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HCG - or human chorionic gonadotropin - is a hormone that is produced in pregnancy that prevents the disintegration of the ovary's corpus luteum, allowing progesterone production to be maintained. Progesterone is essential for maintaining a pregnancy and bringing it to term successfully. HCG is the hormone that is detected by home pregnancy tests, and that is what it is best known for. However, in the health and fitness world, HCG is used as an adjunct to anabolic steroids during their cycles.

HCG And Anabolic Androgenic Steroids

When men use anabolic androgenic steroids (or AAS), their body's natural production of testosterone can slow or completely shut down. Many unpleasant side effects can occur from the cessation of testosterone production in men. The most common and worrisome side effect is testicular atrophy, where the testicles shrink away drastically. Men understandably wish to avoid this problem; HCG can help counteract it and is very commonly used for precisely this purpose.

HCG actually works to stimulate testosterone production, effectively counteracting the negative effects that anabolic androgenic steroids have on them. People who use HCG following AAS cycles report that their recovery is smoother and quicker, and that their gains are more considerable. The more prominent and noticeable gains are quite likely due to the fact that HCG allows testosterone to continue being produced in the body; when added with the steroids, it understandably has a more noticeable and dramatic effect.

As for the shorter, easier recovery times, this is likely due to the fact that HCG does not let testosterone production cease, and the testes do not become dormant. When an AAS cycle ends, it is usually more difficult on the body as the testes have to begin producing testosterone again after not being at work for some time. However, with HCG the testes never completely shut down and never have to go through the process of "restarting" once a cycle of AAS is through.

HCG Side Effects

For many people - bodybuilders especially - HCG goes hand in hand with many different anabolic androgenic steroids. Like any hormone, though, HCG does carry its own side effects that people need to be aware of. Because HCG stimulates testosterone production, it actually has many of the same side effects as anabolic androgenic steroids. The most common side effects attributed to HCG are usually water and sodium retention. Additionally, some people may experience an allergic reaction when using HCG; symptoms of such an allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, hives, and swelling of the tongue, throat, face or lips.

Also, HCG can cause a man's breast to swell up and become tender. This is undesirable not only because it is a look that is considered to be feminine, but also because it means that water retention and/or fat storage is occurring. If a person begins experiencing this side effect, their doses of HCG should be drastically reduced until symptoms subside. Such symptoms usually signal that a person is using too much HCG.

The laws concerning HCG vary from state to state. Generally, a prescription is required. However, it can be easily found on the "black market". In some states, it is not regulated at all; in others, it is classified as a Level III Controlled Substance.