Testosterone Booster PCT (Post Cycle Therapy): Does it work?

woman doing tricep pull downs in the gym

What is a PCT?

LAST UPDATED: September 2018.

Author: Ben graduated with a Bachelors degree in 2005 and has since then been using and trialling different supplements in conjunction with rugby and strength training.

Ben has a strong interest in understanding how supplements work and spends much of his time reading reviews and scientific papers.

This article contains links to 14 references to support the text.

LAST UPDATED: 5th Sept 2018.

Get to know PCT 

A natural testosterone booster works by stimulating more natural production of your own steroid hormone, testosterone.

A PCT is a post cycle therapy, this is what you must do/take after you have finished a cycle of anabolic steroids or prohormones.

It is generally a natural supplement that you can take to minimize the effects off coming off cycle and reigniting your body after it has experienced ‘shut down’.


Coming off cycle…shut down, what the hell is this?

When you take anabolic steroids or prohormones a cycle is the length of time that you would take them for, essentially it maybe for a period of 6 or 8 weeks.

Shutting down is a phrase used to explain how your body reacts to supplement it with synthetic drugs which increases testosterone levels.

Essentially anabolic steroids and their ilk fill your body with synthetic steroid hormones that your own body hasn’t produced, it simply could not produce these amounts naturally.

Therefore, when you go on a cycle of steroids your body detects this excess of hormone and begins to ‘shut down’ its own production after sensing that none needs to be produced.

The first time I tried prohormones I could feel the ‘shut down’ occurring in my testes.

There was a strange feeling and experience that I cannot explain other than a tingling sensation. It was not painful or unpleasant but I had never experienced that sensation before.

This then, was the beginning of a six week period whereby I experienced rapid strength gains that were, in the end, a bit too rapid for my connective tissues and led to tendinitis of my shoulder which was then exacerbated by playing rugby.

So, to shut down is when your body stops producing its own natural source of testosterone to compensate for the massive influx of synthetic steroid hormones your body is processing.


Why do we need a PCT?

athletic man sat down deep in thought

When your body is being supplemented with steroids, usually via pills or injections, it is running fine.

Plenty of testosterone to help build muscle and strength, not to mention cutting fat. Everything a guy wants when hitting the gym.

Damn, if it is a mild steroid like Anavar, it is what every gym going girl wants too!

However, once you stop taking the drugs your body is still not producing its own testosterone, in fact, for a long while it won’t start producing its own testosterone.

So, a PCT should be taken immediately after your cycle of steroids have finished to kick start your body in to producing its own testosterone again.

Because, once the steroids finish, there’s no T circulating your bloodstream for as long time otherwise, and not only will this effect your hard won gains, it effects a lot more of your body processes.

I will list these below, but, I can tell you now, that having taken various oral steroids I have felt the full effect of finishing my cycle and still staying ‘shut down’ for some time afterwards.

It is not a great feeling.

However, to give you an idea of what will happen to your body if you have a lack of testosterone circulating your system, checkout the list below:

For men, low testosterone is can cause a number of complications and problems, including:

  • low energy
  • depression
  • impotency
  • lack of libido
  • low sperm count
  • weak bones
  • loss of muscle
  • increased abdominal fat
  • cardiovascular health issues

Yet, there are a few reasons why women would also want to increase their testosterone levels too.

Higher levels of testosterone can be used to treat breast cancer as well as post menopausal symptoms which can include:

  • low sexual desire
  • lack of energy
  • hypoactive sexual disorder

However, it can also be used to combat a few of the more common issues men are wishing to tackle, like muscle strength, fat levels, mood and bone density.

It is also important to note that testosterone is produced by the female body to then create a form of estrogen, called estradiol. [1]

Therefore, it is imperative that there is a healthy balance of natural testosterone being produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands in women and the testes in men.


What is included in a PCT?

This is where the waters become muddied slightly…

Essentially, a PCT is there to stimulate your natural testosterone production again and get it back to a healthy and strong level that you had previously to being ‘shut down’ on your cycle.

Sound familiar?

It should do, because in many cases a PCT is nothing more than a natural testosterone booster supplement.

Because, all we really need to do is stimulate your testes to start producing testosterone again.

Is a PCT and natural test booster different?

Essentially not.

They both offer ingredients to stimulate natural testosterone in the body.

However, some PCT supplements will include other ingredients such as Milk thistle and N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine.

The former is used to help with liver health and the latter to help improve organ function, however, they are both better being taken at the time of your cycle.

