12 Steroid Cycles: For Beginners & Advanced Users

Dr George TouliatosDisclaimer: 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.


Novice weightlifters sometimes ask, “What are the best steroid cycles?”.

The correct answer to this depends on what someone hopes to achieve from a steroid cycle.

For example, if someone wanted to predominantly burn fat, they would take a drastically different cycle than someone who wanted to bulk up.

Furthermore, the best steroid cycle for a male may be completely different from an optimal cycle for a female, due to women wanting to avoid compounds that cause virilization.

In this guide, we will detail various steroid cycles tailored for:

  1. Beginners
  2. Advanced users
  3. Bulking and cutting

Beginner Steroid Cycles

A person’s best steroid cycle is almost always their first steroid cycle.

This is because their body has not had a chance to build up any tolerance to anabolic steroids, thus resulting in rapid and dramatic changes in body composition.

However, the first cycle can be the most damaging or destructive cycle in our experience, as the body hasn’t had a chance to adapt to AAS.

Therefore, the best steroid for beginners is one that has mild side effects yet is powerful enough to build significant amounts of muscle.

Note: Stacking steroids together is not a protocol generally adopted by beginners, as combining multiple compounds together often yields more severe side effects.

Disclosure: We do not accept any form of advertising on Inside Bodybuilding. We monetize our practice via doctor consultations and carefully chosen pharmaceutical recommendations, which have given our patients excellent results.

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Testosterone Cycle

A Testosterone-only cycle is the staple protocol for many beginner weightlifters.

This is due to testosterone producing significant muscle and strength gains while only causing mild side effects.

Thus, we find testosterone to have one of the greatest risk-reward ratios compared to other anabolics.

In terms of results, we often see cautiously dosed testosterone cycles adding 20+ pounds of lean mass to beginners. Testosterone will also cause some fat loss due to its androgenic nature.

Muscular strength can also increase by 50 pounds or more on various compound exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.

Unfortunately, testosterone isn’t the most convenient anabolic steroid for administration, with it being predominantly injectable. However, this method of entry means it can bypass the liver (unlike c-17 alpha-alkylated steroids), thus entering the bloodstream immediately. Consequently, testosterone causes little to no hepatotoxic effects, based on our liver function tests (1).

Note: Testosterone is available in oral form (known as Undecanoate or Andriol); however, this is less commonly used by bodybuilders due to its high market price.

testosterone first cycle

The above cycle is commonly used by novices looking to add substantial amounts of muscle and strength. Testosterone cypionate or enanthate are commonly used among beginners due to the fact that such esters do not require overly frequent injections.

We also find cypionate and enanthate injections to be less troublesome and painful compared to other variations of testosterone.

Testosterone Side Effects

  • Androgenic
  • Mild cardiotoxicity
  • Estrogenic
  • HPTA suppression

Testosterone is androgenic in nature; thus, we sometimes see inflammation of the prostate, acne vulgaris, and male pattern baldness in patients.

Testosterone can also skew HDL and LDL cholesterol ratios, potentially causing hypertension (2). However, we find increases in blood pressure to be typically mild compared to harsher AAS, with testosterone likely being the most cardiovascular-friendly steroid available.

Water retention is also probable due to testosterone having the aromatase enzyme present.

Therefore, when exogenous testosterone converts to estrogen, fluid can accumulate, causing bloating and puffy muscles. We have also seen testosterone cause gynecomastia; thus, estrogen levels may need to be controlled in sensitive users to avoid female breast tissue accumulation in the pectoral region.

Testosterone also causes hypogonadism, i.e., a significant decline in natural testosterone production (3); caused by the pituitary gland signaling to the testes. This process occurs due to excessive amounts of exogenous testosterone present in the bloodstream, and thus the body is trying to maintain homeostasis.

Anavar Cycle

Anavar (Oxandrolone) is classified as a cutting steroid in the bodybuilding community, often being utilized in competition prep.

It has anabolic effects in regard to muscle-building; however, such properties are only moderate compared to bulking steroids.

Instead, Anavar is primarily coveted due to its potent fat-burning properties, in addition to its ability to shed water, increasing vascularity and muscle tone.

Anavar’s ability to add lean muscle and strength while simultaneously stripping fat makes it popular among beginners. It is also an oral steroid, so no injections are required.

Anavar is also suitable for women, with it rarely causing virilization in low to moderate doses.

