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Originally Posted by HMc
Yeah I wouldn't take it to cure pancreatic cancer either, that doesn't mean the "scientific research has been mixed" any more than "there is no evidence that creatine helps with endurance sports" does.
People don't take it for endurance sports because it's useless for that. The science is in when it comes to short-bursts though, and it's conclusively beneficial. Saying it's of no use for endurance is about as relevant as pointing out that your car won't run on it or that EPO is useless for weightlifting.
I take Superpump Max pre-workout and it's much been much better for me than the coffee I was having before. Whether or not there's a placebo effect is academic to me.
On the topic of supplements though - just because something occurs naturally in our body or in our usual diet, doesn't mean we can't use more of that thing if we want to increase the demands on our body (by making it larger or whatever). If supplementing was entirely bunk in theory, supplementing testosterone with needles wouldn't work either. I mean, we already have test in our bodies, right?
That's fine. You think it works for you, and don't care about any placebo effect. That makes your position pretty clear.
And it's ironic that you bring up testosterone supplements. That's one of the worst categories of misinformed supplements. At least you clarified it as supplementing with needles. That's at least slightly effective compared to the pill format. Still it's not really worth it for the majority of people. For people with abnormally low testosterone due to a medical condition, yes there is definitely a benefit. But it's by and large misrepresented for marketing purposes to people who don't need it. It might help you gain some lean body mass when accompanied by a strict workout schedule. Maybe a little.
I think this article explains it pretty well. The author, a personal trainer and editor for many fitness and nutrition magazines, even issues a challenge to anyone regarding the effectiveness of T supplementation:
The Facts On Testosterone Boosting Supplements
Testosterone Boosting Supplements – The Facts
“Testosterone boosting” supplements/formulas have become a very popular category in the supplement industry of late. It seems everyone, boy or man, seems to want to “boost” their levels of the hormone that makes men men. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of this hormone, and readers can see that via my other writings on the topic found throughout this web site. Everyone, men and women, can potentially benefit from maintaining optimal levels of this essential hormone.
However, this write up is not going to cover the hormone per se, but to discuss the various over-the-counter (OTC) products/formulas claiming to increase it. As there are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of products/formulas on the market at this point, all claiming to “boost” this important hormone, I am going to be talking in generalities about these products vs. a specific ingredient or formula.
A few ingredients in these formulas have been shown – via dubious “research” at best – to have a small impact on T, with the majority of them either having no research behind them or research that found they did nada for T levels.
To summarize this supplement category, the T booster supplements generally contain ingredients that:
• Have no data behind them – or -
• The data they do have is of very poor quality/ and/or taken out of context/not applicable – or -
• The doses used in the formula are far below what a study used to get the effect.
Obviously, the above can (and does!) apply to many products/formulas in the sports nutrition industry, but I find the “T boosters” worse then other categories in that respect.
OK, so lets give some T booster product the benefit of the doubt and say it does have some effects on T. That brings up a few important issues to consider.
Physiological Threshold Concepts
Here’s a simple thought experiment: If you take a small amount of testosterone, say 25mg per week of T- propionate•, will your testosterone levels go up slightly for a short time? Yes. Will your muscle mass increase and or your strength increase? Nope. Anyone who has ever taken any T – or knows the first thing about the topic – knows there’s a threshold dose at which one actually experiences changes in body composition and or strength.
The point being, it’s one thing to show formula/ingredient X has had some small impact on serum testosterone (and most have not…), quite another to show that change actually had any effects on body composition or other end points people using such products generally care about, such as increases in strength and muscle mass.
As with any hormone, there’s a physiological threshold that has to be met before it actually impacts muscle mass, strength, etc.
Anyone who has ever used T in the form of cypionate or enanthate (both long acting esters of T) knows that changes in body composition generally start at around 200mg per week at the least, with more being the norm.
The above assumes a person with “normal” testosterone levels vs. HRT/TRT therapy for those who are found to be medically low in T.••
So, with all that, do you really think that T booster supplement you are using – which already tends to lack any solid data to begin with – is really going to be the equivalent of 200mg per week of testosterone Cypionate? If so, I got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell ya’…Hell, the sound of exotic sports cars can raise T levels. Do you think listening to the sound of a Maserati, Lamborghini and Ferrari before you hit the gym will result in more muscle mass? Me neither….Which brings us to the next section in expectation of the obvious question: how does one know if the T booster he’s using is having any effects on the production of T?•••
Do you put air in your tires without checking the pressure?
Do you put air in your tires without actually checking to see if you need any air or what the air pressure actually is before you add additional air to the tires? I know I don’t, but that’s exactly what you’re doing (assuming said T booster actually has any effects on T…) by using such a product without actually knowing what your T levels were when you started. Altering your T levels is not a minor undertaking, nor should it be done casually, and it can have long term effects, both positive and negative. As I indicated – and we will get more into depth on the topic shortly – I have no faith these products are actually impacting T either at all, or enough to actually cause any changes in body composition (e.g., increases in LBM and or decreases in BF) or strength anyway; but having no idea where you are starting from and if the product is doing anything, is just about as dumb as it gets.
