How to Naturally Lower Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is a hormone with many negative effects, especially for bodybuilders. Your body is constantly producing low amounts of cortisol and it does have its purpose in low amounts, so Cortisol is not all bad.

Normal Cortisol levels vs. High

When Cortisol is at normal levels it helps mobilize fat while dieting, heal wounds, and it helps remodel muscle tissue when you are building muscle. When it gets too high it eats away at muscle and lowers your testosterone levels, causes inflammation, fatigue, insomnia, loss of strength. It also has negative effects on fat metabolism.

Cortisol levels during excercise

Your body will release large amounts of cortisol during weight training or hard cardio sessions. Studies show that the more intense your weight training or cardio the higher the release of cortisol and testosterone and growth hormone during your workout. This cortisol spike is not a bad thing if you keep your workouts brief. It becomes a problem when someone does marathon training and the cortisol is elevated for hours doing a workout. That's why naturals have always been recommended to do short workouts and not do too much volume per workout.

Causes and cures for high chronic cortisol levels

Cortisol becomes a real problem when you have chronic excessive amounts of high levels of cortisol even during rest. Chronic high levels of cortisol at rest are caused mainly 3 factors based on my research findings. One major factor is Visceral fat. Visceral fat that is covering your organs and that can't be pinched on your outside like subcutaneous fat. A big gut is caused by a lot of visceral fat in men because men tend to carry more visceral fat than women and the belly has the ability to store a lot of visceral fat. That's why men and not women tend to get a pot belly when they get a lot of fat.

There is cortisol receptors on visceral fat that stimulate visceral fat gain. And unfortunately visceral releases a lot of cortisol. The more visceral fat you have the more cortisol you will release. The more cortisol you release the more visceral fat that you gain because its stimulating the visceral fat receptors. As you can see its a perpetual cyclical cycle. The only way to stop it is to stop gaining visceral fat. Which means you have to stop gaining weight to stop the cycle and start losing fat if you want to start reversing it.

The 2nd reason for high chronic levels of Cortisol is mental stress. Your pituitary releases cortisol during mental stress. Thats why people that are very stressed out all the time tend to have insomnia, muscle twitches, fatigue, and other symptoms of high cortisol. High chronic levels of cortisol can give you a burned out feeling that you can't get out of. This leads to a perpetual cycle because as you get stressed out you release cortisol, which then stresses you out more and you continue to release cortisol. You won't stop this cycle unless you do something proactive to break it.

There is ways to get out of excessive long term cortisol levels due to stress. Obviously you need to stop doing whatever is that is causing the stress. You just can't expect the Cortisol to lower because as I said the body responds in a perpetual cycle feedback system, so the only way to stop it is to get rid of the cause. The other way to stop it is with Vitamin C. Taking vitamin C has been shown in countless studies to help prevent the release of cortisol in response to mental stress. Another way you can deal with it is taking some over the counter cortisol blocker supplements that deal with stress. There are some herbal cortisol blocking supplements that help you get relaxed. This can help minimize the stressful mental response so your less likely to release cortisol. How well it works is open to debate, but if you can't stop your stressful job or environment stacking vitamin C together with a natural cortisol blocking supplement might be worth the effort. There is also some scientific evidence that relaxing your mind through music or having sex can reduce stress and cortisol.

The final reason for long term high chronic levels of cortisol is over training. Doing way too many sets per muscle and per week and never taking any rest off will lead to this effect after 2 or 3 months usually. To help avoid this keep your set volume reasonable, take a rest day between each weight training sessions, and take one or 2 weeks of total rest from excercise at least every 3 months. Even when you keep volume low you must take a break once in a while because over time the cortisol will rise and your testosterone levels will lower as your body over trains from week after week of excercise. The breaks allow the body to restore its hormones back to normal and give your mind a break too.

Steroids actually block the action of Cortisol at the cortisol receptor which is why bodybuilders on steroids can train a lot more volume and not worry about muscle loss or over training. This is why as naturals we need to keep our workouts short and take vitamin C pills to blunt the cortisol spike like steroid users do. Some argue that you shouldn't try to blunt the cortisol response during weight training because you need that cortisol spike to help build muscle. I say if we didn't want to blunt it, then steroids wouldn't be helpful in muscle building since they are very effective Cortisol blockers too. Also, we are not blocking it totally, there still will be a cortisol spike during your workout. Cortisol seems to be blunted for up to 24 hours when taking high dose vitamin c preworkout, so its not just during the workout you are reducing cortisol. Therefore, I will continue to take my vitamin C preworkout.

Vitamin C supplementation and Cortisol

As pointed out earlier, Vitamin C helps blunt the release of cortisol to mental stress. What about high levels of cortisol during weight training? Studies have shown taking a gram of vitamin C dramatically reduces cortisol. Here is just one of many studies of vitamin C taking preworkout:

1: J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008 Jun;48(2):217-24.Links
Effect of vitamin C supplementation on lipid peroxidation, muscle damage and inflammation after 30-min exercise at 75% VO2max.Nakhostin-Roohi B, Babaei P, Rahmani-Nia F, Bohlooli S.
Department of Exercise Physiology, Guilan University, Rasht, Iran bnakhostin_aau@yahoo.com.

