Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is one of the most essential ancillaries we can use, yet it’s also one of the most misunderstood. There’s not just one single reason you would want to use HCG. And there’s not just one single situation where it gives you benefits.
In fact, you don’t even need to be a bodybuilder to find HCG beneficial. Regular guys on TRT can find HCG to be life-changing. And if you’re like me as a bodybuilder who uses AAS, then you might decide that there’s no reason NOT to be using HCG!
But what’s so good about HCG, and why should you add yet another compound to your cycles? I’m about to let you know everything you need about HCG. So, let’s get into it!
What is HCG?
HCG is a hormone that we produce naturally in the body, and in men, this is done in the pituitary gland and the testes. It’s also an essential hormone for females and is the hormone that’s looked for to determine a positive pregnancy test.
When it comes to HCG for our benefit as men who use anabolic steroids? HCG will act the same in men as LH (Luteinizing Hormone) and FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone). And this is our primary reason for using it! LH and FSH are what stimulate the testes to produce testosterone.
There are three big reasons you’ll want to consider taking HCG:
- To protect your fertility
- To provide testicular and libido support on-cycle
- To assist with testosterone recovery
You can now see just how critical a role HCG can play for steroid users.
History and Overview
The FDA has approved HCG for medical use in males for limited conditions. Hypogonadism, infertility, and delayed puberty are some conditions in males that HCG can be used to treat with a doctor’s prescription. It’s also commonly used as fertility support for men on TRT.
In women, HCG is used to trigger the process of ovulation. It’s so effective at this that a female will ovulate within 40 hours following an HCG injection.
HCG has a history of being a proclaimed weight loss product and is associated with a bogus concept of an “HCG diet” – however, this claim has long been dismissed by both scientists and the FDA (and is now illegal).
What can come as a surprise to male HCG users is this: Unlike the anabolic steroids and other compounds we use, which are produced synthetically nowadays, HCG is extracted from humans to be made into an injectable product.
HCG is extracted from the urine of pregnant women (it’s the presence of HCG that determines a positive pregnancy test). The HCG is then separated, purified, and standardized to make it suitable as an injectable solution for pharmaceutical use.
Mechanism of Action
The functionality of HCG in all males is essential, whether you use steroids or not. HCG gives us the same actions as the LH naturally produced in the pituitary gland:
- To stimulate sperm production and testosterone – HCG will stimulate the Leydig cells in the testicles that tell them to produce testosterone and sperm.
- To support testicle function – HCG helps prevent atrophy of the testicles.
You can see just how critical this hormone is for steroid users who need precisely this kind of support when using AAS that causes testicular atrophy (shrinkage), fertility problems, and testosterone suppression.
In females, HCG, of course, has a different mechanism of action. However, it still relates to LH, and in the case of women, HCG is substituted for luteinizing hormone to trigger ovulation and promote fertility.
Effects of HCG (Benefits) for Men
HCG is able to be used as a testosterone base during a cycle in place of testosterone injections. There’s a significant benefit to doing this: regular testosterone will still shut down your natural testosterone because you’re simply replacing it with an exogenous source of testosterone. But with HCG, you don’t get shut down. All you’re doing instead is maintaining testicular function and testosterone production – not replacing it.
HCG will, however, suppress luteinizing hormone levels, but PCT recovery will still be quicker with a SERM if you’ve used HCG vs. not using it. Guys will have their own priority reasons for using HCG, but these are the primary effects and benefits:
It’s not a huge deal if you’re using steroids short term, but a small number of men can face fertility issues with ongoing steroid use. HCG will keep the testes full and maintain your sperm production to support fertility.
Although related to fertility, men who are primarily concerned about testicle shrinkage will often use HCG specifically for this reason. A moderate HCG dose can keep your testes at normal size, but you’ll also need to manage estrogen levels by moving your AI dose up or down as required.
Kickstart Testosterone Production
Even if you haven’t used HCG on-cycle, starting it towards the end of your cycle and then for another two weeks before a SERM PCT will give you a faster testosterone recovery after a suppressive AAS cycle.
