Did you miss part 1 and part 2? read:
- Bridging in Bodybuilding Part 2: Understanding Post Cycle Therapy
- Bridging in Bodybuilding: An Introduction
Technically, the bridge period begins at the start of your post cycle therapy, but that is only the beginning. As a matter of fact, the essential part of the bridge period, and the most difficult one, is when the PCT is over and you are back to being “natural.” This is assuming that your PCT was successful and you don't have to repeat it. There are numerous variables in this time period that we will explore to get the most out of a Bridge.
Table of Contents
Why do I need to Bridge?
Simply put, the most prominent reason to bridge is to maintain the gains made on cycle. These, of course, usually revolve around such particular terms as cutting, bulking, and body recomposition. As stated in my last article, one’s mindset is really the determining factor in both PCT, and the bridge period. Thus, a bridge can technically be described as “The mindset from PCT up until the start of a new cycle.” Why? Because it is the choices you decide to make that will determine the amount of gains kept.
For example, you just finished a successful cutting cycle where you dropped a significant amount of body fat and added a few pounds of muscle. Muscles are hard, veins are popping, and self esteem is sky high. Now, of course, you are going to lose a little bit of that look without the added juice flowing through, but that’s no reason to just give up and call it quits. Bodybuilding is a lifestyle change and a choice one makes, no matter your goals. You can't just eat clean, train hard, and push for goals only when you are on cycle - you should be doing it all the time. This all begins with what we spoke about before: your mindset. You have to keep it steady, no matter the obstacles. If we do the best we can to maintain our desired physique, it will allow for the next cycle to be that much more efficient.
Have you really ever seen a professional bodybuilder just let themselves go in the off-season? Chances are you haven’t, and that’s obviously for a few reasons. The major reason being that this is what they choose to do and it becomes their lifestyle. Moreover, the better shape they come into the season, the easier it will be for them to get stage ready! This relates to the regular user in the exact same way. Don’t become lazy just because you don’t have that superman feeling anymore. Certainly, this is no easy task, since there is far less room for error now that the anabolic steroids have left the body. However, there are still choices we can make to improve our look and health during the bridging period.
How to Bridge?
Before we learn some concepts on how to bridge, let’s educate ourselves on what can happen if we don’t decide to come off cycle. Staying on a low dose of testosterone or any steroid for that matter in between cycles is NOT a bridge. If you are never coming off, then you are essentially just cruising until you can “blast” again on your next cycle. Nonetheless, those who are not on prescribed TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) and never come off cycle are just creating potential health risks. Interestingly enough, even TRT guys will tell you about the dangers of elevated testosterone levels over extended periods of time. But for the average user, here are some potential side effects of never coming off cycle:
- Increased probability of suffering a heart attack
- Increased probability of suffering a stroke
- Increased blood clotting
- Increase in blood pressure & cholesterol
- Prostate damage and cancer
- Potential hair loss
- Polycythemia (excess red blood cell count)
- Decreased life expectancy
These are just to name a few, on top of making it that much harder to make gains on your next cycle due to receptor down regulation. Do you know someone who drinks 8 cups of coffee a day and it seems to have little impact on them? They no longer get that little kick because of the receptors being so down-regulated from chronic use. Steroids and androgen receptors work in a similar way. If they are never given the time to repair and recover, then how can they keep working to their potential? They simply can’t, and guys will often just up the dose of gear, which will do little to nothing if the receptors are flooded. This is why accepting the bridge period and going into it with the right attitude is a much safer approach if TRT is not medically needed.
There should not be a huge change in training during the bridge period when compared to cycling. The most crucial aspect is not expecting that you'll be making gains like you did on cycle, but that’s no reason to change your training intensity or frequency. Perhaps you won’t be able to do as many reps and your strength will decrease a little bit, but the more gains you make off cycle, the better off you will be on cycle. Just don’t expect them to come overnight, and enjoy your training.
Earlier we used an example of an individual who was cutting, so this time around let’s use someone who just came off a successful bulking cycle. There is no need to all of a sudden change your routine and volume, and you want to keep taxing that muscle so you can hold on to that size and strength the best you can. Of course, it is imperative to change routines and movements every so often to keep the body and muscles stimulated, but it really just goes into having a plan and executing that plan.
We all know that diet is probably the most critical aspect to the achievement of bodybuilding goals. No matter how many steroids you take or cardio you do, nothing makes up for a poor diet and overeating. As mentioned above, there is certainly less room for error in the bridge period, where we no longer have AAS in our system. Pumps might decrease, recovery time increases, and testosterone and IGF levels may get reduced. However, this is the time where your diet needs to be even MORE dialed in.