AIM: Hypothetically, supplementation with the antioxidant vitamins C could alleviate exercise-induced lipid peroxidation. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of vitamin C supplementation on exercise-induced lipid peroxidation, muscle damage and inflammation. METHODS: Sixteen healthy untrained male volunteers participated in a 30-min exercise at 75% Vo2max. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of two groups: 1) placebo and 2) vitamin C (VC: 1 000 mg vitamin C). Blood samples were obtained prior to supplementation (baseline), 2 h after supplementation (immediately pre-exercise), post-exercise, 2 and 24 h after exercise. Plasma levels of VC, total antioxidant capacity (TAC), creatine kinase (CK), malondealdehyde (MDA), total leukocytes, neutrophils, lymphocytes, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and cortisol were measured. RESULTS: Plasma vitamin C concentrations increased significantly in the VC in response to supplementation and exercise (P<0.05). TAC decreased significantly in Placebo group 24 h after exercise compared to pre-exercise (P<0.05). Although MDA levels were similar between groups at baseline, it increased significantly 2 h after exercise only in the Placebo group (P<0.05). CK increased immediately and 2 h after exercise in both groups and 24 h after exercise only in placebo group compared to pre-exercise (P<0.05). Markers of inflammation (total leukocyte counts, neutrophil counts and IL-6) were increased significantly in response to the exercise (P<0.05). In VC group, there was significant increase in lymphocyte counts immediately after exercise compared with pre-exercise (P<0.05). Serum cortisol concentrations significantly declined after supplementation compared with baseline (P<0.05) as well as declined 2 and 24 h after exercise compared with immediately after exercise in VC group (P<0.05). CONCLUSION: VC supplementation prevented endurance exercise-induced lipid peroxidation and muscle damage but had no effect on inflammatory markers.

I take a gram of Vitamin C pre and post workout. As mentioned earlier cortisol during your workout isn't really a terrible thing as long as your workouts are short. I take the Vitamin C to make sure my cortisol doesn't spike too high. I don't think someone should just let cortisol spike uncontrolled.

Other supplements that block cortisol

The only other supplements I have seen that block Cortisol besides Vitamin C and mind relaxers were the vitamins magnesium and zinc and Vitamin B's. However, these seem to be only effective if the person is deficient. Obviously if someone is getting enough of these vitamins already it won't have an effect. Another was 11-oxo which is off the market now. 11-oxo had steroidal / prohormone qualities though, so it wasn't a safe option. The other is Imodium AD (loperamide) which is an anti-diarrhea product. Obviously it's not something you want to take for that purpose. Carbohydrates lower cortisol too. Thats probably the reason why when you diet the carbs have a muscle sparing effect.


Creatine Non-Responders

The idea of Creatine non-responders is a contreversial topic to some in bodybuilding.  Those who get great results from Creatine can’t understand why some are claiming no results. I want to settle the issue once and for all. 

What is a Creatine nonresponder? 

It's someone who doesn't notice all the usual immediate effects one would expect from using creatine. The effects usually include modest strength and endurance gains, extra lean gains, and fuller muscles and water bloat.  Creatine works at the cellular level to help give short term bursts of energy so it does enhance strength for short duration heavy sets and give you more overall endurance.  Creatine also helps draw in more water into the muscle cells, which is why you have to make sure you drink plenty of water with creatine to avoid cramping.  For some reason some people don't really notice these effects no matter how much and long they supplement.

How to know if you are a true Creatine Non-Responder

I believe there are legitimate cases of Creatine non-responders.  I personally don't respond at all to creatine monohydrate.  Now some suggest you need a better form of creatine like micronized creatine or one of the others that absorb well.  If it was just a matter of getting a better creatine form than monohydrate would work for creatine non-responders. All they would have to do is take a little bit extra each day for a little longer to make up for differences in absorption.   Its not an absorption issue though because even when I took above and longer than the recommended dose of creatine monohydrate I noticed no real effect like others have.  Some bodybuilders notice a dramatic difference in weight and strength gains with creatine, some are more modest, but I don't experience anything that I can attribute to creatine. Creatine non-responders is not just an ancedotal finding among bodybuilders. Its also been showing in many studies that a percentage of the population do not respond to creatine.

I believe there are small amount of cases where people confuse Creatine non-responder to some other issue. For example, if they are using some bad form of creatine like liquid creatine or CEE creatine which has been shown to be scams because they break down in the stomach making it worthless. Obviously, if you use a bad form of creatine like them then you are not going to be a responder.   However, there are many including me that don't respond to the regular monohydrate form of creatine or other acceptable forms.

Sciencentific theories on creatine nonresponders

There are some other theories about what causes creatine nonresponders.  Some have suggested not enough meat in the diet.  Ive never been a big meat eater, but I do eat meat regularly and many other non-responders do.  If your a vegetarian then that may be a legitimate case for being a non-responder, since meat does contain natural amounts of creatine and your body doesn't make all that it needs.

The theory that seems the most acceptable to me is that some people just genetically don't respond well to creatine because they either have high levels of natural creatine that their body makes.  Our body does make small amounts of creatine when it doesn't get it from the diet. Which is why you have to cycle creatine supplements so you don't start shutting off natural production.

Below is a study that suggests my theory on Creatine non-responders is correct. It seems to suggest those with lower type 2 muscle fibers (fast power muscle fibers that are most responsible for muscle size gains and strength) and those with less muscle and other muscle genetic factors are more likely to be creatine nonresponders.

