Some say that oral only cycle is an age-old debate, but it’s not quite true. It’s 30 years old at best, but there’s still a lot to unpack. Here’s what we in 2023 know about the topic that athletes of the 1990s did not, and ultimately — whether it’s OK to go for for an oral only cycle today.
Basic Things to Acknowledge
First of all, let’s make sure we have a common ground. Oral only cycle refers to an anabolic steroid cycle that involves exclusively oral compounds:
Oral only cycle is opposed to all other options:
- Stacks with injectables — say, Testosterone Enanthate, Anadrol and Equipoise;
- Testosterone base — like in a cycle with a high dose of Dianabol and a mild dose of injectable Testosterone;
- And injectable cycle — for example, Trenbolone Acetate and Testosterone Cypionate.
To keep it on point and give you all the pros and cons with no distraction, let’s briefly acknowledge things that are not up to a debate in this guide:
- Sure, orals are not good for the liver. You can take NAC, UDCA or Liv.52 to minimize the damage, though, and it’s going to get back to normal if you run a short cycle of normal doses;
- Sure, most injectables are less damaging to the liver, since they don’t metabolize there, but it doesn’t mean that they’re «safer» in general;
- And obviously, personal experience doesn’t mean a thing. It’s all individual, and if some Joe from a forum said that he did something and was OK, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be OK if you do the same thing.
With all that said — should you go for an oral-only cycle? Let’s take a look at what others say.
Why People Go For Oral Only Cycles
Here are some arguments that people advocating for oral only cycles use.
“Pinning is Scary”
The most common, though rarely shared, reason for athletes to choose an oral only option, is just silly: they’re afraid of pinning. No jokes here. The act of injection itself, the needle going through the skin, brief pain in the moment and some PIP (post-injection pain) afterwards are scary for those who have no experience.
If it’s your ONLY or MAIN reason to consider an oral-only cycle, the only advice here is simple: man up, you’re doing it to get massive and strong, so something as silly as a minor PIP just can’t stand in your way. You’ll learn to do it properly in no time.
“Injections are Dangerous”
The other argument is, “injections are not a safe administration route”. It’s not that far from the truth. You certainly can:
- Get an infection and end up in a hospital;
- Accidentally hit a major blood vessel and get the oil with gear straight into your blood flow, causing respiratory issues (aka coughing like crazy);
- Get too many injections in the same place and see scar tissue building up, that you barely can remove by traditional means.
We say you «can» and not «will» because all of it happens exclusively in case you perform your injections BADLY.
A proper injection, with all the disinfection and safety measures, new and sterile syringes, freshly unpacked needles, is not dangerous. You CAN learn to do it.
Most athletes learn to do it in no time. And it would take months and months of non-stop pinning without rotating the injection sites (from quads to deltoids to glutes and so on) to see notable scar tissue build up.
“It Worked Back In The Days”
The final argument is more interesting. Back in the Golden era, oral-only cycles were pretty much everywhere. A Dbol-only cycle was considered a beginner option, believed to be perfect for testing the waters.
If we’re going to learn from the past, ignoring the whole pantheon of great athletes dying in their 40s, massive gynos everywhere, and so on, here are some other things that were popular in the «good-ol’» days:
- Dbol was used as a PCT for a whole decade;
- Nolvadex was used on cycle;
- “Aromatase inhibitors? What are aromatase inhibitors?”
This whole argument also lacks some historical context. For example, people often forget that HIV and war on drugs were the big things of the 1970s. The US, like many other countries, had strict «drug paraphernalia» laws, prohibiting over-the-counter sale of needles and syringes. You could literally get in trouble with the police if they found an empty syringe in your car.
Athletes (at least the majority of them, those with no access to an unlimited budget) had to use black market needles, reuse them, and sometimes — even stick to veterinary needles. It’s no surprise an oral only cycle, not involving all that hassle, was considered a good option.
To clarify, we’re not saying that everything in the Golden era was wrong. It brought us outstanding bodybuilders, literal legends, still inspiring today. But it doesn’t mean that athletes back then were right on everything. Some survivor bias should be taken into account.
If it’s called Golden era — it doesn’t meant that all their ways and means were “golden”.
Why Do People Think That Oral Only Cycle is NOT OK?
Here’s the other side of the story, and it’s much shorter. It’s often limited to just one argument:
You’re going to get suppressed and will shut down your natural testosterone production with an oral-only cycle.
