The Complete Guide To Anabolic Steroids – Dosages, Safety, First Cycle

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Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are an extremely hot topic in fitness right now. Steroid use varies from professional athletes to ordinary people seeking optimal performance. As of recently, bodybuilders, in particular, have opened up about their usage. This leads ordinary people to question what the best cutting steroids are, or the best for putting on size. Throughout this guide, I will be describing several different anabolic steroids and their applications. 


Keep in mind that I do not condone the use of performance-enhancing drugs at all. In fact, I recommend staying natural as long as possible. Anabolics are illegal in most places, so you must be very careful with them. Lastly, I am not a doctor, so do not take any of this information as medical advice. This article is strictly for educational purposes.

Intended Use

Believe it or not, most steroids were once used medically, and some are still used medically. From a medical standpoint, most anabolics are used to fight muscle wasting diseases, cancer, or severe burns. The point is to maintain muscle and keep the body strong while you’re immobilized. 


In terms of fitness or sports, steroids are almost always used to increase muscle mass, strength, and overall performance. For bodybuilders specifically, PEDs are used for cutting weight pre-contest and putting on mass in the offseason. 


Lastly, the most common use of steroids is for testosterone replacement therapy. Men with low testosterone will be prescribed to take low dosages on a weekly basis. For many men, this makes a huge difference in the quality of life and overall well-being.

Injectables vs. Orals

There are injectable steroids and oral steroids, and there are several differences between them. Generally speaking, injectables will need to be administered less often, but this is not always the case. Administration frequency is dependent on the compound half-life. 


Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is how they affect the liver. Oral steroids are usually processed by your liver, and this can quickly lead to poor liver function. Injectable steroids, on the other hand, are normally less harsh on the liver. 


Oral steroids are usually never taken by themselves unless you’re a woman experimenting with anabolics. The reason for this is because your testosterone levels will crash without a testosterone base. There is a lack of aromatization if you take orals by themselves. For this reason, most people will pair testosterone injections with orals of their choice. 


In terms of administration, orals are swallowed with a liquid-like most other pills. Injectable steroids can be shot intramuscularly or subcutaneously. 


Here is a list of common oral steroids: 


  • Anavar

  • Winstrol

  • Dianabol

  • Anadrol 

  • Halotestin

  • Proviron


Common injectable steroids include: 


  • Testosterone Cypionate, Propionate, and Enanthate. 

  • Trenbolone Acetate

  • Equipoise

  • Primobolan

  • Deca-Durabolin

The Different Testosterone Esters

There are many different testosterone esters, and although they all serve the same purpose, they have different half-lives. The three main esters are prescribed medically and taken recreationally depending on how the body responds. 


Testosterone Cypionate: A slow-acting testosterone ester that is commonly prescribed for TRT and hormone therapy. Testosterone Cypionate is marketed as Depo-Test and it has an elimination half-life of 8 days. Because of its slow mechanism of action, Cypionate is not used as much for bodybuilding as other esters. The long half-life also means it will take longer to reach peak testosterone saturation. 


Testosterone enanthate: probably the most common ester used for bodybuilding purposes. In fact, most beginner steroid cycles recommend testosterone enanthate because of the moderately long half-life. This ester is also used for TRT and hormone therapy. The half-life is around 4-5 days, and the most common brand name is Delatestryl. If you know someone taking testosterone, there’s a good chance it’s this ester. 


Testosterone Propionate: this is the shortest acting ester of testosterone that is commonly used. Most of the time, people will use testosterone Propionate to ensure that their blood-serum levels do not fluctuate. The half-life of this ester is approximately 20 hours, so it is not commonly prescribed for TRT or hormone therapy. A short half-life means you will have to pin yourself more often, so doctors try to avoid this with their patients. Nonetheless, Propionate is a common choice for bodybuilders because high testosterone levels can be maintained with ease. The most common brand name for this ester is Testoviron. 


