all steroid cycles?
When you introduce an exogenous androgenic hormone into your body, it will automatically signal to your endocrine system to shut off the production of testosterone.
This results in what’s commonly called a ‘Shut down’. Your body will no longer produce testosterone, even for vital functions.
However, not all exogenous hormones are an apt replacement for Test.
When the initial effects of these hormones start to fade, you will begin to feel the negative side effects of a shutdown, or a severe suppressed testosterone level.
Your energy will dissipate, you will feel lethargic, depressed and your cortisol levels will spike. This can negate all the gains that you make during the cycle.
Hence, it is always better to use Testosterone in every steroid cycle. This ensures that your body continues to get enough testosterone to keep your libido up, your mood elevated and your strength and energy levels high.
Not only this, having a bare minimum level of test will allow you to retain the gains that you make during the cycle.
What side effects can Testosterone cause?
Testosterone can cause both androgenic and estrogenic side effects.
Androgenic side effects include but are not limited to, acne, oily skin, hair loss, baldness, deepening voice, body hair growth and virilization in females3.
Estrogenic side effects are water retention, gynecomastia and high blood pressure4. The estrogenic side effects can be prevented by using an aromatase inhibitor during the cycle. Some people avoid using an AI and use a SERM instead.
Testosterone can also skew your cholesterol numbers. But it’s not as severe on your cholesterol as some other oral anabolic steroids are.
It will also cause Testicular atrophy as your endogenous testosterone production shuts down and a full PCT will be needed to restore your body’s natural hormonal production.