As of writing this article it’s late November with Christmas soon approaching.
Christmas is an exciting time of year for a bodybuilder, not just because you get spoiled with presents (mainly in the form of supplements and gym wear), but because it’s bulking season.
This is the time of year where it’s almost obligatory to gorge on junk food (without a care in the world), because it’s your MISSION to overeat, so you can pack on more size.
However, there’s only so much you can grow naturally with food alone, which is why many bodybuilders take steroids – so they can get JACKED.
Using steroids in the off-season to pack on mass can be the difference between boys and MEN in bodybuilding.
5 Best Steroid Alternatives
Don’t want to take steroids? That’s ok!
Check out our top picks for the 5 best steroid alternatives!
TestoGen Drops bypass the body’s digestion system to fast track its powerful ingredients directly to your muscle cells and testosterone production immediately.
Testo-Max pumps up your testosterone levels naturally through the use of a testo-boosting mega-mix.
Anvarol improves both strength and energy and is ideal for cutting cycles. It's suitable for both men and women.
Trenorol enables your muscle tissue to retain more nitrogen which leads to a huge increase in muscle gains and accelerated fat burning.
Clenbutrol is a popular fat burner that stimulates thermogenesis in the body, like clenbuterol, helping to spike a person’s metabolism.
Best Steroids for Bulking
Muscle Gains: 4.5/5
Strength Gains: 5/5
- Exceptional muscle gains
- Significant increases in strength
- Suitable for beginners (in oral form).
- Low cost
Dianabol is arguably the most sought-after bulking steroid on the planet, due to its exceptional ability to add large amounts of muscle in a short space of time.
It’s available in oral and injectable form. Many people opt for dianabol in oral form due to the convenience/ease of popping a tablet. However with injectables you’re likely to experience more gains; due to it entering the blood stream directly (and not having to pass through the liver).
However, when injecting dianabol you’re more susceptible to severe side effects; as your body’s utilizing more of the dianabol dose. Thus injectable dianabol isn’t recommended for beginners, as it requires knowledge to able to inject safely; and due to the user experiencing more side effects.
The only disadvantage in regards to oral dianabol is that it’s taxing on the liver. Thus if you take excessive doses of dianabol and don’t take adequate time off the steroid; your liver will become damaged. The good news is you can take liver support supplements during your cycle, such as liv-52 or Liver Stabil, which’ll help to protect the organ. Also the liver is a very resilient organ, meaning it can take a lot of abuse before it fails. However, no abuse is always optimal.
Anadrol is one of the only bulking steroids which beats d-bol, in terms of strength and size gains. However, anadrol is more toxic than dianabol, which is why dbol is a more popular option in bodybuilding. If you’re new to steroids and you take dianabol for your first cycle, get ready to hit new PR’s within the first week of administration; as well as your muscles blowing up more every day.
Gaining 18lbs from a first time dianabol cycle is pretty common among users, using a moderate dose. Most of this will be muscle mass and some temporary water retention.
- Increased LDL cholesterol levels
- Spiked blood pressure
- Liver strain (orals)
- Water retention
- Risk of gyno
- Oily skin (acne)
- Hair loss
- Shuts down testosterone
All steroids will have a negative effect on cholesterol levels, increasing LDL and decreasing HDL scores. This results in higher blood pressure for the user. To improve your cholesterol/blood pressure on-cycle, supplement with fish oil and lipid stabil.
As previously mentioned, methandrostenolone (oral dianabol), can cause stress to the liver. However, studies have shown that keeping the dose of oral dianabol to 10mg a day for 6-8 weeks, reduces the risk of excessive damage.
Dianabol aromatizes in the body and thus there’s moderate estrogenic activity, increasing the risk of gynecomastia. If you’re susceptible or worried about gyno, the best strategy is to take an AI (aromatase inhibitor), such as Arimidex. One downside with arimidex is that it’s quite costly, in which case users can opt for anti-estrogens such as Nolvadex or Proviron, which are also effective and lighter on your wallet.
As a result of dianabol’s aromatization, users can also expect to experience some water retention. This can temporarily decrease muscle tone and increase bloating. However, if you eat a clean diet, without excessive amounts of sodium, and you keep your dose in the low-to-moderate range; such water retention shouldn’t be an issue.
