Shredding every last pound of body fat while simultaneously building lean muscle can take more than complete dedication to eating a clean diet and training well.
Getting to your absolute physical best often requires a boost from supplements. Many bodybuilders opt for anabolic steroids but there are risks attached, despite the considerable benefits.
One alternative to taking anabolic steroids is the use of prohormones, another group of drugs which offer the chance to improve your physique immeasurably.
But like any performance enhancing drug, it’s essential to understand what they are, how they work and the warning signs to watch out for. Here’s our guide to prohormones and how to use them for bodybuilding.
What is a prohormone?
Despite having a different name, you might find a lot of people referring to prohormones as “weak steroids”. Although this isn’t technically true, the two groups of drugs very closely resemble each other and have a similar effect on the body.
Anabolic steroids are created to mimic testosterone in order to activate the androgen receptor. It’s this process which kickstarts the anabolic effect within the body.
By contrast, prohormones are a type of hormone precursor which means that once introduced into the body, they act on the same androgen receptors to produce very similar effects to anabolic steroids. Most prohormones are introduced to the body in an inactive form and transform after they are exposed to certain enzymes.
Although prohormones and anabolic steroids are different types of compounds, the net effect on the body is the same. However, prohormones tend to produce a weaker result because they have to go through a process of transformation in order to take effect. Anabolic steroids are ready to work immediately and are a far more potent type of drug.
Although prohormones aren’t generally as powerful as anabolic steroids, they can produce a very similar effect within the body.
Prohormones lead to greater muscle mass which is achieved via improved protein synthesis in the body. Endurance and strength is also heightened, which makes it possible to train longer and harder. This is another reason why prohormones help to add bulk. Although they affect the androgen receptor, don’t expect to get good results without doing any training.
The other major benefit is that you’ll recover faster too. So after a really hard session you’ll do less potential damage to your joints, and be back ready to work out again much more quickly.
The neural drive also increases too which will not only up your sex drive but make you feel extra competitive. This can provide a read edge when it comes to training.
For those who aren’t a fan of injections, prohormones could be a very viable alternative. They have a high level of oral bioavailability which means they don’t need to be injected.
Although prohormones can deliver some very solid results, it’s important to understand that just because they are weaker than anabolic steroids, they still can cause significant side effects.
Just like anabolic steroids, the side effects you could experience depend on the drug being used. Many have a low conversion rate to estrogen but those which do aromatize carry the risk of gyno, bloating and water retention just like their steroid counterparts.
A good number of pro hormones are also not particularly androgenic but the same can’t be said for all of them. However, pro hormones such as 1-androstenediol are strongly androgenic and can cause the same problems such as male pattern baldness and acne.
Although taking prohormones might seem like a convenient form of administration, you are running a much greater risk of doing damage to your liver. Orally administered drugs have to pass through the liver and can ultimately harm it in the longer term.
One of the biggest problems with anabolic steroids is the legality, with potentially hefty consequences even for personal possession.
When pro hormones were first introduced in the 1990s, they could be bought legally which is one of the reasons why they were so attractive. This is because they weren’t named in the 1990 Steroid Control Act.
However, the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2014 changed this for good. The legislation allows any drug which has a similar effect to anabolic steroids to be treated in the same way, and there’s also no longer the burden of proof on the FDA to prove the case. Instead, the manufacturer must now prove the substance is not like an anabolic steroid in order to be exempted.
This means that while prohormones are still used by the bodybuilding community, they are more similar than ever to anabolic steroids, with use of either being punishable under US law.