Steroid cycles come in all flavors and sizes, with theories abound as to which is the best approach. A quick internet search on the topic will reveal that numerous websites and forums discuss the relative merits of design "X" versus design "Y", and it's not uncommon to find contradictory explanations supported by anecdotal evidence at best. The reason for this is simple - there are just way too many variables!
Consider the following hypothetical scenario of two bodybuilders: Bob does a 12 week cycle comprising a single injectable drug. He achieves a significant gain in strength and size, and thus considers the cycle to be a success. He posts his experience on a forum. Bill reads this, and decides to emulate it. Unfortunately, his gains were nowhere near those of Bob's, so he considers the cycle to be a failure. He also posts his experience online, and now there is confusion due to contradictory information.
So what are we supposed to believe? Consider the following variables - are Bill and Bob both genetically predispositioned to respond to the drug in the same way? Has one been training longer than the other? Were their diets similar? Did they both follow the dosing regimen exactly? Have they both done a similar number of cycles in the past? How long had they been 'clean' before commencement of the new cycle? Were their overall training goals similar? And what about the steroid itself? Can we be confident that one or both users were actually using REAL steroids? And if the contents of the vial was actually REAL, can we be confident that its concentration was accurate? (Let's face it, it's unlikely that undergrounds labs adhere to Good Manufacturing Practice) Now consider a situation in which they didn't use just one steroid but two or more concurrently, and/or anti - estrogens etc. How does stacking affect their results? Are the pharmacokinetics now altered due to the presence of drug - drug interactions?
As you can see from this hypothetical scenario, it is virtually impossible to ascribe any hard and fast rules to the world of steroid cycle design unless you are able to generate and measure data in a strict clinical setting. The news is not all bad though, because the body of anecdotal evidence is large enough to suggest that quality gains are indeed possible if you can determine what works for you. This means that you have to assume the role of both doctor and guinea pig, and be rigorously systematic in your approach by adopting a cause - and - effect strategy. Change one variable at a time, and measure its effect. If you change too many variables at once, you will never be able to dissect out the true cause of any observed change(s). Unfortunately, this approach can be slow as it may take numerous cycles to perfect. Furthermore, you may find that as you become more advanced, your requirements may change (eg: you may need larger doses to achieve the same gains as those observed in previous cycles), which brings us back to our opening statement: steroid cycle design is by no means an exact science! Patience and perserverance are key!
While we can't advise you on how best to design your cycle, what we CAN DO is provide you with a tool to help you eliminate some of the guesswork. One of the major aims of The Anabolic Steroid Calculator is to provide a platform to enable any dosing regimen to be converted into a graphical format. By visually representing what would otherwise be just a series of numbers, it is our hope that this will allow you, as the user of this calculator, to better understand the concepts of steroid cycle design and give you the confidence to design highly effective dosing strategies. Furthermore, due to its simple graphical output, we hope that this facilitates public debate by virtue of the ease with which graphical summaries can be compared and contrasted.
With all that behind us, let's look at some hypothetical cycles. Eight examples are presented below, chosen merely to represent only a small handful of otherwise limitless possibilities! The accompanying description attempts to outline the speculative rationale behind each strategy. Each scenario is based on the regular dosing (every 4 or 6 days) of a single (multi-drug dosing is discussed in the second section) injectable steroid with a half-life (t1/2) = 9 days. Importantly, when dealing with injectable steroids, you MUST consider two numbers when calculating doses: (1) the amount physically injected on a given dosage day (termed "Injection Amount"); (2) the amount of steroid still present in your system up until a given dosage day. We define the sum of (1) plus (2) as "Effective Dose". For example, if you injected 500 mg of a steroid with t1/2 = 9 days on day = 0, its concentration would decline to half its value on day 9 (ie, 250 mg). If you injected a further 500 mg on day = 9, the effective dose would be 500 + 250 = 750 mg.
- Classical Pyramid: Doses are gradually increased to a peak value, and then reversed. This approach was designed to allow the body's system to slowly adapt and then recover, while providing the optimal amount of steroid during the peak growth phases of the cycle. It is argued that this approach is wasteful in that the first few weeks are spent using sub-therapeutic doses of steroid, and that tapering toward the end of the cycle may not be necessary (at least when using steroids with a relatively long half-life) since steroids are inherently tapering by virtue of their natural decay within the body.
