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What is the HPTA?
HPTA stands for Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Testicular Axis. A link between 3 glands/clusters that results in testosterone and sperm production.
This refers to the Hypothalamus. This is a small cluster in the brain that links your central nervous system to the endocrine system. This is where it all begins. Hypothalamus sends a signal out to the Pituitary gland. This signal is called Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH). Gonadotropins are your Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormones (FSH). These are explained in the next step.

This refers to the Pituitary gland in your head, just under the brain, and releases LH, FSH, and more (because it received the signal from the hypothalamus). To stay on topic, we'll just discuss LH and FSH. LH is a hormone that is sent over to the testes for the purpose of stimulating Leydig Cells to produce testosterone. FSH is another hormone sent to the testes for the purpose of sperm production, which is accomplished by joining testosterone in the stimulation of Sertoli Cells. Both LH and FSH are required as they work in synergy for the betterment of production by the testes.

Testicular (also known as Gonadal; ie HPGA):
This refers to the testes. This is where your Leydig Cells and Sertoli Cells (mentioned above) reside. These are cells that produce testosterone and sperm when stimulated by LH and FSH (which arrived because the pituitary sent them). This event completes the chain reaction that started at the Hypothalamus, and now we have testosterone and sperm production.

What is the Endocrine System?
This is a group of glands that produce vital hormones into your blood. These hormones are strategically released with the purpose of stabilizing your body. This state of stability is called Homeostasis. Here are the glands that make up our endocrine systems and a short description of their function:
Located in the brain and releases Serotonin and Melatonin.

In the brain. Releases growth hormone , prolactin & oxytocin, Thyroid releasing hormone (TSH) and more.

Releases thyroxine (T4), triiodothyronine (T3) and Calcitonin which regulates body heat & metabolism (T3 & T4). Calcitonin is our defense mechanism against excess Calcium released by parathyroid. Located in the throat area.

Releases hormones that regulate calcium & phosphorus. Located in the throat area alongside the thyroid.

Releases insulin to regulate sugar. Other chemicals are released strategically to assist digestion.

Releases hydrocortisone and DHEA. Regulates blood pressure & balances salt/potassium.

Testes (Ovaries in females):
Releases testosterone and sperm (Estrogen/progesterone in females).