All AAS will shut down testosterone to some degree. This side effect is quite significant in dianabol’s case, with studies showing it to decrease T levels by 69% (on 15mg of dianabol a day for 8 weeks). For the average user it can take 1-4 months for testosterone levels to recover back to normal natural levels.
A very cautious dianabol cycle for a beginner looks like the following:
Note: These are low doses to start off with, thus minimizing side effects and preparing the body for future cycles. This dianabol cycle will result in approximately 10lbs of weight gain.
This is an effective follow up cycle, to the first dianabol cycle; increasing the duration by 2 weeks and upping the dose.
Note: Some beginners adopt a more aggressive strategy for their first dianabol cycle, compared to the above doses. Newbie dianabol-users take as much as 30mg a day for 4 weeks. This will result in more side effects compared to the above cycles, however more gains will also be experienced from this higher dose.
30mg a day for 4 weeks will result in roughly 18lbs of weight gain for a beginner. Experienced and elite bodybuilders take even higher doses, ranging from 50-100mg per day.
- 100 x 5mg tablets = $30-40.
Muscle Gains: 5/5
Strength Gains: 5/5
- Exceptional muscle gains
- Amazing strength gains
Otherwise known as oxymetholone or anadrol 50 (oral version).
Anadrol is arguably the #1 steroid in the world for bulking. If your body can tolerate the side effects of anadrol, it’s viewed as a must-have steroid in the off season – used regularly by competitive bodybuilders.
The only reason why anadrol isn’t the most popular steroid on the market, is because it’s not suitable for beginners (due to its powerful nature). If your goal is to gain as much muscle and strength as possible; anadrol will give you the gains you’re after.
However, if you only want to build a little bit of muscle and you’re worried about side effects – anadrol probably isn’t the steroid for you.
- Toxic to the liver
- High blood pressure
- Hair loss
- Significant water retention
- Risk of gyno
- Testosterone suppression
Oxymetholone is a c17-alpha alkylated steroid, meaning a large amount of the compound will enter the blood stream – when taken in oral form. The downside with C17-alpha alkylated compounds is that they’re particularly harsh on the liver, so injecting anadrol will still stress the liver. Thus it makes sense for bodybuilders to take anadrol 50 (oral), as it’s more convenient to take; and has similar absorption/side effects to injecting anadrol.
Anadrol has a profound effect on cholesterol levels, causing blood pressure to rise. Anadrol should not be used (or at least very cautiously used) by people susceptible to heart disease. Studies have shown doses of 50-100mg per day, over 12 weeks, has a dramatic negative effect on cholesterol levels.
Anadrol, like with other AAS, can cause acne due to the stimulation of the the sebaceous glands.
This steroid can also cause hair thinning or hair loss (on the scalp), due to it being a DHT-based steroid. Taking products like finasteride or dutasteride are unlikely to prevent this, as these products only prevent hair loss by blocking 5-alpha reductase. The 5-alpha reductase conversion doesn’t exist with anadrol, as it doesn’t convert to DHT (it’s already a DHT derivative).
If you’re a bodybuilder who typically stays shredded year round, trying to look as aesthetic as possible, anadrol may not be the steroid for you. This is because you’re almost certain to gain a significant amount of water weight on anadrol. Thus you may become bloated and your body may begin to look puffy or smooth. This extra fluid will actually aid your strength gains, due to intracellular water filling the muscle cells.
Gynecomastia is caused by an elevation in estrogen or/and progesterone levels. Anadrol won’t cause an increase in progesterone, but it is a very estrogenic steroid; and thus there’s a risk of gyno occurring. Using nolvadex can help to keep gyno at bay, however using anti-aromatase products won’t work; as anadrol doesn’t aromatize.
Also prepare to lose a considerable amount of weight after you come off anadrol, which isn’t anything to be alarmed by – it’s just the water flushing out of your body.
“What Goes Up, Must Come Down”
As with any steroid that gives you incredible gains, you’ll also experience some adverse effects. You can expect a pretty big crash after coming off anadrol in regards to T levels, making PCT even more important after using this compound.
One strategy some users implement to try and prevent the sudden “crash” is to run deca durabolin (a less toxic steroid) for a few weeks after stopping anadrol. Running deca in this way helps to wean your body off anadrol and help solidify the gains you made on-cycle.
