I don’t spend a lot of time talking about Anabolic Androgenic Substances (AAS). There are a couple of reasons why. But I was approached by a reader who wanted to know my advice on health supplementation for a user of AAS in order to increase health and potential longevity. While I refrain from sharing advice on the use of those substances, I know an immense amount of information about them, including the benefits as well as the side effects. I also know quite a bit about the health consequences of using AAS and I will offer my best suggestions for health supplements that can help mitigate some of the sides, as well as reap the most benefits from using these drugs – providing a safety stop-gap as well as some suggestions which might allow users to reduce the dose of AAS used, which will in and of itself decrease the potential risks of overuse.
There is a growing amount of people today using anabolic hormones such as Testosterone, Nandrolone, Equipoise, Trenbolone, Anavar, Dianabol, and many more. I don’t spend much time talking about these substances for a few reasons. One, there are for more extensive resources on the subject on the internet. Two, I don’t want to advocate its use by discussing its use. I don’t personally see any issue with the compounds per se, but I also want to avoid getting a lot of writers asking me how to use this or that, because it is much more complicated than offering tidbits over the internet. Thirdly, I don’t want anyone to ever use these drugs without understanding all the risks and pitfalls associated with its use, as well as understanding medical and pharmaceutical interventions needed in order to protect one’s health as well as reduce the potential for side effects like gynecomastia. There is also a great risk of permanent dependence on hormones once enough of these substances have been used over a period of sufficient time.
With that out of the way, let me answer something I do feel comfortable talking about, which is health supplement suggestions for people who have already made the educated decision to use anabolic substances. Some of these will address side effects involving the heart, the liver, the kidneys, mood, appetite, as well as restoring as best as can be restored, the natural HPTA response following the cessation of said anabolic substances. These are in no particular order, by the way. I aint got time for that…
NOTE: THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. I’M NOT YOUR DOCTOR.
One of the most important organs in the body, the heart can take a real beating over the years in AAS users. Indeed, many of the past athletes and bodybuilders known to have used AAS typically die from a heart disease of some sort. It’s often argued they were probably also using other substances, but the truth of the matter is, AAS use, especially higher doses used for longer periods, can have a significant impact on heart health. Here are a few suggestions for supplements to help protect the heart.
Arjuna is an Ayurvedic herb in the same family as Ashwagandha (aka Indian Ginseng) and it has been studied for its beneficial effects on Cholesterol and blood pressure. In particular, Arjuna has been shown to reduce Systolic blood pressure. It increases the turnover of LDL Cholesterol. It has a mild diuretic property which will reduce water retention which can lead to increased blood pressure. It’s also a very good source of CoQ10, although if one was hoping to benefit from CoQ10, I would recommend Ubiquinol, which I suppose is a nice way to transition here.
Many of the herbs and nutritional supplements I recommend will have multiple benefits for several organs. CoQ10 is no exception. As you can see in the link above, it is protective to the kidneys, although to be fair, it seems that its beneficial effects on the kidneys has to do with its effects on Systolic Blood Pressure, as well as its anti-oxidant effects. I recommended activated CoQ10, Ubiquinol, over the more common preparation known as Ubiquinone, because it does not need conversion in the body. Ubiquinone is poorly absorbed in the intestines anyways, so what little you get in the bloodstream then needs to be activated. Ubiquinol seems to absorb well and goes straight to work, increasing markers of heart health as well as mental health, by increasing Dopamine levels in the brain.
I have gone on and on about Agmatine Sulfate and I will do so once more, albeit more briefly. Agmatine Sulfate has a lot of benefits for just about anyone. But for people looking to protect their heart, it can be a really useful tool. It increases endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase, while reducing other forms of Nitric Oxide that would be detrimental to health. But what makes Agmatine quite useful is its Calcium Channel blocking properties. This produces a very distinct lowering of blood pressure that is unique from many other supplements on the market today. Most herbal supplements either reduce water retention or affect the Renin Angiotensin System similar to Telmisartan. The only complaint I have about Agmatine is that it can cause gastric disturbance if too much is taken. Empty stomach is the best, as it competes with Arginine in the intestines for uptake.
Sesamin, a highly active ligand found in Sesame seeds, was at one point touted as a miracle fat burner. Why? Because it’s damn good at increasing mitochondrial burning of fatty acids, increases Insulin sensitivity and also reduces Cholesterol and triglycerides. These are all good reasons to take Sesamin, but unfortunately it didn’t result in the dramatic loss of pounds of fat. Instead it seemed to decrease glycogen, leading users to feel flat and yet still fat. The good news is, while it didn’t pan out as a super fat loss breakthrough, it can and will help maintain cholesterol, especially when combined with Omega-3 fatty acids. To avoid the flattening effects, make sure you’re not overdoing it. Think of Sesamin as a natural fibrate like gemifibrozil, and you will be in the right neighborhood, compared to Red Yeast Rice, which contains natural Statins. I’m not crazy about Statins.
