The Big 4

huge bodybuilder

by Mike Arnold

One of the most frequently asked questions among aspiring bodybuilders is related directly to chemical enhancement. “How do I get big”…“What should I use”…“How do I design my cycle” and other variations thereof are all accurate depictions of the question we have all asked ourselves at some point during our BB’ing journey. The truth is that this question continues to remain at the forefront of our minds no matter how advanced we become, as we are always seeking to improve on what we have. It can be easy to convince ourselves that there is more effective drug combo somewhere on the horizon. With well over 100 drugs at our disposal and grey-market research companies pumping out new chemical concoctions on the regular, deciding on our next cycle becomes a meticulous process in which we carefully weigh all the options to ensure we are getting the best bang for our buck.

Learning to prioritize correctly in accordance with your goals is critical if you wish to extract maximum benefit from your training and nutrition efforts. Although individual personal response makes it ludicrous to suggest that there is a single, specific cycle best-suited for all, there are general guidelines we should adhere to when making our PED selections. In this article I am going to focus on muscle growth as the primary objective, while providing an easy to follow template that you can use to design your next cycle with great effectiveness. Before proceeding, please keep in mind that the following recommendations do not take into consideration personal preference, financial status, pre-existing medical conditions, or willingness to assume risk. On account of this, circumstances may necessitate that one stray from these recommendations. However, having been validated on a world-wide scale countless times most will conclude that they yield excellent results.

Synergy between PED’s is an important component of any well thought out cycle, as it not only allows the individual to make maximum progress by attacking muscle growth from multiple angles, but it cuts down on the need for mega-dosing a single drug or class of drugs. This, in turn, reduces the severity of potential side effects, as most serious side effects are a result of the excessive abuse of a single drug/class of drugs. As the article title suggests, this program revolves around the use of 4 proven classes of PEDs, which includes AAS, growth hormone, insulin, and IGF-1. Technically, GH, insulin, and IGF-1 are all peptides and therefore part of the same group, yet they are distinct enough in action and effect to be placed in separate categories.

80 years after testosterone was first synthesized from sweet potatoes, steroids are still the bread & butter of any BB’ing chemical enhancement program. Even among the pros, who frequently use all the best drugs available, I hypothesize that roughly 80% (or more) of all the muscle they have built is directly attributable to steroids. You will never come anywhere close to achieving your full potential without making this class of drugs a priority. No amount of GH, insulin, or any of the various peptides can replace AAS. The good news is that steroids are plentiful and fairly inexpensive in comparison to several other types of PEDs. Even those with moderate incomes (middle class) can usually utilize this class of drugs to its full potential without being irresponsible with their finances (although the wife may disagree).

Among the Big 4, growth hormone is the most costly, as well as the most difficult to source (perhaps 90% or more of all blackmarket GH is either fake or severely under-dosed). Generally speaking, you can expect to drop at least $300 per month just to use what is considered a minimum effective dose for size enhancement…and that is when buying generic GH from UGL’s at near rock-bottom prices. If you want to go all-out, expect to drop $1,000-2,000 per month…and about 3X that much if using only pharmaceutical quality GH. Is it worth the price? Well, that depends. For most, I would say no, but for those who are on the cusp of turning pro or whose financial situation allows for it, its inclusion is much more understandable. Of course, there will always be individuals who will never turn pro or make a single penny off their body, who are willing to break the bank for nothing more than personal satisfaction. To each their own, I suppose.

Aside from the cost involved, GH is quite an effective adjunct to AAS. It functions as both a muscle builder and fat loss agent, the effects of which are accomplished through multiple, distinct mechanisms. Unlike other fat loss drugs, which typically make muscle gain more difficult (ex. T3, Ephedrine), GH’s unique ability to enhance fat loss while simultaneously improving the rate of muscle gain makes it a great addition to any mass-building cycle. In fact, many find that they are able to increase their caloric intake, thereby increasing potential muscle gain, without increasing bodyfat…and in some cases, actually reduce bodyfat levels. In essence, its fat loss effects allow the BB’r to indirectly add muscle tissue by increasing food efficiency. For this reason, GH can be defined as a nutrient repartitioning agent.

In term of direct effects, its ability to elevate IGF-1 levels is the first thing that comes to mind and the main reason it is often included in a mass-building program. In addition, scientists have recently discovered that the GH molecule itself has positive effects on muscle growth, although this mechanism is not yet fully understood. Lastly, its ability to maintain/heal connective tissue via increased collagen production minimizes a BB’rs vulnerability to injury during heavy training, potentially enabling him to make greater long-term gains. With lipolytic, anabolic, and healing effects, it’s easy to see why GH is considered such a desirable addition to any PED program.