It’s clear from the structure of the compounds, almost all of them being based on Dihydrotestosterone instead of Testosterone:
- Anavar is DHT-based with an extra oxygen atom;
- Anadrol is also DHT-based;
- Winstrol is DHT-based again, with minor modifications to the molecule;
- Dbol is based on Testosterone and metabolizes to DHT slower than others, but it’s still not a replacement for natural testosterone;
- Turinabol is just modified Dianabol, same thing, not a replacement for Test.
You get the point: while orals may have different structures, none of them are able to make up for natural testosterone. And at the same time, ALL of them can suppress your natural Testosterone production.
In a simplified way, all steroids “trick” your body into thinking that it has more testosterone than it should. The HPTA (hypothalamus-pituitary gland-testis axis), the mechanism that defines your natural Testosterone production based on the feedback about its levels in the blood, just slows down and shuts down completely at some point.
Low Testosterone Symptoms
What’s at stake and what will it look like practically? Here’s a whole list of low Testosterone effects:
- Reduced sex drive and erectile dysfunction;
- Decreased energy levels and fatigue;
- Loss of muscle mass due to catabolism;
- Increased body fat;
- Mood changes, depression;
- Osteoporosis or reduced bone density, higher risk of fractures;
- Reduced sperm count and fertility;
- Hot flashes and night sweats;
- Brain fog, aka difficulty focusing on things;
- Disrupted sleep patterns;
- Gynecomastia development because of the higher E2 and hormonal imbalance;
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes;
- Increased risk of cardiovascular system issues.
Sure, not all of the above, not at the same time, and not to a guaranteed severe, irreversible degree, but still — that’s what a possible outcome of testosterone suppression looks like. No gains, no sex, more fat, man boobs, and depression.
Is There a Way to Make an Oral Only Cycle Safe?
That’s where it gets tricky. What about compromises? Is it possible to run orals only and get away safely?
The answer is — well, yes, but you’ve got to be lucky and cautious, with “lucky” responsible for about 70% of success.
Here’s why it is possible:
- All effects of anabolic steroids are individual. There’s a pretty good chance that those who claim to “run orals only all the time” on forums are not lying, and they just tolerate them well. their HPTA reacts to the compounds slower than usual, and so on. It’s all individual, and if you’re genetically “lucky” enough to skip pinning — well, you can go for it;
- Caution with doses plays a big role. Suppression is dose-dependent, and 100 mg of Anadrol ED will suppress you much faster than 40 mg. Remember the “Golden era” part of the debate? Those guys reportedly took 15 mg of Dianabol ED. Sure, they may simply lie about it, but we’ve got no means to conform it;
- Cycle duration is also a huge factor. Dbol enters your system, provides all the effects, and leaves it quickly, in about 6 to 8 hours. Is 4 weeks enough to cause notable suppression? Depends on your doses and personal response, but it’s definitely possible to get away with minor suppression, if all the stars align in your favor;
- The steroid itself plays a big role as well. Anavar in mild doses is not suppressive enough to even require a full-scale PCT or cause virilization in women. Halo (Halotestin) or Anadrol (Oxymetholone) are far more suppressive. You’d have to choose something mild and focus on suppression capabilities, not the anabolic properties.
So yes, if you are lucky, you can get away with a short cycle of small doses of a mild oral steroid solo.
The only remaining question is — why?
Are There Really Reasons to Choose it?
Why would you choose mediocre gains with extreme suppression risks, if you can add a proper Testosterone base to the cycle and enjoy way more massive gains with less risks?
Why would you accept the limited result that a short cycle of some mild oral gear can give you, if it doesn’t add to the safety of the whole thing, which still relies on your genetics and “luck”?
Just two good reasons for it exist:
- You have an actual severe psychological trauma associated with needles that comes from your childhood, you go into a full panic attack mode when you see a syringe;
- You are a genetically gifted individual, like Arnold in terms of muscle mass, but with HPTA’s limited response to DHT, and orals don’t actually suppress you, regardless of the cycle length and dosage.
That’s it. In all other aspects, a cycle with an oral and a testosterone base would be:
- Safer, since you don’t get extra suppression risks along with liver-related side effects;
- And more effective, since you can go for a full dose of both the oral steroid of choice and the injectable Testosterone, looking for your sweet spot and maximizing the results without worrying about the “non-suppressive” dose limitations and cycle length (in adequate frames, of course).
Is there a reason to choose something more dangerous for your health (suppression+liver risks is undeniably more dangerous than liver-related risks alone) and less effective (you can’t really compare the gains from, say, 40 mg of Anavar and those with 500 mg of Testosterone)? It’s not even a question at this point.