There’s been some negative press about fish oil supplementation and prostate cancer. I am not too concerned about this for a few reasons, but I think it’s important to point out that taking too much of anything can be a bad thing. Taken within reasonable amounts, with a fatty meal which also contains natural antioxidants will greatly eliminate the concern. I believe the primary cause of fish oil issues has to do with oxidation. The polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acid is very delicate and can be burned for fuel easily, which leads to an oxidized state. Not cool. Taken with a fatty meal, and one with antioxidants, I think will protect from this problem. Another thing: Many of the fish oil products on the market today are already rancid (read:oxidized) before even going into your mouth. Does your fish oil smell “fishy”? This is rancidity and oxidation. Fish Oil, if made using solid manufacturing techniques, should contain the faintest scent of fishiness. Vitamin E, in the form of mixed tocopherols, not the cheaper alpha-tocopherol you see in most multis, is a good way to protect fish oil from oxidation. Also, taking Sesamin in combination will also afford some protection due to Sesamin’s antioxidant effect. One last point. I say Fish Oil and Omega-3 interchangeably. The only other Omega-3 worth considering is from Flax, and yet everything I have seen on this form says it’s just not as effective. If you are vegan stick with Flax, but if you are an omnivore, stick with a high quality fish oil. Aim for a gram total of EPA/DHA combined, no more and no less! I think this is where some of us could go wrong, ultra-dosing it will not be a smart choice. Instead, seeking to balance out other Omegas by reducing Omega-6 is a more sensible and healthy strategy. A good product like Omega-3 Active from Supranatural RX is a solid choice.
The liver is faced with assaults all day, from the pesticides in our foods, to drugs and alcohol, and any other detoxification process. For our discussion, it’s important to point out that oral androgens which are usually designed to escape first-pass liver metabolism due to its 17-alpha alkylated-methyl-ester attachment. This greatly extends the effects of the hormone, but has been shown to cause stress to the liver. There has been argument by some very intelligent people, that the negative effects are greatly overestimated. Still, if a person is choosing to regularly, even though infrequently, use methylated hormones, I think it’s important to implement a strategy to protect the liver. It’s also important to point out that excessive hormones of any kind, including injectable steroids which aren’t methylated, still cause the liver to engage in quite a few detoxification processes. So, if one is going to use androgenic/anabolic substances for a great deal of time in their life, it’s important to take care of our body’s guard against toxins.
TUDCA does so much that it would take a whole post to cover its benefits. For our purposes, I am going to focus primarily on its Liver benefits. TUDCA is a Taurine conjugated Bile acid. Humans produce only a trace amount of this. It is approved in the United States for the treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis. How does it work? The mitochondria in the cells of the liver, when faced with a great deal of stress, release a molecule cytochrome C. This signals apoptosis, or destruction of the cell. TUDCA activates a system known as the Bax pathway. This blocks the apoptotic cytochrome C system. In this sense it’s very useful for our purposes because the main deleterious effect of methylated steroids is the stress inflicted on the liver cells.
2) NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine)
Glutathione is known as the master antioxidant and is produced by the liver to help offset the stressful effects of detoxification. One would think then, supplementing with Glutathione would be essential. The only problem with this is that Glutathione breaks down into its aminos, Cysteine, Glycine and Glutamine. Your body would then need to take those aminos and reform Glutathione, and those aminos might end up getting used for other processes. Enter NAC. N-Acetyl Cysteine actually stimulates hepatic Glutathione production. It’s so effective at protecting the body from toxins that hospitals use it for acetaminophen overdose. It also has a great anti-oxidant potential on its own and has been studied for its effects on exercise induced oxidative stress.
