Random drug-testing. Possible steroid-related side effects such as gynecomastia, swollen prostates, accelerated hair loss, testicular shrinkage, liver damage. Is this the price you'd pay for potential steroid-like gains? Hardliners say absolutely. For these athletes, the positive results obtained from prohormone use justifies potential negative side effects. But admittedly, prohormones aren't for everyone.
Many natural bodybuilders, competitive drug-tested athletes, and regular people avoid steroids and steroidal hormones (e.g., prohormones). For these individuals, "natural" anabolic substances are the answer. But until recently, proven natural anabolics didn't exist. They do now. Three of the most effective of these natural anabolics are discussed below.
Up until recently, ecdysterone or beta-ecdysone, was neither legal nor commercially available. Recently, ecdysterone was found to occur naturally in plants (e.g., Suma and Rhaponticum). Today, ecdysterone is available to bodybuilders everywhere. Ecdysterone is an exciting discovery because it is a natural anabolic agent. In fact, steroid biochemists have classified ecdysterone as a biostimulator: a biologically-active steroidal substance which can exert anabolic actions in the body.
Just how powerful can ecdysterone be? Most of the ecdysterone studies to date have taken place in Eastern Europe and Russia. Initial reports found that ecdysterone possessed a wider spectrum of anabolic effects on skeletal muscle than the anabolic steroid Methandriol. Similarly, according to FLEX magazine, Russian studies have found that ecdysterone can produce an "anabolic effect in animals comparable to a mild anabolic/androgenic drug."
In a more recent study consisting of 78 athletes, those taking a combination of ecdysterone and protein were tested against a placebo group. At the end of 10 days, the supplement group experienced a 6-7% lean mass gain and a 9-10% reduction in body fat levels. Other studies have pointed to ecdysterone's ability to increase performance and reduce fatigue.
How do these phytoecdysones work? From anecdotal reports, 100mg of ecdysterone can dramatically increase nitrogen retention. The nitrogen-sparing effects ecdysterone can benefit the bodybuilder by increasing the amount of muscle that can be accumulated. During a state of positive nitrogen balance, protein is used towards building muscle.
In addition to its obvious application to bodybuilding, ecdysterone has another potential use. Ecdysterone, like tribulus terrestris, has the ability to increase testosterone production. By doing so, ecdysterone has the capability of improving overall sexual function. In one clinical study, ecdysterone was administered for 10 days, and after that time, sexual function was improved in the ecdysterone group.
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Whether you know it as methoxy, methoxivone, methoxyisoflavone, or 5-methyl-7-methoxyisoflavone, this new anabolic flavone compound is the most widely talked about new bodybuilding supplement in years. According to its U.S. Patent, methoxy is an "anabolically effective compound" that was developed to "produce significant weight gain increase," specifically fat-free lean mass. Furthermore, the patent document indicated that while methoxy was "highly anabolic", it did not exert any "androgenic" effects. This fact alone makes it highly attractive for bodybuilders wary of side effects associated with steroids and prohormones.
A compelling new landmark human study has confirmed methoxy's ability to significantly increase lean, fat-free muscle. Conducted at the University of Delaware, researchers examined fourteen healthy weight-trained men. Half supplemented with methoxy, the other half did not. At the end of eight weeks, the placebo group experienced an increase in body fat by 1.6 lb. In the methoxy group, the athletes on average dropped 2.9 lb of fat while simultaneously increasing lean mass by 2.8 lb. Interestingly, these results were obtained even though the athletes continued using their other supplements, indicating that methoxy can work alongside other supplements.
Researchers have theorized that methoxy works by boosting the anabolic drive: increasing protein synthesis, enhancing protein utilization, promoting a positive nitrogen balance, and reducing protein catabolism (muscle breakdown) by suppressing cortisol. But what makes methoxy truly unique is its function as a nutrition-partitioning agent. Methoxy can actually shuttle the nutrients you consume (e.g., protein), selectively into lean mass. In other words, more of the foods you eat goes into muscle-building, not fat storage. And maximizing muscle growth is the goal of every bodybuilder.
