Androstenedione in the body
Disadvantages and Advantages
Androstenedione is naturally found in meat, some plants, and in the human body. In the 1970s, androstenedione was developed by East German researchers in order to increase performance in their athletes. Androstenedione, commonly known as andro, was not introduced into the United States markets until the mid-1990s.
Androstenedione is taken orally in a concentrated pill or capsule and is now available in a spray that can be administered under the tongue for quicker results. The spray can increase androstenedione blood serum levels in about a half an hour as apposed to the pill or capsule, which takes about 2 hours. The goal of the andro is to increase testosterone levels so athletes can train harder and recover in less time. The claim is that harder training would ultimately lead to a gain in muscle mass and power. Although this goal has not been proven that andro promotes muscle growth, studies have shown andro increases androstenedione, testosterone, and estrogen levels. The lack of short-term and long-term research is the reason for doubts about the actual physiological effects of the substance on the body, and any side effects that may be associated with androstenedione.
Androstenedione has a steroid-like structure, and some researches claim that it is a weak anabolic steroid. If androstenedione were to be classified as an anabolic steroid it would become restricted by the Anabolic Steroids Act of 1990 which states: that in order for a substance to be classified as an anabolic steroid it (1) must have a structure related to testosterone, (2) must have pharmacology related to testosterone, (3) the substance cannot be an estrogen, progestin, or corticosteroid, (4) the substance must promote muscle growth. The latter of the four requirements does not classify andro as an anabolic steroid. There is no concrete evidence that the substance does promote muscle growth. It has only been proved to raise levels of androstenedione, testosterone, and estrogens.
Mark McGwire made this product well known after admitting to using the product on his way to breaking the home-run record in 1998. McGwire had several homerun seasons comparable to that. Using this product does not guarantee to enhance performance.
Back to Top
Androstenedione in the Body
In the body, it is produced by the adrenal glands and gonads from dehyroepiandrosterone (DHEA or 17- alpha-hydroxyprogesterone). DHEA is converted into androstenedione an the enzyme in the gonads. Androstenedione is a precursor of testosterone. Once the androstenedione is taken orally, it makes it into the liver where it is almost destroyed completely, the amount that survives combine with the enzyme 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase to make testosterone as shown in the figure below. Taking androstenedione orally can increase androstenedione blood serum levels over 300 percent after about 2 hours and remaining high for 4 hours. Studies have shown that androstenedione by itself does not produce increased muscle mass but once converted into testosterone in the liver, the elevated testosterone levels may lead to muscle mass gain, but not proven.
The problem with androstenedione is that it metabolizes quickly into estrogens, estrone and estradiol as shown in the figure (click to see figure). These two products can stay in the body for days as opposed to the androstenedione, which diminishes within hours. Estrogens have an opposite effect than testosterone; they suppress fat-loss and tissue healing. Estrogen levels can be monitored and managed by blood and saliva testing in order to be kept under control if using the product.
A study published by the American Medical Association (AMA), investigated the anabolic effects of orally taking androstenedione with men that had none or little weight training experience. The study focused on short-term effects of a single 100 mg dose followed by a longer term of 300 mg for an eight-week program of weight training. This study proved the androstenedione increased androstenedione, estrone and estradiol levels within the body. Luteininzing Hormone (LH), folical-stimulating hormone (FSH) which are involved in the production of testosterone within the body, was unaffected as were liver enzymes. This suggests that ingesting androstenedione would not affect the body in producing testosterone as in the case where elevated levels of testosterone may affect the self-production of the testosterone. The study only stated that androstenedione can produce elevated testosterone levels, and not that the levels of testosterone were not sufficient to produce enhanced performance.
Androstenedione is a direct precursor of testosterone and estrone. DHEA on the other hand has an indirect metabolic pathway to estrone, may produce lower estrogen levels, but will also not increase the levels of testosterone as andro does, and therefore may not yield as high of a muscle mass gain according to some researchers.
Back to Top
One reason why researches started using androstenedione as a performance enhancing agent is due to the fact traces of the substance diminish within hours or days, making drug testing nearly impossible. This is due to the andro converting into testosterone and estrogens. Drug testing has to be based on the testosterone levels in the body. Androstenedione disrupts the balance between testosterone and epitestosterone from a ration of about 2 or 3 to 1 to about 14:1. According to the International Olympic Committee testosterone levels above a 6:1 ratio are considered a positive test.
Back to Top
Disadvantages and Advantages
There are no reported side effects directly related to the ingestion of androstenedione. However, high doses of androstenedione can produce elevated testosterone levels. Some side effects from elevated testosterone levels are: enlargement of breasts, prostate and other glandular tissues, as well as risk of glandular cancers, hair loss, water/salt retention, lower LDL levels (Low Density Lipoproteins), impotence, acne, oily skin, and increased sex drive.
Women should avoid using androstenedione because of possible elevated testosterone levels. The high testosterone levels may lead to some longer lasting effects such as deep voice and increased facial hair (beard), enlargement of genitals and other masculine characteristics.
Advantages of using this product for the sole purpose of muscle gain are not known due to the lack of research in short-term and long-term studies. Many athletes claim that this product enhances muscle mass due to personal experience, but again that is not proven yet. Marketers claim that taking androstenedione can boost testosterone levels up to 300% for about 3 hours.
Back to Top
Fonorow, Owen R. "JAMA Study on Androstenedione
- A Critique" 1999.
King, DS, Sharp RL, Vukovich MD, et al. "Effect
of Oral Androstenedione on Serum Testosterone and Adaptations to
Resistance Training in Young Men: A randomized control trial." Journal of the American Medical Association. June
1999;v 281 pp. 2020- 2028.
Schnirring, Lisa. "Baseball Funded 'Andro' Study Shows Testosterone
Increase." Physicians Sports Mediciine News Brief.
v 28. no. 3 pp. 19.
"Muscle Building: Do andro, creatine work?" Mayo Foundation for Medical
Education and Research, 11 Nov 98.
Bartoll, Joachim ."Androstenedioine" Jan 1998. <http://www.bahnhof.se/~jbartoll/androstenedione.html>
"Q&A Adrostenedione is being touted as a safe and effective steroid
for increasing testosterone levels in men (and women). Is
it effective? Are there any down side risks for its use?" Excerpt from Smart Life News. 20 Aug 98.
"MLB, MLBPA Androstenedione Report Published" Major League Baseball Press Release. 8 Feb 2000.
Michoes, Gary. "McGwire Supplement and Issue" Detroit News.
26 Aug 98.
Back to Top
Home | Introduction | Creatine | Androstenedione
Epinephrine | Guidelines | Conclusion