Bill Phillips, from Muscle Media 2000 (May 1997, v.59)

Androstenedione is a metabolite of DHEA. It's made naturally in the body by the gonads and adrenal glands. As Dan Duchaine explained in the last issue of Muscle Media 2000, this testosterone precursor, because it occurs naturally in plants and in the human body, seems to fall into the classification of a "dietary supplement" under the new Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).

To the best of my knowledge, androstenedione was first used as a performance-enhancing substance by the East Germans. Secret documents, which were discovered after the unification of East and West Germany, showed that a team of biologists, physiologists, and physicians, who were put in charge of coming up with novel programs to improve athletic performance in East German Olympic athletes, experimented extensively with androstenedione.

One of the scientists, Michael Oettel, who was the research director at a drug company called Jenapharm, came up with the idea of applying androstenedione intranasally (in the nose). Studies revealed that plasma testosterone levels skyrocketed shortly after using this stuff. Interestingly, they didn't use it to enhance muscle growth. (I'm not sure if androstenedione would elevate testosterone levels long enough to influence how fast you could bulk up.) The East German scientists recognized that a sudden burst of testosterone has the potential to boost athletic performance through its "psychotropic" effects. That is, when testosterone levels are dramatically elevated, even for a short period of time, it seems to enhance muscle strength and performance, possibly by stimulating the central nervous system.

This theory seems to hold water-I know a lot of powerlifters who swear taking a shot of a fast-acting, water-based testosterone several hours before a competition works wonders. Other strength athletes have used Cheque Drops (mibolerone), a potent, sublingual, very androgenic steroid, before competitions.

So how did the androstenedione nasal spray work for elite athletes in the German Democratic Republic (GDR)? Well, according to Raik Hannemann, a promising young GDR swimmer, it was, " a volcanic eruption." According to Hannemann, it was mandatory for any athlete who wanted to participate in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but he also stated, "It tore up my nasal membranes." (Androstenedione spray was pretty harsh!)

The androstenedione "supplements" which are becoming popular among bodybuilders are not nasal sprays--they're tablets and capsules. How effective are the "orals" compared to the nasal spray? Well, the East Germans felt the absorption process with tablets and capsules was much slower-that's why they took it nasally. However, one study, quoted in a German patent application (German patent number DE 42 14953 A1), stated that oral doses of androstenedione, given to men at levels of 50 mg and 100 mg, raised testosterone levels by 140% to 183% and 211% to 237%, respectively. Another study, performed in the U.S. at the Medical College of Georgia, examined the effects of a 100-mg dose of androstenedione on women. As with DHEA, the effects of androstenedione in females seems to be more dramatic than in men-these women experienced a four- to sixfold increase in total testosterone within an hour after oral ingestion.

Now, there are no studies that I could find, either in Europe or in the United States, which offer any concrete information about whether or not androstenedione can increase gains in muscle mass. Since it elevates testosterone levels for only a short period of time, it may be that its primary "performance-enhancing effect" is one that will benefit athletes who are competing in a powerlifting contest or some other event where "aggressiveness" is required. I know some lifters who take it about an hour or two before they work out, and they report more intense workouts, better pumps, and greater strength. That might "indirectly" lead to faster gains in muscle mass. (I know others who use it to enhance "sexual performance.")

I don't know if it's realistic to take a dose of androstenedione every two hours throughout the day to try to maintain an elevation in testosterone "consistent" enough to promote enhanced protein metabolism-there are no studies that support or refute that theory. I'll ask Duchaine to keep us posted on this topic.

(Vedi anche Androstenedione )