If you’ve ever run any kind of prohormone or steroid cycle, then you’re probably aware of just how much of an impact your Post Cycle Therapy protocol has on the end result, but let’s face it…Most PCT supplements suck!
Many people are under the impression that simply taking prohormones or steroids will get them jacked, and that’s true…until you stop taking them.
The truth is, most people who cycle these types of compounds end up getting jacked for a few months and then losing all their gains because they didn’t do their homework when it came the PCT.
To make matters worse, PCT supplements are the new thing! Every brand seems to be entering the Post Cycle Therapy arena. All of them are promising that their PCT supplement is “all you need”.
In reality, many of these products won’t actually prevent Estrogen rebound or give your natural Testosterone levels the boost they need when coming off cycle.
We’ll get into which PCT supplements are actually worth buying further down, but let’s take it from the top…
Why Is Post Cycle Therapy Is So Important?
Any time you run a prohormone or steroid cycle, your Testosterone levels are going to increase massively to the point where you experience noticeable physiological changes. You’ll have more “natural” energy, get way stronger, and put on more muscle faster than would normally be possible.
This is simply because increasing Testosterone beyond the normal range forces the body to up-regulate the process of muscle protein synthesis. Assuming you supply your body with enough dietary protein, it will build muscle at a much faster rate.
If you’ve done a lot of research on training and building muscle, you’ve probably come across a bunch of “rules” about how much muscle the human body is capable of packing on in whatever amount of time.
Well, when you’re taking any kind of substance that increases your body’s Testosterone levels way beyond the normal range, all those “rules” go straight out the window.
Increasing your Testosterone levels will:
- Increase the amount of protein you can eat, absorb, and turn in to muscle
- Decrease recovery time (between sets and between workouts)
What this means is that, for the period of time you’re on your cycle, you aren’t subject to the laws that govern the human body’s natural physiological limits…It’s kind of like your above the law!
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. That’s where most people screw up.
In order to have a smooth transition in which you keep your gains and don’t suffer strange/severe side effects, you need a great PCT. To understand what constitutes a “Great PCT”, you need to first understand the changes that are happening in your body.
When you take a substance that elevates your Testosterone far beyond your body’s normal range:
- Your body’s natural Testosterone production shuts down
- Your body tries to produce more Estrogen to compensate
Whether your natural test production gets completely shut down or is just reduced while you’re on cycle depends on what it is your taking.
When it comes to dealing with the Estrogen rebound effect, some compounds are worse than others. Anything that Aromatizes (that is, freely converts from Testosterone to Estrogen) has a much higher likelihood of causing Estrogen-related side effects such as.
A common misconception is that only compounds which Aromatize require a PCT. This is absolutely NOT true. Anything that raises your body’s Testosterone levels far about the normal range will subsequently increase Estrogen production and shut down, at least to some degree, your natural Testosterone production.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need a solid PCT supplement.
The Problem With PCT Supplements That Don’t Work
It may not seem like a big deal for some supplement companies to be selling products that don’t really work (tons of them do it all the time). However, when it comes to PCT Supplements, it’s not just unethical to sell a product that doesn’t really work…
It’s downright dangerous for the consumer!
An ineffective PCT Supplement can result in:
- Loss Of Gains
- Gynecomastia (Guy Boobs)
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Emotional Instability
- Water Retention (From Estrogen)
Needless to say, any of these issues would basically eliminate the point of running a cycle in the first place. So, why would anyone gamble on a PCT that doesn’t work!?
Much of the time, it’s just a matter of cost cutting. The average cycle can be costly so the idea of shelling out an additional $50-$100 for a PCT supplement may not be ideal.
To be honest though, if there’s one thing you should invest in, it’s a PCT supplement that actually work!
Is losing all your gains and suffering the consequences of high Estrogen/low Testosterone really worth saving a few bucks? Probably not…
Unfortunately, with all the different products available, navigating the world of PCT supplements can be confusing. That’s why it’s important to gain a thorough understanding of what a good PCT Supplement should do and what ingredients actually do those things.
Components Of The Best PCT Supplements…
We’ve already established that any substance which increases your Testosterone levels far beyond the normal range will also tend to:
- Raise your Estrogen
- Shut down natural Testosterone production
So, a good Post Cycle Therapy supplement should ideally accomplish the following:
- Suppress Estrogen
- Encourage Natural Testosterone Production
Unfortunately, most PCT supplements contain inferior ingredients, often from random plant extracts, which aren’t really capable of doing what they’re supposed to. Don’t be fooled by these types of supplements…
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
A $25 PCT supplement may seem like a good deal, but when you develop gynegcomastia and lose all your gains a month after your cycle, you’ll probably wish you spent a little more time learning the ins and outs of PCT supplements.