This strategy stops your testicles from completely shutting down and means you’re less dependent on a SERM to reenter your T production. HCG is able to do this before your AAS has cleared your system, so you’ll find your gains easier to maintain, and your overall well-being and sexual health will remain high.
What is Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)?
In the US alone, it’s estimated that nearly 3% of men are on prescribed TRT – and that’s not accounting for the many men who undertake their own TRT. Testosterone replacement therapy is just that: replacing what should be your natural testosterone levels because your body isn’t adequately doing it for you.
TRT is prescribed for men with all sorts of medical conditions that can result in low testosterone levels, including:
- Testicular injury
- Kidney disease
- Klinefelter syndrome
- Kallmann syndrome
Men using AAS are, of course, a different category of TRT users. Men will usually be prescribed testosterone injections, gels, or patches for TRT. And HCG will be prescribed particularly for men who want to maintain fertility, as it counteracts the suppression of natural testosterone (and potential infertility) while a guy is on TRT. What HCG can also do if you’re on TRT is help keep your balls at a normal size to prevent that dreaded shrinkage we suffer with on AAS cycles.
Many guys who use gear will not just run a cycle and then stop. More and more guys are staying on testosterone (TRT) long term and are committed to basically a lifetime of use of AAS for this purpose, and along with that, a low dose of HCG is typically used.
Why do this?
The more you use steroids, the more difficult it is to make a full recovery of testosterone and testicular function back to what it was before you used gear. So TRT isn’t only for guys who are unlucky enough to have a medical condition, but a lot of steroid users go down the long-term TRT path by choice as well, and the reasons for using HCG while on TRT are simple:
- HCG will help maintain your sperm count (that’s vital if you want to have children)
- HCG will prevent atrophy of your testicles
Libido and mental health will also benefit from a TRT and HCG protocol.
HCG for PCT
HCG is very useful for PCT, where you have a waiting period before starting your SERM after using a long-acting steroid (testosterone enanthate, for example).
Are you waiting two weeks before starting Clomid or your SERM of choice for PCT? Then, you can start HCG right after you’ve had your last shot of the cycle. You can start it before then if you want – while you’re still on cycle and this gives it time to build up and is the preferred strategy for experienced bodybuilders.
Clinical use of HCG will vary according to the doctor’s directions and the patient’s specific needs (age and weight also play a role in dosage). Doses of 500iu to 1000iu three times weekly can be prescribed to males, but this is considered a low-end dosage range. Higher doses of 4000iu three times weekly for long-term use (e.g., up to 9 months) are then reduced to half that amount for a few more months.
Should we be taking such high doses of HCG? No – guys using AAS and using HCG on-cycle require only a relatively small amount of HCG. We’ll ramp up the dose for PCT purposes to get things going. Here are my recommendations:
HCG Dosage On-cycle
500iu weekly is more than an adequate dose of HCG most of the time. Split it into two doses per week (250iu per injection). This dosage will maintain your testicle size, prevent the dreaded shrinkage, and won’t have you in such a depleted state when the cycle ends. If you’re then planning to continue HCG into PCT, you’ll want to increase the dosage at that time, as I’ve outlined below.
HCG Dosage for PCT
Kicking off PCT with HCG straight after your AAS cycle ends or a few days prior to that is best done at higher doses, keeping in mind this is just a short-term use before SERMs take over. 2,500iu per week for two weeks only is my standard protocol. I like to split it in half for a simple twice-weekly administration.
If needed, I will add in 1mg per day of Arimidex, which you’ll often need at this higher HCG dosage to combat any sides. You certainly don’t have to use HCG as part of PCT, but in my experience, it gets you back to normal functioning much faster than if you rely only on SERMs, especially after a very suppressive cycle.
HCG Dosage for Men on TRT
TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) is regularly prescribed to men suffering from medical conditions like hypogonadism, and HCG provides essential fertility support.
