side chest bodybuilding

Posted 2 weeks ago

Post show/shoot: Blast or TRT?

If you are a male assisted bodybuilder, there’s no doubt you will have heard of the post show magical phase in which you can add some quality tissue in a short period of time. This is because as we pull body fat levels down to low levels, the body becomes very sensitive to changes in nutrients, but also hormones. This state allows for muscle mass to be added quickly which is of course something we want to take advantage of. This can be done by either going on a blast or doing TRT, and each of these will have a different effect on the body.

If you have been following me a while you will know that I have done both over the years.  You might be reading this wondering what on an earth blast or cruise means. Not to worry, as the purpose of this article will be to explain exactly what those terminologies mean, as well as go into detail on the protocols we can implement post-show to take advantage.

Please be aware that everything written in this article is from my own personal experience, having done both myself but also what I have seen in clients over the years. It should not be taken as a recommendation or advice and should only be read for informational purposes.

State of the body

Once you have pulled body fat levels all the way down to extremely low levels, your body becomes very sensitive to changes in food, and how it looks can change overnight. All you need to do is read the article I did on flat vs full to note the difference. In essence, with low levels of body fat we are very insulin sensitive, meaning that insulin will more readily drive nutrients (that we get from eating) into muscle cells as opposed to fat cells.
Have you ever been at that point where you eat loads for a few days and still look lean? This is exactly the state I am talking about. However, if you continue to eat at maintenance or in a calorie surplus for an extended period, things can change very quickly.

If you’re show/shoot has just finished, the urge to overeat can be very high, and hunger won’t settle for a couple weeks. It’s in this time frame that you can either set yourself up nicely for a great rebound to add some muscle mass quick, or you can add a lot of fat in a short period of time. If you’re over consuming calories through eating junk and thus spiking your blood sugar levels constantly, that insulin sensitivity we spoke about will be your worst enemy: if you’re walking about most of the day with elevated blood sugars, your body is going to shuttle that excess food more readily into fat cells. This is why those first couple weeks need to be controlled, regardless of whether you are going to blast or drop to TRT.

Blasting post show

If you are reading this and you’re not sure what a blast is, let me explain. As assisted bodybuilders, we will go through periods of time in which we push dosages of some compounds (anabolic steroids) higher, and this is what we call this blasting. This will give us supra-physiological levels of testosterone, relative to normal natural male levels. These increased levels will help bring about increased muscle mass, improved recovery from training, and a greater ability to handle nutrients (I.e., higher food). However, one does not spend all year on a blast, and these periods are intercalated with running TRT doses (testosterone replacement therapy dose), which bring hormone levels down and give us testosterone levels like that of a natural male. We will tend to be strategic with these phases and have multiple blasts and TRT phases throughout the year.

Why would we do so? Well, if you keep dosages high all year round, you are going to run into some health problems very quickly. Thus, when we pull down to TRT dosages our sole objective is to get health markers back in check, bringing them down from where they were in the previous blast phase.

Now, in case you weren’t aware, the closer an assisted bodybuilder gets to a show/shoot and as their levels of body fat get lower and lower, dosages of compounds will tend to increase. As stated before, this will help the individual maintain the same strength they had (or be stronger) than when they were heavier, and in some cases, it even allows the individual to grow as they lose body fat. However, due to taking higher compound dosages for an extended period (prep diet 16-20 weeks), as prep progresses, we’ll tend to see some health markers be out of check, such as: blood pressure, haematocrit levels, LDL levels, and liver enzymes, just to name a few.

It therefore makes sense to drop the dosages down to TRT after a blast and focus on getting health markers back in check. Equally, it is possible to continue to keep dosages high, swap a few compounds over, and take advantage of this short post-show window of adding quality muscle mass in a short period of time. In the past, I’d thought to myself: “well, another 8-12 weeks won’t hurt”, which I know might sound irresponsible and unhealthy, but no one even said this bodybuilding thing was responsible or healthy.

