How Long Between Steroid Cycles? (Expert Recovery Insights)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 26, 2024
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As a personal fitness coach and a professional MMA fighter, I've met numerous bodybuilders and athletes who use steroids for gain.

The issue?

They often risk dosage and cycle duration. They seem to believe that there are general guidelines you can follow to avoid running into trouble. And in most cases, that's not how things go.

Therefore, after talking with a medical doctor and doing some research on steroid cycles, I decided to give our readers an overview of why working out steroid cycles is such a difficult task.

Quick Summary

  • Steroid cycles typically span 6 to 12 weeks, with the recovery period often equal to or longer than the usage phase.
  • Extended use of steroids can lead to significant health issues, including liver damage, a weakened immune system, mood swings, and skin problems.
  • Anabolic steroid use can lead to a decrease in "good" HDL cholesterol, an increase in "bad" LDL cholesterol, and severe liver toxicity within just 12 weeks of use.
  • Through conversations with bodybuilders on anabolics and observing their experiences, I've come to understand the importance of taking breaks between cycles and that exploring legal, natural muscle-building alternatives is a much safer option.

Safely Spacing Out Your Steroid Cycles

Steroid supplement capsules on a table

Steroid cycles typically last between 6 and 12 weeks, and the common recovery period is usually equal to or greater than your period of use.

However, both periods depend on the individual variability of a person and how they react to steroids.

Younger bodybuilders, as well as those new to steroids, might react faster and also bounce back quickly. In contrast, older or seasoned steroid users often require a more extended period for their bodies to return to their natural state.

Considering there's no universal guideline, consulting an endocrinologist for blood level assessments when orchestrating steroid cycles is crucial. Additionally, individuals should closely monitor their blood pressure and ensure they allocate adequate time for muscle tissue recovery.

Otherwise, pushing the envelope too far can lead to severe repercussions. Let's explore the potential consequences of overextension.

What if You Use Steroids for Too Long?

If you use steroids for too long, you can encounter significant health problems with the liver and many other systems in your body.

According to Mayo Clinics, even corticosteroids, employed to combat inflammation, can significantly weaken the immune system, heightening infection risks [1].

Based on the 2006 article published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, anabolic steroids, more commonly used for muscle gains, pose a substantial threat to the liver over the long term, potentially causing lasting damage [2].

Furthermore, the National Institute of Drug Abuse states that users face the risk of skin issues like acne, drastic mood swings, and increased aggression [3]. The acne problem is almost a common thing among users, and two of my friends who were also into bodybuilding experienced severe acne problems after prolonged steroid use.

In some cases, this might not happen within the first steroid cycle, but repeated cycles that doctors would very rarely recommend can bring about these side effects a lot sooner than many people believe.

“Anabolic steroid use causes decreased levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, increased levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and serious liver toxicity within 12 weeks, according to a study that measured the effects of anabolic steroids on men with HIV wasting disease.”

- Carl Grunfeld, MD, PhD, ucsf.edu

Continuous use of steroids without breaks can lead to the permanent shutdown of essential body functions, such as testosterone production, prostate function, and blood pressure regulation.

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Does The Dose Impact How Long You Take Them?

A person having an injection on the arm

Yes, the dose of steroids can impact how long you can take them.

I remember a client of mine who was on a higher dose. He felt great initially, but soon started to experience side effects, prompting a reevaluation of his dosage.

It happens because there's no one-size-fits-all formula where you input age, height, weight, and fitness level for an exact recommendation. Determining the appropriate steroid dose demands extensive medical expertise, and even then, doctors often need to make adjustments.

Crucially, once the right dose is prescribed, there's no fixed safe timeframe. It hinges entirely on your body's response to the specific steroid.

FAQs

Can You Be on Steroids for Life?

Yes, some people can be on steroids for life when they are dealing with serious health conditions.

But such situations require careful monitoring by doctors to make sure that the side effects of the steroids don’t outweigh the benefits they provide.

Do Steroids Stop Working After a While?

Yes, steroids can stop working after a while.

The human body produces steroids naturally, but when you take steroid medication, it’s possible that the body produces less, meaning you get less of an overall effect.


References:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/steroids/art-20045692
  2. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2006/02/97820/anabolic-steroid-use-increases-heart-attack-risk-and-causes-liver-damage
  3. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/prednisone-drug-information/print
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