Yet, we have even come across PCT supplements that include Bulbine Natalensis which is as toxic as taking a cycle of steroids and even Epiandrosterone which is a prohormone itself!

Therefore, in order to try and raise testosterone in the user, they have resorted to steroid like ingredients and those that are toxic.


What should we look for in a natural test booster for a PCT?

two post cycle therapy supplements

Supplements that are marketed as a PCT is essentially a test booster and vice versa.

They both work with the aim to increase and trigger your natural test secretion.

However, with so many differing products on the market, it is best to look for a product that includes nothing more than natural, proven and safe ingredients.

When you are on a course of steroids, and particularly if they are oral steroids it is advisable to also supplement your cycle with Liv.52 which has been shown to help protect the liver. [2]

Milk Thistle has not provided such proven benefits as Liv.52 for liver protection.

However, see below the list of ingredients you should be looking out for when searching for a test booster/PCT.

Supplements including these ingredients provide a convenient, safe and convenient way of optimizing your nutritional intake for healthy bodily and hormone function.

Ensure that you can clearly see, read and understand what exact ingredients are included and how much. Do not buy products that just offer a ‘proprietary blend‘.

Look for ingredients such as the following:

Zinc

If you are involved with or perform high intensity exercise on a regular basis this can lower testosterone. Likewise lots of exercise will increase sweating and you will excrete zinc. Low levels of zinc are associated with low levels of testosterone.

Always ensure that your zinc levels are topped up and optimal to perform better and ensure your body is producing natural testosterone. [3]

Vitamin K2

K2 works very well with vitamin D which is also vital for stimulating testosterone. However, K2 is often overlooked and not really seen as useful.

But that is naive. K2 can help increase bone density, improve insulin sensitivity and has demonstrated its ability to increase circulating testosterone when studied in rats.

There’s also strong links with K2 being able to inhibit cancer cell development. [4]

Vitamin B6

B6 is able to reduce prolactin levels. Prolactin is a female hormone which enables women to breastfeed.

In tests B6 has been shown to increase growth hormone after exercise. Further clinical studies have demonstrated that rats who were deficient in B6 had a reduced rate of testosterone synthesis. [5]

Magnesium

It would be easy to just state that magnesium is able to help increase testosterone production. That is because a study was conducted with the result that those with higher magnesium supplementation saw higher testosterone concentrations.

However, magnesium also seems to increase insulin sensitivity and greater physical activity performances.  [6]

D-Aspartic Acid (DAA)

DAA has demonstrated that it can increase test levels in athletes, infertile and healthy men due to releasing hormones by the brain. It can also help improve fertility.

That’s not all, DAA seems to be able to improve memory function too. [7]

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is particularly effective with K2. Vitamin D has many useful purposes, but the one we are looking for is testosterone. This is good because doses of just over 3000iu per day have increased test levels in men.

Vitamin D is also able to help stabilize a persons weight and reduce cardio vascular risk as well as overall mortality.

Not a vitamin to overlook then, however, many people are deficient because the best source is from the sunlight. [8]

Ginseng

Ginseng has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. These effects to have a positive impact on the health of the testes which will aid testosterone production.

Ginseng also seems to have an ability to reduce fatigue, in turn this can help with brain function plus improve erections. [9]

Oyster Powder

The nutrients in zinc have proven in more than once occasion to significantly increase testosterone levels in men. Be these cyclists or football players.

Perhaps more recognized for its aphrodisiac effects, oyster is also able to increase libido and well being. This is definitely what you need when you have just finished your steroid cycle. [10]

Fenugreek

The power of fenugreek seed is two-fold.

Fenugreek has been scientifically proven to increase testosterone levels but also decrease fat mass. This natural seed can also be used as a libido enhancer which you will need when your body is in a period of ‘shut down’.

However, if you are  pregnant female it is best to avoid it. [11]

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of those widely known and regarded vitamins but usually for one reason and that is to keep colds and flu at bay by boosting immunity.

Little do people realize that it can increase sexual desire in strong doses of 3000mg per day but it increases blood flow, protects the testes from oxidative stress which has a positive impact on test levels but it also helps with fat loss. [12]

Vitamin E

Being deficient in vitamin E can effect your immune system, it can also lead to increased bone fracturing. Vitamin E is an anti-inflammatory and an anti-oxidant.

Importantly for you if you have been using steroids, vitamin E can reduce muscle damage and in studies of rats those who were supplemented with vitamin E had higher levels of testosterone than the control group. [13]

Can we just rely on vitamins?