Perhaps you aren’t as motivated because you don’t have that on cycle feeling anymore, but if you just let your diet go downhill, then you are making everything harder on yourself. Having control over your diet takes no physical strength or talent – it is simply an individualized task that you decide to execute or not. That being said, it is often wise to return back to maintenance calories as the body can only stay in a deficit for so long, given that physique is your goal. For those looking to preserve a little more size, eating slightly over maintenance is certainly acceptable, as long as your macros are goal oriented.
Food macros will vary from person to person, but generally, protein should be kept at a minimum of 40% of daily food intake. Protein helps us stay anabolic. Even though gains might come to a plateau, proper protein intake will help with nitrogen balance and muscle sparing. There is a large variance in diet from person to person; however, overeating is overeating. In this particular case, the “If it fits in your macros” idea is not really so bad. Just make sure you are consistent with your food intake as it relates to your goals.
Example Diet during a bridge (Macros)
- 50% protein
- 25% carbohydrates
- 25% Fat
Let's do the math for a 200lbs male. If you're just trying to maintain, you'll need weight x 12 in calories, which would be 200 x 12 = 2400. 2400 calories is now the BMR (basal metabolic rate), which means you won't lose gains with this caloric intake.
- 2400 calories
- 50 % protein = 1200 calories / 4 = 300 grams protein/day
- 25% carbohydrates = 600 calories / 4 = 150 grams carbohydrates/day
- 25% fat = 600 calories / 9 = 67 grams fat/day
Summary: For a 200lbs male, a maintenance BMR level for a bridge would be 2400 calories: 300grams protein/150grams carbs/67grams fat per day.
Although supplements are not anabolic steroids, there are a few that can aid us during the bridge period. The first one we will talk about is amino acids, specifically the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). These are essentially the building blocks of protein and are used in bodybuilding for numerous reasons. Here are some benefits of BCAAs:
- Prevent catabolism (muscle breakdown)
- Increased protein synthesis
- Increased muscular endurance and performance
- Reduced muscle soreness
- Very cost effective
The next supplement that a lot of guys utilize in PCT and off cycle is creatine. This organic acid is found in numerous foods we consume, and it is known to increase the formation of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), the body’s primary energy source. Interestingly, there are numerous types of creatine, and although they all vary a tiny bit, here are some general benefits of creatine:
- Increased energy and work capacity
- Increase in muscle mass
- Increase in strength
- Increase in recovery
- Improved glucose tolerance
Another supplement that is often recommended while remaining “natural” is glutamine. In fact, it is one of the 20 amino acids, but glutamine has some significant differences compared to other amino acids. One of the major differences consists in its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier in the body. Moreover, it is also extremely abundant in skeletal muscle. Here are some potential benefits of glutamine:
- Improvement of protein synthesis & metabolism
- Prevents muscle breakdown
- Increased cell volume
- Secretion of Growth Hormone
- Improved recovery
In addition to the above, there is a supplement on the market that no bridge can do without, and that's HCGenerate. HCGenerate is a testosterone booster based on a West African herb called Fadogia, and it has a ton of other test boosting ingredients. It naturally helps increase your test levels during the bridge, which will allow for more gains to be kept, and for new gains to be made. Read about hcgenerate here. Benefits of HCGenerate:
- Naturally boost testosterone levels
- Decrease prolactin levels
- Control estrogen levels
- Increase LH/FSH activity
- Increase size of balls
- Reduce recovery times
Lastly, it's a commonly known fact that your liver and kidneys work overtime during your cycle. Therefore, you need to cleanse your liver, kidneys and organs during PCT and during your bridge. You can do this by using N2Guard during the bridge period. It's a scientifically proven formula that will help your liver regenerate, flush your kidneys, and cleanse your organs. Benefits of N2Guard:
- Clean liver
- Healthier kidneys
- Lower blood pressure
- Organ cleanse
- Reduce water retention
Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMS)
This in itself can be an article on its own, as SARMS have entered the bodybuilding world with a bang. In spite of the many benefits that SARMS can offer, many are still non-believers in the power of these compounds, which can often be linked to misinformation and lack of product quality from certain suppliers. The primary SARMS we will discuss are: Ostarine (MK-2866), Andarine (S4), and Anabolicum (LGD-4033).
Note: Even though Cardarine (GW-501516) & Nutrobal (MK-677) are usually considered as SARMS, they are technically not. However, they will be discussed further.