So now you see the link between glands and clusters in your body that result in testosterone and sperm production. The descriptions above are very "dumbed down", so you can see how complex this system can be. All these glands are for your state of health and stability. Disruption in any of your HPTA glands could cause problems. It's a chain reaction and it's as strong as the weakest link. For example, if your Hypothalamus is sending GnRH, and your pituitary does not respond properly, then it won't send LH/FSH to the testes, rendering GnRH useless as you will not produce testosterone effectively, or none at all. This is why men with Low testosterone begin testosterone therapy .
Low T in men is referred to as Hypogonadism. You could be primary or secondary hypogonadal. Primary would indicate a problem with the testes. Secondary would be indicative of an issue in the brain, particularly the Hypothalamus and/or Pituitary.
How Do Steroids Affect My HPT-Axis?
Your body was never designed to be manipulated. Certainly not when it's already in a healthy, testosterone-and-sperm-producing stage. Although it's an incredible system and very smart, we can still introduce exogenous compounds that will confuse the body and result in "reactions". These reactions are your body's natural response to help stabilize your internals, although that doesn't always work to our advantage. But don't be mad at your body, it's our responsibility to help it remain stable.
When you administer exogenous anabolic -androgenic steroids , a problem occurs. We know that the purpose of GnRH is to result in both testosterone and sperm production. When your brain realized that there is already testosterone coming in, it shuts down production. In other words, the hypothalamus says "Hmm, well if you're just going to inject anabolic steroids , I'm just going to close down shop". So if the Hypothalamus stops sending GnRH to the pituitary, then the pituitary will not have any orders to follow, so LH/FSH comes to a halt or slows down drastically. Inevitably, killing natural testosterone production. This is why your blood work on cycle shows LH and FSH in the gutter.
Another hormone that is suppressed is Hepcidin. This is a peptide hormone produced by the liver that is responsible for iron regulation in your body. This triggers your brain to send a message to the red bone marrow; instructing it to produce red blood cells. Lots and lots of cells. So much that your hematocrit levels increase and blood donations are generally the only remedy.
Am I firing blanks on cycle? Can I get a broad pregnant? Being shut down does not guarantee that sperm production is seized. Practice safe sex to prevent impregnation. Always.
How Do I Manage Excessive RBC Production?
When you produce too many red cells, your blood becomes thicker and thicker. The "thickness" of your blood due to RBC excess is referred to as your Hematocrit (HCT) level. HCT can be measured via a simple blood test called a Complete Blood Count (CBC) panel. Your goal is to maintain an HCT number at or under 50%. Going above this number is not the end of the world, but once you reach 54% +, you've entered the "danger zone" so to speak. Anytime your HCT reaches 50% or higher, it's in your best interest to donate whole blood or a double RBC, to rid your body from excess RBC's that are causing this thickness.
If your blood reaches the danger zone, it is likely that you will be rejected for a donation. This causes an issue because you need to drain your blood. At this stage you must see a doctor, who can then prescribe a therapeutic phlebotomy. This is where your blood is drawn and discarded because it useless to them.
Generally, if you donate blood as often as a donation center will allow you (generally every 2 to 3 months), then you should not have any issues. Some steroids, such as EQ, will cause RBC levels to climb at an alarming rate, triggering the need for more frequent phlebotomies.
Don't allow your blood to become too thick. You could suffer blood clots, high blood pressure, headaches and it can be fatal.
What are the Negative Effects of Being Shut Down?
When you're shutdown for short periods or "during" the shutdown process, the reality is that there isn't much damage done. This is why you may have heard me and others, advise someone who's only been on cycle for 2 weeks and wants to quit, and that no PCT is required. Although the process may have already been initiated, it's not substantial enough for your body to be unable to stabilize. So your body returns to it's normal function and stabilizes again since it wasn't completely shut down.
On the other hand, extended cycles is where the real concern begins. This is anything beyond 3 to 4 weeks, regardless of the ester used. So if you're running a 4 week, 6 week, 8 week or 12 week cycle, you'll need to perform Post Cycle Therapy .
So in short, because exogenous steroids are an unnatural event, when these hormones are being suppressed, your body needs all the help it can get to restart all of this production. Some people are simply gifted and can naturally recover to an acceptable level (not full recovery). But these gifted users are far and few between. It's the majority of us that require therapy in order to restart our systems.
Poor recovery can result in many side effects, such as:
- Hypogonadism
- Fatigue/low energy/Lethargy
- Depression
- Daytime sleepiness
- Low sex drive
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Achiness
- Increase in body fat
- Weakened bones
- Reduction in lean mass
- Low ejaculate volume

These are all signs of a failed restart/post cycle therapy. The likelihood of a repeated-identical-PCT to be successful is slim. So at this stage professional assistance is recommended so that a different and more aggressive protocol is used.
What Can I do To Increase the Chances of Recovery?
One thing you should know, when I speak of recovery, I am not only referring to your libido. Please do not, ever, gauge your recovery by your ability to achieve an erection. Only blood work will determine whether you've recovered properly or not. In the HPTA chain, it ends with LH and FSH, so those two hormone levels along with Total and free testosterone are what you need to check 6 weeks after PCT is completed.
The best way to better your chances of recovery is to counter some of the negative effects of steroids .
Estrogen Control: Using an aromatase inhibitor (AI) to control all the testosterone conversion into estrogen. The more testosterone you inject, the more estrogen you will have. We generally take AI's to prevent gynecomastia . But there's more concerns with high estrogen.
Dangers of HIGH Estrogen (E2) in Men for Extended Periods:
- Increased risk of a stroke
- Thickened inner artery walls (affecting flow)
- Prostate cancer risk
- Gynecomastia
- Low libido
- Adoption of feminine characteristics
- Decreased body hair
- Fatigue
- Low tolerance to stress