1: J Strength Cond Res. 2004 Aug;18(3):610-7.
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Acute Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation: A Descriptive Physiological Profile of Responders vs. Nonresponders.

Syrotuik DG, Bell GJ.
Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

Syrotuik, D.G., and G.J. Bell. Acute creatine monohydrate supplementation: a descriptive physiological profile of responders vs. nonresponders.

J. Strength Cond. Res. 18(3):610- 617. 2004.-The purpose of this study was to describe the physiological profile of responders (>20 mmol.kg(-1) dry weight [dw] increase in total intramuscular creatine monohydrate [Cr] + phosphorylated creatine [PCr]) versus nonresponders (<10 mmol.kg(-1) dw increase) to a 5-day Cr load (0.3 g.kg(-1).d(-1)) in 11 healthy men (mean age = 22.7 years). Pre-post 5-day cellular measures included total resting Cr content (Cr + PCr), fiber type composition, and fiber type cross-sectional area (CSA) determined from muscle biopsies of the vastus lateralis. Body mass, daily dietary intake, 24-hour urine outputs, urinary Cr and creatinine (CrN), and strength performance measures (1 repetition maximum [1RM] bench and leg press) were also assessed before and after the 5-day loading period. Results indicated that there were 3 levels of response to the 5-day supplementation: responders (R), quasi responders (QR), and nonresponders (NR) with mean changes in resting Cr + PCr of 29.5 mmol.kg(-1) dw (n = 3), 14.9 mmol.kg(-1) dw (n = 5), and 5.1 mmol.kg(-1) dw (n = 3), respectively.

The results support a person-by-treatment interaction to acute Cr supplementation with R possessing a biological profile of lowest initial levels of Cr + PCr, greatest percentage of type II fibers, and greatest preload muscle fiber CSA and fat-free mass. Responders also showed improvement in 1RM leg press scores following the 5-day loading period. NR had higher preload levels of Cr + PCr, less type II muscle fibers, small preload muscle CSA, and lower fat-free mass and displayed no improvements in 1RM strength scores.

The results suggest that to be considered a responder to acute oral supplementation, a favorable preexisting biological profile may determine the final extent to which an individual responds to supplementation. Physiologic profiles of nonresponders appear to be different and may limit their ability to uptake Cr. This may help partially explain the reported equivocal performance findings in the Cr supplementation literature.


Deadlifts & Squats Increase Testosterone levels?

I was always told as a bodybuilder, to do squats and deadlifts because they increased testosterone and helped build muscle throughout the body. I decided to try and seek out a definitive answer to these common beliefs.

Studies on Testosterone Increase in Squats & Deadlifts :

It didn't take me too long to stumble across research studies showing that after squats or deadlifts, there was a large increase in serum testosterone levels. Not only is there a increase in testosterone levels, but in Growth Hormone and IGF-1, a couple of other important anabolic hormones. This anabolic release didn't just happen in squats and deadlifts, but also in smaller resistance excercises, including bench press and isolation excercises. Research indicates that the larger more involved excercises, like squats and deadlifts, will have the largest increase in Testosterone and Growth hormone. Although all resistance training has this effect, a curl for example, would have only a very small increase in Testosterone and Growth hormone. A study published in (Int J Sports Med. 1991 Apr;12(2):228-35) showed this hormonal increase after weight training in both men and women.

I was glad to see there is research to back up that squats and deadlifts are good for increasing testosterone levels. However, there is one major caveat. According to studies it seems to be temporary increase, as a few hours to about a day later, your Testosterone and Growth Hormone levels drop below normal and cortisol remains high. This is where your body is recovering hormonally and people warn about overtraining.

After about a couple days your testosterone levels will return to the same or maybe even slightly higher. I couldn't find any research that showed those who squatted or weightlifted in general, have significantly higher body testosterone levels long term. In fact, you have to be careful of overtraining. In a study published in (Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1993 Aug;25(8):929-35), strength lifters who came back from a break of weight training, had a surge in testosterone and lowering of cortisol levels. Therefore, taking a break was actually a good thing for them for restoring / increasing their anabolic hormones. If anything, it looks to be long term weight training, is more likely to cause lower testosterone levels than higher levels, if you don't take a break from training every few weeks and watch workout volume.

Do squats help increase overall muscle mass in body?

This is a little more difficult question to answer. There is no research directly on it, but if we use some logic here, we can probably answer the question. When you do squats, your releasing a substantial amount of anabolic hormones that your whole body can feel the effect. When your testosterone increases in your blod, it reaches all parts of the body. It's not like your arms are going to grow significantly from just a leg workout, but I believe the testosterone increase in the blood can cause muscle growth to other parts of your body. Steroids help you grow by increasing testosterone in the blood, so it makes sense that squats could have a similar stimulus effect on other muscle parts in the body.


Muscle Building Genetics

These days, researchers are always talking about the components of genetics that contribute to our risk of disease, personality, and ability to gain or lose fat. Why is it so many bodybuilders I see, act like muscle building genetics is not a factor in bodybuilding? If everyone had the same muscle building genetics, there would be no pro-bodybuilders because everyone could be one if they took enough steroids and be strict on their diet. Unfortunately, not everyone will have equal muscle building or fat loss genetics.

Some bodybuilders will follow a strict diet and not drink alcohol and see their buddies drink and not be too strict on their diet and still gain muscle easier than them. It can be frustrating, but we have to face the fact that some of us will struggle building muscles more than others.