Doctors will prescribe an HCG dosage for TRT patients based on individual needs, but most commonly, the dosage is between 750iu and 1500iu weekly. Guys with very low testosterone levels can be prescribed up to 5000iu weekly, but as we know, this will come with some challenging side effects.
Dosing Schedule, Half-life, and PCT Length
You’ll still need to use a SERM following HCG for PCT, which means your PCT will still need to be the regular length: typically 4 to 6 weeks in total. This can be Enclomiphene or an older SERM like Clomid – whatever works best for you.
Injectable HCG has a half-life of 1-2 days. A twice-weekly injection is the most common dosing schedule. Some TRT patients will be directed to administer HCG three times per week. I’ve heard of some guys who will break their weekly dose into daily injections to take in a smaller amount with each pin.
Proper Administration and Timing
When you buy real injectable HCG (not drops or other fake products), you’ll receive two products that you need to mix to formulate the injection according to the instructions. This might sound complex, but once you’ve done it once, it’s very straightforward.
Most users will want to inject subcutaneously (under the skin) rather than intramuscularly. You CAN inject into the muscle if you prefer. Some guys will find sub-cut injecting makes them feel ill for whatever reasons. Studies have found that intramuscular injection tends to have higher bioavailability than subcutaneous (but be aware that this study was undertaken on obese females). You don’t have to go as deep into the muscle as you do with an AAS injection; it should be a less painful overall injection.
As for the best time of day to inject HCG? I don’t have a preference, and there’s no medical advice concerning the best time of day. What matters is that your injection schedule is consistent; ideally, doing it around the same time on every injecting day.
HCG vs. Other PCT Options
HCG is what we could call a PCT add-on. It won’t ever be your sole PCT protocol – you will always need to use another ancillary, and that will be a SERM for most of us. So, how does HCG differ from these other ancillaries, and how do you know which one to use for what purpose? Here’s a quick comparison of HCG alongside SERMs, AIs and HGH:
HCG vs. SERMs
HCG and SERMs are vastly different compounds but two that bodybuilders highly value. Something that we can easily forget is that HCG itself is suppressive. No, not to your testosterone levels. Instead, it will be suppressive to your luteinizing hormone levels. So your natural LH is low after using HCG, which is another reason you need to follow it up with a SERM (a SERM will also stimulate LH production).
HCG won’t help with side effects like gyno as a SERM can – instead, HCG can CAUSE estrogenic side effects. What they do have in common is in their treatment for infertility. HCG is established for its benefits in promoting fertility, whereas some SERMs are a potential treatment for infertility in some men.
HCG vs. Aromatase Inhibitors
Most of us will want to always keep at least one aromatase inhibitor on hand, primarily for on-cycle use to prevent and reverse estrogenic side effects like gyno and water retention. This makes an AI a very different experience from using HCG.
HCG can itself cause estrogenic-type adverse effects if your dosage is too high, and you can find yourself needing to use an AI to combat HCG’s side effects.
AIs work to lower your circulating estrogen levels. Few AIs have the ability to stimulate testosterone, and none can do so anywhere near as well as HCG. AIs are not ideal for PCT use – whereas HCG can be a very beneficial compound to kick-start testosterone production in the pre-PCT stage.
HCG vs. HGH
You’ll want to know all your acronyms as a steroid user because while HCG and HGH look similar in name, they are very different types of hormones with vastly different effects, benefits, and uses.
- HGH is all about promoting development and growth. Steroid users will use HGH to build upon the anabolic effects of AAS – to gain more muscle and size.
- HCG is much more of a support compound than HGH is. HCG is here to support fertility and testicular function. HGH is all about giving you physical results: muscle gains, reducing fat gain while bulking, faster recovery and tissue repair, joint support, and plenty more.
Both HGH and HCG have a place in your cycles, but you’ll definitely want to familiarize yourself with the negatives of HGH (as we also do with HCG).
