They are the most potent muscle builders out there. They are very varied and complex, and there is a general lack of knowledge surrounding them.
An androgen prohormone, or androgen, is a prohormone (or prodrug) of an androgenic anabolic steroid (SAA). They can be testosterone prohormones or synthetic androgenic anabolic steroids such as nandrolone (19-nortestosterone).
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), and androstenedione can be considered androgens of testosterone.
Prohormones are compounds converted through an enzymatic process into anabolic hormones in the body.
They will cause similar effects in the body to anabolic steroids, inducing rapid muscle and strength gains but of a lesser magnitude than anabolic steroids due to the rate-limiting effect caused by enzyme conversion.
However, this technical definition is currently considered outdated due to the innovation shown in the supplement industry since the introduction of the first prohormone, androstenedione.
Testosterone prohormones and other anabolic androgenic steroids
In the past two decades, bodybuilders, athletes, and non-medical users of anabolic-androgenic steroids and other hormones have also used prohormones to refer to substances that are expected to become active hormones.
The intent is to provide the benefits of taking an androgenic anabolic steroid without the legal risks and to achieve the expected benefits or advantages without using anabolic-androgenic steroids.
Many of these compounds are legal to make, sell, possess, and ingest, eliminating the legal problems associated with the Schedule III androgenic anabolic steroid.
The typical definition of “prohormone” includes a steroid molecule with the opposite molecular structure to testosterone at position 3a / b or 17b.
Testosterone has a ketone group at carbon three and hydroxyl at 17b. An asteroid with modifications of testosterone in one or both areas is commonly known as a “prohormone.” These enzyme changes occur with bi-directional enzymes in the body.
On October 22, 2004, President Bush signed the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 (118 Stat. 1661). The bill was written to go into effect in 90 days, on January 20, 2005.
This legislation places androgenic anabolic steroids and some androgen prohormones on a list of controlled substances (a new type of “regulatory control”). The legal definition of anabolic-androgenic steroid:
“The term ‘anabolic steroid’ means any drug or substance hormonally, chemically, and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogens, progestins, corticosteroids, and dehydroepiandrosterone).”
The Act also lists substances called prohormones, qualifying them as anabolic-androgenic steroids.
However, these substances were included mainly in the list due to the generalization of the definition of anabolic-androgenic steroid.
That makes it impossible to synthesize additional substances linked to testosterone for the needs of athlete supplementation.
Suppose you’ve ever been tempted to use anabolic steroids to build stronger muscles and burn more fat. Still, you didn’t like utilizing an illegal and potentially dangerous substance. In that case, you might have considered turning to prohormones.
Prohormones offer legal steroids in some cases and some countries and appear to have fewer risks. But what exactly are they? Are they much safer than steroids?
Steroids vs. testosterone boosters vs. prohormone
There is a lot of confusion regarding what each is and how they differ when it comes to prohormones, testosterone boosters, and steroids. This can lead to some drastic mistakes, so let’s make sure we are clear first …
Steroids: Anabolic steroids are synthetic compounds designed to “look like” testosterone. Specifically, this means that they will bind to androgen receptors, in the same way, leading to the same anabolic effects.
This then increases the body’s ability to build muscle and burn fat and increase fertility and aggression.
Unfortunately, it can also lead to some dangerous side effects as the body begins to produce less testosterone to restore balance. Sometimes estrogen production also increases, leading to the development of secondary sexual characteristics.
Besides being illegal, steroids carry the risk of many side effects, such as acne, hair loss, mood disorders, impotence, and many more.
Steroids can lead to huge gains in strength and muscle gain, but the correct diet and training techniques still need to be used.
Testosterone Boosters: Testosterone boosters are supplements that stimulate the body to increase its testosterone production.
These include things like ‘Tribulus Terrestris and ‘Tongkat Ali,’ which are herbs that have been found to increase testosterone levels somehow when taken orally.
Another example would be ZMA, a mixture of zinc and magnesium that leads to elevated testosterone levels.
