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The Healthy Skeptic Ramble Edition: Androstenedione Does Nothing Without Using Steroids

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Androstenedione. Andro. The substance that ramped up the rhetoric over the steroids in baseball issue. The stuff that Mark McGwire left in plain sight for all to see — or at least for an AP writer to see — and as a result brought the steroid issue to the masses. Without andro it might have taken us a bit longer to catch on to the cheaters.

Too bad andro won’t do anything for you.

Yep, nothing.

What’s funny about this whole thing is that the only study to show that androstenedione can raise serum testosterone levels was funded by Major League Baseball. And this study did NOT find evidence that andro can help build muscle mass or improve athletic performance.

Besides this study there is hardly any real evidence that andro can do anything significant for anybody.

However, one thing is for sure; Mark McGwire did not get huge because he used andro.

The study sponsored by Major League Baseball and conducted by the Harvard Medical School showed that 14 people who took 300 mgs of andro daily had their testosterone levels raised 34 percent, and one third of these subjects had their levels rise above the normal range. I’m not sure what one third of 14 is when you’re talking about people, but let’s say five people had their levels rise above normal levels.

I don’t know if I need to state the obvious, but this means that for the other nine people in this group who had their testosterone levels rise, their levels were raised within the normal range. Therefore, these people wouldn’t enjoy the benefits of increased muscle mass or improved athletic performance … if there were any … which there aren’t.

Within this group the researchers noted that andro had a different effect on different individuals and that the data suggests, “that certain people may be more or less sensitive” to andro.

There were other people in this study as well. The 15 people who received 100 mgs of andro, and the 13 poor saps in the placebo group who got nothing and liked it, didn’t show any increases in their testosterone levels.

So the entire “andro hullabaloo” is basically due to the five people who had their testosterone levels raised above normal levels. There’s no indication in this study with regards to how high above normal the testosterone levels were raised and if these levels were raised enough above normal – at or near levels seen in testosterone supplementation – to result in any benefits. Folks, this is hardly a grand slam. This is not even as good as anecdotal evidence.

And then there’s the really bad news that doesn’t get much play when people in the media are playing the “andro card.”

While the 100 mgs dosage of andro didn’t raise testosterone levels, this dosage did raise estrogen levels substantially; estrone was raised 74% and estradiol was raised 42% above normal. At the 300 mgs dosage these levels shoot up to 196% for estrone and 128% for estradiol.

So while it seems that androstenedione does mildly increase testosterone levels for some, it drastically raises estrogen levels for all, and to the point where these estrogen increases would certainly counteract most, if not all, of the benefits from the raised testosterone levels. Do you hear me?

Don’t let the science intimidate you. All you need to know is that estrogen is the anti-testosterone and that estrogenic effects are the bane of those looking to build muscle.

This study “did not examine whether taking androstenedione increases strength or muscle mass or whether androstenedione has long-term side effects.”

If you’re interested you can click here to read the study that was sponsored by MLB and you can click here to check out the latest on andro from the Physician’s Desk Reference online. If you visit the PDR site you’ll see that – with regards to conclusive evidence of andro’s efficacy – there isn’t a whole lot to hang your hat on.

What all of this means is that androstenedione — alone — will do nothing for you unless you are using steroids. When a person is using steroids their endocrine system does all kinds of crazy things, so andro may serve some purpose, but this purpose certainly has nothing to do with boosting testosterone levels to the point where muscle mass will increase. That’s what the steroids do.

It’s kind of like saying, “Prune juice is responsible for building all of this muscle I have. Well, prune juice and the growth hormone and the insulin and the testosterone.”

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About Sal Marinello

  • Mike

    I’d have to agree. I tried Andro when I first began bodybuilding. Did a little bit for mass, but not much. Then I tried Deca Durabolin with an Anadrol kicker. Worked. Oh yeah, it worked. I stopped that supplement and steroid stuff soon after. Then, M1T was introduced by Gaspari Nutrition. I loved it. It was a great product. Then, the FDA in all their wisdom and stealing of freedoms, took prohormones off the market. Now, I guess everyone who was a prohormone user now has to buy the real deal. WAY TO GO FDA!