Human Chorionic Gonadotropin – from now, referred to as HCG for obvious reasons – is a hormone produced by a section of the placenta known as the syncytiotrophoblast (or just trophoblast) in women during pregnancy.
The role of HCG in pregnant women is to stimulate the ovaries by interacting with their receptors, thereby causing the release of the hormones progesterone. Progesterone is vital for the construction of the lining of the uterus. The lining’s blood vessels and capillaries sustain the embryo that is going to grow inside. HCG also plays a role in protecting the embryo from cellular attack, say from infections that the mother is already immune to.
The main mode of action this hormone operates by is interaction with the gonadal tissues, those being the ovaries in women and the testes in men. The direct equivalent of HCG in the pituitary gland of males and females is called Lutenizing Hormone (LH). Where HCG is produced during pregnancy and can exert the same effects on gonadal tissue, LH is active during most of our adult lives to stimulate the ovaries or testicles.
In essence, both LH and HCG interact in the same way and it is this that makes them very interesting subject matter to bodybuilders that use Anabolic Steroids.
LH and HCG
Lutenizing Hormone stimulates ovulation from the ovaries and testosterone release from the testes. In both men and women, LH travels from the pituitary gland in the brain and binds with receptors in the sex organs, signalling the release of the sex hormones. Due to its role during pregnancy, HCG mimics this effect of LH and therefore has been found to work as hormone therapy for both genders to aid in the production and release of sex hormones. Pregnant women are the most viable source of HCG and so it is usually extracted from their urine and refined into sterile powder form for clinical use.
Of course, the usefulness of HCG does not end with its medical application. Many bodybuilders who use anabolic steroids have found HCG to be extremely valuable and in the next section, we’ll explain why that is.
HCG and Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroid use comes with negative side effects; you only have to read a couple of the steroid profiles on this website to understand just how extensive they can be. One of the most common effects is the suppression of the user’s endogenous testosterone production due to the impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal-axis (HPGA). This is caused by a negative feedback loop where the hypothalamus detects there is a large quantity of synthetic testosterone (or steroid derivative) and shuts down the pituitary release of Lutenizing Hormone. LH is the hormone discussed in the above section: it would normally travel to the testes and induce the release of testosterone which would concomitantly stimulate more to be produced.
By stopping this cycle, testicular atrophy (shrunken balls) can occur. This, amongst other problems caused by steroids, is why anyone using them must undergo heavy Post-Cycle Therapy (PCT) using other drugs and compounds which restore (or as close as possible) their hormone levels.
HCG is therefore used as one such PCT drug, and is also used during the steroids cycle, to maintain testosterone levels. Interestingly, if the course of HCG goes for too long, it can itself inhibit the endogenous production of testosterone via a similar feedback effect as the steroids cause.
Negative Side Effects of using HCG
That’s right, even the drugs used to prevent side effects have side effects. This is unavoidable when using so many synthetic drugs which directly influence the endocrine system. The balance of hormones in our bodies is an extremely delicate one and so interrupting them on such a large scale can never be truly controlled.
HCG can increase testicular release of testosterone and in fact restore the testes to their ‘normal’ size as the normal HPGA cycle is mimicked. The problem may then become one of aromatization.
When steroids are used, they often aromatize (convert) to estrogen in men’s bodies which can lead to estrogenic effects such as gynecomastia (man-breasts). acne, water retention etc. Introducing HCG to the equation means that ‘normal’ testosterone levels are added to the steroids, allowing further aromatization to occur. This effect can happen in non-users if either their endogenous estrogen levels are too high or their testosterone levels are too low. So, in steroid users the problem is compounded several times over.
To combat the estrogenic related problems of both steroid and HCG induced testosterone aromatization, another PCT drug must be employed. It is actually imperative that Tamoxifen (common trade name is Nolvadex) is used to effectively ‘block’ the excess estrogen from binding to the receptor cells, in particular those located on the surface of breast tissue cells in order to prevent gynecomastia.Ir0nman
Final Thoughts on HCG
In many countries and under most sports governing bodies, HCG has gone the way of steroids and has been made illegal unless a Doctor has prescribed it. Most black market steroid dealers will sell it with the anabolics, Nolvadex and any other PCT drug a user would need.
HCG comes in the form of a powder which must be mixed with a liquid containing sodium chloride and then injected into the muscle. There is a theory that overuse of HCG can lead to permanent shut-down of gonadal stimulating hormones, and while this could be largely considered as conjecture at this point, it still gives a lot of pause for thought. Temporary side effects that necessitate the use of other drugs to counteract is one thing but potentially inducing permanent side effects is another ballpark altogether.
We also have an article about Nolvadex (Tamoxifen) which is the PCT drug discussed briefly in this article.
Nolvadex is used to combat the estrogenic effects of testosterone/steroid aromatization, specifically Gynecomoastia. Follow the link below to learn more.