The Newbie Dilemma: To Test or Not to Test


Community Veteran
By Sanjac

You've studied and researched for months, and you want to do your first cycle. On the boards, you've read countless posts about hair loss, gyno, liver damage, and prostate cancer, all caused by steroid use. But none of this is going to happen to you, because you've got it figured out. All those horrible side effects are caused by the heavy androgens like Anadrol, trenbolone (fina), dbol, and particularly testosterone. So, you're going to use the "anabolic" steroids, which are much milder and safer than the androgenic steroids. Or at least that's what everybody says...isn't it? This article will attempt to dispel the misinformation that exists in the bodybuilding community regarding the side effects of testosterone relative to the "anabolic" steroids. As always, the author does not condone the use of steroids by persons not under the care and guidance of a qualified physician.

First, let's take a look at what is known in the medical community as the "natural" steroid, testosterone. Does testosterone cause the horrible side effects listed above, and if so, how does testosterone cause these effects?

Well, as for hair loss, testosterone can be a contributing factor for those men who are predisposed to male pattern baldness. Testosterone's effect on hair loss can be made worse by the conversion of test to Dihydrotestosterone. DHT forms via the action of 5-alpha reeducates on testosterone. The DHT-induced hair loss can be alleviated by using an enzyme inhibitor, such as Finasteride (Proscar or Propecia). There are also several topical treatments that reduce the effects of androgens on hair loss. So, while testosterone can contribute to hair loss problems, the problems can be reduced.

For the second problem listed in the Introduction, gynecomastia ("b*tch tits"), testosterone does not cause this problem directly. Instead, testosterone can be converted (by the aromatase enzyme) into estrogen, which can cause the problem. A high estrogen level also causes water retention and mood shifts in males, and may be responsible for increased acne. So, we want to use an aromatase inhibitor and completely eliminate the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, right? Not so fast! Estrogen has some beneficial effects. First, estrogen is responsible for maintaining the levels of key minerals in the body, particularly in the bones. Over time, a lack of estrogen can lead to osteoporosis. Second, estrogen is mostly responsible for the high energy levels that many feel when on cycle. Finally, estrogen has been hypothesized to play a role in building muscle, although this role is not understood. So, if aromatase inhibitors are to be used, they should be used sparingly. For example, a quarter of a milligram (0.25 mg) of arimidex every other day appears to be sufficient to eliminate the negative effects of estrogen, while still allowing a normal level to be present. Alternatively, estrogen blockers such as Nolvadex and Clomid can be used to prevent negative side effects of estrogen.

Many believe that testosterone is harsh on the liver, because elevated liver enzymes (ALT and AST) are observed with testosterone use. However, these enzymes are not an accurate indicator of liver damage (resistance training by itself causes elevated levels of these enzymes). Testosterone (esters or suspension) has not been shown to increase GGT levels, which would be a true indication of liver damage. So, testosterone is well tolerated, even in elderly individuals (J. Clin. Endocrinal. Metab., 83:10, 3435-3436).

Testosterone also has not been shown to cause an elevated risk for prostate cancer, although DHT (from testosterone) has been anecdotally linked to Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (it is important to note that there is no statistical correlation between endogenous T and BPH, meaning that there may not be an effect at all). As discussed under hair-loss, DHT formation can be effectively prevented by the use of Proscar, if the individual is susceptible to BPH.

Remember that testosterone has been in the human body since the beginning of the species. It is not "harsh", and the side effects are minor (and can be controlled) in relation to the desired (muscle building) effects of the molecule.

Synthetic Steroids
What about the other steroids? Aren't they milder than testosterone? Well, if you think about it, many of the synthetics appear to be milder in their side effects, but they are also milder in the desired effects, in comparison to testosterone. This means that you have to use more to get similar results. Let's look at a few.

Nandrolone (Deca) is probably the first choice for those who do not want to use testosterone. Deca binds with greater affinity to the Androgen Receptor than testosterone, and it has minimal impact on hair loss, gyno, and BPH. However, deca does not effectively promote the non-AR mediated paths to mass building, and it actually blocks some (neurotransmitter?) paths that testosterone mediates, and the result is a loss of libido and the inability to attain an erection ("deca-dick"). By itself, it will stop endogenous testosterone production, and since it does not aromatize, estrogen levels in the body will fall below normal (not good). While deca is an excellent accessory steroid, it should always be used in conjunction with testosterone to prevent these effects.

Primobolan is a highly regarded steroid, but because of its structure (ring methylated at the A ring), it does not bind the AR as effectively. Therefore, effective doses would be prohibitively expensive, and by itself it would not be that useful. Primo will not aromatize easily, and the lack of estrogen production without the presence of testosterone is not desirable. Mesterolone and masteron (drostanolone) are similar in effects.

Equipoise is another accessory steroid, one that doesn't bind the AR as effectively as testosterone. In conjunction with testosterone, it can help vascularity and hardness, but by itself it is not that effective. It is believed to be aromatizable, but the extent of estrogen formation is unknown. Again, endogenous testosterone (and estrogen) levels will be affected.

Trenbolone is a very effective steroid for mass building, but many believe it to be too harsh and toxic for a beginner to even consider.

Oral Steroids
That leaves the 17-alpha alkylated steroids, the orals. Many beginners don't want to use needles, so they think that taking an oral steroid will be the best way to go. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of the 17-alpha alkylated steroids can cause hepatic peliosis, in which the liver forms internal pools of blood. The 17-alpha alkylated steroids also have been implicated in the formation of liver tumors (Nieschlag E, Behre HM, eds. 1998 Testosterone: Action, Deficiency, Substitution, 2nd ed. Heidelberg/New York: Springer). The use of an oral steroid by itself for mass building is ineffective because of the high doses required to achieve the desired goals, and many gains experienced with the orals are lost after cycle because the gains were mostly water.

Dbol is very effective for helping to "jump-start" a cycle when used in conjunction with testosterone. By itself, however, the mass that would be added would consist of a lot of water (water is good for strength increases), and the crash after the cycle would be pretty bad. In addition, using Dbol for longer than 4-6 weeks can increase the likelihood of liver (and kidney) problems.

A-50's are considered to be harsh and not suitable for beginners. This is likely due to the high dosage of the 50 mg tablets. Even at lower doses, the gains from Anadrol are mostly water.

Fluoxymesterone (Halo)
While Halo doesn't appear to cause water gains, it also doesn't do much for muscle gains. This steroid is not highly valued for mass gains, although many value the perceived increases in aggression when Halo is used.

Winstrol (oral or injected)
While Winstrol (winny) is valued in a stack with testosterone for its effect on strength and muscle hardness, the doses that would be needed if used alone would just exxagerate the toxic effects of this steroid.

This steroid is quite weak, and the expense of using it by itself would be prohibitive. While it is quite mild in side effects, the effects on muscle building are also quite mild.

While many of the steroids mentioned above are of benefit in a stack with testosterone, they are ineffective when used alone. Even stacking two or more of the synthetics will not yield the same results as testosterone, and may cause greater side effects than testosterone. A sound strategy for designing an effective cycle for beginners and veterans alike is to use testosterone as the base steroid, and add accessory steroids to achieve more of the desired effects.

I still think the best cycle for a beginner is Test/Var, not only do they learn just how expensive cycling can be to get quality product but they also get good quality gains and little to no sides. :D carry on.