Vitamins and minerals are part of the whole jigsaw. This is where supplements come in…

Effective supplements offer an easily accessible way to ensure you are getting the vital nutrients that may be overlooked.

However, importantly you should also take in to account your daily eating, exercise and resting habits…

Without all of these aspects taken in to consideration you will be constantly fighting a battle with yourself.

So there’s a number of things we can do to help your body produce as much natural testosterone as possible alongside a supplement.


Exercise

3 women performing bent over rows in the gym

A healthy exercise regime gets the blood pumping and flowing. It strengthens the heart and your muscles.

With an increased blood flow comes quicker and better distribution of the nutrients your body needs to operate effectively not to mention a quicker and more effective way to transport all of the waste products away that can inhibit function and health.

Then, certain exercises are known to even stimulate more testosterone secretion, so its advisable doing these too, let’s remember, this is a free way to increase your own supply of steroid hormone.

Suggested exercises:

  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Overhead (military) press – standing preferable
  • Bench press – all three ranges
  • Bent over rows
  • Pull-ups

Rest

athlete sleeping on tackle pads

As tempting as it is to stay up until the early hours watching that Netflix box set, please try to resist.

Your body secretes the most amount of growth hormone while you are asleep.

Be sure to get a good amount of sleep each night is going to benefit not only your mental state and your physical shape but also your hormone levels.

Do enough physical exercise and you will want to do nothing more than sleep and take advantage of that increase of testosterone being released.

Nutrition

Take note…

Unhealthy, processed foods can harm hormone levels.

As a man, do you want an excess of abdominal and breast tissue fat? No.

Do you want to lose strength or muscle mass? No.

Do you want weaker bones and cardiovascular issues? No.

These are all possibilities if your testosterone succumbs to a higher level of estrogen, so we need to ensure the balance is restored.

In which case, lets start with foods.

I order to reduce estrogen production, we could do with foods that act as a estrogen regulator.

So, cruciferous vegetables are the order of the day.

Cruciferous vegetables contain DIM, and DIM suppresses too much estrogen getting out of hand.

  • DIM (Diindolylmethane) – In doses of around 10mg per day DIM has demonstrated anti-estrogenic abilities. [14] [15]

Cruciferous vegetables which contain high levels of DIM such as broccoli are eaten by many professional athletes such as rugby league players for their benefits.

Cruciferous vegetables include:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Bok Choy
  • Brussels Sprouts

Basically, get lots of leafy greens down you to ensure against an estrogen uprising.

Then you want lots of natural, clean and whole nutritious foods.

Avoid processed foods and those high in saturated fats such as Omega-6 which can trigger diabetes and depression.

Make sure you get lots of meats, nuts, avocados, fish and dairy – including eggs. Not to mention a wide variety of vegetables.

A good place to start, includes the following:

  • Beef
  • Oysters
  • Salmon
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Kidney beans
  • Turkey
  • Nuts
  • Corn
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Eggs
  • Low fat cheese

Also be sure not to drink too much alcohol, smoke or even get on the recreation drug wagon as these can all have reverse effects.

In Conclusion

A post cycle therapy supplement is vital if you want to feel and maintain a healthy state after your cycle of steroids or pro hormones has come to an end.

When your cycle has ended you will no longer have the high levels of testosterone circulating and bringing the health benefits.

This is because testosterone is the most important male sex hormone and studies have highlighted that males who have a low amount of testosterone also have low levels of lean muscle mass, less strength and a poor overall body composition.

However, it stretches further than that.

Low testosterone also decreases mood, cognitive health, physical mobility and overall quality of life. [16]

Essentially if you are low on testosterone, you are going to suffer.

So, when you finish your steroid cycle you want to ensure that when the high amounts of synthetic test have disappeared that your body is prepared and getting ready to start producing its natural form of testosterone.

And, a PCT is part of that process. But only a PCT with proven and effective ingredients that is used alongside exercise, rest and a good nutrition plan.

This way you will stay healthy and maintain that hard won muscle.

Video


References

[1] Bachmann G, Bancroft J, Braunstein G, Burger H, Davis S, Dennerstein L et al. Female androgen insufficiency: the Princeton consensus statement on definition, classification, and assessment. Fertil Steril 2002; 77: 660–665.

