One of the biggest complaints that users of anabolic steroids have is their inability to maintain their gains post cycle. Here are a few things to consider.
Have the Right Expectations
The first thing you must do is come to terms with the fact that the gains you get from anabolic steroids are not natural. If you needed the steroids to get those gains, then you will need some help when it comes to keeping them. Remember that you can only maintain the muscle that your natural testosterone levels will allow in the long term. This does not mean that you should use exogenous testosterone or anabolic steroids forever. It simply means that you need to have the right expectations about what steroids can do for you – and what they cannot do for you.
Raise Testosterone Levels Post-Cycle
In the short-term scheme of things, your very first course of action following an anabolic steroid cycle should involve getting your natural testosterone levels back up as quickly as possible. For the most part, this will require a testosterone stimulant. Clomid and HCG are both very popular in bodybuilding circles.
- Clomid – This drug facilitates faster production and release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), both of which raise your testosterone levels quickly. Clomid is a great choice for post-cycle therapy after shorter cycles of less than 12 weeks. Another alternative is Nolvadex.
- HCG – HCG actually mimics LH in the body rather than facilitating its production. This compound is best when you use it for the last four weeks of your steroid cycle and for another four weeks or so afterward, and it is only necessary after lengthy cycles of more than 12 weeks. You must pair it with Clomid or Nolvadex to prevent low testosterone levels once you stop the HCG.
Diet and Exercise
There is nothing like a solid diet and exercise program to help you maintain your gains for the long term. For the most part, you need to accomplish two things. First, you need to provide your body with the fuel it needs to maintain your gains, so be sure to take in plenty of protein and an adequate number of calories.
Next, make sure that you exercise in such a way that you focus on building muscle. This means keeping up with your strength and/or hypertrophy routine. As long as your intake matches your output, and you are consuming plenty of muscle-building protein, you are in good shape. Supplements like creatine may be helpful for maintaining your gains, as well. In fact many steroid users come off creatine while on cycle, and start it during PCT for the extra help.
Part of utilizing your diet to help you maintain your gains is understanding how many “maintenance calories” you need. This term simply refers to the number of calories you need to consume to maintain your current physique based on your level of activity. For example, someone who weighs 225 pounds and is highly active will need to consume far more calories each day to maintain his muscle mass than someone who weighs 175 pounds and only works out moderately. Knowing the difference – and planning your diet to suit – is crucial.
Keeping Gains with a Healthy Lifestyle
Though diet and exercise are two of the most important factors in a healthy lifestyle, they aren’t the only factors. There are other things you need to consider, as well, if keeping gains is a concern for you. Eating right and exercising often can’t make up for the overconsumption of alcohol, for example, and it certainly won’t help your lungs if you smoke. Giving up tobacco and using alcohol only moderately can go a long way toward helping you stay healthy. You should also work hard to remain hydrated. Keep in mind that hydration and red blood cells go hand-in-hand, so the more water you drink throughout the day, the more nutrients and oxygen your muscles will receive – even when you’re at rest.
HGH is a bit controversial when it comes to long-term use, even among athletes and bodybuilders. While some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Sylvester Stallone, have used HGH for years, there are some out there who warn that the potential effects of doing so could be catastrophic. HGH, or Human Growth Hormone, is like the fountain of youth for many people. It assists in keeping the body in an anabolic state, which primes your body for the existing testosterone to do an even better job. Theoretically, a constant low dose of HGH would help maintain gains – just look at Sly, after all. However, you should research HGH carefully before committing to a long-term cycle.
The chart below shows HGH doses for muscle maintenance and wellbeing for both sexes, and it compares them to typical bulking doses, which people commonly use if they want to add mass. Note that the bulking dose is higher and it is intended to be used for a period of anywhere from 12 weeks to six months. The maintenance dose, on the other hand, is low enough to use routinely over a long period.
Sex Maintenance Dose Bulking Dose
Women need far less HGH than their male counterparts because their bodies respond more readily and favorably to the exogenous hormone. Both sexes should pay close attention to their bodies for signs of side effects and either back their doses down or stop using HGH altogether if necessary.
Don’t Forget about Rest Days
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in regard to keeping gains after putting on several pounds of muscle involves thinking you absolutely must work your body to exhaustion every single day. This is absolutely not the case. Muscle maintenance, much like muscle growth, relies on the muscle tissue’s ability to heal itself after working out. This doesn’t happen during workouts; it happens afterward during your rest and recovery days.
Failing to take days off and simply relax can interfere with your body’s ability to maintain mass. In fact, if you’re particularly lean, your body may start using muscle tissue for energy to fuel your excessive workouts. Rest at least one day each week, and remember you don’t have to lay on the sofa all day, either. You can go for a walk or do yoga, but don’t stress your body with cardio or heavy lifting on these days. The two most important things you can do to keep your gains include planning an excellent diet and exercise regimen and getting your testosterone levels back to normal as quickly as possible. Over the long-term, though, keeping gains may become more complicated and require boosters like HGH. These have side effects, though, and you should use them with a great deal of caution.