Anadrol is not a typical first steroid protocol, due to its toxicity. However, some newbies do take anadrol and experience exceptional gains.
The above cycle can result in 20lbs of weight gain (in someone new to steroids).
The following cycle is common among experienced steroid-users (who’ve used anadrol or other steroids before). The dose is upped slightly and the duration is extended to 8 weeks.
Side effects will be more present when taking higher doses and longer cycles. However the above protocol isn’t deemed to be excessive.
50 x 50mg tablets = $80-120.
Muscle Gains: 4.5/5
Strength Gains: 4.5/5
- Significant muscle growth
- Increased strength
- Fat burning
- Suitable for beginners
- No liver side effects
Testosterone is used as a base steroid in many cycles. When planning a cycle, many bodybuilders will start with testosterone, then stack other steroids with test to enhance their gains.
Here’s a few testosterone combinations that work well:
Testosterone works similar to dianabol, but generally results in less side effects.
That’s why a test-only cycle is very popular among beginners (who are more susceptible to adverse effects).
Overall, test is a great steroid for bulking that will almost certainly make your muscles blow up.
One unique advantage of using testosterone during a bulking cycle, is its fat burning effects. With test, unless you’re eating like a Sumo Wrestler, you’ll keep fat at bay; or better yet, reduce your body fat percentage. The only other bulking steroid that has fat-burning effects like test is trenbolone. So if you want lean gains, without gaining fat in the off-season, testosterone is a solid choice.
Testosterone comes in many forms and esters, giving users the option of taking this steroid orally or injecting it.
Studies have shown testosterone to have no hepatotoxic effects after taking 2,800mg each week for 20 days. Thus if you want to take steroids, but you like alcohol, testosterone may be a safer steroid for you.
- Water retention
- Hair loss
- Mild increase in cholesterol
- Increased blood pressure
Water retention is common when on testosterone, due to it converting to estrogen. However, users only notice significant amounts of fluid when taking mega doses of test.
Testosterone has moderate estrogen activity, meaning gynecomastia is possible. However, taking tamoxifen citrate can prevent any female breast tissue forming.
Testosterone has a high androgenic score of 100, thus if you’re genetically predisposed to MPB (male pattern baldness), test can accelerate this. If you’re worried about losing your hair, there are 2 solutions available; one would be to take a less androgenic steroid like deca durabolin (which doesn’t convert to DHT). Or you can take finasteride, a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor, which will reduce the damage to hair follicles located on the scalp.
Because of testosterone’s high androgenic activity, it can cause acne in individuals who’s bodies naturally produce more sebum.
Testosterone will increase LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind), however this is typically less compared to other AAS. Two reasons why cholesterol levels remain fairly normal on test, is because of its high aromatization activity; and because testosterone gets metabolised by the liver; resulting in a better cholesterol ratio.
A rise in cholesterol and water retention leads to raised systolic blood pressure on testosterone; however this is relatively mild compared to other anabolic steroids like anadrol or dianabol.
This can be injected or taken orally. The following testosterone cycle is thought to build a similar amount of muscle/mass as the low dose dianabol cycle. However, this is a more popular cycle for beginners as it causes less stress on the liver and results in a smaller spike in blood pressure.
Testosterone is considered the safest steroid to take for bulking, and is possibly the best steroid in terms of risk vs rewards.
This is a higher dosed cycle aimed for users who already have a testosterone cycle under their belt. This cycle’s been extended by 3 weeks and as a result will yield better gains; with a slight increase in side effects (being androgenic and cardiovascular).
Moderate dose (Sustanon 250)
Here’s another cycle that bodybuilders perform with sustanon 250 – a blend of 4 different testosterone esters being:
- Testosterone propionate – 30mg
- Testosterone phenylpropionate – 60mg
- Testosterone isocaproate – 60mg
- Testosterone decanoate – 100mg
Sustanon 250 is thought to be of the most effective forms of testosterone, due to the combination of short and long esters. Short esters mean you’ll make gains fast; whilst long esters means you’ll still be making gains during the later stages of your cycle.
The above cycle is an example of a moderate dose.
- Testosterone enanthate – 10ml x 250mg per ml = $80
- Testosterone cypionate – *same as enanthate*
- Testosterone propionate – 10ml x 100mg per ml = $60-$80.