Sustanon 250: Sustanon 250 is a combination of four testosterone esters that is hardly ever prescribed medically in the United States. It is composed of Testosterone Decanoate, Propionate, Phenylpropionate, and Isocaproate. The half-life for the compound as a whole is not set in stone because each ester has a different half-life. Sustanon is most commonly prescribed for testosterone replacement therapy in the United Kingdom. The combination of four different esters makes this a common choice amongst bodybuilders.

testosterone esters - best cutting steroids
Top Left: Cypionate, Top Right: Enanthate, Bottom: Propionate

Dianabol (Dbol)

Metandienone, also known as Dianabol or Dbol, is a common oral steroid used for gaining muscle and strength. In the 1950s, Dbol was used medically to treat hypogonadism in men, but now it is only used recreationally. Although Dianabol is considered a controlled substance in the United States, you can purchase this compound legally in Mexico and several Asian countries. 


Dbol is typically used alongside testosterone during the first half of a contest-prep cycle as a way to kickstart the cycle. The compound has a moderately high anabolic to androgenic ratio, so you can expect to gain a substantial amount of muscle and strength. Dianabol is also used in the off-season by bodybuilders who are looking to put on more size. 


One of the main characteristics associated with Dbol use is the “moon face”. People who take this compound will generally hold a lot of water and look puffy. This puffiness also affects your face and makes it look fuller and wider, hence the name “moon face”. 


The half-life for Dianabol is about 3-6 hours, so generally, you will have to break up your dosage throughout the day. You can take anywhere between 30-50mg of Dbol per day, and it’s best to split this into two or three separate dosages. For the first few weeks of a cycle, you can start on the lower end of this range and gradually work your way up. 


Note that Dianabol is moderately androgenic and estrogenic, so there are certain side effects to be aware of. They include: 


  • Gynecomastia 

  • Water retention 

  • Hair loss 

  • Acne 

  • Oily skin 

  • Body-hair growth


Like all oral steroids, a testosterone base is necessary if you’re considering taking this compound. The absence of exogenous testosterone will result in a shutdown.

Anavar (Var)

Oxandrolone, generically known as Anavar or Var, is another oral steroid with a huge claim to fame. Anavar is known primarily for its lack of androgenic side effects, thus making it one of the more common steroids for women. Oxandrolone is one of the few anabolic steroids mentioned in this article that still sees medical use today. It is commonly used to treat burn victims or trauma victims as it helps them gain weight. 


There is a reason why Anavar is still used medically, and that is because it’s generally safe when administered correctly. Although all oral steroids are hepatoxic, Anavar is not nearly as harsh as Winstrol, Dbol, or Anadrol. Furthermore, the minimal androgenic side effects and hepatoxicity make it a no-brainer for medical professionals. 


Anavar is often regarded as one of the best cutting steroids because it contributes to a very dry and grainy appearance. The strength gains from Oxandrolone are also above average, but not as significant as Dianabol. Like all oral steroids, a testosterone base is necessary or else your blood serum levels will completely crash. 


Both men and women can take Anavar, but the dosages are going to be way different. For men, you can take anywhere between 30-50mg each day in the beginning. As your cycle progresses, you can continue to increase the dosage, but most pro bodybuilders do not exceed 100mg a day. 


For women, you must be very careful and aware of the androgenic side effects. It is best to start small and take 5-10mg each day depending on your coach’s recommendations. Even 5mg a day will make a substantial difference in your physique as a woman, so you must tread carefully. If you experience androgenic side effects like deepening of the voice or body-hair growth, you should cut the dose or stop immediately. 


 The side-effects of Anavar are generally the same as all other oral steroids. They include: 


  • Hair loss 

  • Deepening of the voice 

  • Increased body-hair growth 

  • Clitoral enlargement in women 

  • Stunted growth in children

  • Acne 

  • Oily skin 


Unlike Dianabol, you do not really have to worry about water retention or gynecomastia when taking Anavar. If anything, Var dries you out, and the lack of androgenicity makes gyno less likely to occur.