Muscle building Genetic Factors:

There are various components of the human physiology that play big roles in why have better muscle building genetics than others. The most obvious is your natural testosterone levels. There is a wide range of levels that men have that are considered in the normal range. Some men may even be naturally borderline low testosterone levels. Fortunately, there are ways to help increase testosterone levels naturally.

Another major component is your muscle type fiber makeup. Each person has a different percentage of type 1 vs type 2 that varies between muscles and persons. Type 1 and type 2 have very different functions. Type 2 hypertrophies (gets larger) much easier than Type 1 and also fatigue faster. Type 1 fibers are quicker and do better at endurance, but they don't have that much potential for long term hypertrophy. Heavy weight training has been shown to induce fiber changes in sub types to act more like type 1. However, the changes are small and since all of us weight train, it's not going to make up differences between others who lift weights.

Myostatin is another factor, rarely talked about because its a relatively new discovery. Rats were genetically modified a few years ago with lower amounts of myostatin. They turned into very muscular rats. Myostatin seems to put the brakes on muscle building and may be the biggest reason why everyone can only gain muscles to a certain point. Unfortunately, you can't do anything about lowering myostatin levels in the body. The levels in your body is purely genetics. Supplement makers have tried to claim their myostatin products builds muscles through blocking myostatin, but they are all scams. Genetically modifying humans through myostatin, might be something of the future though. I hope I never see that because it would take the fun out of bodybuilding, if others are able to change their genetics by paying a doctor a visit.


What is The Best Creatine Form?

There are so many different Creatine forms out today. Every supplement company that came out with a new form of Creatine, claimed that there was better than previous other Creatine forms. One reason why new forms of Creatine came out after the original Creatine monohydrate was because some people appear to be non-responders. It was believed that this was caused due to a absorption issue, therefore a lot of it was being excreted in the urine and not absorbed into the muscle tissue.

Creatine loading was invented to increase the absorption of Creatine. During the loading phase, you may have digestion problems such as diarrhea or stomach upset. That was where you took it in higher doses with glucose/dextrose in order to increase it's absorption into the body. This is because not all of the Creatine is digested and the creatine molecule loves to "suck in" a lot of water with it, as it travels through your digestion tract. This is the same reason why creatine works to bloat up your muscles.

Despite creatine loading, many still don't respond well with creatine monohydrate. New Creatine forms came out that claimed to have a higher absorption rate. Then newer forms of Creatine even claimed other benefits due to the extra compound in the molecule bonded with the creatine molecule. I will review every form of creatine on the market today and which is the best creatine form.

Creatine Forms:

Creatine Monohydrate :

This is the very first creatine product. It is a tasteless white powder. Creatine monohydrate is the cheapest form of creatine so is still widely used, but it also appears to have the highest amount of creatine "non-responders" too. The absorption rate is approximately 1% and it's advised to be loading phase. Creatine monohydrate is very unstable in water, so make sure when you put it in water you immediately drink it. Creatine Monohydrate in it's pure form made in Germany, is labeled with the Creapure logo on the tub.

(CEE) Creatine Ethyl Ester :

For years this was the hot new creatine form. Many recommended CEE as the superior form of Creatine, even though there were no substantial valid studies to really back up claims. CEE could be taken in pill form with no loading phase required. In 07, the first real study came out on CEE by Department of Life Sciences, Kingston University, Penrhyn Rd, Kingston-upon-Thames, United Kingdom. 2University of Northumbria, Sport Sciences, Northumbria University, Northumberland Building, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. The study showed that over 60% degraded to inactive creatinine within 30 minutes sitting in an acidic water solution that mimicked the stomach. This proved CEE was not as good as once claimed.

Micronized Creatine :

This is creatine monohydrate that underwent a new process called micronization. It allows the molecule to have more surface area making it a higher absorption rate. Micronized Creatine still requires a loading phase and only slightly better absorption.

Effervescent Creatine :

This is also just a fancy name for Creatine Monohydrate. The only thing different here is they add add some sugar and salt.

Tri and Di Creatine Malate :

Tri and Di Creatine Malate are made from Malic acid and Creatine. If you remember biology, malic acid is involved in the Kreb's cycle of the cell. This is how all energy in the cell is created at it's basic core. You can see in the diagram below of this cycle how the malate molecule plays a catylst to get the NADH to donate two hydrogens to the malate to convert the NAD to NADH+ and the malate to oxoloacetate.

Kreb cycle malate creatine

This Creatine form was created to give more muscular endurance and energy. Users report that it helps do that. Creatine Malate has a higher absorption rate than Creatine monohydrate and doesn't require a loading phase.

Liquid serum creatine :

This is absolute scam that has been widely debunked years ago. Creatine is unstable and degrades in liquid.

Creatine Orate:

The orate molecule is a pre-cursor to nucleic acids like ATP, used as a basic energy currency at the cellular level. This requires no loading phase. Unfortunately, Creatine Orate is quite expensive and there are no studies on the safety of this form of creatine.

Creatine Kre-Alkalyn:

This is a much higher absorption rate than creatine and doesn't require a loading phase. No studies have been done on the safety of Creatine Kre-alkalyn yet.

Which form is the best creatine?