We typically see beginners gain 12–15 lbs of lean muscle while significantly reducing their body fat percentage with Anavar.

anavar only cycle

The above cycle is dosed for a male beginner. Women may take 10 mg/day for 4 weeks; however, anything higher than this increases the risk of masculinization in our experience.

Anavar Side Effects

  • Mild hepatotoxicity
  • Mild cholesterol alterations
  • Mild HPTA suppression

Anavar is a c-17 alpha-alkylated oral steroid; thus, it is processed by the liver upon absorption into the bloodstream.

However, Anavar’s hepatic effects are relatively mild compared to other oral steroids, based on our LFTs (liver function tests). Thus, hepatotoxicity is not generally a main concern with Anavar.

Anavar will alter a user’s cholesterol profile, causing imbalances in HDL and LDL levels. This can cause hypertension; however, BP is unlikely to rise to excessively high levels.

We find Anavar’s cardiovascular strain to be slightly higher than testosterone. This may be due to Anavar not converting to estrogen, being an oral drug, and thus stimulating hepatic lipase in the liver.

Anavar will also cause testosterone suppression. However, serum levels often peak back to normal levels within several weeks. The recovery process post-cycle is relatively short with Anavar due to testosterone production not being completely shut down.

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Bulking Steroid Cycles

bulking steroid cycle

Bulking cycles are utilized by bodybuilders seeking immense increases in muscle hypertrophy (size).

Many of these cycles are harsh on the body and are thus only suitable for intermediate and advanced users.

The only exception to this rule is a testosterone-only cycle, which we find to be the least risky bulking protocol. 

Dianabol Cycle

Dianabol is the famous oral steroid thought to be used by the ‘Austrian Oak’, aka Arnold Schwarzenegger, helping him to become a formidable force on the Mr. Olympia stage.

Dianabol was formulated by Dr. John Bosley Ziegler with the purpose of synthesizing a compound more anabolic than testosterone but less androgenic.

Thus, Dianabol will produce similar (if not slightly superior) results to testosterone in regard to muscular strength and size. However, it does not mimic the androgenic effects of testosterone, so the following incidents are less common among our patients:

  1. Prostate enlargement
  2. Male pattern baldness
  3. Acne vulgaris

Dianabol is sometimes taken by beginners (not recommended). When we see it implemented too early, harsh cardiovascular and hepatic effects often follow. Thus, it is more suited for intermediates who have already taken a milder steroid previously, such as testosterone.

Dianabol has the capacity to add 25–30 pounds of lean mass in a single cycle.

Strength will also reach new heights, with Dbol being one of the best steroids for raw power, according to our powerlifting patients.

dianabol cycle

Dianabol Side Effects

  • Significant hepatotoxicity
  • Estrogenic
  • Significant cardiotoxicity
  • Very suppressive (HPTA)

Dianabol is a toxic oral steroid; thus, we often see it having a detrimental effect on AST and ALT liver values.

Thus, a liver support supplement such as TUDCA can be taken to reduce such strain.

Dianabol aromatizes and thus has high estrogenic activity. Consequently, water retention and gynecomastia are possible side effects of high estrogen.

Dianabol will have a particularly negative effect on cholesterol, potentially causing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Water retention and stimulation of the hepatic lipase enzyme in the liver are the main culprits for such cardiovascular stress on Dianabol.

Our SHBG tests also show Dianabol shutting down testosterone levels, thus requiring an effective post-cycle therapy treatment to resurrect natural endogenous production.

Legal Dianabol Alternative

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D-Bal is our #1 rated legal Dianabol product. It replicates the muscle-building and strength-enhancing effects of Dianabol, but without the unwanted side effects.

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D-Bal is best suited for men wanting to build significant amounts of muscle; without shutting down their testosterone, straining their liver or elevating blood pressure levels.

Anadrol Cycle

Anadrol’s benefits largely mimic Dianabol’s, producing colossal increases in muscle hypertrophy and strength.

Anadrol is one of the most powerful bulking steroids available, typically producing slightly more weight accumulation compared to Dianabol.

It is also an oral steroid, making it a preferable compound for those looking to avoid needles.

Anecdotally, we often find first-time Anadrol cycles producing 30+ pounds of weight gain.

anadrol only cycle

Advanced steroid users may also take dosages reaching as high as 100 mg/day.

