Prohormones Side Effects

by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert

Ben Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert Sports and Exercise Nutrition Level 2 Strength and Conditioning CoachWritten by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.

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While steroids are no new kid on the block, performance-enhancing drugs have risen in popularity in recent years. They are now a common practice among bodybuilders, athletes and gym goers who want to be at their best.

Prohormones are a chemical compound that has gained a lot of traction. What are prohormones, then? 

Many manufacturers sell these legal (in some regions) androgens as muscle-building supplements. They claim they can shred your fat and help build muscles. 

Most gym goers want to build muscles and lose weight quickly. Instead of following a rigid diet and exercise regime, many gym-goers opt to use steroids and other supplements that are designed to boost performance and increase muscle mass. 

Unfortunately, these quick fixes have become more popular than the physical effort required to get in shape and build muscles. 

But that is not the only thing. Many athletes feel pressured to compete and believe that steroid use or prohormones (legally) is the only option. 

What is a prohormone? 

Prohormones, a common legal steroid compound, are chemical compounds designed to improve the physical performance of athletes and increase muscle mass.

Prohormones are similar to steroid-like substances and can help bodybuilders change their composition in a short time. These compounds are incredibly appealing to those who want to reduce their body fat and build muscle. 

These compounds, when taken by mouth and metabolized by the liver, are transformed into anabolic hormonal substances. These hormones stimulate muscle growth and protein synthesis. 

A prohormone is a committed precursor of a hormone consisting of peptide hormones synthesized together that has a minimal hormonal effect by itself because of its expression-suppressing structure, often created by protein folding and binding additional peptide chains to certain ends.

This makes hormone receptor binding sites located on its peptide hormone chain segments inaccessible.

The body produces prohormones to control hormone production. They are an ideal storage and transport unit for hormones that have not been activated.

Prohormone Convertase is a protein that cleaves prohormones into active hormones. Often in nature, this cleaving process happens immediately, and a prohormone is quickly converted to a set of one or more peptide hormones.

Examples of natural, human prohormones include proinsulin and pro-opiomelanocortin, but the most widespread prohormones in use are synthetic and labeled as anabolic steroid precursors, used as ergogenic or anabolic agents for muscle growth.  

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Are prohormones legal?

Androstenedione or Androstenediol are two of the most commonly used precursors. Both are currently Banned Substances within the United States. 

Numerous illegal steroids such as 1 testosterone are produced under various chemical names and haven't undergone any clinical trials.

Many athletic associations ban prohormones because of their nature. You could test positive for drug use if you're required to submit to a drug screening when competing. 

It can be intimidating to enter the world of supplements and steroids. It's especially dangerous when manufacturers mix prohormones into their products without disclosing the full contents.  

The FDA regulates dietary supplements differently than other foods and drugs. Manufacturers are ultimately responsible for evaluating the products' safety and labels. 

What are the side effects of prohormones?

Prohormones are a very popular supplement despite the lack of knowledge about their effects. 

Contrary to synthetic anabolic androgenic steroids many of these androgens over the counter are produced by endogenous adrenal, gonadal, and peripheral steroidogenic pathway as part of normal sexual and reproductive hormone milieu. 

It has been contended that peripheral enzymatic conversion of these prohormones to testosterone or nortestosterone (via ingestion of androstenedione/androstenediol or 19-nor-androstenedione/androstenediol, respectively) might lead to anabolic and/or ergogenic effects.

The data available suggest that oral intake of androstenedione and androstenediol in doses >or=200mg temporarily increases testosterone levels in men.

However, the increase is also accompanied by a greater rise in estrogens. Oral supplementation with androstenedione and androstenediol at doses below 300mg/day has no impact on the body's composition, physical performance or cholesterol levels. 

Oral supplementation of norandrostenedione or norandrostenediol up to 8 weeks does not affect body composition and physical performance.

In light of this data, new products have been developed that use alternative modes of prohormone administration (sublingual/transbuccal and cyclodextrin-complexation). 

Evidence suggests that the use of anabolic steroids may be a common cause of hypogonadism among men of reproductive age.

Many anabolic androgenic steroids are still available as over-the-counter dietary supplements in the United States, despite recent efforts to ban specific compounds.

These products have caused severe side effects such as hepatotoxicity and cholestasis.

They can also cause infertility, hypogonadism or gynecomastia. Some of these effects are reversible.

However, aggressive usage may cause permanent damage to the end organs. This has previously been described in cases of AAS users.

The risk-benefit ratio for using these substances is not favourable due to the health issues that may have arisen.

Concerns relating to prohormone use

Testosterone prohormones such as androstenedione, androstenediol, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) have been heavily marketed as testosterone-enhancing and muscle-building nutritional supplements for the past decade. 

The United States Food and Drug Administration called for an end to the sale of androstenedione supplements, and Congress passed Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 which classified androstenedione and other steroid as controlled substances. 

Since January 2005 these substances are not available without a prescription. 

Do prohormones shut you down?

Your body works hard to balance the production and release of hormones, so too little or too much may lead to various health problems.

Hormones are chemical messengers that coordinate and manage hundreds of bodily processes, from blood pressure regulation and sugar balance, fluid (water) and electrolyte balance, body temperature control and body composition regulation, to functioning as communication tools between glands and target tissues such as the skin, muscles or fat tissues.

Imagine hormones as keys fitting into receptors on target tissues' cells so as to deliver messages and trigger specific actions from these cells.

Prohormones are peptide hormones that undergo several conversion processes before becoming active steroid hormones such as testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHTA), or androstenolone.1

Before peptides or prohormones can be packaged into secretory granules for release, they must first undergo a process known as sorting. This involves having an "sorting signal", such as unique molecular structures or specific amino acids that bind positively charged regions on membrane-bound proteins in TGN or immature secretory granules.

Once a prohormone has been identified, protein processing enzymes can transform it into the final hormonal molecule. 

However, prohormones taken in high doses have the potential to damage livers and cause serious side effects, including gynecomastia (male breast growth), increased cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, kidney damage and even baldness.

Methylated products increase even further the risks and can even trigger cancer. 

As with anabolic steroids, when taken, they overload the body with synthetic hormones that mimic testosterone, as a result, they have the potential to stop your endocrine system from producing its testosterone as it recognises there isn't a need.

As a result, prolonged use may lead to irreversible effects, whereby your endocrine system can no longer function properly and produce its own testosterone.

Are they effective ergogenic aids?

In this 1985 study, The prohormone supplement (3b-hydroxy-5a-androst-1-en-17-one) increased the lean mass of their body. It also decreased the fat mass.

Overall, oral prohormones 3b-hydroxy-5a-androst-1-en-17-one improve body composition and muscular strength. 

However, the liver and cardiovascular health are especially affected.

Consider a safe, legal alternative without side effects 

Military Muscle increases testosterone naturally with just three capsules per day.

This will boost your energy levels and maximise your workouts. Choose a safe and natural alternative to prohormones that can be unpredictable. 

You can improve your energy levels, libido and fitness, and increase muscle mass, without the dreaded gyno, acne or other side effects.

Conclusion

Prohormones have become a go-to choice among bodybuilders and athletes looking to increase muscle mass and shed fat.

These supplements act as androgen receptor agonists and may increase protein synthesis, strengthen muscles, promote fat loss and even help prevent future injury.

Unfortunately, prohormones come with a risky side that should not be ignored.

Furthermore, some athletic associations ban them for drug testing purposes, and some manufacturers include them without disclosing them on ingredient lists - something you want to be wary of when purchasing supplements containing prohormone mixtures.

Though many prohormones were banned under the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act in 2004, some have managed to skirt around this law and remain for sale. 

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