- Reverse Half Pyramid: Here, one starts at the apex of the Classical Pyramid, and then gradually lowers the dosage. Maximum dosing at the beginning is presumed to avoid the sub-therapeutic problem encountered with the Classical Pyramid approach. The slow tapering off, as with the Classical Pyramid, is thought to assist in the recovery of one's hypothalamic-pituitary axis.
- Plateau Pyramid: The Plateau Pyramid offers a combination of the Classical Pyramid with the Plateau approach (see example e). Similar to to the Classical Pyramid, the effective dose increases in a step - wise manner. However, what differs is that the doses are given in such a way as to allow short periods of stable (plateau) dosing to reside in between each successive rise. Maintaining stable serum levels of steroid is advantageous in that the avoidance of large concentration fluctuations means that a greater proportion of the cycle is spent in a therapeutically optimal range. This raises an important question: "What IS the therapeutically optimal range for an individual?"
- Tapered Plateau Pyramid: Similar to the Plateau Pyramid except that the cycle is concluded with a gradual downward taper.
- Front Loaded Plateau: The Front Loaded Plateau utilizes several front loading doses in order to achieve a steady-state in a rapid fashion. The steady-state is maintained within the therapeutic window (arbitrarily assigned as ca. 500-700mg in this example) with each successive maintenance dose thereafter (250 mg in this example). More information on front loading can be found here. The cyle is concluded with a brief downward taper.
- Reverse Half Plateau Pyramid: This design is a combination of the reverse half pyramid and the plateau pyramid. Short periods of steady - state dosing are maintained between each successive stage of lowering the dosage.
The previous section described dosing scenarios of steroids as single isolated components ("mono-dosing"). In reality, the situation is often complicated by the fact that steroid users commonly take 2 or more drugs simultaneously-a practice termed "stacking". If the situation wasn't already complicated enough in the mono-dosing scenario, we now have to consider the effects of additivity.
Have you ever stopped to consider what the dosing profile of your cycle would look like if you added up all of the individual components of a multi-component cycle? The Anabolic Steroid Calculator automatically models the additive affects of multi drug dosing (up to 6 drugs in total) by summating the "Effective Dose" for each drug and plotting the total as a function of time. No other online calculator does this! The calculator was specifically designed to visually represent stacking scenarios, and it is our hope that this tool will serve as both a calculation and visualization aid to assist you in tailoring highly effective dosing strategies to your individual needs. We stress that the validity of such an approach assumes, amongst other things, that multi drug dosing is indeed linearly additive, and that the pharmacokinetics are not significantly impacted by drug-drug interactions.
Three stacking examples are given below. The first two considers the additive effects of two components ("di-stacking"), and the third example looks at the additivity of three components ("tri-stacking").
- Di-Stack 1: This example looks at a hypothetical ten week cycle in which a long-acting steroid (t1/2 = 9 days) is dosed every four days using a half-plateau pyramid approach for the first seven weeks. As the cycle concludes, a shorter acting steroid (t1/2 = 3 days) is introduced every third day for three weeks using a front-loaded plateau approach to assist in the tapering down process.
- Di-Stack 2: This approach is similar to the first in that it utilizes both a long- and a short-acting steroid over the course of ten weeks. The longer half-life component is dosed every six days using a half-classical pyramid approach for seven weeks. The shorter-acting component is dosed every three days in a front-loaded plateau fashion over two separate periods: weeks 1-3 to speed up cycle initiation while waiting for the longer acting component to become fully active; weeks 8-11 to assist in the tapering down process.
- Tri-Stack 3: This example shares one similarity with example (b) in that it utilizes a short-acting steroid at the beginning and at the end of the cycle for the same reasons described above (except in this case we define the user as using different steroids for initiation and termination). Despite this similarity, the overall graphs (in red) are distinctly different. Why? Ignoring for a moment the fact that three steroids are used instead of two (for all intents and purposes, we can consider the two shorter-acting steroids to be one and the same since they share identical half-lives), the major difference between example (b) and this example is that all three drugs are dosed solely in fixed quantities (ie. there is no upward or downward taper, and no front-loading). Due to its relatively long half-life (t1/2 = 8 days), Steroid 1 dominates the overall picture. The other obvious differences between examples (b) and (c) (larger versus smaller absolute dosing, slightly altered half-lives) serve only to frameshift the overall graph on the y-axis, and does not impact significantly on the global shape of the cycle. This raises an important point-while relatively small changes to individual dosing scenarios may appear trivial at first, they can have a profound influence on the overall cycle appearance.