Anadrol Side Effects

  • Very cardiotoxic
  • Very hepatotoxic
  • Estrogenic
  • Very suppressive

Anadrol is not suitable for beginners, with it being one of the most toxic steroids available, causing large fluctuations in blood pressure and liver enzymes.

Anadrol is among the harshest steroids on the cardiovascular system that we have seen. It is also one of the most devastating AAS on the liver. Extreme caution must be used with this anabolic, particularly for users who regularly drink alcohol or have experienced high blood pressure in the past.

Anadrol is also a wet compound, causing noticeable amounts of extracellular fluid retention that may temporarily obscure muscle definition, making it a common off-season drug.

Anadrol is also estrogenic; however, this is not due to the aromatase enzyme being present, but instead, direct stimulation of the estrogen receptors.

We have found SERMs (selective estrogen receptor modulators) to be effective in reducing the chances of gynecomastia forming, as opposed to taking an AI (aromatase inhibitor).

Androgenic side effects are also common with Anadrol, despite its low androgenic rating of 45.

Therefore, male pattern baldness, seborrhoea (oily skin), acne vulgaris, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) may occur (4).

Anadrol will shut testosterone levels down, requiring a well-thought-out PCT to restore normal testosterone function. In our experience, failure to implement effective post-cycle therapy can result in low testosterone levels for several months or permanently (if abused).

Trenbolone Cycle

Trenbolone is a very unique bulking compound, as it:

  1. Does not convert to estrogen
  2. Causes weight gain that is virtually 100% lean muscle tissue.

If bodybuilders could choose one steroid to transform their bodies as quickly as possible, many of them would choose Trenbolone.

Trenbolone doesn’t cause any water retention, creating a very dry and ripped physique, despite being used primarily as a mass-building compound.

Therefore, the weight gain on Trenbolone won’t compete with Dianabol or Anadrol; however, strictly in terms of its ability to build muscle tissue, it is equally as powerful. One difference we see is that when users come off Trenbolone, they often maintain their weight, whereas, on Dianabol or Anadrol, they commonly experience water loss.

However, Trenbolone doesn’t just add muscle; it also burns fat fast due to its high androgenicity, which causes adipose tissue atrophy. This has resulted in Trenbolone also being utilized as a cutting steroid, enabling bodybuilders to accelerate fat loss while retaining (or even building) muscle on fewer calories.

trenbolone cycle

Trenbolone Side Effects

  • Very cardiotoxic
  • Very androgenic
  • Very suppressive

Trenbolone is one of the harshest steroids we have come across, unsurprisingly, as it produces remarkable results in its users.

Trenbolone is an injectable steroid; therefore, like Testosterone, it doesn’t pose any major risks to the liver.

However, it will cause huge surges in exogenous testosterone that fail to convert into estrogen, causing vast fluctuations in cholesterol and blood pressure.

Trenbolone will also shut down endogenous testosterone levels aggressively, causing male hypogonadism.

We have found incidents of acne vulgaris to be more prevalent on Trenbolone due to excessive stimulation of the sebaceous glands. We also see hair follicle loss occurring more often on Trenbolone versus other anabolic steroids, with it causing DHT (dihydrotestosterone) levels to rise exponentially.

To put Trenbolone’s androgenicity into perspective, its androgen rating is 500 (5x higher than Testosterone).

Trenbolone is also known to have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, causing thermogenesis (increased body temperature). This can result in adverse effects such as insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, increased sweating, and even paranoia in sensitive users.

Deca Durabolin Cycle

Deca Durabolin is another effective bulking steroid; however, it is best utilized in a stack due to its low androgenicity (usually cycled alongside Dianabol, Testosterone, or Anadrol).

Deca Durabolin increases nitrogen retention in muscle cells and enhances protein synthesis.

Deca Durabolin also causes exceptional muscle fullness, successfully shuttling more intracellular water inside the muscles.

It is difficult to assess the power of Deca Durabolin individually, as it is almost always stacked with other potent steroids. However, we find that when users remove Deca from a stack, they quickly notice a considerable difference.

Deca and Testosterone Cycles

testosterone deca cycle

In comparison to other bulking stacks, this combination of testosterone and Deca Durabolin will cause the fewest side effects. This cycle may be administered once a user is comfortable taking testosterone alone.
deca durabolin testosterone bottles

Deca Durabolin and Dianabol Cycle

dianabol deca stack

This duo was one of the most popular steroid cycles from the golden era, used by Arnold Schwarzenegger and other greats from the ’70s. This steroid cycle is suitable for an intermediate steroid user.

