Hormones are chemical messengers that tell the cells, tissues and organs in your body how to behave. In strength training and bodybuilding, the main hormones of interest as testosterone and Human Growth Hormone (HGH for short). These two hormones are anabolic which means they are responsible for muscle growth.
Bull’s Balls and Testosterone
Over the years, people have sought different ways to increase anabolic hormone levels. The ancient Greeks and Romans ate raw bull’s testicles as they realized a castrated bull didn’t grow as big or as strong as one that was left intact therefore, they correctly deduced, the key to the bull’s physical prowess was in his testes.
As science improved, it become possible to manufacture synthetic hormones and anabolic/androgenic steroids (AAS) were born. AAS were quite widely used and largely unregulated in the middle of the last century but they soon became a regulated substance and, in many countries, it become illegal to sell or use AAS for anything but medical use.
Driving steroids underground did two things; it created a black market for anabolic steroids and it created a market for steroid alternatives which gave rise to the development of prohormones (sometimes pro-hormones).
Prohormone supplements are sort of a “grey” subject because while they are not strictly illegal, they are banned in some countries such as Canada and prohormones for sale are often banned because they are too close to steroids.
What is a Prohormone?
Prohormones are steroid hormone pre-cursers. That is to say that, once consumed, they convert to testosterone in your body. Unlike testosterone boosters, they do not increase
manufacture of natural testosterone but actually augment and even replace natural production. Whereas REAL steroids are available in both oral and injectable form, prohormones are only available in pill form.
There are lots of different prohormones with complicated names like 1-Androstenediol, 5-Androstenedione, and Norandrostenedione which are often combined into prohormone stacks to make the strongest prohormone supplements.
Prohormone Side Effects
Because prohormones convert to testosterone, they can cause your body to reduce its natural production or even stop it completely. In this way, they are just like “real” steroids. While you are using your prohormone, this is not an issue but on cessation of your product, this can leave your body devoid of natural testosterone until your own production comes back on line. This means that, in many cases, gains in strength and muscle size are lost.
To avoid this, prohormone users tend to do something called post cycle therapy or PCT for short. This basically means using other supplements and drugs to kick start natural testosterone production to avoid the post-prohormone crash. Many prohormones come with a PCT cycle supplement designed specifically to get your own testosterone production back on track after your cycle of prohormone use.
Increasing your testosterone levels can also increase your oestrogen levels as these two hormones are opposite sides of the same coin. High oestrogen levels can cause several unwanted side-effects such as fatty deposits around the chest. Some users get around this by using oestrogen blockers.
In addition, suddenly stopping prohormone use can leave you not only with low testosterone but also elevated oestrogen which will further compound muscle loss and may cause loss of libido and fat gain.
Other side effects associated with prohormone use include increased greasy skin leading to acne, liver issues (all prohormones pass through your liver), shrunken testes, infertility and aggressiveness. While the side effects are not as dramatic as for steroid use, they are similar if less serious or long lasting.
The severity of the side effects are directly linked to the length and strength of your prohormone cycle which is many manufacturers recommended short cycles of three to six-weeks “on” and six to 12-weeks off.
Genuine prohormones are not usually available in stores but only from online sources which means you can’t always be sure you are getting a genuine product. If you are lucky enough to find a good product, you should experience noticeable results…
- Increased muscle mass
- Decreased body fat
- Improved strength
- Increased enthusiasm for training
- Heightened aggression
- Increased mental
- Increased workout capacity
- Better recovery between workouts
- Increased sex drive
Prohormone reviews are usually pretty mixed and range from the almost unbelievable to downright dismissive and everything in between. Because prohormone production and distribution is largely unregulated, there is no real guarantee that the product you are using contains much if any active ingredient. Products come and go because the ones that work too well are often banned and the ones that don’t work are soon removed from the marketplace as the negative reviews stack up.
To round off, I want you to contrast prohormones with HGH, but NOT actual Human growth Hormone… rather HGH boosters! HGH boosters are herbal concoctions that boost your body’s natural HGH production. In a nutshell they present a safe (alternative) path to beefing up your muscle mass. Read about HGH boosters for bodybuilding here.
There is no doubt that genuine prohormones work but, despite claims to the contrary, they are not as effective as steroids and are also not entirely risk-free. If you do decide to try prohormones, do your research, seek out genuine products, keep your cycles relatively short and have your PCT in place before you start. That way you’ll maximize the benefits and minimize the risk of prohormone use.
FDA does not have authority over dietary supplements in the same way it does prescription medicines. The Federal Government does not regularly evaluate what is in dietary supplements, and companies are not required to share information on the safety of a dietary supplement with the FDA before they sell it.