6 Anavar Side Effects & How to Combat Them
Disclaimer: The following article is for educational purposes only and does not promote the use of illegal steroids. If you have any questions or concerns, Dr. Touliatos is currently available for consultation.
Anavar (Oxandrolone) is one of the most popular anabolic steroids in the world, thanks to its ability to add lean muscle mass while simultaneously stripping subcutaneous and visceral fat.
Furthermore, in our experience treating various professional strongmen and powerlifters, Anavar’s effects on muscular strength are often understated. Thus, it is regularly a staple compound in many powerlifters’ pre-competition stacks.
Our male patients take Anavar to become leaner, fuller, stronger, and bigger. Our female patients take Anavar for the same reasons; however, it is arguably more coveted by women due to it being one of the few steroids that do not cause masculinization (in moderate dosages).
Anavar’s popularity doesn’t just stem from the compound’s positive effect on body composition but also from its safety profile.
Anavar is an FDA-approved anabolic steroid; thus, it is considered safe to use when prescribed by a doctor in therapeutic dosages. Such approval is indicative of its mild nature, with women and children successfully taking this oral steroid in clinical trials with few side effects (1).
However, bodybuilders are known to purchase Anavar illegally via the black market, presenting greater risks, with doctors only issuing prescriptions for patients suffering from cachexia (2) or osteoporosis (3).
Thus, Anavar’s side effects can be more pronounced when purchasing non-pharmaceutical products due to a lack of regulation and safety measures when formulating oxandrolone. Bodybuilders are also known to take high dosages (above the therapeutic threshold) without the supervision of a doctor.
Legal Anavar Alternative
The side effects below are ones we have seen and treated at our clinic. The extent of the following is often determined by a user’s genetics, training, diet, dosage, and cycle length.
We often find that high doses of Anavar, combined with an unhealthy lifestyle, cause adverse reactions (which may become evident in a user’s next health checkup).
In contrast, we have had healthy individuals taking moderate doses of Anavar not notice any side effects, with test scores falling within a normal range.
In our experience, oral anabolic steroids generally have more devastating effects on cholesterol (compared to injectables) due to the stimulation of hepatic lipase in the liver.
Our lipid profiles show that low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels do not rise excessively on Anavar, making it a more cardiovascular-friendly oral steroid.
A notable increase in blood pressure is still to be expected, which will be regulated back to normal levels post-cycle. Thus, users can anticipate some cardiovascular strain, marginally increasing the risk of myocardial infarction.
Therefore, we advise individuals with existing high blood pressure or those genetically prone to heart disease to refrain from taking Anavar (or any other anabolic steroid).
Individuals with healthy blood lipids are unlikely to experience any cardiac-related issues on Anavar in the short term.
However, users should always look to minimize cardiotoxicity by performing regular cardiovascular exercise combined with a diet rich in unsaturated fats, low in saturated fats, and low in sodium.
2. Liver Toxicity
Anavar is a c-17 alpha-alkylated steroid, so alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) enzymes do inevitably rise after our patient’s liver function tests.
However, due to the mild nature of Anavar and the kidneys also working to process the compound, hepatic stress is typically very manageable.
Some bodybuilders at our clinic choose to supplement with Tauroursodeoxycholic Acid (TUDCA) for additional protection, with a dosage of 500 mg/day, or NAC (N-acetylcysteine) at 1,200 mg/day.
Users shouldn’t combine Anavar with hepatotoxic medications or alcohol in a bid to prevent further liver inflammation. Also, users should not take Anavar if their liver is already in an inflamed or injured state.
Generally, we have found that the degree of liver stress on Anavar is not problematic for most users, as the organ is very resilient. ALT/AST enzymes will typically drop back into a normal range quickly post-cycle.
3. Testosterone Suppression
Despite men having significantly more testosterone than women, we have found testosterone suppression to impact both men and women, with this hormone remaining crucial for a woman’s libido, energy, and well-being.
Anavar is one of the least suppressive anabolic steroids in our experience; however, endogenous testosterone will still decrease notably due to impairment of the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis (HPTA).
Thus, men and women can experience temporary sexual dysfunction, decreased libido, lethargy, and depression post-cycle.
Our labs show that Anavar does not completely shut down testosterone levels. Thus, the recovery period is typically short (several weeks) before natural testosterone levels rebound back to normal levels.
Due to the mild nature of Anavar, some of our patients do not experience any noticeable side effects or comedown post-cycle and thus will not feel the need to administer post-cycle therapy (PCT).
However, for those looking to accelerate endogenous testosterone production and restore the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis, medications such as Clomid or Nolvadex may be utilized.
4. Excessive Pumps
One of the aesthetic benefits of Anavar is increased glycogen storage, causing bigger pumps (in and out of the gym).
A ‘pumped-up’ look may be visually pleasing for a bodybuilder; however, it can also be uncomfortable or even painful when working out due to excessive muscle fullness.
Painful pumps, particularly in the lower back, are not uncommon when performing deadlifts on Anavar. Thus, users should be cautious about incorporating short rest times in between sets or performing high rep ranges during workouts.
One solution we have found to successfully combat excessive fluid retention is to significantly lower carbohydrate intake, resulting in decreased intracellular fluid volume.
Another option is to take a diuretic; however, we do not recommend this as users can further strain their kidneys, increasing the risk of renal disorders (4).
5. Kidney Toxicity
Anavar is unique compared to other anabolic steroids, as the kidneys share more of the workload when processing oxandrolone upon entry.
The advantage of this is that we find less hepatic (liver) inflammation, but the disadvantage is that we observe increased renal (kidney) inflammation.
Thus, Anavar presents a risk of acute or chronic kidney injury (5) should it be abused, i.e., taken in high dosages or for an excessively long time (beyond 8 weeks).
For optimal kidney health, we recommend users get regular checkups before, during, and after Anavar cycles to monitor serum creatinine levels.
Also, we notice that the more diligent Anavar users are in regard to their cardiovascular health (performing regular cardio exercise, reducing sodium intake, etc.), the healthier their kidneys are.
This is because high blood pressure damages blood vessels in the kidneys, causing nephron tubules to die, which are the kidney cells needed to filter water out of the body (6).
Despite Anavar generally being a well-tolerated steroid by women, if taken in prolonged cycles (>5 weeks) or in high dosages (>10 mg/day), we have seen it cause masculinization.
Such virilizing side effects can include a deepened voice, breast shrinkage, enlargement of the clitoris, and hair growth on the body. Menstrual cycles can also become irregular (7).
The best way to avoid virilization is to take conservative dosages and use Anavar sporadically in cycles rather than continuously using it for several months at a time.
In our experience, the three anabolic steroids that cause the least side effects are:
Anavar is a relatively mild anabolic steroid, with men, women, and children taking this steroid safely and effectively in a medical environment.
However, bodybuilders should not be complacent regarding the potential negative effects of Anavar, especially as it is often counterfeited on the black market, commonly being switched for methandrostenolone (Dianabol).
In such an instance, Anavar is listed on the label, but Dianabol is the true compound. This can present increased risks, especially in regard to cholesterol, liver values, and virilization in women.
Furthermore, we have seen bodybuilders who choose to abuse Anavar or stack it with highly toxic anabolic steroids exacerbate its side effects, resulting in a downturn in health.
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