If you’re part of the fitness community, you’ve probably heard of prohormones. These supplements are legal and readily available, and plenty of lifters swear by them. If you’re the type of person who’s constantly on the hunt for new ways to increase gains, prohormones might be right for you. At the same time, prohormones aren’t always the ideal choice for everyone.
Let’s take a look at exactly what prohormones are, and the positives and negatives associated with them.
What Are Prohormones?
Most conversations about prohormones also involve anabolic steroids, which are illegal in the U.S. While the two do have similarities, there are important differences, with the most obvious being that prohormones are legal, regulated supplements. So, why are steroids illegal and prohormones legal? To put it simply, prohormones aren’t active until swallowed.
Anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones that are injected, taken orally, or applied to the skin’s surface. Prohormones, on the other hand, are essentially precursors to steroids, in that they aren’t activated until the body processes them and turns them into that hormone.
For example, injecting raw testosterone is illegal because it’s an active steroid. Conversely, prohormones are an inactive substance that causes your body to produce more testosterone on its own – that’s why they’re legal. Both roads take you to the same place, but prohormones tend to be regarded as a safer, regulated, more natural option.
What Are the Pros?
Next, we’re going to take a look at some of the benefits of prohormones, on their own as well as compared to anabolic steroids. It’s worth noting that you should always speak to a health care professional before taking new supplements, and individual results may vary. Results will also vary depending on which prohormones are being used.
Here are some of the common benefits today’s fitness enthusiasts are seeing with prohormones:
- Increased body mass and muscle gains
- Improved stamina, strength, and endurance
- Boosted sex drive
- Enhanced athletic performance
- A more defined jawline and deeper voice
- Rapid recovery when performing demanding physical tasks
- Made professionally in a lab
- Regulated by the FDA
What Are the Cons?
As with most supplements, there are drawbacks, and too much of a good thing can have potentially severe consequences. According to Supplement Police, prohormones are hepatoxic, meaning they cause damage to liver cells. For that reason, it’s good idea to take prohormones in cycles. Speak with a qualified professional to plan a regimen that works for you.
Here are some of the common negative side effects associated with prohormones:
- Liver damage
- Swollen prostate
- Hair loss
- Breast enlargement
- Weight gain or loss
- Decreased testicle size
- Organ enlargement
While there are ways to offset and minimize these negative side effects, most people will experience at least some of them to some degree. It’s up to you to decide if the drawbacks are worth the benefits.
Prohormones Compared to Steroids
If you’re thinking about taking steroids, prohormones are a better option in every way. For starters, anabolic steroids are highly illegal in the U.S., according to Mind and Muscle. Save yourself the potential legal trouble and take the legal route. Fortunately, you’re not really missing out on anything by opting for prohormones over anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids pose a higher health risk due to their synthetic nature. They’re not regulated, so you have no way of knowing what kind of conditions they’re being made in or even what’s really in them. Buying high-quality supplements from a reputable, experienced business is the best way to avoid unsavory sellers and potentially harmful products.
Should You Take Prohormones?
This is a question that only you can answer. If you do decide that the pros outweigh the cons, make sure you take every possible precaution.
If you’re under the age of 21, you should not take prohormones because your endocrine system is still developing. By flooding your body with testosterone now, you could cause permanent testosterone production problems down the line. It’s simply not worth the risk.
It’s also very important that you never drink alcohol when taking prohormones. Like prohormones, alcohol harms the liver, and taking them together can cause severe, potentially life-threatening liver damage.
According to Supplement Police, milk thistle, ALA, curcumin, l-carnitine, taurine, green tea extract, lecithin, and NAC are all supplements that may help to protect the liver. However, taking these supplements does not mean you can drink alcohol, or that prohormones won’t still cause liver damage.
Always Buy from Reputable Sources
Not all prohormones are the same. In order to minimize the cons and maximize the pros, it’s absolutely critical that you only buy prohormone supplements from trusted, established vendors. Fortunately, the fitness community is very helpful, so do some research. Talk to experienced lifters who have tried various prohormones and have legitimate first-hand experience.
A good rule of thumb to follow is when in doubt, skip it. If you can’t find information about a company, or if something just doesn’t seem right, look elsewhere. There are plenty of legitimate prohormone vendors out there, so make an effort support those companies. Be sure to pay attention to your body—especially warning signs—and discontinue use immediately if you run into problems.
Continue Your Research
Don’t go into this blindly. Spend some time learning about the different types of prohormones on the market, and how their effects vary. Making an educated purchase is the first step towards achieving positive results.
Remember: the best way to increase gains and maximize performance is to simply work harder. If you don’t have the passion and drive, no amount of supplements will make a difference. Start by focusing on yourself, and then add supplements as a complementary boost. If you want to crush it at the gym, do it on your terms. Prohormones can help, but success starts with you.
William Jackson is a freelance blogger and former weightlifter who has been writing about fitness and nutrition for nearly 10 years. A native of Colorado, when he’s not in the gym, he can be found hitting up the local trails on his mountain bike.