Androstenedione is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body, and is one of those responsible for male characteristics. It is a metabolite of DHEA , and as such, a direct precursor to the male hormone testosterone. It is found in some plant matter, notably pollen, and in the gonads of all mammals.
Supplementation with androstenedione increases blood levels of testosterone, which among other things, will lead to an increase in strength and muscle mass. As such, it is mainly of interest to athletes and bodybuilders, for whom it has the added benefits of increasing energy levels, improving levels of nitrogen retention and shortening muscle recovery time. Androstenedione is safer than anabolic steroids because it has a far gentler effect on the body, and potential effects are milder and more transient.
Androstenedione is also taken to improve well being, and to raise levels of mental alertness. In addition, it is thought to have a positive effect on sexual performance. As androstenedione also aids in the conversion of fatty tissue to muscle, it could conceivably be considered an aid to weight loss.
The German patent for androstenedione states that 50 mg administered orally raised testosterone levels from 140–183% above normal, which although impressive, is considerably less than the increase associated with administration of anabolic steroids. Also, it is a precursor, in that the body retains some control over production of testosterone.
When taken orally, androstenedione is metabolized by a single enzyme into testosterone. Athletes generally take between 50–300 mg daily, according to how much time is spent exercising and how much physical improvement is required. Dosage is usually sublingual in the form of a spray or capsules. The spray is felt to be far more effective, due to imperfect absorption through the digestive route.
Levels of testosterone in the blood will begin to rise approximately 15 minutes after administration of androstenedione supplements. They will remain so for about three hours, with testosterone levels peaking roughly 1–1.5 hours after administration.
There is, as of July 2000, no reliable research to prove the claims by supplement companies that androstenedione is useful. Trials that have been conducted are limited in size and scope, and generally do not satisfy the criteria set for medical trials. Some experts warn that as a result of the short time that androstenedione stays in the system, it is unlikely to have any significant bodybuilding effects.
Androstenedione is not suitable for pregnant or lactating women, and should not be taken at all by children. When taken by women, this supplement may cause hirsuitism and virilization. Caution should be exercised when males under the age of 25 years take androstenedione.
Those supplementing with androstenedione on a regular basis are advised to have "cool down" periods when the product is not taken. This can either be a couple of days a week, or one week per month.
Androstenedione is unsuitable for use by men with prostate cancer or elevated PSA. It may also stimulate prostate replication, enlarging the prostrate (benign prostate hypertrophy or cancer ). Many experts are skeptical of the claims made by supplement companies, because they say that natural bodily checks and balances will work against this supplement to ensure that muscle mass and strength do not exceed normal levels for the individual. Taking androstenedione at times other than periods of physical exertion is not recommended, because of the possible effect on mood.
Because of the complex interaction of hormones within the body, it is strongly advised that anyone contemplating supplementing with androstenedione consult a qualified practitioner.
Whereas anabolic steroids are illegal, androstenedione is considered a dietary supplement, and as such is not governed by the same regulations.
As a result of trials conducted by them, the American Medical Association issued a statement to the effect that androstenedione does not raise serum testosterone levels, and in addition, it may have undesirable side effects.
Possible effects on the personality of this type of hormone should be considered, as high levels of male hormones have been known to trigger aggressive behavior in some cases, particularly when high doses of the supplement are involved.
It is also possible that long-term use of androstenedione, which is not in accordance with medical recommendations, may eventually have a negative effect on natural levels of testosterone, due to compensation on the part of the pituitary gland. This means that, in the long term, it is possible that supplementation with androstenedione may cause a reduction in levels of testosterone.
The androgen effect of androstenedione may cause males to develop loss of head hair. Other side effects that have been associated with androstenedione administration include blurred vision, development of breast-like tissue, and the development of acne .
This supplement should not be taken in conjunction with other bodybuilding substances, particularly anabolic steroids, unless under the direction of a physician. Lysophosphatidyl choline, when taken in conjunction with androstenedione, may enhance absorption.
In addition, manufacturers recommend saw palmetto to be taken in conjunction with androstenedione as it can help reduce associated hair loss , and is useful in controlling prostate enlargement .
Betterbodz (1995-2000). [cited December 28, 2000]. <http://www.betterbodz.com/androstenedione.html/>
Nutritionalsupplements.com (1998-2000). [cited December 28, 2000]. <http://www.nutritionalsupplements.com/andro5.html/>