Steroid Duration - Cycling
The administration of anabolic/androgenic steroids at a given dosage will typically produce noticeable increases in muscle size and strength for approximately 6-8 weeks.
After this point, the rate of new muscle gain typically slows significantly. A plateau may be reached soon after, where all forward momentum has ceased. To continue making significant progress beyond this point can entail escalating dosages, which is likely to coincide with a greater incidence of adverse reactions and diminishing anabolic returns. Even without dosage escalation, negative health changes are already likely to be apparent, and should be corrected fairly quickly. The practice of extended or continuous steroid administration is discouraged for these reasons.
It is generally recommended to use AAS drugs for no longer than 8 weeks at a time (10-12 weeks at the maximum), followed by an equal or longer period of abstinence before another steroid regimen is initiated. This pattern of rotating between “on” and “off” periods is referred to as cycling.
Off-Cycle - Recovery, Bridging, and Tapering
The period immediately following steroid cession can involve a state of hypogonadism (low androgen levels), and as a result protein catabolism. In an effort to minimize muscle loss, the objective here is usually on restoring natural testosterone production, maintaining an optimal level of muscle stimulation, and remaining dedicated to proper nutrition.
A hormonal recovery program is usually initiated, which may involve the use of HCG, tamoxifen, and clomiphene.
A substantial off-cycle period is also advised, involving abstinence from anabolic/androgenic steroids for at least 8-12 weeks.
Some AAS abusers have difficulties with complete drug abstinence, and will initiate “bridging” routines between full-dose cycles. This may involve the periodic low-dose administration of an injectable steroid, such as 200 mg of testosterone enanthate or methenolone enanthate every 2-3 weeks. Such practice is discouraged, however, as it can interfere with hormonal recovery, and prevent a return to metabolic homeostasis.
When concluding a cycle, some steroid users also follow a practice of first slowly reducing their dosages (tapering). This tapering may proceed for a 3-4 week period, and will involve an even stepping down of the dose each week until the point of drug discontinuance. It is unknown, however, if such tapering offers any tangible value. This practice has never been evaluated in a clinical setting, and is not widely recommended with steroid medications as it is with some other drugs such as thyroid hormones or antidepressants.
Virtually every high-dose AAS administration study can also be found to end at the maximum dosage, with no time allotted to tapering. One flaw in the logic of using a tapering program is that they are ostensibly designed to aid hormone recovery. Recovery is not possible, however, while supraphysiological levels of androgens are present, and such levels are usually found during all weeks of a normal (nonmedical) steroid taper.
Individuals remain cautioned that dosage tapering is not a proven way to reduce post- cycle muscle catabolism.
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