Because testosterone boosters stimulate the body to produce more hormones, this means that they do not lead to tolerance or any other side effects.
However, with that said, they are also considerably less effective. Most people under the age of 40 are unlikely to see any significant effects, less than you would simply by changing your diet and lifestyle.
Prohormones: On the other hand, Prohormones are somewhere between steroids and boosters. These are compounds that act as chemical precursors to hormones and steroids.
In other words, they contain the “bits” that the body needs to create these steroids. In the case of bodybuilders, this generally means precursors to testosterone.
Prohormones are generally a bit milder in effect than steroids that you take directly and therefore give slightly fewer results with marginally fewer risks.
They can still lead to increased muscle mass and strength and still carry most of the same risks. In particular, it is essential to avoid taking them if you are under the age of 19, in which case you may risk permanently damaging your endocrine system.
It’s also worth noting that prohormones show up in drug tests and suggest the use of anabolic steroids.
Prohormones, an unsafe alternative to steroids
In conclusion, prohormones should not be considered a “safe alternative” to steroids. The use of prohormones is even worse than steroids, as the methylated nature means that they are often harder on the liver.
The benefits are also less pronounced, so you put your liver and natural testosterone production at risk for no good reason.
Unless you are a professional bodybuilder, there is very little chance that you would have reached the maximum of what you are capable of without these types of supplements.
So, instead of using potentially dangerous prohormones to increase muscle mass, try increasing your protein intake and the intensity and efficiency of your workouts.
Side effects and better alternatives
Prohormones can often seem like the easy route. But using prohormones has many hidden costs, including health.
Prohormones affect each individual differently. For some, the side effects are severe. And for some, mild. But even when the side effects are mild, they are still there.
Despite the relative lack of information on its effects, prohormone supplementation has become popular.
Unlike synthetic androgenic anabolic steroids, many of these over-the-counter androgens are endogenously produced by adrenal, gonadal, and peripheral steroidogenic as part of the typical reproductive and sexual hormonal environment.
It has been claimed that peripheral enzymatic conversion of these prohormones to testosterone or nortestosterone (through ingestion of androstenedione/androstenediol or 19-nor androstenedione / androstenediol, respectively) could lead to anabolic and ergogenic effects.
Existing data suggest that acute oral ingestion of> or = 200 mg androstenedione or androstenediol modestly and transiently increases serum testosterone concentrations in men; however, this is accompanied by more significant increases in circulating estrogens.
At doses <300 mg / d, oral supplementation for up to 12 weeks with androstenedione or androstenediol does not affect body composition or physical performance and lowers high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Similarly, oral supplementation with nor androstenedione and nor androstenediol for up to eight weeks has no effect on body composition or physical performance.
In light of these data, new products have been developed using alternative modes of administration of prohormones (sublingual/transbuccal complexing and cyclodextrin).
Future studies should critically examine the effects of these approaches. However, within the framework of the reviewed research, over-the-counter oral prohormone supplementation is ineffective for increasing muscle mass or athletic performance.
As a result of the potential health concerns that have been raised, the risk-benefit ratio of using these substances orally appears unfavorable.
Prohormones Added to Schedule 3 (III) List of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids
The 108th Congress amended the Controlled Substances Act to include androgenic anabolic steroids and add information on steroids and steroid precursors. This amendment is sometimes called the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004.
The first thing this amendment did was insert a definition of anabolic-androgenic steroid as follows:
“Anabolic steroid means any drug or hormonal substance chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogens, progestins, corticosteroids, and dehydroepiandrosterone).”
In addition to the definition, the document lists the currently known prohormones:
- Androstanediol (3β, 17β-dihydroxy-5α-androstane y 3α, 17β-dihydroxy-5α-androstane).
- Androstanedione (5α-androstan-3,17-dione).
- 1-Androstenediol (3α, 17β-dihydroxy-5α-androst-1-eno).
- 4-Androstenediol (3β, 17β-dihydroxy-androst-4-eno).
- 5-Androstenediol (3β, 17β-dihydroxy-androst-5-eno).
- 1-Androstenedione (5α-androst-1-en-3,17-dione).
- 4-Androstenedione (androst-4-en-3,17-dione).
- 5-Androstenedione (androst-5-en-3,17-dione).
- Norandrostenediol (19-nor-4-androstenediol o 3β, 17β-dihidroxiestr-4-eno).
- 19-Nor-4-androstenediol (3α, 17β-dihidroxiestr-4-eno).
- 19-Nor-5-androstenediol (3β, 17β-dihydroxiester-5-eno y 3α, 17β-dihydroxiester-5-eno).
- Norandrostenedione (19-nor-4-androstenedione or estr-4-en-3,17-dione).
- 19-Nor-5-androstenedione (estr-5-en-3,17-dione).
- Any salt, ester, or ether of a drug or substance listed above.
Please note that this list contains examples and is not a closed list: any other compound that affects testosterone, by definition, is an androgenic anabolic steroid under US law.
“Designer Steroids” and Adulterated Supplements
In light of a 2004 outright ban, manufacturers are unable to release the next androgenic anabolic steroid; they are currently interested in substances that are related to hormones but do not affect testosterone.
These include derivatives, e.g., methandienone (methoxygonadiene, ethyl methoxy gone), methasterone (called Superdrol or S-Drol), and many others, sometimes called “designer steroids.”
Such compounds, while harmful, do not violate the Anabolic Steroid Control Act because they have no impact on the testosterone level.
Due to the same reason, they did not help build muscle and are not applicable in support; typically, the descriptions of these compounds try to manipulate the chemical concepts, but they do not even mention the possibility of increasing testosterone because they do not even have that potential.
In practice, agents labeled with these compounds of this type were falsified because they contained, not stated in the composition, typical anabolic-androgenic steroids.
After publicizing the fraud in the media, many manufacturers lost trust, and the US health authorities began to remove suspicious products.
Research carried out by state laboratories confirmed that “designer steroids” are pharmaceuticals such as methandienone, stanazolol, methylstenbolone, boldenone, chlorodidomethyltestosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and oxandrolone, added to supplements randomly.
Supplements with different names and ingredients described may have the same steroid (such as Chlorodehydromethylandrostenediol (Halodrol), desoxymethyltestosterone (Madol, Pheraplex), others), and sometimes supplements with similar names may have different ingredients (such as Finabolic).
Regulation in the United States and Europe
Following the introduction of the Anabolic Steroid Control Act, label products derived from plant extracts with the help of chemical symbols for organic substances found in these plants.
Creating names for these substances that refer to banned androgenic anabolic steroids became a widespread marketing practice employed by American manufacturers.
No analogical act directed to athletes’ supplementation is in force in the European Union; however, each country has its regulations on substances with medicinal properties.
Due to the above, one can come into contact with the sale of supplements with identical or similar names to those questioned by the recommended dietary allowance (ADR) in the United States (S-DROL, HALODROL, etc.).
Laboratory tests indicate that products claiming to include prohormones, banned in the US, contain the older generation ‘classic’ anabolic-androgenic steroid.
Many consumers in Europe were unaware that it was illegally produced prohormones in the US After 2004 and thought they were consuming various versions of the previously acclaimed supplement while consuming steroids of unknown origin.
In situations such as those described above, the buyer of this unnatural substance does not know the type or dosage of the hormone ingested and therefore cannot plan a safe gastrointestinal protection regimen or complementary treatment.
The consumer can also not gain access to information on the possible long-term consequences of treatment with the unspecified hormone.
This has led to the popularity of special forums where consumers could share their experiences with the substances. However, despite similar descriptions and names, fake products could have radically different components.
Supplement manufacturers who have made a name for themselves and want to stay on the market are currently making anabolic androgenic steroids based on natural substances (usually derived from plants).
In Europe, these products are called prohormones. Producers who still want to offer supplements that support hormonal balance can still use the natural compounds.