As they look back on their competitive careers, some former elite professional bodybuilders are willing to discuss the drugs used in achieving both their off-season gains and pre-competition goals.
Bodybuilding’s attraction, lost somewhat in the modern version of the sport/pageant, is a presentation of aesthetics and potency. Size and muscularity are certainly components of this, but of equal or greater importance is achieving a lean physique.
Emphasizing that the following is not condoned— and should not be construed as a recommendation or suggest any warrant of safety— there are several commonalities to “stacks” that provide a lean, even ripped physique for the recreational bodybuilder.
“Ripped” refers to a body fat percentage low enough to allow superficial veins and striations in a flexed muscle to be visible. In terms of numbers, body fat percentage needs to be dropped as low as physiologically possible. For natural bodybuilders, this may be 5 to 6 percent without sacrificing lean mass precipitously. Drug-enhanced bodybuilders are capable of maintaining muscle mass under conditions that would normally deplete muscle protein stores, allowing them to reach body fat percentages reportedly as low as the 2 percent range, though likely in the 3 to 4 percent range. At this extreme, it is very difficult to acquire an accurate body fat percentage, regardless of technique, as technical issues and lack of standardization at this end of the scale create a variability that is higher than the measured body fat.
More specific to being “ripped” is depleting subcutaneous fat— under the skin. While it is technically correct to factor visceral, intraabdominal and organ-associated fat in the calculation, these depots of fat do not affect the presentation of one’s physique. They can adversely affect health, but that is outside the scope of this topic. Further, it does little good to reveal the underlying muscles if they are not well developed.
First, it is important to develop the skeletal muscles, and this is obviously a function of one or more anabolics. Bodybuilders discuss “bulking” versus “cutting” cycles, as they are well aware of the inherent challenges in trying to achieve both simultaneously. Thus, “cutting” cycles generally are the domain of experienced anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS)-enhanced lifters. This is to acknowledge that the following drugs are generally misused by men who have acquired a self-satisfactory amount of muscle mass.
PRE-CONTEST CUTTING CYCLE
Other than competitive bodybuilders who are compelled to attain a skin-stretching muscle mass far greater than nature intended, most lifters aim for a look more in line with Classic Physique. Note, as one gets leaner, he appears more muscular and even larger due to the “high-definition” look compared to the soft, rounded appearance when body fat levels are in the double digits.
There is no “one” ultimate cutting cycle, but the following is an example that mimics the pre-contest preparation used by amateur bodybuilders. [Note— this for discussion purposes only, not a recommendation or advice]
testosterone enanthate 3
00 milligrams per week
~75 milligrams, twice weekly
50 milligrams, twice weekly (intramuscular)
or 10-20 milligrams per day (oral)
1 milligram per day
20 micrograms (mcg) two days on/off; many build up to dosing four times daily or more due to tolerance
T 3 (Cytomel)
25 mcg daily, titrated up to a maximum of 100 mcg in divided doses, pyramiding down.
hGH (human growth hormone) 3 international units (IU) per day
Testosterone is the foundation drug, highly effective when used at near-physiologic dosing. Studies have shown benefits with weekly dosing of 300 milligrams of testosterone ester, and greater effect at 600 milligrams weekly; this includes reducing body fat while increasing muscle mass.1,2 Though these doses are reasonably well tolerated in young adults, older men may experience elevations in hematocrit (red blood cells), and those with a pro-thrombotic condition (tendency to form blood clots) should not use AAS without the supervision of a health care provider.
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