Deca Durabolin and Anadrol Cycle

deca anadrol cycle 2

The above cycle has relatively high dosages, which is reflective of it being utilized by an experienced steroid user (based on Anadrol’s high toxicity).

Deca Durabolin Side Effects

  • Mildly cardiotoxic
  • Impotence
  • Very suppressive

Deca Durabolin is an FDA-approved medication for muscle-wasting ailments, although it is illegal to use for bodybuilding purposes.

Its FDA approval is indicative of the drug’s mild nature, being regarded as one of the safest anabolic steroids on the market.

Our tests show that blood pressure will rise, albeit subtly, and more to the level of Anavar than other bulking compounds.

Liver stress is not a concern with Deca Durabolin, a non-hepatotoxic injectable steroid.

Deca Durabolin is notorious for causing sexual side effects (erectile dysfunction) in our male patients. This is commonly referred to as ‘Deca dick’.

Cases of ED are caused by Deca Durabolin’s weak androgenic nature, combined with high prolactin levels.

When androgens in the body are low, we see nitric oxide levels plummet, which are crucial for supplying blood flow to the penis.

Low nitric oxide levels can be counteracted by stacking Deca Durabolin with an androgenic steroid, such as Anadrol, Testosterone, or Trenbolone.

Deca also causes high prolactin levels in the bloodstream, which can cause low libido in men. We have found that supplementing with cabergoline, a dopamine receptor, has an inhibitory effect on prolactin.

Testosterone suppression is almost certainly going to be dramatic with Deca Durabolin, so ample time will be needed to recover post-cycle. During this period, a PCT should be utilized, and users should refrain from taking any other steroids until natural testosterone levels return to normal.

Cutting Steroid Cycles

cutting steroid cycle

The main objectives of a cutting cycle are to:

  1. Burn fat
  2. Retain muscle tissue.

Anavar and Trenbolone are very effective cutting cycles (that we have already documented above).

Below, we will list other steroid cycles that enhance fat-burning while simultaneously promoting muscle gain.

Winstrol Cycle

Winstrol (Stanozolol) has a similar steroid profile to Anavar, building moderate amounts of muscle while enabling users to burn significant amounts of fat.

Winstrol, like Anavar, doesn’t convert to estrogen and possesses diuretic qualities.

If a person is relatively lean, a Winstrol cycle has the power to get them into the low single digits of body fat, in conjunction with intense workouts and a disciplined diet.

We find Winstrol to be slightly stronger than Anavar in terms of its benefits and side effects.

Thus, users will build slightly more muscle while experiencing harsher side effects. Therefore, Winstrol is not for beginners or the faint-hearted.

winstrol cycle

Winstrol Side Effects

  • Very cardiotoxic
  • Very hepatotoxic
  • Joint issues
  • Very suppressive

Our lipid profiles have shown Winstrol to cause hefty shifts in cholesterol. Thus, users should expect a significant rise in blood pressure. This may also be visibly apparent, with the skin becoming flushed and taking on a pink color.

We have also seen Winstrol cause joint pain due to excess flushing of water out of the body, which acts as a cushion for the joints.

This ‘drying out’ effect (of the joints) is the opposite effect of Deca Durabolin and may not complement bodybuilders who enjoy lifting heavy.

Winstrol also decreases collagen production, increasing the risk of injury and accelerating the aging process.

Winstrol causes significant hepatotoxicity; thus, cycles should be kept relatively short to avoid excessive damage to the liver. Winstrol should not be stacked with any other oral steroids to prevent the onset of jaundice or liver cholestasis.

Testosterone levels will also decrease, reducing the quantity and quality of sperm. Avoid regular steroid cycles containing potent AAS, like Winstrol, to give the body enough time to recover. Failing to do so can result in low testosterone or infertility.

Women should avoid Winstrol, as we find females are prone to masculinization (at least in moderate dosages).

Primobolan Cycle

Primobolan is a mild anabolic steroid available in oral or injectable form.

It is very similar to Anavar in that it produces few side effects while promoting moderate amounts of muscle tissue and fat loss.

Primobolan will not replicate the rapid and impressive results of Winstrol or Trenbolone but instead is a safer option for the more ‘health-conscious’ steroid user (if such a thing exists).