Winstrol (Winny)

Stanozolol, also known as Winstrol or “Winny”, is both an oral and injectable steroid but more common as an oral. Winstrol is similar to Anavar in the sense that it creates a dry, hard look when paired with testosterone. For this reason, Winstrol is a great cutting steroid, and it is often used in contest prep by bodybuilders. 


Winstrol is not widely used medically, but it is currently being evaluated as a treatment option for osteoporosis, lipodermatosclerosis, and angioedema. This compound is metabolized in the liver, so it is quite hepatoxic, and thus there are better options to use medically. When you take Stanozolol, an astounding 84% of the compound is excreted through the urine. It has a half-life of 9 hours when taken orally. 


Winny is twice as androgenic compared to Anavar, so women should generally never take this steroid. With that being said, a common Winstrol dosage for bodybuilders is between 25-80mg each day, but 50mg is a common dose. Unlike Dianabol, Winstrol does not readily convert to estrogen, so fluid retention and gynecomastia are less likely to occur. 


Common Side Effects Include:


  • Virilization (deepening of the voice, body hair growth, developing masculine features.)

  • Imbalanced liver enzymes or liver failure

  • Acne

  • Oily skin 

  • Male pattern balding 


You can expect strength and muscle gains, but also a greater likelihood of developing the above side-effects. Once again, females should avoid Winstrol because there is no doubt you will develop man-like features.

Anadrol (Drol or Adrol)

Oxymetholone, otherwise known as Anadrol, is an oral steroid that is commonly used for increasing strength. High-level powerlifters like Larry Wheels have admitted to taking Anadrol because it helps crush plateaus. The drug was used throughout the 1960s to treat osteoporosis and anemia, but today it is not used much medically. Anadrol is extremely powerful and boasts many androgenic side effects, so medical professionals prefer to use nonsteroidal drugs for these conditions. 


In terms of dosage, Oxymetholone is marketed as a 50mg pill, and most people will not exceed this. Some bodybuilders and high-level powerlifters take up to 100mg each day, but liver toxicity is more likely at this dosage. Although Anadrol is a DHT derivative and technically cannot convert into estrogen, it still brings estrogenic side effects. 


Some common side-effects include: 


  • Hepatotoxicity / Jaundice 

  • Male pattern hair loss

  • Changes in mood 

  • Virilization 

  • Gynecomastia, although rare

  • Insomnia 

  • Diarrhea 

  • Lethargy 


More than anything, you can expect to gain weight on Anadrol. It is one of the most powerful anabolic steroids in terms of gaining muscle mass and strength, but you must have a testosterone bass. Unless being treated medically, women should avoid this steroid as to avoid developing masculine features.

Primobolan (Primo)

Metenolone Enanthate, also known as Primobolan Depot or Primo, is both an injectable and oral steroid. Primobolan sees more use intramuscularly compared to orally, and it was extremely popular throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Most pharmaceutical companies have discontinued the production of this drug, but it is sometimes prescribed in Spain and Turkey.


In terms of medical use, Primo was first used as a treatment for anemia as a result of bone marrow failure. Today, it has been studied as a form of breast cancer treatment, but other drugs are used for anemia. 


You might recognize Primobolan as one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s steroids of choice. There are several interviews where he comments on the effectiveness of metenolone compared to other anabolics. Arnold specifically liked Primo because of the lack of androgenic and estrogenic side effects. 


Primobolan is often known as one of the most faked steroids. Because production is limited, it’s often hard for people to find the real deal. This applies to both the intramuscular form and metenolone acetate which is the oral form. The tendency to counterfeit this steroid makes real Primo expensive and hard to come by. 


This steroid is known to have less androgenic side effects than other injectables. Furthermore, the oral form is not metabolized by the liver, so the chance of hepatotoxicity is low. Regardless, it is still a moderately strong anabolic that can result in side effects. 