Next on the list is insulin. This drug is cheap, effective, can be legally purchased directly from a pharmacy without a prescription, and is always available. As a muscle-builder, insulin is superior to GH…and it delivers these results at a mere fraction of the cost. It is easy to use and provides instant gratification, but nothing is ever as good as it seems and insulin is no exception. While I am not going to go over the risk factors associated with this drug, I will briefly state that insulin can be dangerous when used incorrectly, so proper education beforehand is an absolute must.

Insulin impacts muscle growth through several mechanisms, such as improved nutrient transport, inhibiting muscle breakdown, enhanced DNA transcription and RNA translation, increased IGF-1 bioavailability, and increased protein synthesis. With such a wide range of beneficial effects, its inclusion makes perfect sense for anyone seeking to maximize muscle gain.

The final PED on the list we are going to address is IGF-1, particularly the LR3 variant. LR3 is preferable to standard IGF-1 in just about all circumstances, as it not only has a much longer active life within the body, but it is also over 2X as potent when compared on a mg per mg basis. Based on the experiences of myself and many others, I also consider LR3 superior to DES IGF-1, despite DES’s greater potency per mg. Similar to standard IGF-1, DES’s primary shortcoming is its short active life, which prevents it from living up to its full potential as an anabolic. If the drug were to be administered every 30 minutes all day long, we could largely eliminate this issue, but for most BB’rs this is impractical.

Before moving on, I should mention that IGF-1 and GH are very closely related as muscle builders; to the point that many BB’rs are now trying to save money by using a moderate dose of GH in combination with exogenous IGF-1, rather than large doses of GH alone. Not only does this reduce cost, but it typically produces better results as well, as IGF-1 levels are no longer dependent on the liver’s ability to produce it. Since both drugs initiate growth primarily through IGF-1 elevation, it makes sense to use whatever combination of drugs allows the user to maximize IGF-1 levels, while minimizing out of pocket expense.

If increased IGF-1 elevation was the only mechanism by which GH could improve muscle growth, I would not have included it on this list, but as stated above, there are many benefits associated with GH use; both direct and indirect, which can promote short and long-term muscle gain. For this reason, even when exogenous IGF-1 is in the picture, I still consider GH to be the next best drug for muscle growth outside of insulin and AAS.

I want to take a minute to talk about myostatin inhibitors. While these advanced drugs most certainly deserve a spot on this list, production difficulties, along with an excessively high price tag have caused me to temporarily omit them from what would be the “Big 5”. Reliable versions do exist, but they comprise only a small portion of the total number of products on the market. Further compounding the problem is the lack of an available blood test for determining legitimacy and potency. Without this basic tool, we are left only with user experience as a means of ascertaining quality and for this reason I do not feel comfortable recommended them to the average BB’r. Hopefully this will change soon, as these drugs are more potent growth agents than everything, except AAS.

With that said, AAS, GH, insulin, and IGF-1 LR3 make up my Big 4. In order of potency, I rank them as follow: AAS, insulin, IGF-1 LR3, and Growth hormone. For those BB’rs who want to add as much size as possible, this stack is near fail-proof. While GH may have been ranked last for growth purposes, its ability to positively affect one’s appearance should not be under-estimated. GH is the only one of these 4 drugs which demonstrates significant fat–loss properties. The ability to stay lean when slamming down a bunch of calories can prove invaluable during a mass phase. In addition, GH also causes a substantial amount of intramuscular water retention, which in itself provides the illusion of increased size.

Although some will automatically write-off this combo as being a financially unrealistic, I would like to reassure you that your initial impressions may not be as accurate as you think. While it will be difficult to obtain an effective dose of GH cheaply (expect to spend a minimum of $200-$300 monthly when combined with IGF-1…and more when IGF-1 is not included), the other 3 do not have to break the bank. Through proper selection, discriminate sourcing, reasonable dosing, and ideal application, you can use all of these PED’s at highly effective doses and a very reasonable cost.

Anyone can legally purchase Humulin R through a special public program for only $24 per 1,000 IU vial (a 2 month supply when using 20 IU at workouts). IGF-1 LR3 can be purchased from multiple peptide companies, such as Super Hardcore Peptides for about $40 per 1,000 mcg (a 1 month supply when using 35 mcg daily). When sticking to the tried & true, a BB’r can use about 1.5-2.0 grams of highly effective AAS per week for about $120 a month. If you add all of that up, your total cost is roughly $180 a month! Of course, you will probably want to use an A.I. as well, in order to avoid gyno. That will bring the cost up to about $200 monthly or slightly higher. To use what many believe to be the single most effective 4-way stack available, that’s not bad at all.