Aromatase is the enzyme responsible for converting Testosterone into Estrogen.
It is normally present in the body and is important for maintaining balance between hormones.
However, when you artificially increase your Testosterone levels (with a prohormone or steroid), the Aromatase enzyme can become more active, converting the excess Testosterone into Estrogen.
An Aromatase Inhibitor (AI) is any substance that blocks (or partially blocks) the activity of Aromatase.
There are prescription Aromatase Inhibitors such as:
- Anastrozole (Arimidex)
- Letrozole (Femara)
- Exemestane (Aromasin)
Of course, there are more, but these are the most commonly prescribed instances where Estrogen needs to be lowered.
Aromasin is often referred to as the “Holy Grail” of AIs because it acts as a Suicide Aromatase Inhibitor. Because it is structurally similar to 4-androstenedione, the primary target of Aromatase, Aromasin is able to bind to the active site of the enzyme and cause permanent inactivation.
It has been shown to:
- Suppress Estrogen
- Counteract Gynecomastia
- Reduce Water Retention
And is therefore an excellent option for Post Cycle Therapy purposes.
Unfortuantely, Aromasin (and the other Aromatase Inhibitors listed above) are all prescription medications in the United States. You can’t get them legally without a prescription from a Doctor.
If you and your doctor are cool, maybe that’s not an issue…but for most people, it’s kind of a deal breaker.
But wait! There’s good news!
There’s a non-prescription Aromatase Inhibitor that’s sold over the counter as a supplement.
It’s called androsta-3 5-diene-7 17-dione, otherwise known as Arimistane.
One study in particular compared the Aromatase inhibiting effects of androsta-3 5-diene-7 17-dione and several derivatives, finding that all of them inhibited Aromatase with varying degrees of potency.
Androsta-3 5-diene-7 17-dione, however, was among the most potent in this regard.
It has often been compared to Aromasin (the prescription only AI we talked about above) because of the way it permanently binds to the Aromatase enzyme, rendering it completely inactive.
While there isn’t any evidence to suggest that Arimistane is as strong as it’s prescription counterpart, it’s definitely the best AI you can buy over the counter and will cover your basic AI needs for most ordinary cycles.
So, you now have your Aromatase Inhbitor which will reduce Estrogen conversion and eliminate Estrogen-related side effects, but that’s still only half the equation if you really want to put together an effective PCT protocol…
SELECTIVE ESTROGEN RECEPTOR MODULATORS (SERMS)
The term Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (SERM) refers to any non-hormone compound that interacts with Estrogen receptors. What makes these compounds distinct from other hormone-influencing compounds is that they have the capacity to be either estrogenic or anti-estrogenic, depending on the part of the body.
For example, reducing Estrogenic activity in breast tissue (where it’s a problem) and increasing Estrogenic activity in bone (where it supports proper bone growth/function).
This ability to act differently on Estrogen Receptors depending on where in the body they are is what makes SERMs so special. It’s also what makes them of interest to bodybuilders and athletes who run serious cycles and need something to help combat Estrogen rebound.
Remember, any time you artificially increase the amount of Testosterone in your body, it will attempt to compensate to some degree by producing more Estrogen.
A powerful Aromatase Inhibitor like Arimistane helps reduce the amount of conversion between Testosterone and Estrogen by going after the enzyme Aromatase.
Still, you can’t completely stop your body from producing Estrogen (nor would you want to). Estrogen in your tissues is free to enter cells and bind to Estrogen receptors.
That’s where SERMs come in. The three most popular SERMs used by builders and athletes for Post Cycle Therapy purpose are:
There are others, but these three have qualities that make them more suitable for PCT use.
Tamoxifen, for example, has been shown to downregulate Estrogen Receptors in breast tissue (where upregulation could cause gynecomastia) while upregulating Estrogen Receptors in bone tissue which is actually beneficial for bone health.
Additionally, by acting upon the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, it has been shown to increase secretion of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) testicular Testosterone production in infertile men.
So, not only will a solid SERM (such as Tamoxifen) block Estrogen at the receptor, preventing gynecomastia and other estrogen-related side effects, it’ll also help give your natural test production a boost when you need it the most (post cycle).