Most notably:


  • Virilization 

  • Acne 

  • Oily skin 

  • Gynecomastia, although very unlikely


Several golden era bodybuilders have reported using Primo without a testosterone base. Although exogenous testosterone is always recommended, Primobolan is a rare exception to requiring it. This compound is known for the hard, dry look that it creates, so it is one of the best cutting steroids. 


The dosage depends on whether or not you choose to stack testosterone with this compound. 200-700mg each week is fairly common, but most users will settle between 250-500mg weekly.

Trenbolone Acetate (Tren)

Trenbolone Acetate is widely known as the king of anabolic steroids because of its anabolic properties. Although it has no medical human application, it is widely used in veterinary medicine. Common brand names for Tren include Finajet and Finaplix. 


Tren is widely known throughout the bodybuilding community. It’s the topic for memes and sayings such as “eat clean and Tren hard”. Trenbolone Acetate is without a doubt the most powerful anabolic steroids you can get your hands on. If there is any PED that contributes to a greek-god-like physique, then this is the one. 


Chances are that your physique will look better on Tren than any other anabolic. It is one of the steroids of choice for both bodybuilders and fitness models like David Laid and Jon Skywalker. Unfortunately, with great results comes great consequences as this steroid has some nasty side-effects. 


Trenbolone is a potent anabolic, but it is also very androgenic. You will certainly need an aromatase inhibitor to minimize the side effects if you plan on taking Tren. 


Here are some of the common Trenbolone side-effects: 


  • Trouble sleeping 

  • “Tren Rage” or an increase in anger 

  • Profuse sweating 

  • Gynecomastia 

  • Virilization 

  • Dry-cough, also known as “Tren cough”

  • Increased sex drive 

  • Lactation (producing breast milk) 


As you can tell, you will experience all of the normal steroid-related side-effects but to a greater extent. There is also speculation that Trenbolone causes hippocampal neurons to undergo programmed cell death after being exposed to the compound. This implies that Trenbolone usage may contribute to certain neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Derek from More Plates More Dates on youtube does a great job of explaining this topic in the video below. 

 Just like testosterone, there are multiple esters of trenbolone, although acetate is the more common one. Trenbolone Enanthate is the other common ester which has never been approved for human or animal applications. The half-life of Tren Acetate is 3 days intramuscularly, while Enanthate is around 5 days. 


Trenbolone can take your physique to an elite level, but it is important to understand the risks you are taking when you start a tren cycle. You will definitely experience side-effects on this steroid, so you must ensure that you know how to run a cycle properly. A typical cycle would be 300mg of tren acetate each week paired with your normal testosterone dosage. Like most steroids, you should definitely have a testosterone base.

Equipoise (EQ)

Equipoise is otherwise known as the horse steroid because of its extensive use in veterinary medicine. For the past couple of decades, Equipoise has surged in popularity as a pre-contest staple for bodybuilding. In the last few weeks before a contest, most bodybuilders will drop their testosterone and raise their EQ to eliminate subcutaneous water. This compound is particularly good for maintaining size. 


EQ has a high anabolic to androgenic ratio, and it is similar to the Primobolan in the sense that it does not cause any liver damage. You can still expect several androgenic side-effects, but the estrogenic side-effects will be fairly mild. 


Common Side Effects: 


  • Virilization 

  • Increased sexual drive 

  • Acne 

  • Oily skin


When administered intramuscularly, the half-life for Equipoise (Boldenone undecylenate) is 14 days. Compared to other anabolic steroids, EQ has a relatively long half-life, so most people only pin it once or twice each week. The dosages can vary from person to person, but some bodybuilders work up to as high as 800mg each week. Paired with a testosterone base, doses as low as 250mg can be effective.

Deca-Durabolin (Deca)

Nandrolone decanoate, also known as Deca-Durabolin or 19-nortestosterone, is one of the most popular anabolic steroids of all time. Deca is only administered intramuscularly and it has seen medical use since being discovered in the 1960s. From a medical standpoint, Deca-Durabolin is used to anemia, severe burns, osteoporosis, and AIDS wasting syndrome. 