#4 Deca Durabolin
Muscle Gains: 3.5/5
Strength Gains: 4.5/5
- Significant muscle size
- Exceptional for strength
- Good for joints
- Low androgenic activity
- Low estrogenic activity
- Not toxic to liver
- Increases collagen
Deca durabolin is a strong anabolic which many bodybuilders utilize in the off-season to help them build noticeable amounts of lean mass.
With deca, your muscles will be fuller and thicker than ever before. Having big muscles is one thing, having incredibly thick and full muscles which makes you look photoshopped is another.
If you don’t know what I mean by ‘full muscles’ or ‘looking photoshopped’ – look at Chul Soon (below).
This is the ‘thick’ look, typical of deca durabolin users.
Deca will result in a small amount of water retention, however you’ll hold less fluid compared to dianabol or anadrol, due to its low conversion into estrogen. Thus, most of the weight you’ll gain on deca will be permanent muscle weight that’ll remain post-cycle.
Deca durabolin’s estrogen conversion rate is only 20%,compared to testosterone’s conversion. Thus gynecomastia is still possible on deca durabolin, but much less likely to happen. Also because of its low estrogenic activity, water retention is also considerably less (compared to other steroids).
Anti-estrogens or aromatase inhibitors can be run alongside deca if high doses are being taken; in a bid to further prevent any estrogen-related side effects.
Deca is not a c-17 alpha alkylated compound and thus poses very minimal risk to your liver.
Deca-users also commonly report better/stronger tendons and joints, which is contrary to other anabolic steroids. This is because deca increases the production of collagen, which helps to improve bone density and cartilage health (tissue surrounding your joints). This can reduce the risk of injury in the gym, especially if you’re an older bodybuilder or/and like to lift heavy.
This increase in collagen synthesis also helps a bodybuilders skin to look better (and less aged).
- Shuts down testosterone
- Low libido (when used by itself)
- Not very effective by itself
Deca durabolin contains long esters, meaning it takes a considerable amount of time before a user experiences significant strength/muscle gains. Therefore it’s not a fast-acting compound, and exceptional gains aren’t typical in the first couple of weeks.
Studies have shown that when 100mg of deca durabolin per week is taken (for 6 weeks), testosterone levels decrease by 57%.
And when 300mg of deca durabolin is taken (per week), testosterone levels drop by 70%. However, upon discontinuation of deca, natural testosterone levels should recover between 2-6 months.
As a result of deca durabolin’s negative effect on natural testosterone production, can cause a lowered libido or erectile dysfunction, commonly known as ‘deca dick’. As your test levels recover, this effect will go away and your sexual performance will improve.
Deca durabolin isn’t great for building muscle by itself, hence why not many educated bodybuilders will run deca-only cycles. On its own deca will produce approximately half the gains of a testosterone-only cycle.
However, when combined with steroids like dianabol, anadrol, testosterone or trenbolone together in a stack; deca can be a shrewd addition to any bulking cycle.
A common protocol is to stack deca durabolin with dianabol; so below is a low-dosed cycle for those new to steroids. These 2 compounds are likely to be the combination used by Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the 70’s
10ml x 250mg per ml = $80-$100.
Muscle Gains: 4/5
Strength Gains: 4/5
- Significant muscle gains
- Fat burning
- Big strength gains
- No water retention
- Not overly toxic to the liver
Trenbolone comes in injectable and oral forms, with tren acetate being the most popular version.
Trenbolone is hailed by some as the greatest steroid ever created. This is because it produces huge muscle gains; without any water retention.
Thus if you gain 25lbs on tren, you can bet almost ALL of this weight is pure muscle mass.
Actually, in this example it’s possible to gain even more than 25lbs of muscle, as tren also has fat burning properties.
It’s ability to build muscle and burn fat, makes it one of the best steroids for transforming your body in a single cycle. Tren is great for users looking to gain extra size during a bulk, whilst simultaneously preventing any fat gain.
Trenbolone is 3x more androgenic than testosterone, which gives a clue as to how powerful this compound really is.
Trenbolone isn’t regarded as a hepatotoxic compound, and thus the risk of liver damage is low (especially in low to moderate doses). However, liver failure may still be possible if mega doses are consumed for long periods of time.
