Half-lives are often discussed within the bodybuilding community, but few people actually understand the basic concept behind them. Much of the confusion stems from the often complex, and inaccurate explanations that go along with this often mysterious topic. A simple explanation goes a long way toward making this concept simple and easy to understand.
Detailing the quagmire on what drug comparisons are the best, and the process that the body goes through during drug metabolism is not important to an understanding of half-lives. It’s possible to find other articles online and in medical journals that explain these processes, but they are simply not essential to understanding the concept of a half-life.
A medication’s half-life is a simple way of describing the length of time than a drug remains active in the body. Using this information, it’s possible to create a dosing schedule that avoids side-effects often noticed when taking a drug.
Since these side-effects are typically unwanted, it helps to know the half-life of a drug to reduce ups and downs throughout the day.
Every medication has a beneficial active life. The active life is the total amount of time where a drug works to perform its curative effect within the body. Since every drug has its own chemical structure, the half-life varies considerable between different drugs. Even if a drug is in a similar class, it may still have a radically different half-life than its cousin.
After ingesting a drug, the drug enters the bloodstream and performs three basic metabolic functions — absorption, degradation and elimination. Absorption is the act of the drug getting absorbed into the blood stream. During the degradation process, the chemical structure begins to breakdown and prepares to be swept from the system. Finally, in the elimination phase, the drug is evacuated from the body.
The half-life of a drug refers to the amount of time it takes for the three metabolic processes to complete, divided by half. So, if a drug takes four hours to leave the body, the half-life of the drug is two hours. Stated another way, the half-life is the point at which 50 percent of the drug remains in the body. The manner of injection and the class of drug has an effect on the half-life.
For example, oral steroids require between 8-32 hours to be eliminated form the body. This means the half-life of an oral steroid is between 4-16 hours.
Of course, this is intended only as an example since not all oral medications fall within the same timeline.
What’s interesting is that the half-life gets reduced by half each time it reaches its first half-life. For for example, the first half-life will be experienced by the body at 50 percent. Then, the second half-life occurs at 25 percent. The third half-life occurs at 12.5 percent and each half-life continues to reduce by half until the eighth half-life. At the eighth half-life, the drug is generally considered to be below 0.05 percent concentration and no longer affecting the body in a meaningful way.
Interrupting the process by taking additional medication increases the half-life to a full 100 percent. At this point, it begins to reduce again at 50, 25, 12.5 and so on until it’s completely free of the body. Taking enough medication will fully saturate the blood in a process known as full blood serum saturation. When this happens, it’s not possible to exceed the 100 percent maximum dosage. In essence, it pays no benefit to take more of a drug than the body can process and may even be harmful.
Our Summary of Steroid Half-Lives
Essentially, a half-life is the amount of time it takes for a drug to be reduced by half its prescribed dosage. By knowing the half-life of a drug, it’s possible to prevent dips in effectiveness by taking additional dosages on an appropriately times schedule.
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