Deca is arguably in the top three bodybuilding PEDs of all time. Guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lee Priest took Deca throughout their years, and it worked great for them. Deca-Durabolin is known as one of the best bulking steroids, so it is often used in the off-season. 


Nandrolone decanoate has a half-life of 6-12 days, so it often administered once a week. Deca is very anabolic while having weak androgenic and estrogenic side effects. In fact, Deca-Durabolin has the highest anabolic to androgenic ratio alongside Anavar. Regardless of the lack of androgenicity, you can still expect some side-effects from this compound that are different from other steroids. 


More than anything, Deca is known for causing “Deca dick”. Deca dick is essentially erectile dysfunction, or the inability to achieve and hold an erection. A majority of men are sensitive to 19-nortestosterone, and because of this certain side-effects are more likely. Deca dick can be prevented by keeping the dosage relatively low and adding Cabergoline to your cycle. 


Besides Deca dick, the side-effects you can expect from this compound include: 


  • Virilization 

  • Increased HDL cholesterol levels

  • Increased red blood cell production

  • Oily skin 

  • Acne

  • Reduced testicle size 


Deca-Durabolin is always paired with a testosterone base. A typical Deca cycle would be 400-500mg of testosterone each week paired with 250-300mg of Deca each week. Exceeding this dosage puts you at a greater likelihood of contracting Deca dick. Although women are sometimes given this steroid for medical conditions, it’s best to avoid for bodybuilding purposes to prevent virilization.

Best Beginner Steroid Cycle

There is a lot of debate across the internet about the best steroid cycle for beginners. Generally, it is best to stick with the basics and do a testosterone-only cycle for your first time. Sticking with testosterone will provide you with a general idea of how your body responds to anabolic compounds. 


A testosterone only cycle is also the safest cycle you can run. Exogenous testosterone has been used medically for decades, and your body produces the hormone naturally. Assuming that you run the cycle correctly, there is a minimal risk that anything bad will happen. 


The wiki on the steroids subreddit does a great job of explaining how to run your first cycle. If you gather the materials below and follow the information correctly, the chance of side-effects is very low. 


What you will need: 


  • 3 10mL vials of Testosterone Enanthate or Testosterone Cypionate (vials are usually dosed at 250mg/mL) 

  • Arimidex or Aromasin to act as an aromatase inhibitor 

  • Alcohol Swabs

  • Insulin Syringes or Leur-Lock Syringes 

  • Several 21-gauge or 25-gauge needles 

  • PCT medication like Nolvadex or Clomid 


You can choose between Enanthate and Cypionate because the two have similar half-lives and are fairly long-acting. Moreover, you have the choice between insulin syringes and regular Leur-Lock syringes. Many experienced individuals will recommend insulin syringes because it’s faster and easier to draw from the vial. 


Dosage and Timing: 


The three vials of testosterone will be more than enough for your first cycle. It’s recommended that you run the cycle for 12-15 weeks your first time so that you get the greatest results. 


  • 500mg Testosterone Enanthate or Cypionate weekly (250mg every 3 days).

  • 0.5mg Arimidex or 12.5 mg of Aromasin every 3 days (starting on week 2).

  • Post-Cycle: 20mg Nolvadex every day OR 25mg Clomid every day for 6-8 weeks.


Considering that you will get the most prominent results from your first cycle, it’s best to run it for 12-15 weeks. Some people will say 8 weeks is sufficient, but in this case, you want to get the best results as possible. You should gather the above materials so that you have enough of everything for at least 12 weeks. 


If your diet and training are on point, you can expect to gain 15-20 pounds of muscle on your first cycle. Generally, it is best practice to be as lean as possible before you start. Lastly, if you follow the above advice, you will not likely have any side-effects to worry about.


Post-Cycle Therapy (PCT)

PCT is necessary after most steroid cycles to get your testosterone levels back to normal. It will also help keep your estrogen in check. Without a proper PCT, you will most definitely be shutdown and experience low-testosterone symptoms. There is a chance that you can return to baseline without a PCT, but it will take quite a long time. 


