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Chem Corner Post Cycle Recovery



Post-Cycle Recovery: How Long?


By William Llewellyn


Recovery of normal testosterone and cholesterol levels is not an instant process. It may take many months after you quit these drugs for things to get back to normal, perhaps longer in some cases.


When we discuss the side effects associated with steroid use, it is accurate to note that many of them (not all) are temporary. For example, oily skin, acne and increased water retention are all common side effects during a steroid cycle, but they usually resolve themselves within a couple of weeks of stopping use of the offending steroids. What about some of the other common side effects, though – such as alterations in cholesterol and suppression of natural testosterone production? We often regard these also as temporary issues, but how temporary are they, really? A study published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology asked this question, and comes back with some interesting answers that all anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) users need to pay attention to.1


The study in question looked at a group of 56 male bodybuilders who were recruited through an anti-doping telephone hotline. Each of the men had ultimately ended their intake of steroids, providing a good opportunity to examine them post cycle. The researchers followed the group to see how their health responded to the change, conducting periodic medical examinations for up to one year after their last steroid injection. The study found that cholesterol disturbances lasted for up to six months in many of the subjects. Indeed this was a temporary side effect, but it was much more persistent than many steroid users may have expected. The disturbances to natural testosterone production were even longer lasting in some cases, with a portion of the men continuing to notice suppression of LH and FSH (luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, the two main stimulatory hormones for testosterone release) a full year after steroid cessation.


This study doesn’t necessarily present a great deal of new information. Protracted recovery of lipids and testosterone has been discussed here and elsewhere before, though admittedly the data on these topics remains light. Studies following bodybuilders and athletes immediately after quitting steroid use are even less common, so I do feel this paper adds some needed perspective on the all-important post-steroid recovery period. Gentlemen, let this be a reminder. Recovery of normal testosterone and cholesterol levels is not an instant process. It may take many months after you quit these drugs for things to get back to normal, perhaps longer in some cases. While not specifically addressed, this study may also help emphasize the need for a proper PCT (post-cycle therapy) program, something regular readers know I am a longtime supporter of.


Ghrelin – the Hunger Hormone


Some of us have problems losing weight. For others, gaining weight (muscle weight, of course) is the eternal struggle. For these “hardgainers,” a failure to eat sufficient calories is often a big contributing factor in their inability to grow optimally. Many people just don’t have the appetite needed to pack in the protein and calories, and forced feeding just isn’t a viable option for them. And as we all know, if you can’t bring all of the needed nutrients to your muscles, they will not grow very quickly. If you are among this group of hardgainers, help may be on the way. This assistance may come from a natural hormone in our bodies called ghrelin. If the early studies pan out, drugs derived from this hormone may turn out to be the first truly effective prescription appetite stimulants.


I’m on the subject of ghrelin because I came across a study that discussed the progress with this hormone as a potential drug product.2 Before we touch on the medications that may stem from this hormone, we should go over some of the relevant background information. Ghrelin is a protein-based hormone that is made in the stomach. It is released when the stomach is empty. Its circulation in the blood triggers several distinct actions in the body.3 For one, ghrelin is a prominent stimulator of growth hormone and IGF-1 secretion. It does this by activating the GH secretagogue receptor. Ghrelin also acts on the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus, a region of the brain known to control food intake. Here, it is responsible for sending a hunger signal to the nervous system, thereby stimulating the appetite. It may also be linked to the release of insulin.


Ghrelin has been in and out of the research books for many years, ever since Japanese researchers first tied its release to the stimulation of appetite. Within several years of that discovery, three drug companies (Sapphire Therapeutics, Elixir Pharmaceuticals and Tranzyme Pharma) expressed a public interest in developing drugs of this class. They were seeing strong potential for treating HIV, cancer and other wasting diseases. We appeared to be on track for FDA-approved human clinical trials. That is, until the financial crisis hit. By 2009, the biotech companies funding this research were in big trouble. The research was put on indefinite hold, but I’m optimistic that we will see progress again, such as clinical trials being conducted on ghrelin-based drugs.


William Llewellyn is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the use of performance-enhancing substances. He is the author of the bestselling anabolic steroid reference guide ANABOLICS and CEO of Molecular Nutrition. William is an accomplished researcher/developer in the field of anabolic substances, and is also a longtime advocate for harm reduction and legislative change. He built the website, an extensive online database of information on anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.




1. Long term perturbation of endocrine parameters and cholesterol metabolism after discontinued abuse of anabolic androgenic steroids. Gårevik N, Strahm E et al. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 2011 Aug 22.


2. Therapeutic applications of ghrelin to cachexia utilizing its appetite-stimulating effect.

Akamizu T, Kangawa K. Peptides, E-pub, ahead of print


3. Ghrelin: Structure and Function. Masayasu Kojima and Kenji Kangawa. Physiol Rev April, 2005 vol. 85 no. 2 495-522











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