Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (or HCG) is a hormone that is normally produced when women are pregnant. It is produced first by the embryo, then later by the placenta. Typically, pregnancy tests look for the presence of this hormone.
The main function of chorionic gonadotropin is to encourage the production of progesterone, which supports the pregnancy (gestation). HCG levels are at their highest during early pregnancy, but drop gradually until birth as placenta can produce enough progesterone to support gestation on its own. As a prescription drug, human chorionic gonadotropin is used to treat infertility issues and undescended testicles (cryptorchidism) in young boys.
HCG Benefits and Side Effects for Bodybuilders
Chorionic gonadotropin is probably one of the most misunderstood and misused products in bodybuilding. For starters, HCG is not an anabolic-androgenic steroid but a peptide hormone that occurs naturally in the human body, specifically produced by the foetus in the first few weeks of pregnancy and by the placenta in the later stages of pregnancy. It is responsible for sustaining life in the womb.
The commercially available HCG is derived from the urine of pregnant women as it’s excreted in unaltered form from the woman’s blood via the urine. It is normally sold in a powder form, and comes in a wide range of concentrations. HCG supplement is typically provided as a glycoprotein powder to be diluted with an amount of liquid (water) and taken by injection, either subcutaneously or intramuscularly. The following are the HCG benefits and side effects for bodybuilders.
HCG Benefits for Bodybuilders
The benefits of chorionic gonadotropin lie in its ability to act like luteinising hormone (LH), where it stimulates the testes to produce testosterone even when there’s a natural LH deficiency or when natural LH is not present. LH stimulates the Leydig (interstitial) cells, which in turn induce the production of androgenic hormones – testosterone. For this reason, bodybuilders and athletes use HCG to boost the production of testosterone. It is typically used during or after anabolic-androgenic steroid cycle to counter the effects of subnormal androgen levels.
You see, anabolic-androgenic steroids are derivatives of testosterone, the substance responsible for boosting muscle strength and size. By taking steroids, bodybuilders overload the body with testosterone, which forces the body to suppress its own production of natural testosterone and increase its production of oestrogen to balance the testosterone. Many bodybuilders take Selective Oestrogen Receptor Modulators or SERMs to inhibit increased oestrogen production and stop it from taking effect.
Typically, right after an anabolic-androgenic steroid cycle ends, one’s natural testosterone level is anywhere from very low to non-existent. The levels of oestrogen can be slightly higher than normal, and cortisol – a hormone that inhibits the activity of anabolic hormones involved in muscle growth, and which is responsible for the breakdown of muscle tissue – will be at normal levels. This state of affairs can be very damaging when it comes to bodybuilding, weight and strength training.
As a bodybuilder, it is extremely important that you get your natural hormone levels back to normal as quickly and smoothly as possible after an anabolic-androgenic steroid cycle. While the body will balance these hormones out and restore its production of testosterone to normal, this process takes weeks if not months and during this time there might be a significant loss of muscle mass.To avoid loss of muscle, you must kick start your body into producing natural testosterone as fast as possible – and that is where HCG supplementation comes in.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin offers one of the most effective solutions when coming off anabolic steroids and attempting to balance hormones. Because of its similarity to the effect of LH in stimulating testosterone production in the testes, HCG supplementation stimulates increased natural testosterone production by the testes. This, not only helps in muscle preservation, but also enhances weight training results and maintains improvements over a long period.
As you might expect, everyone responds differently to HCG supplementation, and some individuals will experience a very quick response to chorionic gonadotropin and their hormone will restore quite quickly whereas others will take longer time. This is all down to genetics. Other factors that may affect the rate at which hormone balance is restored include: the length of the cycle and the anabolic-androgenic steroids used.
Aside from helping and supporting bodybuilders going through transition phase, HCG can be taken on cycle (during steroid cycle) to minimise testicular atrophy. The main function of testicles is to manufacture testosterone. But the use of steroids, which are synthetic testosterone, causes the brain to think that there’s adequate testosterone and signal the testicles to stop producing more. This causes the testicles to shrink due to lack of activity.
HCG use sends a signal to the testicles (just like the natural Luteinising Hormone), thus jump-starting your testes to produce testosterone quickly and increase in size. By stimulating the production of testosterone, HCG will help to quickly bring the testes back to their normal size even in the event of extreme testicular atrophy caused by mega doses of steroids and prolonged usage.
Some bodybuilders often find that they are able to achieve more muscle gains and quicker recovery while using human chorionic gonadotropin on cycle. The better gains are usually due to the increased levels of natural testosterone in the body as well as the synthetic testosterone offered by the use of anabolic-androgenic steroids; while the enhanced recovery is as a result of the maintenance of high levels of inter-testicular-testosterone (or ITT) offered by the appropriate use of HCG on cycle, which greatly aids the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular (HPT) axis recovery.
Many weightlifters, powerlifters and bodybuilders often report lower sex drive, lack of energy and depressed mood after finishing a strenuous workout cycle or at the end of an anabolic-androgenic steroid cycle. This is mainly because decreased testicular function may also cause a decrease in libido (sex drive), vitality/energy, and may even lead to a significant depression in mood. While experienced bodybuilders may put up with this condition as they know that it is temporary, some athletes may suffer psychological consequences. The proper use of HCG has been shown to cure reduced virility, libido and spermatogenesis, as well as low mood caused by steroids.
HCG Side Effects for Bodybuilders
When used properly and in small doses, human chorionic gonadotropin will cause little or no adverse health effects. The average dosage during a steroid cycle is about 500iu -1000iu every week (and it is advisable to take it after 3-5 days). As regards the use of chorionic gonadotropin in PCT (Post-Cycle-Therapy ), smaller, frequent dosages after a cycle of anabolic-androgenic steroids will produce the best possible results with the lowest risk of unwanted side effects.
However, like all performance enhancing medications, HCG may cause side effects, but many people usually get only minor side effects. Prolonged use of HCG may severely inhibit testosterone production. Taking the supplement in high dosages over many weeks may cause the testes to respond poorly to the body’s own LH. This could lead to a permanent inhibition of the gonadal function. Prolonged use of HCG could actually lead to permanent repression of the body’s own production of gonadotropins. That’s why it’s advisable to do short cycles. For example, you might take chorionic gonadotropin for 2-3 weeks during or in the middle of a cycle, and for 2-3 weeks at the end of a cycle.
In high doses, HCG could also cause side effects similar to those of testosterone abuse, including: elevated levels of oestrogen which could cause gynecomastia, enlarged breasts, acne vulgaris, water retention, fat deposits on the hips (feminisation), stunted growth, mood swings and high blood pressure. Other possible side effects include: fatigue, headache, dyspnea, urticaria, erythema, and shortness of breath. In case one experiences these symptoms, use of the medication should be discontinued immediately and medical intervention should be sought without delay.
Lastly, it is important to note that pregnant or lactating women or individuals suffering from breast cancer, asthma, kidney ailments, premature puberty, migraines and uterine bleeding should not use HCG. Make sure you see your doctor before taking human chorionic gonadotropin or any other substance for performance enhancement, muscle growth and/or weight.