THE PROBLEM WITH SERMS
Yes, of course there’s a problem…There’s always a problem!
Like many problems, it’s because of those things called “laws” that we’re forced to abide by in society. As luck would have it, the SERMs listed above are all prescription medications which means they can’t be used in PCT supplements.
They’re also pretty hard to get legally…
THEY’RE TOUGH TO GET FROM DOCTORS
Typically, SERMs are prescribed to breast cancer patients to stop the spread of the cancer (by downregulating Estrogen in breast tissue).
Most doctors will prescribe a SERM to anyone who is experiencing gynecomastia but the issue there is that you already have it by the time you get your SERM. SERMs work much better as a preventative measure against Gynecomastia, so you should NOT wait until your nipples swell up to get one.
RESEARCH CHEMICAL SITES ARE SHADY
Over the years, a number of websites have started selling SERMs such as Tamoxifen and Clomifene under the guise that they are “not intended for human consumption”. This has actually turned out to be a pretty good loophole because it uses the fact that many chemical compounds that are controlled can still be purchased by scientists for research purposes.
This has created a massive grey market for SERMs and similar compounds. The companies that run these websites simply purchase SERMs in wholesale amounts form China, dissolve the powder in solution, and slap a label on it that says “not for human consumption”.
Needless to say, there are a lot of potential pitfalls in a grey market situation like that…
For starters, who really knows what you’re getting? They say it’s Pharmaceutical Grade Tamoxifen, but for all you know it’s just mouthwash with crushed up aspirin in it…seriously, some of these sites are VERY shady.
The only way to really know if what you’re getting is legit is trial and error. The problem with that approach is that, if it turns out what you got is fake, you won’t know until your nipples swell up and you can’t stop crying!
Fortunately, there’s a solution.
PhytoSERMs. These compounds are found in plants, but interact with Estrogen receptors. Some of them can be very anti-estrogenic.
The Problem With Most Herbal PCT Supplements
There are a ton of plants out there which have exhibited anti-estrogenic activity. If you’ve been reading the supplement facts on PCT supplements, you’ve probably seen a bunch of them listed.
Unfortunately, as we’ve already discussed, these plants tend to contain dozens (or hundreds) of unknown active compounds which have different properties and therefore may have different effects on the body.
Using the chart above as reference, imagine you bought a Flemingia macrophylla because the company that sells it claims it blocks Estrogen. You’ve just run a cycle, prescription SERMs are not available to you, and you need something to combat your elevated Estrogen levels.
Now, because it is true that all plant extracts differ slightly in terms of chemical profile (depending on cultivation, extraction methods, etc.), imagine this particular Flemingia macrophylla contained a high amount of 7-(3,3-dimethylallyl)genistein relative to other active components.
A quick glance at the chart above reveals that 7-(3,3-dimethylallyl)genistein (compound 9) was extremely estrogenic and is the last thing you should be consuming if your goal is to reduce Estrogen.
Well, that’s why science is so important. For thousands of years, humans have wandered the earth experimenting with different plants and getting results ranging from curing an illness to sudden death.
When we approach these plants scientifically, we’re able to determine which components we really want and which ones we’d rather do without.
One of the most powerful PhytoSERMs currently known is 3′-isoprenylgenistein, which we discuss here. This unique phyto-SERM has started making it’s way into PCT supplements and, given how anti-estrogenic it is, we’d expect this trend to continue.
ENHANCING ABSORPTION OF ANABOLIC COMPOUNDS
At this point, we’ve established that there are naturally occurring anti-estrogenic molecules in certain plant species and compounds like androsta-3 5-diene-7 17-dione that make for effective PCT supplements.
So, why aren’t these things more popular?!
Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that pharmaceutical companies that make actual prescription drugs do everything they can to negatively shape the public opinion of the supplement industry.
A ton of people simply don’t believe PCT supplements can be nearly as effective (or just as effective) as certain drugs.
While it is true that most supplements are just less effective versions of pharmaceutical drugs–you can also view it as most pharmaceutical drugs being “more advanced” version of supplements–there are plenty of supplements that are potent enough to give their prescription counterparts a run for their money.
3′-isoprenylgenistein and Androsta-3 5-diene-7 17-dione are two fine examples, but there are others out there.
The other issue, however, which is perhaps the reason Phyto-SERMS haven’t become popular ingredients in PCT supplements, has to do with poor absorption.