The most common PCT drugs are known as SERMs or selective estrogen receptor modulators. Below are the SERMs most commonly used for PCT. 


Nolvadex (Tamoxifen) – Nolva is used to treat breast cancer in women, but it’s also the most popular PCT drug. After a cycle, take 20mg of Nolvadex every day for 6-8 weeks. 40mg daily for the first two weeks followed by 20mg daily for the last 6 weeks is also effective. 


Clomid (Clomiphene) – Clomid is used to treat infertility, but it’s also common for post-cycle therapy. After a cycle, take 25mg of Clomid every day or 50mg every other day for 6-8 weeks. 


Torem (Toremifene citrate) – Although not as common as Clomid or Nolvadex, Torem can also be used for PCT. Torem is also a SERM and is not to be confused with Torsemide. Similar to Nolvadex, Torem is used to treat late-stage breast cancer but studies have proven it to be effective for PCT. Torem should be dosed at 60mg every day for 6-8 weeks.

Pharmaceutical Grade vs. UGL Grade

If you choose to do anabolic steroids, you must be very conscious of the source and quality. Ideally, you want to be taking pharmaceutical grade products because they are of the highest quality. Underground lab (UGL) is not as high of quality and the source is unknown.  


Pharmaceutical: Produced in a lab designed for a pharmaceutical company. Think of large corporations like Bayer and Pfizer, and those are considered pharmaceutical grade. Always opt for pharmaceutical grade steroids if possible. Pharma grade products are FDA approved. 


Underground Lab (UGL) – The source and quality of these steroids are unknown, so you should avoid these like the plague. Although you may be getting a legitimate product, there’s no way to know for sure. Anyone can set up an underground lab in their basement and produce tainted steroids, so you must be very careful.


Whenever you’re taking exogenous testosterone, it is good practice to get bloodwork throughout your cycle. The point of bloodwork is to make sure that your cholesterol, estrogen, testosterone, and liver enzyme levels are stable. For any cycle, it is best to get blood work a total of three times. Once before the cycle for your baseline levels, once during, and once around the PCT period.  


If you’re unsure about your bloodwork, simply ask your physician how everything looks. He or she will be able to tell you how your levels compare to the averages.

Alternatives To Anabolic Steroids

If you’re not quite ready to take the leap and get on steroids, there are plenty of good alternatives. First of all, you should have a general idea of your goals. Do you strictly want to bulk up and put on muscle mass, or do you want to get lean? Once you figure this out, identifying effective supplements is easy. 


If you’re trying to lose weight, I recommend looking into Phen24. It is the furthest thing from a steroid, but the proprietary blend can help you speed up your metabolism. The caffeine and other natural ingredients suppress your appetite. 


People often wonder what the best legal steroids are. There is no such thing as legal steroids because even SARMs are outlawed now in most places. The closest thing to a legal steroid is creatine because of its muscle-building properties.

Closing Remarks

More people are starting to open up about their steroid use, which is great from an educational standpoint. When professional bodybuilders describe the gear they take, you can get a good idea for what the standards are in the industry. Throughout this article, I have several of the best anabolic steroids whether you plan on cutting or bulking. 


Remember that this information is for educational purposes only. None of this information should be taken as medical advice, and you should consult a physician with any questions or concerns. Furthermore, the dosages described here are consistent with professional bodybuilding, powerlifting, and some sports. This means that many of the dosages are different if a compound is used medically. 


Be aware of the consequences and side-effects that steroids can impose. If you are under the age of 25, steroid use is absolutely not recommended. The same can be said for women with the exception of certain mild compounds. 


You should research extensively before starting to take steroids. This article is a great starting point, but the chemistry behind anabolics is truly complex. There are also some things not covered in this article such as HCG and fat burners like Clen and ECA. As always, I recommend staying natural until you have several years of experience or plan on competing. Continuously research, and if you do decide to hop on gear, make sure you’re being very careful and smart.

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