HCG Side Effects in Men
If you’re taking a high HCG dose during your cycle, you can find yourself faced with some familiar estrogenic and androgenic side effects. There is a known list of possible side effects that men who are prescribed HCG are at risk of. These include some adverse effects that are obviously going to be detrimental to us as bodybuilders. They include:
- Mood problems
- Water retention
- Testicle pain
Testicular pain and gynecomastia are considered to be common side effects of HCG. We will always want an AI on hand (generally at a very low dose) to mitigate any estrogenic sides caused by HCG. Although rare, blood clots are indicated as a possible serious side effect of HCG.
Where to Buy HCG?
If there’s one thing I can say here, it’s this: don’t waste your time or money on pills or drops when it comes to HCG. Get the real thing, or avoid using it. It can be tempting to go for cheaper and more convenient pills or other oral products, but they are not the real thing: real HCG only comes in injectable form.
Be aware of fake HCG weight loss products being sold over the counter – in fact, these are typically the pills and drops I’ve just mentioned. In the US, these fake weight loss HCG products are not legal, but some suppliers continue to sell them under the radar, and these are products you won’t want to waste your time and money on or risk your health taking as they will not provide you with the benefits you need from real HCG!
Availability of HCG
Injectable HCG sold in vials is available under different brands in different countries. Pharma-grade HCG is the only form I will use and the only form worth using – steer clear of illegal diet products and oral HCG. If you’ve been prescribed TRT, then you’ll likely find it easy to obtain a prescription for HCG.
Black market HCG is the only option for many of us, and this can be considerably cheaper than buying directly from pharmaceutical suppliers. As always, due diligence is needed when seeking out a black-market supplier for HCG, but most reputable steroid or ancillary/peptide suppliers will also have HCG available.
Is HCG Legal?
Because HCG is well known to be an accompaniment to steroid use and because of its effects on testosterone production, it is a banned substance by WADA and some other anti-doping sporting authorities.
However, HCG is prohibited for male athletes only because HCG is not considered a performance-enhancing substance for females. This only concerns you if you compete in events or competitions where drug testing takes place. In terms of purchasing HCG for personal use – to do so legally requires a prescription, and most men will get this as part of a TRT prescription.
Regardless of which pharmaceutical brand you find, it’s almost sure to be quite expensive. Although genuine pharma-grade HCG injections are what we all want (and need in this case), the cost is beyond reasonable for many of us, but this will vary substantially between different countries. This can make you turn to the black market, where you can often find the same brands for a discounted cost.
With counterfeit or fake injectables not known to be a concern with HCG, you can be pretty confident that black-market HCG vials are the real deal. How much you need to pay for black market HCG depends on the supplier and location. However, full-priced pharmaceutical HCG in the US per 10,000 IU vial can be priced up to $250. You can expect to pay half that cost or less from a good black-market supplier.
HCG is a fantastic alternative testosterone base, but not only that – it’s what I consider to be a must-have ancillary that’s as important as a good SERM and AI. But you know what? Some guys won’t agree with me. I’ve heard the other side of the coin on HCG opinions, and some guys think it makes things more complicated.
It’s true that HCG comes with its own set of side effects we need to think about. For some people, it won’t be worth it. Then there’s fertility. Not everyone is worried about fertility. And none of us know whether infertility will happen even on TRT – it’s the risk you take. I don’t always use it for PCT, but if you’re worried about your balls turning into olives on cycle, then that reason alone is enough for a lot of guys to turn to HCG.
HCG is pretty expensive if you can’t find an affordable source, and cost alone might be your deciding factor. Weigh up the pros and cons of HCG before deciding if it’s what you want! With a dual use for both on-cycle and to lead into PCT, once you start using HCG and see how it can transform your cycle and recovery, it’s hard to go without it.
- Post Cycle Therapy 101: The Ultimate Guide for PED Users
- Raloxifene (Evista) PCT 101: The Bodybuilder’s Guide
- Aromasin (Exemestane) PCT 101: The Bodybuilder’s Guide
— Furious Joe