- High blood pressure
- Shuts down testosterone
- Stimulant-like effects
Due to the sheer power of trenbolone, it’s not generally taken by beginners, as side effects are more severe compared to other steroids. Trenbolone is a very androgenic compound and thus oily skin and acne are common side effects.
A rise in blood pressure is also inevitable as LDL levels spike and HDL levels take a dive. Injectable trenbolone will cause BP to rise more than oral tren. All measures should be taken to reduce the strain trenbolone has on the heart, thus it’d be wise to perform regular cardiovascular exercise, whilst supplementing with fish oil and a cholesterol aid (such as Lipid Stabil).
Trenbolone often produces stimulant-like effects; increasing the chances of sweating, anxiety and insomnia during a cycle. Thus if you’re sensitive to every-day stimulants, such as: pre-workouts, coffee, coca-cola etc. then tren is likely to cause similar adverse effects.
How To Gain Bulk Naturally
Use the following tips to help you bulk, and pack on muscle mass…
Drink Whole milk
Drink more whole milk. Not skim milk. Not 2% milk. Whole milk. Whole milk has 150 calories per cup, and is stocked with vitamins and minerals. Drinking 5 cups of whole milk per day adds 750 calories to your bulking diet. Drink a cup every 2.5 to 3 hours. Also milk is 87% water, so it will keep your body hydrated. If you can get your hands on some unpasteurized organic raw milk – even better. The more natural the source, the better for the body.
Eat Your Almonds
Almonds are a great “in between meal” snack choice. Add an ounce of almonds in between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, and before bed. These three servings of almonds will add 500 calories to your bulking diet.
Have a Fat Dinner
Eat a large meal for dinner. Generally, it is best to eat this large meal post-workout. Try and consume a minimum of 1,500 calories. Don’t shy away from calorie-rich, healthy fat-rich foods and dressings.
Eat Some Junk food
Don’t shy completely away from junk foods. While I am NOT recommending that you eat an entire bag of Doritos, or a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting, it is okay to have small portions of junk food each day. A diet that contains 10% unhealthy foods won’t kill you. in fact, the extra calories will aid you in gaining muscle.
Try Some Weight Gain Shakes
Have a weight gain shake once or twice a day, with your whole milk. Put a couple of cups of whole milk in a blender. Add a banana, 2 scoops of protein powder, and peanut butter to taste. Blend, and enjoy. Each of these shakes contains, at minimum, 700 calories.
Note: With some weight gainer brands, you’ll 100% need a blender as these drinks can often become ‘clumpy’. Also it’d be wise to wash up your shake ASAP after drinking, as they can quickly transform into concrete.
By following these simple tips, you will be consuming over 4,000 calories per day. This is a great range to be in for bulking.
Start your day with oatmeal and a weight gain shake. Eat a moderately sized lunch, and a huge dinner. Snack in between meals with almonds, whole milk, and small portions of healthy carbs (fruits, veggies, etc.). And don’t avoid the occasional cookie, bag of chips, or piece of pie.
Follow this plan during your bulk, and you will be maximizing your results.
The Bottom Line to Gaining Bulk Is..
Each of the 5 bulking steroids mentioned in this article will result in significant muscle gains.
The best steroid for you, will depend on your own personal goals.
For example, the best compound for pure mass would be anadrol. But if you’re concerned about side effects, then dianabol or testosterone would be better options.
If you only want to gain as much strength and mass as possible and you don’t care about the side effects, anadrol and testosterone would be a powerful duo.
Equally, if you wanted to do a lean bulk and didn’t want to gain any water retention or fat from your cycle; trenbolone would be a suitable compound (possibly deca durabolin too).
For maximum bulking gains, you can take a few of these steroids at the same time in a stack. However stacking like this will also elicit more side effects.
What’s the best steroid for building muscle quickly?
Any compound (mentioned in this article) which contains short esters.
Short ester steroids enter and leave your body very fast, and thus it doesn’t take long to experience significant gains on them.
Examples of fast-acting steroids:
- Test propionate
- Test suspension
- Tren acetate
If patience isn’t your strong point, stay away from deca durabolin, test cypionate and test enanthate which have longer esters (take longer to kick in).
Are there any steroids NOT mentioned in this article, which can be used to build muscle?
Yes. These are just the top 5 steroids for bulking.
Other steroids which can help to build muscle are:
However, the muscle-building potential of these steroids are relatively mild (excluding equipoise).