I was going to say something more polite and PC like “it’s not logical” but screw that, it’s just stupid, not to mention a big waste of money in the long run.
If you want to go the Bro Logic/Bro Science/hopeful thinking/placebo-driven route, it’s your money, I guess. I know, I know, you’re that one person who is immune to placebo effects…
Interesting side note – and something I will blog about in the near future, is the fact that placebos are getting stronger! It’s vexing the pharmaceutical industry as we speak, in fact.
A very quick word on Non-T mediated Effects.
This article is looking at two specific issues as it relates to the T booster products:
• The impact on T levels specifically
• That people are using them in an attempt to alter body composition and or increase strength
I am not looking at other potential uses, such as for libido and such, which may happen by what’s called “non-T mediated” effects. Meaning, they have an effect, but not via testosterone per se. For example, Horny goat weed contains biologically active compounds that may have Viagra-like effects that act via PDE 5 inhibition. There are other active compounds found in various herbs and such that show some promise in the areas of libido and others, but they are often not doing their “thing” via testosterone, and even if they are, that does not mean the effects it’s having on testosterone – be it to lower SHBGs, increase free T, or what have you – is adequate to impact body composition and or strength. And, as mentioned previously, many of these compounds are very dose specific, which may or may not exist in that dose in the product/formula in question. Finally, no place is the placebo effect stronger then is the area of libido, but we won’t go there…
An Open Offer….
I have made this offer via email (after being contacted by various manufacturers of some T boosting product usually asking why I’m being so hard on this category of supplements), and on various forums and such, but will put it out there for all to see:
To any seller/manufacturer of a “T Booster” type product/formula. If you wish to have the product tested to see if it truly does increase T levels, I will be all too happy to have it tested for you. Be it, a true double-blind placebo crossover trial, which could also test whether or not the product in question will alter body composition (in response to resistance training of course), or as a simple open label study.
Here's another from NCBI:
Effect of testosterone supplementation on functional mobility, cognition, and other parameters in older men: a randomized controlled trial.
Emmelot-Vonk MH, Verhaar HJ, Nakhai Pour HR, Aleman A, Lock TM, Bosch JL, Grobbee DE, van der Schouw YT.
Department of Geriatric Medicine, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands. email@example.com
JAMA. 2008 Feb 13;299(6):634.
Serum testosterone levels decline significantly with aging. Testosterone supplementation to older men might beneficially affect the aging processes.
To investigate the effect of testosterone supplementation on functional mobility, cognitive function, bone mineral density, body composition, plasma lipids, quality of life, and safety parameters in older men with low normal testosterone levels.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:
Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 237 healthy men between the ages of 60 and 80 years with a testosterone level lower than 13.7 nmol/L conducted from January 2004 to April 2005 at a university medical center in the Netherlands.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive 80 mg of testosterone undecenoate or a matching placebo twice daily for 6 months.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:
Functional mobility (Stanford Health Assessment Questionnaire, timed get up and go test, isometric handgrip strength, isometric leg extensor strength), cognitive function (8 different cognitive instruments), bone mineral density of the hip and lumbar spine (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scanning), body composition (total body dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and abdominal ultrasound of fat mass), metabolic risk factors (fasting plasma lipids, glucose, and insulin), quality of life (Short-Form Health 36 Survey and the Questions on Life Satisfaction Modules), and safety parameters (serum prostate-specific antigen level, ultrasonographic prostate volume, International Prostate Symptom score, serum levels of creatinine, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, gamma-glutamyltransferase, hemoglobin, and hematocrit).
A total of 207 men completed the study. During the study, lean body mass increased and fat mass decreased in the testosterone group compared with the placebo group but these factors were not accompanied by an increase of functional mobility or muscle strength. Cognitive function and bone mineral density did not change. Insulin sensitivity improved but high-density lipoprotein cholesterol decreased; by the end of the study, 47.8% in the testosterone group vs 35.5% in the placebo group had the metabolic syndrome (P = .07). Quality-of-life measures were no different except for one hormone-related quality-of-life measure that improved. No negative effects on prostate safety were detected.
Testosterone supplementation during 6 months to older men with a low normal testosterone concentration did not affect functional status or cognition but increased lean body mass and had mixed metabolic effects.
Another based on a study from JAMA:
Testosterone levels in men drop as age increases. This has led to a recent increase in doctors prescribing "testosterone therapy" to counter the effects of aging. Well finally, research has been done to determine if these effects are true or just another hyped-up (and expensive) anti aging "cure."