Considering all the factors together of price, studies, benefits, and side effects I would say the best creatine forms are Creatine Monohydrate, Creatine Kre-alkalyn, and Creatine Malate. All are good choices and each has their own pros and cons. You can't beat the price of Creatine Monohydrate and for many it works fine with little side effects. If you are a creatine monohydrate non-responder or have a lot of side effects with monohydrate, than Kre-alkalyn is a good creatine form to try instead. If you want a possible extra energy benefit during your workout, you should try Creatine Malate.


Steroid Facts

I’m writing this article to help separate steroid facts from the government propoganda and exaggerations. As a former user of steroids and spent years researching opinions of steroid experts and research studies on steroids, I will try to give the unbiased facts on their use to the best of my knowledge. My purpose in this article is not to be pro or against steroids, but to be unbiased looking at it from my own experience and what the research says on the issue. I will talk about the various symptoms of steroid use and whether it's actually a myth, fact, or possible. Possible means it is either happening in susceptible people or there is lack of scientific research to prove it as a fact. Also note this is article is for steroid users taking high doses of steroids and not those who are taking testosterone prescribed through doctor to maintain healthy testosterone levels for HRT (hormone replacement therapy).

- Steroids cause BPH (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia)

Possible. BPH is enlargement of the prostate, that usually effects only older men. But, if you use steroids for years, then BPH will probably affect you. Getting BPH from steroids, would depend on how susceptible you are and how long you have used Steroids. Many users of steroids notice a enlarging of their prostate after a while on cycle, making it slighlty more difficult to urinate. There is controversy over what really causes BPH naturally in men, but DHT is thought to be just one possible component. DHT is converted from testosterone in the body and is 3.5 times more androgenic than testosterone. DHT is what gives men their masculinizing sex effects on the body. All androgenic steroids stimulate the same receptors on the prostate (to various degrees called the androgenic to anabolic ratio) in the same way DHT does.

Another mechanism by which BPH might be caused from steroid use, is due to low testosterone levels post cycle. Low testosterone levels and high estrogen, like as seen with post cycle and hypo gonadal men, can actually cause BPH. Many men have had a reduction in BPH when they were treated clinically with testosterone replacement therapy for low testosterone. The prostate usually shrinks back eventually after a steroid cycle, once your testosteron levels get back to normal, but over time I would think this may lead to a more permanent enlargement effect.

- Steroids increase risk of prostate cancer

Myth. For years doctors thought testosterone (steroids) caused prostate cancer itself by "awakening" a slow hidden growing cancer. This is why men who went on HRT (hormone replacement therapy), would get a PSA test to assess their risk for prostate cancer. As time goes on more and more studies are showing prostate cancer is not due to testosterone levels at all and therefore steroid use wouldn't have any correlation with prostate cancer. This makes logocial sense to me, since younger men would be getting prostate cancer due to the high testosterone levels. It's also worth to note, that the prostate holds up to 600 times the level of carcinogens as the rest of the body. I believe the risk of Prostate cancer is mainly caused bytoxins and other genetic factors. This is why it was shown in recent studies, that men who ejaculated more frequently in the 20's, had less likely chance of prostate cancer later in life. Ejaculation helps the flushing of the prostate from cancer from these toxins. Some research studies are also showing increased risk of prostate cancer based on genetics, race, diets, and environmental factors.

- Steroids cause Roid Rage

Myth This is an absolute myth. Roid rage is seen as a condition 360 degree change in personality causing an uncontrollable psychotic anger state. Most studies have disproven the idea of what people consider roid rage. Now there are studies that show a slight more aggression or confidence, but its not going to turn a calm person into an angry psychotic person where they lose all rationale for no reason.

- Steroids shrink your Penis

Myth. Absolutely false. This myth is spread probably from confusion in the fact that your testicles shrink on cycle, due to your testosterone production shutting down temporarily.

- Steroids cause excessive hair growth and very deep voice

Possible. This will depend on how naturally hairy and deep your voice is before your steroid cycle. You may notice more and faster hair growth rate while on cycle. Your voice may get deeper from steroid use long term. It all depends on your genetics, as many steroid users have a higher pitched voice and still lack of natural body hair, even despite frequent steroid use.

- Steroids increase hair loss

Possible. Once again this will depend on your genetics before your cycle. If you have thick hair and aren't destined to go bald in your life, then you will lose very little hair during cycle.

- Steroids cause hallucinations and delusions

Myth. Steroids are not a mind altering drug and do not cause roid rage or any other kind of psychotic behaviour, like hallucinations.

- Steroids cause high blood pressure

Possible. Steroids due to increased water retention and stimulation on the heart, cause increase in blood pressure. If you have borderline blood pressure it may become high blood pressure during cycle.

- Steroids cause diabetes

Possible. Steroids are known to cause high glucose levels and reduced insulin sensitivity. Using that logic, long term use of steroids possibly could increase risk of diabetes, especially in those who are genetically susceptible to the diabetic gene.

- Steroids cause cataracts

Possible. I think this claim from the fact that diabetics get higher chance of cataracts and steroids increase glucose levels. I don't think there is any scientific evidence to know what role steroids play in causing cataracts.

- Steroids cause impotence

Possible. This is very common side effect and may happen during or after a cycle. If you are using testosterone, then impotence will probably only happen post cycle, as your body tries to recuperate it's natural testosterone levels. If you are using a steroid other than testosterone, you may experience it during and after your steroid cycle since your body won't have testosterone in it because it's shutting down it's testosterone production. Even though your replacing one androgenic steroid (dht and testosterone) for a different artificial one, it won't have the same sexual and libido effects as DHT and testosterone does.

- Steroids cause depression

Possible. It would depend on the type of steroids, what your mental condition was before steroid use, and if you are on or just getting off a steroid cycle. Many users might experience depression post cycle, due to the low testosterone levels.

- Steroids are addictive

Possible. When a person gets off steroids they may be depressed and feel weaker and less energetic than while they were on. This leads to you often wanting to start another steroid cycle and when that is done do another and then another. Most people do not just do one steroid cycle and quit forever.

- Steroids increase risk of liver cancer

Fact. Oral methlyated steroids are certainly proven to be carcinogenic (cancer causing) to the liver. They are methylated so they can bypass the liver the first time. However, many steroid users don't use oral steroids, but inject them. Injecting them is much safer for the liver.

- Steroids increase stress on your kidneys

Fact. Steroids cause you to retain more sodium and water and increase blood pressure. This results in more stress on the kidneys, especially if you let your blood pressure get too high or don't drink enough water.

- Steroids lower sperm count

Fact Anytime you take in extra endogenous (outside body) steroids, your natural testosterone and sperm production shut down. Once you get off your steroid cycle, your testicles should awaken and start making sperm and testosterone again. This has made testosterone a viable birth control option and has even been considered in the medical community as male birth control.

- Steroids cause permanent damage to natural testosterone production

Possible. Recovery of your testosterone depends on your personal genetics. Some individuals have problems recovering their testosterone levels, even after their first short cycle. Some have to go months using clomid ( a common post cycle ancilliary) or even inject HCG to jumpstart the testicles. On the other hand, many can do multiple cycles in a row and recover fully their natural testosterone production between each cycle. THe more cycles you do, the more likely you may lead to some long term damage on your natural testosterone production.

- Steroids shorten your life

Possible. There is some research in rats, showing those injected with testosterone didn't live as long. Testosterone may also be why men don't live as long as women. Steroids certainly won't increase your lifespan, but there isn't evidence that a few steroid cycles will significantly shorten a person's life either. If one were to abuse it for many years, than I imagine it probably will shorten your lifespan at least a little.

- Steroids lower your HDG (good cholesterol)

Fact. Most steroid users will notice a drop in HDL cholesterol. They also may notice a lowering of LDL and total cholesterol because the liver is under more strain and tends to produce less cholesterol.

- Steroids enlarge your heart

Possible. There is some research that shows that steroid users may have more risk for enlarged or thickening of the walls in the heart. There is controversy over those studies and there isn't much evidence either way.

- Steroids cause sleep apnea

Possible. Some people may experience sleep apnea while on cycle. This may be caused due to the weight gain and higher blood pressure, while on Steroids.

- Steroids make it harder to gain muscle naturally

Possible. It would depend on how much you used steroids and other factors. If you gained 20 lbs of muscle off a recent steroid cycle and kept it, yes it will be harder to gain muscle naturally on top of that new muscle. On the other hand, if you damaged your testosterone levels from steroid abuse long term, yes it will be harder to gain muscle naturally in the future. If you lose your muscle gains, it may be easier to gain that muscle back naturally because you will have stretched your fascia tissue. Many bodybuilders believe muscle memory is mainly caused by the stretching of fascia tissue in the muscles. Therefore former steroid users may have a easier time reaching more muscle mass, even if they lost their steroid gains because of the muscle memory factor.

- Steroids damage tendons

Fact. There is some research that indicates steroids are damaging to the tendons. To make matters worse, the large increases in strength and weight gain on cycle can cause greater risk of injury on tendons. Usually are tendons don't have enough time to adjust to the these gains.

- Steroids cause bone loss

Myth. This is confusing anabolic steroids with another form of steroids called Glucocorticoids, which is used for other medical conditions and has very different effects on the body. Anabolic steroids actually have been prescribed in the past for bone marrow stimulation and treating osteoporosis.

- Steroids cause gynecomastia ("Man boobs")

Possible. Many boys get gynecomastia during puberty. Usually it is lumps of breast tissue underneath the tissue. Steroids can possibly cause or aggrivate it either during a high dose Testosterone cycle, when estrogen levels get too high. It can also happen possibly with Trenebolone, which aggravates gyno through another mechanism in the body, prolactin. Another common way it can happen is post cycle, when your testosterone levels are low but your estrogen levels may be high. This imbalance creates a big risk for gyno to develop. That is one reason why it is important for fast recovery post cycle using anti-estrogen ancillaries like clomid to boost testosterone production and lower estrogen levels.

- Steroids increase acne

Possible. This will depend on how susceptible you are to acne before your cycle. Many show more cystic acne in the face and on their back and chest during cycle. If you are already susceptible to acne, it may increase to extreme levels causing painful acne cysts on the back, chest, or face.

- Steroids cause heart attacks or stroke

Possible. I see absolutely no evidence that in the short term, it would cause this in healthy individuals. However, long term use for decades may increase risk of stroke and heart attack due to the negative effects steroids have on your HDLs, blood pressure, and other possible negative effects of your heart health.

Conclusions:

This should help clear up the myths about steroids. We will learn more about its effect on performance and health effects as time goes on and more studies are done.


How Sex Affects Muscle Gains

Almost every male bodybuilder has wondered if ejaculating too frequently, could hurt their muscle building gains. Some have even recommended holding off for days to help boost their muscle gains.

Sex & Ejaculation effects immediately on testosterone levels

The basis for the argument that ejaculation hurts muscle gains, I believe is probably rooted from the belief that it reduces testosterone. I used to believe the same thing, until I did research on it. From looking at animal and human studies, there doesn't seem to be any basis that ejaculation will lower testosterone levels immediately afterwards.

Animal studies show a rise in testosterone during mating and arousal. Human studies such as one published in (Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1993;18(3):205-18), have shown men's testosterone levels rise during sexual arousal and even aggressive activies, such as holding a gun. I have only seen animal studies, that measured testosterone levels post ejaculation. Some of these studies show no changes post ejaculation, while others show a rise in testosterone. No study I have seen, has shown a actual drop in testosterone post ejaculation.

So why is it such a common belief that testosterone drops after ejaculation? I believe this is because men get tired and satisfied after ejaculation, leading people to think it lowers testosterone levels. I believe this mental effect is actually from changes in the brain after ejaculation. An interesting study at Department of Pharmacobiology, Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados. measured the androgen receptor density (how potent testosterone would feel in the brain) after ejaculation. The study showed a decreased density, post ejaculation in rats. The density didn't return to normal for 72 hours. So, we may feel like testosterone levels in the blood drop post ejaculation, but they actually don't.

Sex & Ejaculation long term effects on testosterone levels

We have established that there is no short term lowering of testosterone levels from ejaculation, but
many think ejaculating too often can lead to lower testosterone levels long term. The only study that looks at more of a long term effect from ejacualation, was done by chinese group (J Zhejiang Univ Sci. 2003 Mar-Apr;4(2):236-40). 28 men volunteered to not ejaculate for one week. There was no change in testosterone levels for the first 6, then on the 7th it spiked by 47% on average. However, the next day while still abstaining from ejaculation, it lowered quickly back to normal. I believe this is because the large spike in testosterone shut off natural production, until testosterone levels went back to normal. This study tells me that every 6 or 7 days, there may be a large increase in testosterone, if someone abstains from ejaculation. Then testosterone will naturally balance out to normal afterwards. So, long term there doesn't seem to be much (if any) benefit from abstaining from ejaculation.

Sex & Ejaculation effects on strength

Ejaculation may have a effect on your strength in the weight room. Testosterone has a natural stimulant and energy effect on the brain. High testosterone makes you feel stronger and more aggressive. In that study I cited earlier, it showed a lowering of androgen receptor density in the brain after ejaculation. This lowering could effect your strength because your brain perceives less testosterone, even if it actually doesn't drop. Ejaculation also releases endorphins into the bloodstream. These are opiates that make you feel sleepy. This is not exactly the ideal conditions right before a workout. If you ejaculate hours before a workout, you might be weaker and have less energy. Since strength gains usually help muscle gains in the long run, ejaculating before a workout would not be a good idea for optimal muscle gains. So in that aspect, sex (or ejaculation) will have a negative long term effect on muscle gains.


Do Site Enhancement Oils (SEOS) Work?

Hardcore bodybuilders are now more and more open to the idea in recent years of using site enhancement oils (SEOS) to increase muscle size. Site enhancement oils are an oil based substance that is injected into the muscle to help make them grow. The most popular brand name is Synthol , developed back in the 90's. Synthol is mainly medium-chain triglycerides, with a smaller amount of localized pain killer (Lidocaine) and benzyl alcohol (for sterilization).

Naively one will first think its just the oil inside the muscle causing the muscle to get bigger. They think that as the oil leaves the muscle will shrink back, so it must be injected constantly. That
might be partly true, but site enhancement oils seem to have a more permanent effect by fascia stretching. Fascia is a tight connective tissue surrounding muscles and it's thought that stretching it helps with muscle gains. It is same reason why some bodybuilders do fascia stretching workouts and probably the mechanism I believe is behind muscle memory. Some bodybuilders report that site injections with steroid esters, also seem to have a localized effect on muscle growth where they were injected. This would probably be caused by fascia tissue once again. SEOs are not to be confused with injecting steroids as they contain different compounds and SEOs don't have any anabolic steroids in them.

There is another theory about how SEOs cause muscle gains. Some believe it is due to increased scar tissue buildup. I tend to believe the fascia theory instead because the fascia phenomenon is seen to a slightly less degree by spot injecting steroids and because fascia tissue stretching seems the only likely explanation for muscle memory.

Pro-bodybuilders have been believed to have been using SEOs commonly for many years now, but probably wasn't very common before the mid-late 90's. Pro-bodybuilders have to be careful of how much they inject because they lose the muscle hardness and natural shape with excessive use. Pro bodybuilders only use it as more of an aide in bringing up their lagging muscles.

If someone abuses SEOs for many years, they will start to look like Greg Valentino.

At one time Greg Valentino was a respectable amateaur bodybuilder as
you can see in this picture in his earlier days.

He got obsessed with using SEOs and even got an abcess from it that he drained himself! (Ouch)

Now Greg Valentino is considered a joke in bodybuilding. Greg is a loud mouth jerk who likes to get attention now. Greg always talks about his steroid use negatively and what it did to him, but the truth is everyone knows he used SEOs, which he conveniently fails to tell others. I've seen pictures of others who weren't that extreme, but everyone who overdoes it gives their muscles a ridiculous unproportioned soft lumpy look compared to the rest of their body.

