OTC Steroids – First Cycle Advice

Article by Celt – MuscleTalk Member

The popularity of over the counter (OTC) steroid products available legally in the UK has led supplement companies toward the research and release of many new and interesting compounds in recent years. An ever expanding range of products – prohormones, designer steroids and testosterone booster formulas - have flooded the market. Many of these products producing highly desirable results in responsible trainers, though often too little is mentioned in the marketing blurb on safe cycling of these traditional anabolic/androgenic steroids (AAS) alternatives. This article seeks to provide the beginner with some information and advice on safe cycling of these products along with some suggested first cycles.

When might a trainer look at this type of product?
There are perhaps too many different scenarios to describe for when a trainer might wish to look at using an OTC steroid; however there are some general recommendations. A trainer may first want to look at their goals and use them to appraise their training regime and diet. A great deal of information is available on www.MuscleTalk.co.uk on training and most experienced trainers would agree that the aspiring bodybuilder will get more gains for their money from personalised diet advice than they are likely to get from steroids. In short, it is highly recommended that to get the best from any steroid cycle then diet and training are paramount.

In addition, it must be remembered that whilst available legally, OTC steroids are no different to their AAS counterparts in risk terms, therefore usage is not advised until the age of 21.

Commonly used products
Some of the most commonly used and discussed products for first cycles are listed below; in bold type the generic name most commonly referred to along with the original brand that released the product, on the right are some suggested alternatives containing the same active ingredient but marketed by a different company. The list is by no means exhaustive; indeed the numbers of Pheraplex and Superdrol clone products in the marketplace are in double figures.

Halodrol:
(Gaspari)
'H-drol' (CEL)
'Halovar' (Purus Labs)
Epistane:
(IBE)
'Epidrol' (Hardcore Formulations/Genera)
'Epithin E' (Generic Labz)
'Havoc' (RPN)
Pheraplex:
(Anabolic Xtreme)
'P-Plex' (CEL)
'Phera-Vol' (EST)
'Methyl-Plex XT' (SNS)
Superdrol:
(Designer Supplements)
'M-Drol' (CEL)
'Genetic SD' (Genetic Edge)
'Methyl-Drol XT' (SNS)

Commonly used abbreviations: SD (Superdrol), PP (Pheraplex), Epi (Epistane)

Suggested First Cycles
The following are some suggested first cycles in order from what might be described as most 'mild' to most 'harsh':

Halodrol: 50mg every day (ed) for 4 – 6 weeks

Epistane: 30mg ed for 4 – 6 weeks

Pheraplex: 30mg ed for 4 weeks

Superdrol: 20mg ed for 3 weeks

To clarify 'mild' and 'harsh' a little further it would be worth considering that 'mild' would produce perhaps the least mass gain with correspondingly low side effects whilst 'harsh' might produce the greatest mass gain but with a higher likelihood that the trainer will experience some side effects. Similarly, the 'cutter' may look at the milder cycles whilst the 'bulker' may be more interested in the harsher cycles.

It is often suggested to ramp up usage over the first few days/weeks of a cycle to assess tolerance. Whilst this protocol might have its advantages it is also worth considering that the body may react very differently to 30mg of a compound to how it did to 20mg, therefore rendering ramping up a potentially pointless exercise if the targeted dose is not reached for a number of days.

Due to the relatively short half life of most of the products listed it is recommended to spread dosages throughout the day wherever possible; e.g. Halodrol 50mg = 2 caps so take one with breakfast and one with evening meal, Epistane 30mg = 3 caps so take one with breakfast one in the afternoon and the final one around bedtime. Fats are useful to aid absorption so taking doses alongside meals or fish oil or flax oil capsules is a good idea.

Possible Side Effects
Side effects that the trainer may experience whilst using OTC steroids include the following:

  • Cramping/pumps, particularly in lower back and shins
  • Water retention
  • Oily skin/acne
  • Unfavourable lipid profile (Raising LDL cholesterol, lowering HDL)
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Liver stress
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of libido
  • Gynecomastia (Gyno, aka 'bitch tits')
  • Prostrate enlargement
  • Hair loss (aggravation of male pattern baldness symptoms)

All of the products listed above are methylated, meaning they have a methyl group attached to the active compound to make them able to bypass the liver's function in the body and hence be absorbed for use. This methyl group is what makes the products toxic to the liver, though proper hydration and use of protective supplements should reduce any stress to the organ. There are other products on the market such as Axis Labs' 'Furazadrol' and ALRI's 'Methoxy TRN' that potentially carry less risk to the liver however these products are not without their own side effects.

PCT
The purpose of Post Cycle Therapy (PCT) is to promote natural testosterone production in the body; the use of a steroid will reduce and eventually stop the body's testosterone production, a process commonly referred to as 'shutdown'. In order to stimulate the body into producing testosterone again we require the use of other compounds to stimulate the endocrine system.