Testosterone and Aging Research
The study, published in the prestigious medical journal JAMA, enrolled 237 healthy men aged 60 to 80. All men had a testosterone level below 13.7 nmol/L. The men were randomly assigned to be either in a group that received a twice daily oral 80 mg testosterone supplement or a placebo. The researchers measured hand strength, time to stand/sit, cognitive functioning (how well your brain is working), bone density, body composition, cholesterol, insulin, quality of life and other factors.
The results showed that the group who took the testosterone did not improve (compared to the placebo group) in mobility, strength or quality of life. This group also tended to have a higher rate of metabolic syndrome after 6 months. The group taking the supplement did have increased lean body mass and reduced fat in the body after 6 months taking the supplement.
So Is Testosterone Supplementation as Anti Aging Disproven?
Somewhat. Supporters (and manufacturers) of testosterone supplements will argue that the study period was too short and that the type of supplement (oral) was not as effective as other forms (injection). But right now the evidence shows that testosterone supplementation is not a catch-all anti aging solution. It is certain that men with unnaturally low testosterone can benefit from supplementation. But remember, levels of testosterone naturally decline with aging. Right now, avoid testosterone supplementation unless you have a diagnosed deficiency.
In a pilot study using men between the ages of twenty and twenty-five, supplemental DHEA did not increase testosterone levels but did appear to help decrease body fat and increase lean body mass. However, when this study was duplicated, no significant changes in body composition were observed.
Conversely, in another study, an increase in androgen levels was reported in postmenopausal women given supplemental DHEA, as was an increase in body-hair growth during the study period. Another study, this one using both men and women, did not report any significant changes in lean body mass or body fat but did report an overall improvement in the feeling of well-being.
Major studies with athletes taking DHEA supplements have not yet been reported. However, a small study with young weight lifting men (average age 23 years old), taking 50 mg of DHEA per day, did not report any improvements in strength and lean body mass when compared to the placebo group. Going by the results of the studies just mentioned, and other studies, medically unsupervised DHEA use by young male athletes probably won’t increase testosterone levels significantly enough for stimulating benefits greater then those experienced by natural testosterone production. However, careful use by female athletes and male athletes over age forty may cause some beneficial physical and physiological effects.
Androstenedione has an equally dubious origin as it applies to sports nutrition. You will commonly encounter reference to a study conducted by V. B. Mahesh and R. B. Greenblatt used by Andro supplement companies to substantiate that Andro supplements are effective at boosting testosterone levels and promoting larger muscles and strength. You may be surprised to learn that the 1962 Mahesh study used only 4 nonathletic women. Furthermore the results of the study were based on one dose of either 100 mg of DHEA taken by two of the women or 100 mg of androstenedione taken by the other two women, lasting only several hours. Based on blood samples taken shortly after ingesting the DHEA and Andro supplements, both DHEA and Andro caused a temporary rise in the women’s serum testosterone levels with Andro causing about double the rise in testosterone. Amazingly, during the 1990′s, tales of this one day research study on two women taking Andro prompted androstenedione being marketed as a muscle-building supplement for male athletes, while no real proof existed that males would benefit from taking Andro. You will commonly encounter this scientific reference used in promotional literature as substantiation of Andro supplements (Mahesh, V.B. and R. B. Greenblatt. “The In Vivo Conversion of Dehydroepiandrosterone and Androstenedione to Testosterone in the Human.” Acta Endocrinology, Vol. 41 (1962), pp. 400-406.) You now know that the study substantiates nothing as far as sports nutrition is concerned. Some Andro studies later conducted using males did not show a significant rise in testosterone levels or significant improvements in muscle size or strength.
While millions of andro tablets are consumed per day by iron pumping athletes, recent research adds to the disappointing news of previous studies. For example, a recent study looked at the effects of an androstenedione complex formula had on weight lifting males. The complex formula contained a daily dosage of 300 mg of androstenedione, plus, 150 mg of DHEA, 750 mg of Tribulus terrestris, 625 mg of chrysin, 300 mg of indole-3-carbinol, and 540 mg of Saw palmetto. Blood levels of androstenedione concentrations did increase in the supplement taking group when compared to the placebo group. During the 8 week study period, muscle strength was increased in both the groups, but the differences were not significant. The researchers also observed the use of the androstenedione complex formula did not result in increased serum testosterone concentrations. The increased production of estrogen caused by the androstenedione supplement was not reduced by the addition of chrysin. All told, the andro supplement did not cause additional benefits to resistance-training young adults.
I always advocate having people spend their money on healthy foods & sports supplements that result in naturally boosting testosterone levels and function before turning to prohormones, as well as following a healthy lifestyle. In fact, the most recent research confirms that the simple act of living a healthy lifestyle, consisting of regular exercise and good nutrition, is the best way to maximize testosterone levels. While it is well known that strength training increases testosterone levels, a recent study reported that in middle aged men, being in good health was associated with highest testosterone levels. Good health was defined as the absence of chronic illness, prescription medication, obesity, or excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages.