The Dangers of Prohormones and Testosterone Boosters

The Dangers of Prohormones and Testosterone Boosters

A real look at the most hyped up products in the supplement industry: prohormones and testosterone boosters.

I’m not going to lie: steroids work.

If you take the right steroids in the right doses, they can increase strength, size and speed. But, they can also get you kicked off your high school, college, pro or Olympic team and give you a nice dose of acne, hair where you may not want it, man boobs or, in women, a deep voice and other male characteristics.

Other side effects from steroid abuse are way worse and potentially life threatening. These include alterations in liver and hormone functioning, a dangerous increase in cholesterol (and therefore and increased risk of cardiovascular disease), and serious changes in behavior. Obviously it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the risk of taking steroids outside of a physician’s guidance, far outweighs any short term benefits, but if steroids are off the list, is it worth it to try prohormones, the precursors to testosterone and other hormones within the body?

Promhormones, such as androstenedione, 4-androstenediol, 7-keto DHEA, and DHEA are precursors to testosterone or other anabolic steroids. There’s a little research indicating that certain prohormones increase testosterone but no research to support the marketing hype saying they improve athletic performance. However, they have been shown to increase estrogen and reduce your beneficial (HDL) cholesterol as well. Oh, and did I mention that prohormones are banned by most governing bodies of sport like the NCAA and WADA? Right, so there’s that.

Remember how Mark McGwire said he took androstendione and got huge, hit a plethora of home runs and gained muscle mass? If you haven’t kept up with the news, that wasn’t androstendione at all but instead an intense regimen of steroids that eventually shattered his image. Why is that important to note? Because right now there’s no evidence that shows prohormones work for athletes and therefore there’s no point in wasting your money on them!

Will prohormones hurt you? Maybe, maybe not. But, consider this: the proprietary blend of some random supplement containing pro hormones could contain more than just prohormones (i.e. steroids if the company is not legit, as was the case in the BALCO scandal) thereby causing you to fail a drug test or have a bad reaction to a medicine you may be taking. If you don’t know what something will do inside your body, my advice is plain and simple: just avoid taking it.

I don’t care if your neighbor Jimmy or some dude that works out in your gym told you that they tried this new supplement, which contains prohormones, and they got jacked up. I can all but guarantee you it wasn’t the prohormones that “worked” but instead the training program, more calories and possibly other supplements (namely creatine, BCAAs and protein powders).

If prohormones don’t work and you are worried about your testosterone levels, what can you do? First, go to your physician and talk to him about your concerns. If recommended, get your hormone levels checked. Next, take a look at your diet. The worst thing a man can do is go on a low fat diet. Drop your fat and you’ll drop your testosterone too. Not to mention, there’s no reason to go below 20% of your calories from fat. If you want to lose weight, choose healthy fats (especially fatty fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil) and watch your intake of alcohol and processed foods.

The next culprit, aside from a low fat diet, could be what is in your environment. Just get rid of some common household and personal products and you may be doing yourself a big favor toward evening out your hormone levels. Our environment is loaded with chemicals called endocrine disruptors, which are present in shampoos, personal care products (lotions etc.), sunscreens and various types of plastic (like your shower liner). How bad are these chemicals? It probably depends on the person, dose (combined dose of the various chemicals) and other factors. But, they can lower our testosterone and bump up our estrogens.

Here’s a list of some common ones, where you’ll find them and their potential effects:

To modify your hormone levels, follow a sound diet, eat quality fats (not French Fries) and take a look at your environment. Getting rid of potential endocrine disruptors will likely do way more for you than any prohormone or testosterone booster even can!

References:
JAMA1999;281(21):2020-8.
J Appl Physiol 2002;92(1):142-6.
Eur J Appl Physiol 2006;97(4):404-12.
Arch Intern Med 200013;160(20):3093-104.
J Appl Physiol 1999;87(6):2274-83.
Clin J Sport Med 2001;11(2):126.
Eur J Appl Physiol 2001;84(5):426-31.
U.S. National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2005 http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/pdf/thirdreport.pdf
Parabens. FDA: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-para.html

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About the Author

Marie Spano is one of the country’s top sports nutritionists and a nutrition communications expert. She combines science with practical experience to help Olympic, professional and recreational athletes implement a nutrition game plan that will maximize their athletic performance. Marie also works with leading food, beverage and supplement companies on their PR and communications strategies. She has appeared on NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS affiliates on the east coast, written hundreds of magazine articles, trade publication articles, book chapters, e-zines and marketing materials. Ms. Spano holds an MS in Nutrition from the University of Georgia where she worked as a graduate assistant in the athletic department and a BS degree is in Exercise and Sports Science from UNC, Greensboro, NC where she ran Division 1 cross country.