More importantly to any other issue with SEO use, is the health of using them. Their is a serious risk of stroke or death because you could inject it accidentally in a artery instead of your muscles. If you inject it into a artery, you will cause it to travel to other parts of your body, like your heart or brain or lungs. Years ago, Pro-bodybuilder Milos Sarcev almost died injecting Synthol into his triceps.


Preventing Hair Loss while on a Steroid Cycle

Genetics play a huge role on side effects during a steroid cycle, including how much hair you will lose. Some will experience a little increase in shedding during a heavy androgenic cycle, while others will practically see clumps come out when they comb.

Bodybuilders usually report though that it starts to thicken back weeks after the cycle is over with. The thing about male pattern baldness is that androgenic alopecia is a condition that gets worse. Just because it grows back doesn't mean it is the same as before. That is because DHT (or any androgenic steroid) causes follicular miniaturization on hair follicles. Meaning, the hairs get progressively thinner and thinner everytime, until eventually its too thin to see or stops growing completely.

Since DHT and steroids can do irreversible damage to the hair follicles via this follicular miniarturization mechanism, the best way to prevent the damage is blocking via anti-androgens on the scalp. Two common shampoos are Spironolactone and Nizoral, that act as anti-androgens in the scalp. Nizoral 1% can be found in stores, the stronger 2% is via prescription, although over the counter in Canada. Spironolactone is found commercially as a pill taken orally, but obviously it's anti androgen properties would counteract your steroids, so there are sites that sell it in topical solution for your hair.

The prescriptions Finasteride (Brand names Propecia, Proscar, etc) block the conversion of testosterone to DHT via the 5AR enzyme. This will Not be helpful at all for steroid cycles consisting of Tren, D-bol, Anadrol, or any other steroid besides testosterone that cause hair loss on their own. Taking Finasteride with Deca would even worsen your hair loss, since Deca converts to a very weak androgen DHN in the scalp and prostate, weaker androgenically than deca itself and these 5AR blockers would stop that conversion.

The popular over the counter and prescription treatment Rogaine won't do much to prevent it while on cycle. It is more for getting your hair back after the fact. Anti-dandruff shampoos with zinc pyrithione, have shown in studies to have a hair diameter increasing effect, so they should be used regurlarly on and off your steroid cycle for good measure. There is also some hair growth supplements available on the market.


What is Prolactin or Progesterone Gyno?

Most bodybuilders are aware that estrogen can cause gyno. Most steroid users are also fully aware that Trenbolone can cause gyno when taken by itself, even though it doesn’t convert to estrogen at all. How is this possible?

Two major theories of how Trenbolone could cause gyno symptoms have been theorized over the years. They believe that Tren causes the gyno, by directly stimulating either prolactin or progesterone receptors. Anabolic steroids Trenbolone and Deca are both progestins. Deca also converts to estrogen, but Tren does not. They are not to be confused with progesterone, but instead progestins, a type of progestogen, that can stimulate the progesterone receptor. Tren even converts to a metabolite in the body, that binds stronger to progesterone receptors than progesterone itself!

Directly increasing progesterone or prolactin doesn't necessarily mean you will develop gyno according to research. The study (J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1988 Jan;66(1):230-2) shows that progesterone works synergistically with estrogen, to stimulate breast production. According to (Clin Biochem 2001 Nov;38(Pt 6):596-607), prolactin only has a stimulatory effect on gynecomastia in the prescence of high circulating estrogen levels. Testosterone which aromotizes to estrogen caused a cause of increased prolactin according to (Acta Endocrinol (Copenh) 1984 Feb;105(2):167-72). In the same study, Clomid (clomiphene) and Nolva (tamoxifen) showed a reduction in the man's high levels of prolactin. There is no research evidence that I have found, that points to true breast development developing with just prolactin or progesterone alone or caused by non-aromotizing steroids, without any high circulating estrogen levels. Estrogen must be at high enough levels to work synergistically with high levels of prolactin or progesterone, to cause breast development and lactation.

Whether Tren stimulates prolactin or progesterone, without at least moderate levels of circulating estrogen at the same time in the body, Tren can't cause full development of gyno. The real solution to curing gyno caused during a tren cycle therefore, is to take anti-estrogens, to lower circulating estrogen levels. Even if you are taking Tren by itself, you still will have a lot of estrogen circulating in your blood for a few weeks, until your natural testosterone levels shut down. Sensitive people to gyno might have to use a anti-estrogen, even when taking tren without other estrogen converting steroids, to lower natural estrogen levels in the body.

Many bodybuilders recommend using anti-prolactin drugs Bromocriptine or Cabaser / Dostinex (both Cabaser and Dostinex contain active ingredient Cabergoline), or even RU-486 "The abortion pill", which is a progesterone blocker. These drugs have side effects are expensive and not commonly carried by many sources. I have heard reports from bodybuilders that bromocriptine didn't help them, but strong anti-aromatase inhibitors like letrozole did. Therefore, it is better to use an anti-estrogen to combat tren based gyno. The only anti-estrogen I wouldn't recommend for combatting this gyno is Nolva (tamoxifen) because in (J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2003 Sep;86(3-5):461-7) they found progesterone receptor expression increased, while it decreased with other anti-aromatase inhibitors.


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