We saw Primobolan widely used during the golden era when bodybuilders were dieting down for a show. However, more potent cutting compounds are preferred today among IFBB pros.

Primobolan can add up to 10 pounds of muscle while providing noticeable fat loss. Primobolan, like Anavar, is a female-friendly steroid unlikely to produce virilization effects in our experience.

primobolan only cycle

The above cycle is tailored for men. We have seen many women take 50–75 mg/day without experiencing masculinization. 

Primobolan Side Effects

  • Mild HPTA suppression
  • Mild cardiotoxicity
  • Mild hepatotoxicity

Primobolan will cause some testosterone suppression, albeit very mild compared to other AAS.

It also causes a mild peak in blood pressure, which we find manageable for most users (especially those who perform regular cardio).

Primobolan is not a c-17 alpha-alkylated compound; thus, despite being available in oral form, it does not provide high levels of stress to the liver.

Primobolan is also commonly stacked with Anavar and Testosterone for enhanced results.

Clenbuterol Cycle

Clenbuterol isn’t a steroid but instead a bronchodilator; it is prescribed in medicine to optimize breathing in asthma patients.

Due to clenbuterol displaying anabolic effects (at least in research), it is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a cutting steroid.

However, clenbuterol’s most potent effects in our experience are fat loss and its metabolic effects.

Clenbuterol stimulates the nervous system, triggering lipolysis via the process of thermogenesis.

A user’s body core temperature increases for several weeks, resulting in their basal metabolic rate shooting up.

In this case, we detect patients’ body temperatures increasing by 1 degree. However, once the body eventually cools itself back down (in approximately 4-6 weeks), fat loss ceases.

This is why some bodybuilders only choose to cycle clenbuterol for short periods, being as little as 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off.

As clenbuterol doesn’t greatly affect hormone levels, women can also take it in the same dosages without any complications, such as affecting their femininity.

clenbuterol cycle

Clenbuterol Side Effects

  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Anxiety
  • Increased sweating

We have seen clenbuterol elevate the heart rate to very high levels (>120 BPM) and cause cardiac hypertrophy. Thus, dosages should be increased gradually to assess how a person responds to this drug.

Anxiety, insomnia, and depression are common complaints that can be attributed to overstimulation of the nervous system and excess adrenaline output.

Any supplement used to reduce the heart rate, in a bid to prevent such side effects, may also reduce fat loss (as the thermogenic effect is reduced or lost).

Advanced Steroid Cycles

Note: These steroid cycles should only be attempted by experienced bodybuilders who are healthy and have built up a tolerance to AAS.

Any steroid cycle that contains Anadrol, Superdrol, Trenbolone, or Winstrol in a stack can be considered an advanced cycle, as these are potent steroids (even when taken alone).

Anadrol / Testosterone / Trenbolone Cycle

anadrol test tren cycle

This is the most potent bulking cycle that advanced users can administer.

It combines three of the most powerful mass-building steroids simultaneously, causing incredible results in terms of raw strength and size.

This cycle is also a very desirable trio for powerlifters looking to set new PRs (no matter what their experience level).

However, we often find patients’ labs deteriorating with this trio; thus, if someone were to implement this stack, it should be done very rarely.

We encourage our readers not to use such cycles due to the long-term implications of such drugs.

Winstrol / Proviron / Trenbolone Cycle

advanced cutting steroid cycle

This is the most potent cutting steroid cycle a bodybuilder can take (suitable only for advanced users). We often see men utilizing such a stack in preparation for a bodybuilding competition, where exceptionally low levels of body fat are rewarded.

A cycle like this will cause users to see their bodies change rapidly before their eyes, with diuretic, fat-burning, and muscle-building effects taking place simultaneously.

This cycle should only be utilized when a person is already lean and thus looking to get increasingly ripped. This cycle may not be appreciated by someone higher in body fat, as although it would stimulate considerable weight loss, the diuretic effects would be more difficult to gauge.

FAQ

Can Alcohol Be Consumed During Steroid Cycles?

Alcohol generally should be avoided during steroid cycles, as it will exacerbate hepatic strain, depending on how much alcohol is consumed.

Oral anabolic steroids are already hepatotoxic, so combining them with alcohol or other substances that elevate ALT/AST enzymes could lead to liver complications.

Co Authors :

(1) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13685538.2020.1867094

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3647368/

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7219134/

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6230458/