by Mike Arnold
Nandrolone Decanoate, affectionately known as “Deca” in the bodybuilding community, is one of the most popular steroids ever produced. For decades this drug enjoyed considerable success on the blackmarket and within the pharmaceutical industry, being used for both muscle-building and various clinical applications. Only in recent years has the phenylpropionate ester of Nandrolone (NPP for short) started to take up residence in the cycles of bodybuilder’s and at this point in time, a case can be made that NPP has surpassed Deca in popularity. While both compounds utilize the same base drug in their design, there are distinct advantages afforded to NPP over the more traditional Deca, but before we explore these differences let’s take a minute to discuss their similarities and history.
Nandrolone decanoate was first manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Organon back in 1962 and was originally prescribed in the treatment of medical conditions such as osteoporosis and anemia. Later, it was made available to A.I.D.S. patients, in order to help stave off the muscle-wasting effects common to the disease. Shortly after its introduction to the pharmaceutical market, Deca, along with the infamous Dianabol, found their way into gyms across the country. Throughout the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, the typical “Deca & D-bol” stack was considered the gold-standard, but by 1990 we witnessed the passing of the first “Anabolic Steroid Control Act”. This made all AAS controlled substances, acting as the catalyst for the UGL industry to dominate the black market. While most of the ramifications associated with the passing of this law affected steroid users negatively, certain advantages began to present themselves, particularly in terms of market diversity. bodybuilder’s no longer had easy access to sterile, properly dosed pharm-grade gear, but at the same time, a doorway was opened up for many previously unproduced steroids to come to market. Enter NPP.
About 10 years ago, a few enterprising UGL’s began to expand their product lists, making NPP accessible to the consumer. Although this steroid was previously available as a pharmaceutical preparation, its availability was extremely limited, preventing widespread usage. Given the progressive nature of most bodybuilder’s, once the marketplace provided a gateway for experimentation, it was not surprising to see curious bodybuilder’s test the waters. As time went by and more users began to experiment with the drug, its demand continued to grow, eventually leading to its current status as “basic stock” in the world of AAS.
However, regardless of ester, there are certain characteristics inherent to all forms of Nandrolone. First and foremost, nandrolone is a non-methylated injectable preparation belonging to the 19-nor family of steroids. It is progestagenic in nature and demonstrates significant binding affinity for the androgen receptor, attaching over 2X as strongly as testosterone. In addition, it claims an A:A rating of 125:37 and aromatizes at about 1/5th the rate of testosterone. However, this relatively low rate of aromatization is deceptive, as Nandrolone, particularly the longer-acting decanoate version, frequently results in side effects similar to more easily aromatizing compounds. Expectantly, Nandrolone is also significantly suppressive, potentially causing long-term HPTA malfunction. In order to avoid this dilemma, the user should engage in intensive post-cycle therapy. This is certainly not a drug one should attempt to recover from on their own.
Depending on one’s perspective, Nandrolone’s weak androgenic effect can be either an advantage or disadvantage. Unlike Testosterone, which is 5-A reduced to a more potent androgen (DHT), Nandrolone converts to a weakly androgenic metabolite possessing very little activity in tissues such as the scalp (reduced risk of hair loss), prostate (decreased risk of suffering from an enlarged prostate), and the skin (decreased chance of acne). While no steroid is completely devoid of risk when it comes to these side effects, Nandrolone is generally considered one of the most user-friendly drugs in this aspect. On another note, one characteristic prevalent among AAS, Nandrolone included, is their deleterious effects on connective tissue. In this regard, nandrolone is no different. Ironically, Nandrolone was previously believed to have beneficial effects on connective tissue, but recently, multiple studies have debunked this long-standing myth, showing Nandrolone to be injurious to collagen containing tissue, such as tendons. Combined with long-term, intensive weight training, it is easy to see how tendon in juries might result. While we should not ignore studies such as these, decades of real-world evidence shows that injuries can be largely circumvented by employing certain preventative measures, such as proper exercise mechanics, sufficient warm-ups, adequate rest between workouts, etc.
One attribute unique to Nandrolone is its ability to buffer or cushion the joints during heavy lifting, allowing the lifter to enjoy more pain-free workouts. While one should never use Nandrolone to mask the pain associated with injury (as this can lead to further internal damage), the advantages of being able to utilize heavy weights without joint stress or discomfort are obvious, particularly for the older lifter. One need not use large dosages of the drug in order to obtain this benefit, with 200-300 mg per week being more than sufficient for the majority of individuals.
Thus far, we’ve explored the similarities common to all forms of Nandrolone, but there are a few key differences between the various esters, which may assist in the selection process. From a cosmetic standpoint, the most significant difference between the two is NPP’s reduced likelihood to cause water retention. Unlike many other water-retaining steroids, in which an increase in water retention is often compensated for by other benefits, Deca does not appear to deliver any positive effects separate from NPP, aside from a reduced injection frequency. In the eyes of many, this characteristic alone makes NPP the superior choice. Although there does not exist any scientific evidence for the following statement, many have found that NPP is less likely to result in sexual dysfunction/loss of libido at similar dosing ranges. On a personal level, I have found this to be true, as well. With many people being unable, or unwilling to endure this side effect, the prospect of another steroid offering the same benefits without the accompanying sexual dysfunction, is of considerable value.
As far as which ester is superior for initiating gains in muscle and strength, we have only anecdotal evidence to rely upon. This does not bode well when dealing with a class of compounds which are well known to affect people differently. Yet, many are adamant in their beliefs regarding which drug is the superior muscle & strength builder. No doubt, there is a certain percentage of users who claim NPP to be superior due to the fact that it dumps the base drug into the system more quickly, while it can take several weeks for blood levels to peak with Deca. The delayed effect witnessed with Deca is not indicative of its proficiency as a muscle-builder, but rather, it is simply a function of the ester’s slower release rate. While blood levels of Nandrolone may not climb as rapidly with Deca in comparison to NPP, Deca will ultimately result in higher peak levels over the long-run when both drugs are administered at equal dosages. With many individuals evaluating a drug’s effectiveness over a relatively short period of time, it is easy to see how one might misconstrue Deca’s delayed release rate for a decrease in effectiveness.
Lastly, for those who may be subject to drug testing, Deca is the last drug which should be considered for use. Not only is it tested for on basically every steroid screen today, but it can take up to 24 months for its metabolites to clear the system. With Nandrolone Phenylpropionate, one need only abstain for a few months in order to test negative. In the overall assessment of NPP, we see a drug which differentiates itself from its longer-estered cousin by causing less water retention, reducing the likelihood of experiencing sexual side effects, and providing more rapid gains up-front. Considering it doesn’t come with any additional baggage, that isn’t too bad of a deal.