The most recommended products for PCT are Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs), which include the commonly used Tamoxifen Citrate (Nolvadex / 'Nolva') and Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid). As these products are classed as Prescription Only Medicines (POMs) they are not available to buy legally over the counter in the UK, however a person is allowed to possess them. This causes a quandary for the OTC steroid trainer as some are using this type of product precisely because they do not have access to a source for AAS, yet they need a source for their PCT. Tamoxifen and Clomiphene are widely available in their pharmaceutical grade tablet form under a variety of names as well as being produced as research chemicals in liquid form.

In the case of Superdrol there have been unconfirmed reports of what is being called 'delayed gyno' across the internet when Nolvadex is used for PCT. Whilst these reports have no research to back them up at present many trainers feel more comfortable using Clomid for PCT after a Superdrol cycle.

When running a first cycle and for subsequent cycles it is generally recommended to have Nolvadex on hand due to its ability to suppress symptoms of gyno such as a lump in the nipple. All of the OTC steroids mentioned have been designed with low aromatisation in mind therefore reducing the risk of gyno, however in the event of a lump or tenderness appearing in the nipple it is advised to cease use of the steroid and commence Nolvadex use immediately.

Nolva PCT protocol:
Day 1 - 60mg
Days 2 – 10: 40mg
Days 11 – 21: 20mg

Clomid PCT protocol:
Day 1 - 150mg
Days 2 – 10: 100mg
Days 11 – 21: 50mg

It is worth considering that Nolva and Clomid are not without a potential to cause side effects themselves and further reading is suggested on which product a trainer might feel best for them. Due to their long half lives both Nolva and Clomid can be taken in one dose, once a day. More on PCT here.

There are also a plethora of OTC PCT products available in the marketplace, most of which contain an oestrogen blocker such as ATD or 6-Bromo. Whilst these products may state suitability for use following an OTC steroid cycle, it is generally recommended that a SERM is more suitable, especially for the first time.

As an optional addition to PCT many trainers are now suggesting a cortisol blocker to help the body to manage the catabolism enabled by this hormone. Whilst not an essential component for PCT these products do appear useful for maintaining the gains made on cycle, examples include IBE's X-Lean, Anabolic Xtreme's Retain 2 and SNS' Reduce XT.

Support Supplements
To mitigate the risks of some of the side effects associated with OTC steroids the following nutritional supplements could be considered:

  • Liver support (N-acetyl carnitine, milk thistle and/or Liv52)
  • Cholesterol support (Red yeast rice, CoQ10, policosanol, hawthorn berry)
  • Cramps (taurine, potassium)
  • Prostrate support (saw palmetto)
  • General health (fish oils)

Typically a trainer would commence usage of the supplements up to a week prior to running the steroid cycle to build up levels in the body and continue usage through the cycle until the end of PCT. There are also products available such as Genetic Edge's Cycle Insurance and Anabolic Xtreme's Perfect Cycle that contain a number of the support supplements listed and are designed to be run alongside a cycle as a protective measure instead of buying each ingredient individually.

Time Off
Standard protocol to allow the body to fully recover following a steroid cycle is calculated as:

Time On + PCT = Time Off

Therefore a 4 week cycle, with 3 weeks PCT should lead to a period of at least 7 weeks before any further prohormone or steroid use.

Other Considerations
Water – As with any steroid cycle it is essential that the trainer maintains healthy hydration levels and as such it is suggested that water intake should be high throughout the cycle and PCT. More here.

Diet – As the old adage goes, you get out only what you put in. If a trainer's diet is poor their gains will be poor, steroid use should not be considered as an alternative to good diet, a good diet suitable to the trainer's goals will help get the very best from the cycle.

Training – Training when taking a steroid should be no more or less intense than when not. It is important to remember however that with many steroids strength can increase extremely rapidly and whilst the muscles get stronger, supportive tissue such as ligaments and tendons don't strengthen at the same rate. To avoid injury good technique and form are paramount.

Alcohol – Due to the liver toxicity of methylated OTC steroids it is not generally advisable to consume alcohol whilst on cycle. Whilst a few drinks alongside good hydration levels may not cause too much harm a sensible approach is recommended.

For more information please see our Pro-hormones, Designer Steroids & Testosterone Boosters section on MuscleTalk. Most of the products listed in this article are available from MuscleTalk sponsors.

Warning! Articles related to the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs are for information purposes only and are the sole expressions of the individual authors opinion. We do not promote the use of these substances and the information contained within this publication is not intended to persuade or encourage the use or possession of illegal substances. These substances should be used only under the advice and supervision of a qualified, licensed physician.