Harvard M.D.’s compare the health differences between long term steroid users, and natty lifters.
The topic of restoring your natural hormones after a prohormone or anabolic steroid cycle has been discussed at length here at the Prohormone Podcast. If you remember in Episode 3 I talked about why people get fat during post cycle therapy (PCT). Then in Episode 9 we discussed the benefits, and draw backs of Triptorelin in PCT. Finally in Episode 11 I discussed the BEST PCT protocol based on research and case work from the top physicians in the country.
You can see their protocol outlined in the image below:
But what about guys who do not follow any stringent PCT protocol? Or guys who resort to unstudied test boosters for their saving grace in PCT?
That’s what a newly published paper wanted to find out (well sort of). A group of Harvard Medical School doctors wanted to compare weight lifting anabolic androgenic steroid (AAS) users to regular weightlifters who were not using steroids [Ref 1]. Pretty simple comparison. The primary and seconday aim of the study was to determine the following:
- Cardiovascular effects of steroids (results reported in 2 previously published studies)
- Neurocognitive effects of steroids (results are still being analyzed)
- Features of hypogonadism (low testosterone for example)
Usually in studies like this we can question the validity of the test subjects. I mean who wants to admit steroid use to a stranger? But this study did a good job of selecting participants as well as excluding certain people (for example they excluded men who denied steroid use who had a significant amount of lean mass, and less than 10% body fat).
To get participants they simply advertised in local Boston gyms that they were looking guys who could bench press at least 275lbs for 1 rep, and were willing to complete a psychiatric and medical evaluation. The bench press requirement helps automatically exclude “newbs”.
The men were analyzed almost three full years. The AAS users had to have used steroids for at least 2 cumulative years of their life, and had to have discontinued steroid use at least 3 months before the medical evaluation. At the end of the screening process they were left with 19 former steroid users (none of which were on TRT or any other treatment), and 36 natural lifters.
So what’s the difference between AAS users and natty’s over time? You might not be surprised by many of these but here’s the list of statistically different findings between the two groups. Keep in mind Harvard M.D.’s do not skimp on the analysis. So if you think there is a methodological flaw in their analysis they probably accounted for it, I just haven’t listed it.
AAS users had statistically significant:
- Smaller nuts (as measured by an orchidometer, which is something you can do at home)
- Lower testosterone levels
- AAS = Average of 319 ng/dL
- Natty = Average of 449 ng/dL
- 5 of the 19 AAS users had levels below 200 ng/dL
- 1 of the AAS users had a level of only 30 ng/dL even after 8 months of no AAS use
- Anything below 348 ng/dL is considered below a “normal” reference range
- Less Sexual Desire (as scored by the International Index of Erectile Function test)
AAS users also had slightly lower (although not statistically significant)
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
- Follicle-stimulating Hormone (FSH)
- Erectile Function
- Orgasmic Function
They primary point of this paper was to compare and contrast the two groups. Interestingly the differences are largely known in the steroid using communities. But a lot of these issues are fairly new to the medical community. The paper goes on to discuss the notion that AAS use it becoming more common, particularly in men who are using it only for personal improvement (image).
“The present observations, despite their limitations, suggest that AAS-induced hypogonadism likely represents an emerging issue in the growing world population of AAS users – an issue still apparently underrecognized in the scientific literature.”
Ultimately it is imprudent of me to assume these men went cold turkey after AAS use. This study failed to question the mens protocol after stopping AAS. I’d imagine several of these guys used typical PCT products ranging anywhere from highly studied clomiphene, to tribulus. But it should be a reminder (as always) to not half-ass your PCT. Do your research. Look for high quality SERM providers. Take time off (longer than you probably feel you need), and get your lab work done to make sure you are truly healthy. And of course, check out postcycletherapy.net as they are the leading provider of PCT info on the internet right now.