3) Methylene Blue
I’m trying my best to explore some supplements that people may have never heard of, and Methylene Blue is definitely a unique tool in the war against aging and disease. Methylene blue is a dye used in scientific research, because it will stain certain cells in a petri dish, making it easy to distinguish certain parts of the cellular sample. As you can guess, it is a very deep blue and can stain clothing and skin. In high enough doses it will actually color urine a slight blue tinge. It was and is still used to treat malaria, although very high doses are used. At a very diluted level, Methylene blue works as a powerful anti0xidant. It is one of the only antioxidants that can reduce itself. In other words, most antioxidants, once oxidized (which protects anything around it from being oxidized) are just done for. Methylene blue can reduce itself, go back to its oxidizable state. A very diluted form is used as a supplement. Just a few hundred micrograms is all that is needed for it’s beneficial effects on the body, and it has a particular useful role in aiding the cells of the liver. A word of caution. In high doses it can become an MAOI. This inhibits the breakdown of catecholamines such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and tyramine. While it can give the user a mood boost, too much inhibition along with a diet high in tyramine can cause a severe hypertensive crisis. It would also follow suit, if the user is taking any kind of antidepressant, to stay clear of this, or use very very low doses. Methylene blue is sold as aquarium cleaner, as it is very good at treating certain sicknesses in fish tanks. Just one drop diluted in a large glass of water and then dosed in drops is all that is needed. Be careful in handling this liquid, as it will stain anything blue, and can make a mess if spilled.
4) Milk Thistle
This is an obvious one and I hesitated to include it for a couple reasons. One, it’s such a common herb for liver protection that there’s almost nothing I can say which will add to the discussion. The other reason is that studies have shown Silymarin, the active in Milk Thistle, can block androgen receptors. The thing is, all of the studies were done on the prostate, so we don’t know if it’s a site specific thing. It could be that Silymarin acts on AR in the prostate while muscle AR behaves, or reacts differently to Silymarin. I do know quite a few people who have and continue to take Milk Thistle in fairly high doses, and don’t seem to have issue putting on mass and keeping it. If it did in fact have benign effects on skeletal muscle then I would wholeheartedly recommend it. There are, however, some people who feel that Milk Thistle, irrespective of its effect on androgen receptors, may be an unhealthy way to protect the liver. I’m afraid these folks might be a bit misled on their own research, because from the studies I’ve looked at, this idea that it somehow prevents the liver from doing it’s job by putting up some kind of wall is not quite based on reality. But nonetheless I include it for your perusal.
An often overlooked effect of Anabolic steroids is the increase of blood pressure. Whether it is due to a thickening of the blood from increased erythropoiesis (red blood cell production) increased fluid retention due to increased estrogen and decreased 11b-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2 (11b-HSD2) (this is actually the reason why some non-aromatizable steroids still cause fluid retention), or from a direct effect of the androgen receptor on hypertension, it is clear that using anabolic steroids has a definitive impact on blood pressure. But the heart is not the only organ which suffers due to increased BP. The kidneys take a beating when blood pressure rises. And then, the damaged Kidneys can’t perform properly so they can increase BP even more. It’s a vicious cycle to say the least.
Ok, I know I sound like a smartass, but seriously. Athletes who push themselves physically already have a hard time keeping up with the fluid loss. Add in some heat during the summer and it gets worse. If you’re taking anything else like T3 to increase fat loss, you’ve also raised your core temp and are dumping water. Sure, it may be getting stored in tissue, but your blood is becoming syrup. Add in a gram of Testosterone Enanthate, Eq (Equipoise, or Boldenone) and a handful of orals like Dbol (Dianabol or Methandrostenolone) and you’re just asking for a health crisis. Dehydration is the most easily treatable, and yet the most easily ignored cause of stress on the body. The kidneys live and breathe for water, so don’t deny them what they need to keep filtering. Try to aim for a gallon of water a day, and double it on training days.
2) Sodium & Potassium Bicarbonate
Anything that will help the kidneys balance the acid/alkaline shift that occurs when an athlete works out intensely and also consumes large amounts of protein will be of a huge benefit. While I will recommend making sure you get enough greens like kale, spinach, wheat grass, and berries such as cranberries, raspberries… sometimes it takes a little more if you’re hardcore. Well, and let’s face it: We don’t always get enough of our greens in. If you’re eating out of an organic garden all day then you can probably skip this recommendation. Also, if you’re taking something like Perfect Food on a religious basis, then you’re probably good. But if you’re like me, and you run out of cash from time to time, and there are days where you just don’t get enough alkaline food in your diet — a gallon jug of water infused with a 4:1 ratio of potassium to sodium bicarbonate will go a long way to helping keep that balance. I recommend Potassium Bicarbonate in addition to Sodium, in a higher concentration, because many people these days simply don’t eat enough Potassium-rich foods. Sodium isn’t the devil we once thought it was, unless you do have heart disease, but those of you who are using AAS will tend to retain sodium and excrete potassium, so utilizing Potassium as the backbone for the bicarbonate is a smart choice. This will also help restore fluid balance lost from sweating and dehydration.
That does it for Part 1 of this topic, Essential Supplements for the Anabolic User. Check back soon for Part 2!