Prohormones: Hype and History

Every once in a while I get asked about the form of supplements known as prohormones.  I’ll share what I believe to be an informed opinion (along with some personal stories for your amusement), but keep in mind I’m not a doctor or pharmacist.

The History of Prohormones

Some of you may know that I spent wasted a lot of money on supplements in the 90’s.  That era was in many ways the the “wild west” of supplement industry.

Prohormones came on the scene the mid-90’s, not long after anabolic steroids had been reclassified as schedule 3 controlled substances (since big biceps are apparently as dangerous as heroine).1  They were still legal because they were supposed to be precursors to anabolic hormones–converting to testosterone only after passing through the liver.

This was also around the time of the internet boom, so all kinds of stuff was being sold online.  I remember GHB, the “date rape drug,” being marketed since it induced a deep sleep which would theoretically help with growth hormone production.

Androstenedione was the first prohormone to be heavily marketed (and given the nickname “andro”).  This one was made famous when a sports reporter “accidentally” spotted a bottle in Mark MgGwire’s locker–some believe he put it there to draw attention away from allegations of steroid use (which he denied for years).AST_Androstene

I was a naive 20-something who had been training for over a decade.  I was eager to find an edge to make me bigger and stronger (ironic, since I considered myself a “natural” trainee).  I tried several prohormone formulas: androstendione, 4-AD, 1-AD, etc.  I even tried some unusual administration routes, like spraying them on my skin (which was supposedly superior to taking them orally), and even spraying them up my nose (which supposedly helped with focus and aggression, since that’s a more direct route to the brain).  Did I mention what a naive consumer I was?  I can’t help but laugh thinking back to some of the moronic things I tried.

I used prohormones on and off from the mid to late 90’s, but I can’t say they made any difference whatsoever.  If I had it all to do over I would have simply enjoyed the gains that come from being in the peak years of my natural testosterone production (and saved some of my hard-earned cash).  My best lifts of that decade came from simply adjusting my training methods—not from supplements of any kind.

Estrogen Boosters?

At some point I discovered just how unpredictable prohormones were.  Androstenedione, for example, was shown to raise the level of certain female hormones–not what I had in mind!2  I had never experienced any feminizing side effects, but the illusion of inducing a legal, side effect free testosterone boost was completely shattered.  I never bothered with prohormones again–part of the hard lesson I had learned about trusting the supplement industry.  I’m extremely grateful for reaching this conclusion because the worst was yet to come.

The hype regarding prohormones lived on in the 2000’s even after some were banned by the Steroid Control Act of 2004.  “New” products came up that were not covered under the current law.  I would see brands/names mentioned on bodybuilding forums, complete with testimonies of muscle/strength gains.   But I was done–I wasn’t about to potentially tamper with my natural testosterone production based on endorsements in forums.

Prohormones and Toxicity

I have since learned that most of the prohormones were not really new at all–they were originally developed in the 60’s by chemists that were trying to create new steroid formulas.  These compounds were abandoned because they were found to be ineffective and/or extremely toxic to the liver.   Unscrupulous companies had essentially repackaged toxic waste of the 60’s as muscle builders.   Apparently some the formulas that were resurrected in the 2000’s were more toxic than what was sold/used in the 90’s–a few unfortunate users required medical intervention due to liver toxicity.The FDA eventually banned these new/old drugs as well.

Conclusion

So here we are, about 20 years after prohormones were first introduced.  I don’t know if any “new” versions are out there and I could care less.  I’m content to lift, live and just optimize my testosterone levels naturally.

References:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabolic_steroid#United_States

2. JAMA. 2000 Feb 9;283(6):779-82. Oral androstenedione administration and serum testosterone concentrations in young men.

3. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2007 Jul;5(7):809-12. Epub 2007 May 16. Hepatotoxicity associated with dietary supplements containing anabolic steroids.

Omega Body Blueprint Review John Romaniello

omegabodybluepringreviewtransformationI’ve had an opportunity to review the Omega Body Blueprint, the latest body transformation program from John Romaniello.

Let me start by telling you a little bit about the author/creator of this program:John-Romaniello-Omega-Body-Blueprint

John Romaniello (aka “Roman”) has been in the fitness industry for over 13 years.  His work has been featured in several well-known publications and he has been interviewed on fitness-related television shows.  He is also a New York Times best-selling author.  Roman specializes in fat loss and body transformation.

Now let’s talk about what you get if you decide to order the Omega Body Blueprint program (I have listed these components in the order I downloaded them–not necessarily in order of importance or in the sequence from the program website).

Component 1: Training Manual

This book begins with an explanation of hormones and their role in fat loss.  Romaniello focuses much of this information on why it gets more difficult to lose fat and how we can overcome the body’s natural resistance to getting lean.  One important strategy, he argues, is to alternate training modalities.   This allows the trainee to get the optimal benefits of several types of training (in addition to keeping things interesting).  The illustrated manual takes you through six complete weeks of training–workouts designed to maximize fat loss and overcome plateaus.

Component 2: Workout Log Sheets

These printable workout logs will allow you to follow the previous manual and keep a record of the weights you use.

