HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) general information
Found naturally in the body of both men and women, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is a peptide hormone which plays a number of different roles.
In women, HCG is vital in the early stages of pregnancy as it creates the right hormonal conditions to allow the egg to become implanted. In men, HCG acts as a form of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) which prompts specialist cells to release testosterone.
The presence of HCG was identified by scientists almost a century ago, in the 1920s, and since then it has been useful in a number of different applications therapeutically. For women, HCG has been used to treat ovarian and ovulation disorders while in men, it can be a pharmaceutical solution for undescended testicles.
As a hormone, HCG has a remarkable effect on the body and scientists are still discovering the full extent of its influence. In more recent years, it has been identified as a marker for certain types of cancer, for example.
However, HCG cannot help individuals to lose weight, despite the number of clinics which have claimed to be able to do so. This practice became so widespread that the FDA took action in 2011, describing these kind of HCG diets as unethical and fraudulent.
Beyond medicinal use, HCG is also very important for bodybuilders, used alongside anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs which affect the production of testosterone. A sequence of reactions (described in more detail below) causes the body to recommence production of testosterone when HCG is taken. This means that it is often taken either during or following a cycle to support the body while it returns to natural testosterone production.
HCG is used for two different purposes: either during a cycle to reduce the effects of low testosterone (such as testicular atrophy) or as a means of kick starting PCT.
Unless you have a medical condition where you don’t have sufficient testosterone, then HCG will always be used in combination with other drugs and stacked.
If used during a cycle, HCG will be included in an anabolic steroid stack as a means of controlling the side effects caused by low testosterone. This may be with a single steroid or with a number of drugs in a larger stack.
How it is administered
HCG is normally purchased in powder form. This must then be mixed with bacteriostatic water and refrigerated for up to 60 days. Any solution which has not been used within 60 days should be thrown away.
This liquid is administered via an injection, either intramuscularly or subcutaneously.
To avoid estrogenic side effects, it’s a good idea to stick to the lowest dose which is effective. The dosage depends on the way in which HCG is being used.
For bodybuilders using HCG during a cycle, to try and prevent testicular atrophy, a dose of around 250-500 IUs administered 2-3 times per week is usually effective.
When taken as a means of kick starting PCT, 500 IUs of HCG daily for around 10 days is required.
The half life of HCG is approximately 3-4 days.
When anabolic steroids are taken, the pituitary gland in the brain stops producing LH which in turns prevents the leydig cells from releasing any testosterone.
The HCG hormone can play a role in preventing testosterone levels from dropping by mimicking the action of LH within the body. This tricks the leydig cells into producing testosterone even in the presence of an anabolic steroid.
This isn’t a forever solution because it means that your body still won’t be producing any of its own LH, but it can help temporarily.
HCG shots are also useful for kick starting PCT after an anabolic cycle and bridging the gap while the effects of the steroids leave the body. This prevents the inevitable crash and also has the added advantage of allowing you to retain more of the gains provided by the steroids during the cycle.
Potential side effects
The HCG supplement is one of the best tolerated drugs on the market, providing you stick to the recommended dose. However, if you take too much you will cause a large spike in your estrogen and that can cause problems such as gynecomastia, bloating and raised blood pressure.
If side effects become a problem, then a small dose of an AI can help to counterbalance the estrogen.
Although HCG is generally regarded as one of the safest drugs, there are some instances when it’s too risky. Anyone with a history of any of the following conditions should refrain from taking HCG without consulting a physician first:
- Ovarian disorders
- Prostate cancer
- Brain lesion
- Testicular cancer
- Pituitary gland tumor
- Water retention
- Early onset puberty
- Blood clot
- Obstructed blood vessels
The drug has also not been proven to be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Is it safe for women to use?
HCG is not recommended for use in females and would not normally be required as within bodybuilding it is typically utilized in order to recommence testosterone production. This is not an issue for women.
Will PCT be required?
PCT is required following a cycle of anabolic steroids because they suppress the natural production of testosterone.
HCG is one of the drugs used as part of the initial part of PCT to enable the body to begin recovery and to act as a bridge for natural testosterone production to recommence. It’s not typically used alone, but prior to SERMs such as Nolvadex and Clomid. Research suggests that when PCT begins with HCG the recovery is far quicker than with SERMs used alone.
Use in sports
HCG is not a drug which is legal to use within sport, having been banned by the IOC. Therefore, any athlete using it should be aware of the risks of random drug tests and make sure it’s cleared from their system prior to any competitions.
It’s not difficult to buy HCG online but if you want a pharmaceutical grade, you can expect to have to pay significantly more.
The drug is available widely on the black market at a fraction of the cost but the quality may not be as good, certainly not pharmaceutical grade.
In general, you can expect to pay around $55 per bottle. This will come with just a small amount of powder in the bottle, and an extra bottle of bacteriostatic water which needs to be mixed in.
Legality of purchase and its usage in the US
HCG injections are approved by the FDA for use in humans to treat certain medical conditions, but only with a prescription from a qualified physician.
The drug cannot be prescribed for the purposes of supporting a bodybuilding program. This means that obtaining it without a prescription is against the law.
However, in certain states the law has been extended further and HCG has been classified as a controlled substance. This means that the potential penalty for possession is much higher, and could possibly even include a custodial sentence. The list of states who have classified HCG as a controlled substance is subject to change as the laws around anabolic steroids and ancillary substances are reviewed.