Low estrogen is also problematic. The need for blood work verification is vital, as both; high and low E2 share many similar symptoms. Anyone who has crashed their E2 levels can testify to how miserable your life becomes until the issue is fixed. This is why it's crucial to use an AI on cycle, not only that, but to monitor your levels via blood work to make sure you're in range. Too high is bad, and too low is bad. Everyone converts testosterone to estrogen, it's not a "case by case" issue. So always use an AI and monitor your levels. Do not cycle with an AI "on hand". Needs to be used, not on hand. Let's put an end to this nonsense, today.
The only difference between 2 steroid users is that one may need a higher dose to manage levels. But again this is resolved with blood work. In some cases TRT patients may get away without an AI, but this is never the case with high volumes of testosterone. Don't take that risk, please.
Stop Playing Yo-Yo With Your Doses: Stability is vital for your endocrine system. For everything actually. Even in a state of "shut down", it's still important to maintain stable blood levels. When you are planning your cycle, you need to choose your doses and stick to them. (EXCEPTIONS TO COME). If you plan on a 500 mg per week cycle, you need to do 2 things. First, you need to administer this dose twice weekly. This will prevent unwanted spikes in your serum levels. The next thing is to stick to that dose. Most users become very impatient around the 4th week and we see a ton of threads titles "4th week and I don't feel anything". These folks have a terrible habit of increasing their doses to 600, then 750 mg, etc... This will drive your brain crazy. Stop doing that. If you run an entire cycle and your results are poor, it's then time to have a professional evaluate your diet.
There are exceptions to dosages. But the exceptions should not apply to steroids, but to AI's and SERMS, rather. The only time it's acceptable to change your dose is when your blood work indicates the need to. If your estrogen levels are above range and you've been using 0.25 mg of Arimidex , then it's obvious that you need to increase your dose. Some will go by signs, such as puffy or sensitive nipples. But that is the silly way of increasing doses. Without blood work, you're playing a guessing game. Even if you have a sign or two that might indicate high E2, you should immediately get blood work, even if your planned/scheduled time is not up yet.
hCG on Cycle: This has been a never ending battle on every forum on the internet. I'd like to explain a few things about its benefits on cycle vs. post cycle. Hopefully this will help you make a more informed decision on how and when to administer hCG . So let's get started...
When does suppression occur? Does it happen on cycle, or post cycle? As little as 10 minutes of research will tell you that suppression occurs ON CYCLE, not post cycle. You don't get shut down after your cycle is over. So wouldn't it make more sense to do something about while it's happening, rather than attempting to fix a problem that's been broken for 12 or so weeks? Of course it does!!!
Do not make an attempt at planning an hCG "Blast" after your cycle is done. This is an old school method and while it may help, it certainly is not the ideal way to handle this situation. You're in much better hands if you run hCG on cycle so that you can prevent testicular atrophy, mimic your suppressed luteinizing hormone and keep that natural testosterone factory in business. All these things add up to a faster, more efficient recovery. I've said this a million times before and I'll say it again here. hCG is your seatbelt. Does it make sense to wear your seatbelt after you get in a wreck? Of course not! So wear your seatbelt for the ride.
Monitor Blood Work: It's important to make sure you're checking your blood levels throughout your cycle. Failure to do so will result in too many imbalances and recovery would prove to be a difficult task. Blood work should be done pre-cycle, mid cycle and post PCT.
Post Cycle Therapy: Obviously the most important one saved for last. Avoid the use of AI's and/or hCG during PCT. hCG is suppressive and AI's along with SERMS can cause damage to your E2 levels. You need SERMS and SERMS only. The 2 serms you need are Clomid and Nolva. Yes, both are required for the betterment of your recovery. And no, they are not identical compounds. Nolva boosts the effects of clomid because it put clomid into "competition" mode where they both fight for a receptor to bind to. This competitiveness will ONLY happen with the presence of BOTH compounds and will inevitably resolve the issue of excess estrogen in the Hypothalamus. This will trigger both LH and FSH to crank UP, as the high estrogen in this cluster is suppressive. You need the synergy so don't take chances.
AI’s should only be used where needed. With a good diet, the right supplementation & ED pinning they can be avoided.

Obviously every body is different so you should have them on hand.

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