Why are Steroids Stacked?

Q: What is the premise of stacking and what anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) can be stacked?

A: The concept of stacking dates back decades, essentially to the beginning of non-medical anabolic steroid use. These drugs were used medically long before athletes began to utilize them for performance enhancement. By the time they became popular in sports, there was already a full class of steroid drugs available in the pharmacies.

Some came as pills, while many others were made into injections. They all offered the potential of muscle growth, although each drug did seem to have its own qualitative properties different from the others.

This led to a great deal of experimenting among bodybuilders and athletes, each searching for the most effective or comfortable option(s) for their goals. User experiences led to an early understanding of which drugs worked best, which were less effective, and of course, which caused the most and least side effects.

Athletes quickly began separating steroids into two general categories.

The first includes those drugs usually identified as more androgenic, such as testosterone, oxymetholone, and methandrostenolone. These “androgens” were very strong for building muscle, but were also highly prone to side effects, especially when taken in higher dosages. Each seemed to have a relatively low dosage threshold for how much was tolerable. Higher doses would quickly cause side effects like gynecomastia, water retention, and/or aggravated hair loss.

The second category included the less androgenic steroids such as stanozolol, oxandrolone, and nandrolone. These “anabolic” steroids were known to produce fewer side effects. They, however, never worked quite as well for building muscle as drugs of the “androgen” class. So very basically, the “anabolics” were actually weaker for building muscle, but more tolerable overall. Note that I use quotes because these are informal classifications, not scientific.

The idea of taking more than one steroid at a time was a natural curiosity. This curiosity was quickly placed into widespread practice, however, given drugs with dose-dependant anabolic effects and no overdose threshold. The experimentation eventually evolved into a more organized concept of “stacking”, or the utilization of more than one steroid at a time in order to maximize gains and manage side effects.

We can look at stacking as combining drugs with a purpose. Most often, it involved the use of a stronger base “androgen”, and a milder (primarily “anabolic”) steroid. The androgen was typically used to the maximum tolerable dosage point. From there, the anabolic was added, and both drugs adjusted so that a peak muscle-building effect could be reached without excessive side effects. The weaker steroid was essentially used to compliment/add to the effects of the stronger, which could no longer be comfortably dose escalated.

Today, we understand much more about ancillary medications such as anti-estrogens and reductase inhibitors, which can be used to minimize the side effects of steroid therapy. As such, an argument could be made that stacking is less important now than it was decades ago, when the most common form of side effect mitigation was a dosage adjustment.

For example, a recreational weightlifter running a couple of steroid cycles per year could probably take something like testosterone enanthate by itself (along with some tamoxifen or anastrozole when needed) and still yield the improvements they are looking for. Since testosterone offers the lowest cardiovascular toxicity of all popular steroids, it is something I certainly would endorse if I could.

Not everyone can get by with only testosterone drugs, especially when body sculpting becomes a primary focus. There is really no set right or wrong way to combine AAS into stacks. Arguments can be made for essentially unlimited approaches. Since anabolic steroids are strong muscle building drugs, I doubt you will find many stack concepts that don’t “work”. Still, I would say you have a few more logical types of combinations.

This first involves an injectable stacked with an oral. Since most orals are liver toxic, you really do not want to take more than one at a time. There are many highly effective oral-injectable combinations. In fact, the most effective bulking stack of all time is arguably the simple combination of testosterone and oxymetholone (Anadrol).

Another stack might be the already discussed androgen base with anabolic add-on. Remember that nandrolone and methandrostenolone (Deca + D-Bol) was one of the most popular stacks of the ‘80s. Of course, it works just as good today as it did back then. How about using a moderately estrogenic steroid with a low/non-estrogen producer? Testosterone (any ester) and methenolone enanthate (Primobolan Depot) comes to mind. It works very well and avoids the use of a liver toxic oral.

Why are Steroids Stacked?

Why are Steroids Stacked?


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