The Internet would have you believe they’re the Clint Eastwood of supplements that will make you manlier in every, but are they worth the risk?
Many of the finer things in life get better with age. Sadly, you are not lucky enough to be considered one of them. A major reason for this is a major dick move by your testosterone gland, which decides to cut production by roughly 1 percent per year once you reach the age of forty, found research in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. This marginal ghosting of your manhood cues less muscle, decreased strength and can put a dent in your bedroom mojo. Fortunately, you may be able to course correct this decline via prohormone-based testosterone boosters such as androstenedione. They can trade under many names such as androsterone, 1-androsterone or 1-DHEA but all follow the same biological game plan: increase your T-count. The Internet would have you believe they’re the Clint Eastwood of supplements that will make you manlier in every, but are they worth the risk? We threw on our labcoats to investigate this controversial supplement.
Is Androstenedione illegal?
Some of these prohormones are actually found naturally in the pollen of certain pine trees, which does help it occupy certain legal grey areas in some countries, but not in Australia. Here they’re classed as a prohormones, which are considered a controlled substance, so using them to get your guns hot with gains is likely to leave your wrists cold with cuffs. Just ask baseball star Mark McGwire who had his records tainted from using andro to bolster his homer count. So, if you’re a tested athlete then be careful about buying products from less than reputable sources abroad because it may creep its way into them.
What is Androstenedione?
Androsterone a male sex hormone that helps your body create more of it’s own testosterone. It acts as a prosthetic tickle to parts of your brain, namely the hypothalamus and pituitary gland that kick up your levels of 1-testosterone, depending on the type of andro you’re quaffing. This action places these supplements in the pro-hormone category, which in theory makes it a win-win because you’re unlikely to suffer the negative side effects of increased oestrogen that you’re likely to have accrued from spiking yourself with full strength steroids.
How does Androstenedione work?
The thinking is that it finances you with the raw materials and instruction manual needed to place your body into a highly anabolic state. If you’re thinking: steroids, you’d be half way correct because these have all the hallmarks of exactly that brand of muscle gains, but these are supposedly created from self-produced testosterone rather than a direct substitute. To illustrate their effectiveness, a paper in the Journal of Applied Physiology found when trained athletes took this supplement over four weeks, their body mass increased, fat decreased and strength levels on compound moves jumped. It wasn’t all cream though, because these lifters had higher fatty acid (cholesterol) levels in their blood while their liver and kidney function was slightly poorer. That means it’s pretty much everything you would expect to get if you took a real steroid, sans the nasty bump in oestrogen that you’d get once you stopped a steroid cycle.
That’s one side of the coin because a, possibly more reputable, study at Iowa State University found people taking either 300 milligrams of androstenedione or a rice flour pill enjoyed the same gains in muscle, bulk and strength. Sadly, it didn’t have the anti-estrogenic effects that the web marketers claim and actually increased the participants’ levels of this female hormone. That makes it less than ideal if you are looking to reveal your abs and could put you in line to grow an impressive set of moobs instead of pecs.
How you’re supposed to use it
Since it can put your major organs under some serious stress it’s wise to cycle this supplement so that you’re not constantly battering your body from the inside out. Most products recommend that you drip-feed the doses to your body throughout the day, by taking these supplements throughout the day with meals over the course of 4-6 weeks. You can stretch out a cycle that involves doses of 50-100 milligrams over 8 weeks if you’re a seasoned user, but in both cases will need to give your body a chance to normalise itself without it. So, you will need to take breather from it for 2-3 months. If mass gains are you ambitions then you can stack it together with creatine, because andro supposedly works on a hormonal level while creatine acts as more of a dietary supplement. That said, many lifters follow up an andro cycle with creatine to make sure there isn’t a tectonic decrease in gains after you pop your final pill.
The nasty side effects
There’s no magic without a price to pay so this is what you risk by testing the waters.
- Increased sexual desire during a cycle, reduced after a cycle
- A change in overall energy levels
- Improved recovery from hard exercise
- Reduced sperm production (Yikes!)
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Potential short-term liver and kidney damage
- Increased cancer risk
- Temporary hair loss
They are most definitely illegal in Australia so it’s worth weighing up your risk factors because you’re likely to gain similar improvements by taking testosterone boosters, which increase your levels naturally using a combination of herbs and chemically engineered additives that stop your body converting testosterone to oestrogen. These boosters often contain a cocktail of ingredients, each accompanied by a plethora of studies that both support and discredit their claims. The high profile ingredients you can expect to see in the legal testosterone boosters include longjack, tribulus territris, fenugreek, D-aspartic acid and ZMA. Since these supplements increase your testosterone level to their highest natural levels, you’re unlikely to increase your risks of acne, ball shrinkage and infertility the hard-core juicers suffer. You’ll just wake up with a bit more glory to your mornings without the added short-term risks from prohormones that may put you on the back foot long after you stop taking them.