As it turns out, many of these compounds have absorption issues that render them ineffective for practical use…Unless you add an effective absorption enhancer into the equation. That changes everything…
Absorption enhancers range in efficacy but two of the most effective are:
- Pipperine (Black Pepper)
- 6,7 dihydroxybergamottin (Grapefruit)
Pipperine, found in Black Pepper Extract works by inhibiting Phase 2 detoxification enzymes and ultimately slowing intestinal transport. This is the more straight-forward absorption enhancer, but it doesn’t necessary work with everything.
6,7 dihydroxybergamottin, found in Grapefruit, is actually more of a universal absorption enhancer. It works by inhibiting the enzyme CY3PA which is responsible for oxidizing a wide array of substances, from Xanax to Viagra and hundreds of drugs/supplements in between.
Interestingly, 6,7 dihydroxybergamottin’s absorption enhancement extends to such drugs as Exemestane (Aromasin) and all other Aromatase Inhibitors with similar structures.
For that reason, it makes perfect sense to combine 6,7 dihydroxybergamottin with androsta-3 5-diene-7 17-dione (Arimistane) in the form of a PCT supplement. The cumulative impact should be something like Aromasin.
TAKE YOUR PCT SERIOUSLY, OR ELSE!
Whether you’re running straight Test or something lighter, like an Anavar cycle, you’re going to need some kind of PCT.
A common misconception is that lighter compounds don’t require a PCT. While it’s true that some compounds require a more serious PCT than others, anything that raises your Testosterone beyond the normal range for an extended period of time will require some degree of post cycle therapy.
How effective your PCT supplement is will determine how well you maintain your muscle mass, strength, and body composition post cycle. Neglecting it is really not an option if you want to keep progressing and not suffer any Estrogen-related side effects.
As with any category of supplements, you should do your homework and research the individual ingredients before buying to ensure what you’re getting actually works.
When it comes to PCT supplements, however, the importance of due diligence becomes immensely greater because there are serious risks associated with an ineffective PCT supplement…
And we’re NOT just talking about “losing your gains bro”. It can get far, far worse than that.
If you don’t feel like rolling the dice with your hormonal health and aren’t crazy about ordering illegal, possibly fake/diluted research chemicals (not recommended), we’ve detailed what we believe to be the absolute best PCT Supplements–based on sound, scientific evidence–legally available below…
The Absolute Best PCT Supplements
Every week, we get tons of emails from people asking about this one or that one, and unfortunately, most of these supplements are complete garbage. So, we decided to compile a list of that absolute best.
The following supplements are by far the best Post Cycle Therapy supplements on the market. Not all of them can eliminate all the post-cycle issues associated with prohormones and steroids.
If you’re running something mild though, like one of the products found on our Best Muscle Builders list, any of these PCT supplements will suffice.
PhytoHealth PhenomenolFIND IT HERE
Phenomenol takes the notion of a PCT Supplement to an entirely new level. Any good Post Cycle Therapy protocol requires two things:
- Aromatase Inhibitor
Traditionally, PCT Supplements have included Aromatase Inhibitors and some herbal libido enhancers, but left users on their own to go find SERMs (usually from shady research chemical sites).
PhytoHealth has bridged the gap by utilizing a massive dose of Androst-3,5-diene-7, 17-dione, the stronger AI legally available, and 3′-isoprenylgenistein, a remarkably potent naturally occuuring SERM.
Phenomenol is guarateed to:
- Block Aromatase and Estrogen Receptors
- Eliminate Estrogen-related side effects
- Stimulate natural Test-production
- Maintain muscle mass and strength gains
Making it by far the most comprehensive PCT Supplement currently available. Phenomenol is the only true complete all-in-one PCT Supplement.
VMI Sports A-XR PCT
A-XR PCT is formulated to serve all of your post cycle needs. It contains herbal libido enhancers, DHT inhibitors, and the powerful Aromatase Inhibitor, Arimistane. Even if you’re cycling something pretty hardcore, A-XR PCT has what it takes to:
- Reduce estrogen-related side effects
- Restore Testosterone levels
- Enhance sexual wellbeing/libido
Of course, how serious a cycle you’re running is going to determine what type of PCT you need, but this is a formula that’s worth incorporating in just about every PCT protocol, even if you have a SERM or something as well.
Spartan Nutrition Trojan PCT
Trojan PCT contains a thorough blend of natural, herbal, and synthetic ingredients, all of which an help:
- Block Estrogen Rebound
- Boost Natural Testosterone Levels
- Encourage Muscle Building
Perhaps the most unique ingredient that Spartan Nutrition has included in Trojan PCT is 5a-hydroxy Laxogenin, a naturally occurring plant steroid which has become popular as a muscle-builder in recent years.