As mentioned earlier, methoxy is anabolic but not androgenic. Because it's non-hormonal and non-steroidal, methoxy can ignite anabolism without altering your body's normal endocrine function. Methoxy is truly a groundbreaking new legal supplement that's sure to shake the very foundations of bodybuilding itself.
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Ipriflavone, or 7-isopropoxyisoflavone, was first synthesized in the late 1960s from naturally occurring isoflavones. Ipriflavone made nutrition headlines in the United States as a bone-building supplement in the late 1990s due in part to its ability to enhance phosphorous and calcium absorption. But what has caught the eye of bodybuilders and researchers is ipriflavone's ability to boost anabolism. Ipriflavone's anabolic activity has been compared to the anabolic steroids, methenolone, oxandrolone, and stanazolol.
Due to its anabolic properties, ipriflavone can selectively increase fat-free lean mass. Like its cousin methoxyisoflavone, ipriflavone can do so via anabolism: increasing nitrogen retention, sparking protein synthesis, reducing protein breakdown (via cortisol inhibition), and by promoting nutrition-partitioning actions. With respect to nutrition-partitioning, studies have recorded up to 20% gains in weight from ipriflavone use, even with the same caloric intakes. According to pharmocokinetic studies, oral administration of ipriflavone is quickly absorbed and metabolized in the liver.
Research has shown than ipriflavone does not exert estrogenic activity in animals or humans. On the contrary, some preliminary research indicates that ipriflavone (and methoxyisoflavone) can actually reduce estrogen levels. For these very reasons, ipriflavone has been used by European athletes for many years. These athletes have traditionally used ipriflavone during the their off-cycles (periods of steroid abstinence).
While useful as a stand-alone supplement, new research is indicating that ipriflavone could have a synergistic effect with other tribulus-based compounds. Sports scientists at the University of Toledo compared athletes taking this combination against those taking a placebo. After 38 days, the supplement group showed greater free testosterone-to-cortisol ratios than the placebo group. This would indicate that the anti-catabolic hormone cortisol was reduced, while free testosterone levels increased. Keep in mind that free testosterone is the body's active form of the anabolic hormone. On a related note, this supplement combo was also shown to increase performance thresholds in the athletes.
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Because of its non-hormonal, steroid-free characteristics, anabolic bodybuilding supplements containing both sterones and flavones (e.g., methoxy, ÃŸ-ecdysone, ipriflavone, 5,7-dihydroxyflavone, and isoflavones) are powerful alternatives to prohormone-based supplements. These supplements are particularly suitable for prohormone-sensitive bodybuilders, natural bodybuilders, and drug-tested athletes. Theoretically speaking, ingredients such as methoxy, ecdysterone, and ipriflavone might also be a logical choice for female bodybuilders and powerlifters as these substances are not androgenic.
Furthermore, as nutrition-partitioning agents, these substances have tremendous potential for "hardgainers", those bodybuilders who have a difficult time gaining quality weight. With their ability to shuttle nutrients into skeletal muscle formation, athletes can gain lean mass without altering their normal feeding patterns or caloric intakes.
In addition, these substances might offer benefits for those bodybuilders currently using prohormone-type supplements. Studies have shown that flavones, as opposed to isoflavones, are potent aromatase inhibitors. In other words, flavones such as methoxyisoflavone and 5,7-dihydroxyflavone (chrysin) can help reduce the conversion of testosterone to estrogen by functioning as competitive inhibitors of cytochrome P450 aromatase.
Finally, from a nutritional point of view, the ability of these substances to promote anabolism and nutrition-partitioning can be further enhanced with increased protein intakes. So if you're considering natural alternatives to support significant lean mass gains, consider adding an extra protein shake or two to your diet for maximum results.
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