[2] The efficacy of Liv-52 on liver cirrhotic patients: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled first approach.Huseini HF, Alavian SM, Heshmat R, Heydari MR, Abolmaali K. Phytomedicine. 2005 Sep;12(9):619-24. PMID:16194047

[3] http://www.issaonline.edu/blog/index.cfm/2011/5/1/Supplements-For-Boosting-Testosterone-Levels–Yea-or-Nay-

[4] Dietary vitamin K alleviates the reduction in testosterone production induced by lipopolysaccharide administration in rat testis.Takumi N, Shirakawa H, Ohsaki Y, Ito A, Watanabe T, Giriwono PE, Sato T, Komai M. Food Funct. 2011 Jul;2(7):406-11. doi: 10.1039/c1fo10058k. Epub 2011 Jun 13. PMID: 21894328

[5] Increased target tissue uptake of, and sensitivity to, testosterone in the vitamin B6 deficient rat. Symes EK, Bender DA, Bowden JF, Coulson WF. J Steroid Biochem. 1984 May;20(5):1089-93. PMID: 6727359

[6] Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Cinar V, Polat Y, Baltaci AK, Mogulkoc R. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Apr;140(1):18-23. doi: 10.1007/s12011-010-8676-3. Epub 2010 Mar 30. PMID:20352370

[7] The role and molecular mechanism of D-aspartic acid in the release and synthesis of LH and testosterone in humans and rats. Topo E, Soricelli A, D’Aniello A, Ronsini S, D’Aniello G. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2009 Oct 27;7:120. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-7-120. PMID:19860889

[8] Association between plasma 25-OH vitamin D and testosterone levels in men. Nimptsch K, Platz EA, Willett WC, Giovannucci E. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2012 Jul;77(1):106-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2012.04332.x. PMID:22220644

[9] Single doses of Panax ginseng (G115) reduce blood glucose levels and improve cognitive performance during sustained mental activity. Reay JL, Kennedy DO, Scholey AB. J Psychopharmacol. 2005 Jul;19(4):357-65. PMID:15982990

[10] The effect of exhaustion exercise on thyroid hormones and testosterone levels of elite athletes receiving oral zinc. Kilic M, Baltaci AK, Gunay M, Gökbel H, Okudan N, Cicioglu I. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2006 Feb-Apr;27(1-2):247-52. PMID:16648789

[11] Physiological aspects of male libido enhanced by standardized Trigonella foenum-graecum extract and mineral formulation. Steels E, Rao A, Vitetta L. Phytother Res. 2011 Sep;25(9):1294-300. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3360. Epub 2011 Feb 10. PMID:21312304

[12] Influence of Vitamin C and Vitamin E on testicular zinc content and testicular toxicity in lead exposed albino rats. Ayinde OC, Ogunnowo S, Ogedegbe RA. BMC Pharmacol Toxicol. 2012 Dec 14;13:17. doi: 10.1186/2050-6511-13-17. PMID:23241495 

[13] Effect of vitamin E on function of pituitary-gonadal axis in male rats and human subjects. Umeda F, Kato K, Muta K, Ibayashi H. Endocrinol Jpn. 1982 Jun;29(3):287-92. PMID:6816576 

[14] 3,3′-diindolylmethane modulates estrogen metabolism in patients with thyroid proliferative disease: a pilot study. Rajoria S, Suriano R, Parmar PS, Wilson YL, Megwalu U, Moscatello A, Bradlow HL, Sepkovic DW, Geliebter J, Schantz SP, Tiwari RK. Thyroid. 2011 Mar;21(3):299-304. doi: 10.1089/thy.2010.0245. Epub 2011 Jan 22. PMID:21254914

[15] Aksu, Emrah & Akman, Orhan & D Ömür, A & Karakus, Emre & Can, Ismail & Kandemir, Fatih & Dorman, E & Ucar, Omer & Emrah, Correspondence & Aksu, Hicazi & , Dvm. (2016). 3,3 diindolylmethane leads to apoptosis, decreases sperm quality, affects blood estradiol 17 b and testosterone, oestrogen (a and b) and androgen receptor levels in the reproductive system in male rats. Andrologia. 48. 10.1111/and.12554.

[16] The Interplay between Magnesium and Testosterone in Modulating Physical Function in Men. Maggio M, De Vita F, Lauretani F, Nouvenne A, Meschi T, Ticinesi A, Dominguez LJ, Barbagallo M, Dall’aglio E, Ceda GP. Int J Endocrinol. 2014;2014:525249. doi: 10.1155/2014/525249. Epub 2014 Mar 3. Review. PMID:24723948

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