While nowhere near as powerful as any prohormone or steroid, 5a-hydroxy Laxogenin offers something in the way of muscle-building without having any impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis (HPTA).
In other words, it won’t cause shutdown and is a great way to stimulate some muscle growth while your natural Testosterone levels are low (as is generally the case post cycle).
Trojan PCT also provides a decent dose of Arimistane, making it one of the few PCT supplements that will actually help you rebuild muscle while keeping Estrogen levels relatively low.
Blackstone Labs PCT V
When it comes to prohormones, no brand has seen faster growth than Blackstone Labs. In just a few short years, BSL went form being non-existent to being one of the most trusted brands when it comes hardcore formulas that actually work. Given such a trackrecord, we’d expect nothing less from Blackstone PCT supplement.
Well, PCT-V definitely delivers on that front…
It contains just five active ingredients which collectively work to:
- Increase Sexuality/Libido
- Protect Organ/Liver Function
- Restore Testosterone Levels
- Reduce Estrogen
- Promote Muscle Growth
Fortunately, Blackstone has definitely delivered with this one, including both herbal libido enhancers, liver/organ protection, and a powerful Aromatase Inhibitor, Androst 3-5-dien-7, 17-dione (Arimistane). Perhaps the most unique ingredient used in PCT-V, however, is Alpha Hydroxy Laxogenin, a non-hormonal muscle builder.
RedCon1, the brand owner by Aaron Singerman (form Blackstone Labs CEO and Founder), has quickly established itself as a no-nonsense brand by putting out some pretty cutting edge, scientifically-valid supplements. So, it should come as no surprise that Shield (Protect Your Gains) lives up to this reputation and ultimately earned a spot on this list.
It contains just two ingredients which will:
- Protect/Detoxify Your Liver
- Block/Destroy Estrogen
It may seem simple, but this is a formula that actaully works. If you’re running any kind of prohormone that’s liver toxic and elevates your Testosterone to the point that Estrogen levels begin to rise (a natural reaction), Shield is an excellent PCT supplement to have in your arsenal.
Advanced Muscle Science AROM-X
Like Shield, Advanced Muscle Science’s AROM-X contains just two ingredients. One of them is the same Androst-3,5-diene-7, 17-dione (Arimistane) that’s also present in some of the other formulas on this list.
It’s an extremely powerful Aromatase Inhibitor and can therefore powerfully suppress conversion of Testosterone into Estrogen, a “would be” major concern for anyone who just came off cycle. In general, Aromtase Inhibitors:
- Reduce Testosterone/Estrogen conversion
- Reduce Estrogen-related siide effects
The other ingredient, 6,7 Dihydroxybergamottin, is a natural constituent of Grapefruit which inhibits the enzyme CYP3A4 which is responsible for the degradation of many pharmaologically active substances and can enhance the general effects of AROM-X.
The combination of DHB and Arimistane, while simple, actually makes for a pretty effective PCT supplement.
Lecheek Nutrition AD-3 PCT
Like many of the other PCT supplements discussed here, AD-3 PCT by Lecheek contains, as a primary featured ingredient, Androsta-3,5-diene-7,17-dione. This powerful Aromatase Inhibitor (AI) is capable of significantly reducing the amount of Testosterone that converts into Estrogen (via the Aromatase enzyme) and is therefore a smart supplement to take as you come off cycle.
AD-3 PCT also contains Milk Thistle and Velvet Bean (standardized for L-Dopa) which have their own individual benefits. So, as a whole, AD-3 PCT can:
- Reduce Estrogen-related side effects
- Restore Testosterone levels
- Support Liver Function
Whether or not Milk Thistle and Velvet Bean Extract make much of a difference is beside the point. AD-3 PCT contains a very high dose of Androsta-3,5-diene-7,17-dione, about triple what you’ll find in most other similar products.
The Bottom Line On PCT Supplements
Most PCT supplements flat out don’t work. That said, there are a handful (the ones specifically mentioned in this article) which are actually pretty good.
How powerful you’re PCT supplement needs to be depends on what kind of cycle you’re running, but anything that raises you’re Testosterone to the point where muscle growth is accelerated will require some sort of effective PCT. That is…If you want to keep your gains and avoid Estrogen-related side effects.