Ostarine (MK-2866), better known as osta, is going to be the most useful SARM in bridging hands down. It was designed to prevent muscle wasting, and it has extremely efficient anti-catabolic effects. This is why it is included in many PCTs, so that the individual can prevent muscle breakdown and hold on to their gains made on cycle. When used at the correct dosage, ostarine will not cause suppression, making it a perfect tool for PCT and during a bridge. Therefore, as long as the dose is kept under 25 milligrams (mg) per day, ostarine can be used for up to 12 weeks before a break is recommended. Here are some potential benefits that ostarine can offer:
- It will prevent muscle breakdown
- Joint healing and mobility will be greatly improved
- There will be an increase in anabolic activity
- It will improve the overall well-being
This particular SARM is more androgenic in nature than ostarine, meaning that it gives a more drying and hardening effect. Even though SARMS do not aromatize into estrogen, extreme dosages can lead to a potential increase in estrogen levels. However, andarine can still be successfully used during the bridge period for up to 12 weeks if the dosage is kept in moderation. Here are some of its benefits:
- Muscle hardening & dryness
- Anti-catabolic properties
- Increase in lean body mass
- Noticeable strength boost
Anabolicum (LGD) has been shown to be the most anabolic SARM, but it is also the one that causes the most potential suppression. Therefore, it is not recommended to use this SARM during the bridging period, as the purpose of the bridge period is to continue to recover from the cycle and maintain the gains made, and we do not want to shut the body down again.
Nutrobal (mk677) is a growth hormone secretagogue, which basically means that it has an impact on the release of growth hormone (GH) and IGF-1 (insulin growth factor) levels. Interestingly, nutrobal is a relatively new class of supplements that is administered orally, and has no impact on natural testosterone production or estrogen levels. This makes it a perfect tool to utilize during the bridge period. Here are some potential benefits of nutrobal:
- Increase in HGH serum levels
- Increase in IGF-1 levels
- Prevention of muscle wasting
- Increase in lean body mass
- Improved sleep and well being
- Improved recovery and healing
- Increase in fat loss
For short, Cardarine (GW) is a PPARδ modulator, which means that it has a significant impact on the metabolism, and in a very productive way. It has the ability to increase glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and reverse metabolic abnormalities. Although it has little anabolic and androgenic activity, it has numerous benefits than can be utilized during the bridge period. When using Cardarine GW you can expect:
- Increase in fat loss
- Increased cardiovascular endurance
- Increased muscular endurance
- Improvement in cholesterol levels
- Increased energy
Myths in Bridging
No matter the dosage, taking an anabolic/androgenic steroid is NOT a natural bridge, and will ultimately hinder the point of recovery. There are numerous myths that guys want to believe, so they can potentially keep their gains, but these myths are in fact false, and cause much more harm than good.
MYTH 1: The Dianabol (Dbol) Bridge
Dianabol is an anabolic/androgenic steroid, and it will affect natural testosterone production at any dosage. Guys will speak of a dbol only cycle or using dbol between cycles to keep their gains. This is a very bad idea because you'll never fully recover from a cycle. It does not matter if you take 50milligrams (mg) or 5mgs - it will shut you down and interfere with the recovery. Numerous studies, including blood work, have proven this to be true.
Nonetheless, dbol is good for size with its high rate of aromatization into estrogen and the consequent water retention, which is why it is the most common bridging myth.
MYTH 2: Cruising on low dose Test
If you are not on a medically prescribed TRT, there is absolutely no way this can be a bridge. If you are injecting testosterone, no matter at what dosage, your body will stop the natural production of this hormone. Elevated testosterone dangers were discussed earlier, and if you ever want to restore natural hormone levels, this is indeed a myth.
MYTH 3: Proviron
In spite of the fact that its anabolic and androgenic power is relatively weak, Proviron is classified as a steroid, since it still has the ability to impact natural hormonal levels. Some studies have shown that a lose dose of proviron (25mg) is not suppressive, whilst other studies found dosages up to 50 mgs to be safe. This compound is one of those that are up in the air, but for what proviron actually gives you as a standalone, it is certainly not worth it. You should stay away from steroids or steroid-like compounds during a bridge.
MYTH 4: HCG
HCG, which stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is sometimes thought of as a drug for bridging. However, it is not. HCG is an extract from pregnant female urine. In many cases, it increases estrogen, which hinders recovery. You can read about the dangers of HCG here.
There are numerous components of a natural bridge, ranging from the mindset to supplement use. Here is a sample of a supplement bridge that will not be suppressive and will allow for a higher percentage of gains kept. On a side note, it is highly recommended to get blood work done after your PCT to ensure a proper recovery was made.
Of course, there are other supplements that can be utilized during the bridge, but the ones chosen here are very good at retaining muscle mass and keeping the body anabolic. Moreover, I highly recommend other supports, such as fish oils and your normal multivitamins during this time. The key factor in determining the success of your bridge is having a plan and executing it. Your mindset, motivation, and consistency are the real factors to take away from this. If you end your cycle and continue to work, eat and train hard, you will not only increase your confidence and self-esteem, but you will significantly improve your health by taking a proper break from steroids. Finally, if you do wish to begin another cycle after a successful recovery and bridge, your next cycle will be even better now that your receptors have recovered, and your body and mind is in great shape, geared for success.
Want to read about Bridging between cycles on our forums? check out these threads:
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