NOTE: I should say something here about Roman’s workouts.  I’ve done some of them before and they are not easy–even if you are in decent shape.  This program is for those who are willing to work hard–not for those content to sit around and talk for twenty minutes in between sets.

Component 3: Nutrition Manual

Roman begins this manual with an important observation: most trainees will meticulously plan their training but fail to put even a fraction of that time and effort into planning their diet.  This is why so many people in the gym never really see visible improvements in their physiques.  He goes on to explain some of the most nutritional strategies for this program: intermittent fasting, eating certain macro nutrient combinations, etc.  I think you’ll find his advice simple and straightforward.

Component 4:  Calorie and Macro Calculator

This file includes a link to an online calculator that will show you exactly how many calories and macro nutrients (protein/fat/carbohydrates) you should be eating every day.  This feature is nice because it will take all the guesswork out of your diet.

Component 5:  Supplement Guide

As the name implies, this is a list of recommended supplements.  I greatly appreciate the fact that Romaniello does not over-emphasize supplements (he states that you can do the program without them).  Having said that, the supplements he mentions are relatively expensive in my opinion.  I’d just recommend you stick to the basics (protein, fish oil, etc.) and use brands that you trust.

Additional Products (these items below are not included in the basic Omega Body Blueprint program–you will be given the option to purchase these as an addition if you chose):

The Hormonal Response Diet (by Chad Howse)

This document is primarily about our favorite hormone–testosterone.  Optimizing this hormone, Howse argues, will help keep you lean and healthy.  It will even influence your mental health, helping you be more focused and happy.  Howse explains some dietary and supplement strategies that will help you optimize your testosterone levels naturally (he mentions intermittent fasting, for example).  He also explains why this is an important issue for women as well as men.

Overdrive Training Manual/Log Sheets:

This is a more advanced version of the training you can follow if you finish the basic program and want to take things to another level in terms of conditioning and fat loss.   This is six additional weeks of programming, which would give you twelve weeks total (including the basic program).

VIP Coaching

This option is for those who want to join the exclusive Facebook group.  This will allow you access to additional training information that is not open to the general public.

REVIEW:

I believe Roman’s strong point is fat loss–he has developed nutritional and exercise strategies that help trainees achieve levels of leanness and aesthetic beauty that they never thought possible.  The Omega Body Blueprint combines the “best of the best”–the best of everything he has learned in over a decade of studying fat loss.

I think this program would be helpful for the following:

*People that are healthy enough to train with intensity.  As I mentioned, the workouts are difficult.

*Trainees that want to overcome plateaus in fat loss and leanness.  Roman does a good job of explaining why we reaching “sticking points” when losing fat.  The diet and training will help you get past these.  This is a good program for men and women who want to lose those last few stubborn pounds that are keeping you from having your ideal physique.

*Guys/girls who are willing to follow a nutrition plan.  The diet is laid out very well, but you have to follow it for it to be effective.  Remember that diet/nutrition is responsible for most of your fat loss results.

*Trainees that want to focus 6-12 weeks on losing fat.

If any of these descriptions match you or your goals then I think the Omega Body Blueprint would be a good investment.  It is a cost effective way to get solid diet and training information (especially when compared to hiring a personal trainer).

Just CLICK HERE if you are interested in ordering this program or learning more.

omegabodyblueprintreview

Sugar and Testosterone

SugarI’m sure you know too much sugar is bad for you.  But it seems every day I learn something new about the negative effects of eating (or drinking) too much of it.  We know, for example, that sugar and refined carbohydrates causes inflammation, and I’m convinced this (inflammation) is the main culprit in cardiovascular disease (even more so than cholesterol).

Here’s something you may not know–sugar can temporarily suppress testosterone.  I can point to at least one study that confirmed this:

Researchers were interested in knowing whether or not men tested for hypogonadism (low testosterone) should be tested in a fasted state.  74 men were given 75 grams of glucose (the standard dose for a glucose tolerance test).  Their hormone levels were monitored at 30 minute increments after taking the sugar.  They found that testosterone levels were suppressed by as much as 25% and remained so at the two-hour mark (120 minutes).  All subjects experienced this suppression, regardless of whether or not they had other health issues related to glucose tolerance (diabetes, etc.). Some subjects had normal testosterone levels, yet the suppression caused enough drop to (temporarily) put them in the same range as men who suffer from hypogonasism.1

We do have to keep a few things in mind here: the drop in testosterone was transient, this is only one study, and insulin is an anabolic hormone in its own right.

But I didn’t realize just how drastically one insulin spike can affect other hormone levels.  Drinking sweet drinks all day could negatively affect your testosterone levels (in addition to the other health issues).  A 20-ounce soda on an empty stomach would pretty much duplicate the conditions of this study (a bottle would have 65 grams of sugar).

This is another reason I like the Renegade Diet style of eating.  It seems limiting your intake of carbohydrates/sugar throughout the day is a reasonable strategy for optimizing your testosterone levels.

Reference:

1.Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2013 Feb;78(2):291-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2012.04486.x.
Abrupt decrease in serum testosterone levels after an oral glucose load in men: implications for screening for hypogonadism.