Both in 2019 and 2020, I decided to blast post shoot/show. What happened? I got very strong very quick. I got thicker and added a significant amount of size that was noticeable visually. What else happened? Water retention was high due to using certain compounds as well as because of the significant increase in carbs, which also made my body hold on to water. The lower back pumps I was getting when training were crippling, and I remember getting fluid pooling in my ankles, but these were the side effects I was willing to put up with to get the desired effect. Combined with this, my blood pressure stayed elevated the entire time, which was to be expected.

I blasted for about 12 weeks posted show 2020 and ended up 8kg above my heaviest ever weight prior to that prep. After, I entered a TRT phase to get healthy and had to recomp (mini diet) during that timeframe to pull off a of the little body fat I had added whilst blasting.

TRT post show

As you already know, TRT is a phase where a bodybuilder will bring their dosages down to a low enough point where if you measured the testosterone in their blood, it would give you a reading like that of a natural male. It is only during these phases where we can restore the health markers we have skewed from blasting and get them back in healthier ranges. If we stayed out with the normal natural range, we would be unable to get these markers back in check which would be very detrimental in the long term.

At this point, you may be wondering whether your ability to add muscle mass decreases if you drop doses to match those of a normal male. From experience I can tell that it does not get affected. Why? Because your body is genuinely so responsive to changes in nutrition alone that you can still drive anabolism (muscle growth) on a low dose. Combine that with the low stress environment, increased recovery (from improved sleep), you’ll see you can still add a good chunk of muscle in a short period of time whilst getting healthy, albeit not quite as much as they guys who are blasting. But here is the added benefit: you can get healthy at the same time.

Now, it does mean that you must be a bit stricter with food and you can’t push your bodyweight as high, but what it should mean is that you won’t have to recomp (mini diet) once you’ve finished your TRT phase. In fact, you’ll be in a perfect position to then begin blasting. Which can seem way more appealing because the thought of dieting again so soon after a prep is not appealing to anyone!

I opted for this strategy in 2017 (after the first time I competed) and this year (2021). The first year I was generally so worried about health markers being off I didn’t even consider anything else, therefore I dropped to 250mg test e weekly and held there for 16 weeks. In that time frame, I got stronger every week, added significant amounts of muscle mass and got all my health markers back in check, allowing me to go straight into a blast after the 16 weeks for the same amount of time, which meant 32 weeks of gaining!

This season (2021) I’ve dropped down to 150mg test e and 100mg mast e weekly and as I write this (4 weeks post show) I am hitting all time PB’s on some lifts, and it’s climbing very quickly on others. My blood pressure is already in check, and other health markers are beginning to improve. My body weight is now stable, water retention is low, and I physically feel great. Another thing that has helped this is keeping cardio in post-show, whereas in 2019/2020 I didn’t do any more cardio once my prep was over. Any male reading this, I urge you to keep cardio in and think about your heart health, not just how big your muscles are getting!

My preference

For as much as I’ve loved the blasts post prep, I feel I’ll always opt for dropping down to TRT from now on. This has been mostly down to me just valuing my health more, relative to younger years where I very much had a ‘f**k it’ mentality. What’s changed? I’m a little older, a little wiser and now have a wee boy on the way. For as much as I know bodybuilding isn’t healthy, I want to try and do it in the healthiest possible way now.

A couple years ago, my values were simply different. Therefore, I guess my preference has changed over the years as I have valued health and thought more about prolonged exposure to steroids vs simply just trying to get ‘jacked’ in a short period of time. If you are a user, then you know that once you’re on, you’re never off, or it’s very hard to come off completely. Therefore, I’d urge you to think about how the decisions you’re making now might affect your body in 30 years’ time. When you do, you might think a little bit differently.

In summary, you have two options post shoot/show as an assisted bodybuilder: blast or TRT. Whichever one you choose will be down to personal choice. Blasting can offer slightly more muscle gains but can continue to compromise health markers, and you might need to recomp after it. Dropping to TRT can allow you to get health markers in check and you will still be able to add a significant amount of tissue in this post show/shoot window, albeit a bit slower; however, it will set you up nicely for a blast once you are healthy.

Vaughan Wilson Bsc Hons