While monitoring physical changes and physiological function are good indicators of if a PED is working for you, you may not always notice the warning signs of imbalanced hormone levels or high hematocrit before things get troubling.
While some fears are overstated, as one review paper details: the potential negative impact of PED use and anabolic steroid use is very real if done improperly or not monitored closely.
Anabolic steroids and androgens/prohormones can impact women and men alike, leading to “male pattern baldness, gynecomastia, acne, decreased high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol), increased lipids, stunted growth (in adolescents), testicular atrophy, and downregulation of endogenous hormone production.”
Regardless of what substances you’re using to regulate hormone levels, help with performance, or boost muscle growth – you need to ensure you’re consistently monitoring your bloodwork. This applies both to serious professionals and newbies alike.
We’ll go over in more detail below why getting bloodwork is important when using PEDs.
Table of Contents
What Are PEDs? Is Testosterone a PED?
First, let us define ‘PED’ – obviously abbreviated to signify Performance Enhancing Drugs.
These are ‘substances’ used to enhance the performance levels or abilities of people. Often associated with ‘doping’ in sports or athletic competitions, these are substances that are frequently banned for use among athletes and bodybuilders within their respective communities.
What about for those outside the realm of sports or bodybuilding, simply using testosterone to restore hormone levels to what they should be?
PED is a wide ranging term that does encapsulate anabolic steroids, but can also be expounded upon to include: SARMs, SERMs, CNS agents, prohormones (DHEA), hGH (human growth hormone), and even stimulants (reuptake inhibitors).
Under this banner, yes, testosterone is a PED and perhaps the most commonly used one, both outside and within the fitness community.
The Importance of Bloodwork and PED Use
In addition to proper PCT protocol, we strongly recommend getting routine, full panel blood work done. At what intervals should you have bloodwork done, and what should you be testing for?
It is important to run full panel blood work at least three to four times a year.
It is also important to get bloodwork done prior to PED use or starting a cycle, so you can have an accurate understanding of your baseline and be able to pinpoint any problems with fluctuations in future results.
Elevated blood glucose levels, or liver enzyme levels are things that need to be spotted and addressed prior to use, and can be detected easily with routine blood work.
This is especially important considering some steroids can cause elevated liver values themselves. Furthermore, you may have elevated hormone levels that need to be addressed in a specific manner.
A man with elevated estrogen levels going into a cycle will clearly want to avoid aromatizing compounds and have a thorough understanding of the compounds being used in relation to elevating E2 and prolactin, etc.
When anabolic steroids are used, the pituitary of the HPTA axis drops endogenous production of LH and FSH – meaning your body will no longer be producing testosterone on its own.
An example of the importance of monitoring blood work goes beyond strictly testosterone use. Trenbolone, for example, can dramatically increase lipids and cortisol levels – which can be dangerous if not monitored closely. EQ is known to cause elevated RBC (red blood cell) count.
How Many Times Should I Get Bloodwork Done?
Based on understanding the physiological impact of anabolic steroids and PEDs on the HPTA and lipid profile, we would suggest the routine below:
- Pre-Cycle Check: provides a baseline of comparison for later follow-up labs, along with given you any potential reason to not go on anabolics
- Mid-Cycle Check: will demonstrate your labs and blood work at its “worst,” with a better understanding of how the PED is impacting you
- Post-PCT Check: done to ensure things are returning back to normal or a ‘baseline’ after completing post-cycle therapy
- Anyone cruising should run blood work routinely 4-5 times a year, just to ensure everything is in order with blood cell count, lipids, cholesterol, and hormone levels
An important aside: anyone running Tren (trenbolone) needs to get the LC/MS sensitive estrogen (E2) reading done. Most estrogen (E2) tests are RIA or ECILA – these will count the trenbolone as estrogen in the reading and give you a false reading if you’re trying to use PCT or an AI accurately.
Trenbolone is also known to have a negative impact on the following, which we recommend getting tested for:
- Liver Function Tests (LFT)
- Fractionated Cholesterol (HDL + LDL & Triglycerides)
- Liver Hormones (Bilirubin, GGT, ALT, AST)
- Haematology (red blood cell count, white blood cell, hemoglobin)
- Iron (total serum iron, ferritin levels)
- Thyroid Function Tests (T3 + T4 & TSH to indicate any problems with the thyroid)
- Cortisol (trenbolone has a tendency to elevate cortisol levels, as does other PEDs – elevated cortisol prior to steroid use could indicate a health problem or disorder)
What Kind of Bloodwork Should I Have Done Before My First Cycle?
If you’re ordering online and going to a private lab, most often you’ll see a typical “Male Hormone Panel,” which should include the following:
- Androgens: LH, FSH, Testosterone, Free Testosterone, SHBG, Estradiol. This provides a baseline for understanding HPTA function, particularly if you’re already hypogandal or have low T). Free testosterone should always be measured directly and not calculated. Estradiol (E2) is important to understand going in, and mid-cycle if you need to take an AI (aromatase inhibitor).
- Insulin + Glucose: to ensure you’re not diabetic or pre-diabetic.
- PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen): elevated levels could signal prostate cancer, which would be a real bad thing to have while on androgens. You’ll need to ensure levels are normal before starting on any PED or anabolic.
- CBC: complete blood count.
- Lipids (LDL + HDL): PEDs and anabolics are not good for lipids or cholesterol levels. You want to ensure you’re healthy going into PED use.
How Do I Go About Getting Bloodwork Done?
The easiest way for anyone to get bloodwork done is to simply go to their family doctor or physician and provide them with a list of the tests they want done.
Of course, some will hesitate to do this unless they’re on testosterone as per their doctor’s recommendation – they might be scared of being flagged as a steroid abuser, and don’t want it to potentially impact any health benefits or healthcare provider relationship they have. This is especially true for those who do bloodwork 4 times over the course of a cycle.
The second easiest way to go about getting routine bloodwork done is through online providers, where you independently pay for what you want done and then take these test requisitions to a private lab.
If you need help interpreting your test results, there are a number of resources available online for determining ‘healthy’ or normal levels of lipids, liver enzymes, and hormone levels.
We’ve outlined a comprehensive review of male hormone panels on our blog for those looking to better understand their blood work results.
As always, we still recommend consulting with a healthcare practitioner or professional to gain a better understanding of results, ideally one who is open to testosterone therapy or anabolic steroid use for self-improvement.
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