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  • Why Turkesterone is not worth the hype

    Why Turkesterone is not worth the hype

     

    Over the last 12 months, Turkesterone (and other ecdysteroid supplements) has taken the fitness world by storm. 

     

    And with claims that it can boost strength and accelerate muscle growth in a manner that is comparable to steroids, you can see why.

     

    But is this accurate?

     

    What is Turkesterone?

     

    Turkesterone is a specific type of ecdysteroid.

     

    An ecdysteroid is a type of hormone with a similar chemical makeup to many of the androgenic hormones found in humans (androgens are a type of hormone that promotes the development of muscle tissue, among many other things) -- with the most famous being testosterone.

     

    However, unlike the androgens found in the human body, turkesterone is made by plants, insects, and crustaceans. In plants, turkesterone acts to deter insects, whereas, in animals, it facilitates the 'shedding' of their exoskeleton. 

     

    Why the hype around Turkesterone?

     

    You might be wondering why turkesterone has taken off as the "next big thing" in the supplement industry. And it largely comes down to its molecular structure.

     

    As already outlined, when put under a microscope, turkesterone looks eerily similar to one of the most potent androgenic compounds in the human body, testosterone.

     

    And considering that testosterone has potent muscle building capabilities, it seems logical to suggest that turkesterone may have similar benefits in humans.

     

    With that in mind, Turkesterone has been suggested to not only create muscle growth but also enhance fat loss, increase strength, accelerate recovery, and even promote the development of bone and tendons.

     

    However, this may not be the case.

     

    Turkesterone: What does the research say?

    If you want to get an understanding of how effective turkesterone really is, it is worth taking a dive through the archives and exploring some of the research on the topic.

     

    The first study on Turkesterone was conducted in Russia way back in 1984. In this study, they gave some mice a bunch of Turkesterone. They found that it increases muscle protein synthesis immediately after consumption [1], suggesting that it might promote muscle growth in other animals.

     

    Then, in 1996, a follow-up study was conducted on quails (birds) [2]. 

     

    In this study, they gave a bunch of quails a relatively high dose of Turkesterone for 50 days. After the 50 days were up, they found that the quals taking Turkesterone gained much more muscle mass than those who were not.

     

    Promising results for turkesterone, right?

     

    Well, not so fast.

     

    As far as Direct turkesterone research goes, this is where it stops. To date, no formal research has been conducted looking at the effect of turkesterone on humans.

     

    However, there has been some published research looking at the effect of other ecdysteroids (similar to turkesterone) in humans, with some interesting results.

     

    Ecdysteroid Research in Humans 

     

    The first (of two) human trials looking at ecdysteroids in humans was published in 2006 [3]. 

     

    In this study, they randomly allocated males to either a placebo group or a group that took 200mg of an ecdysteroid per day. Then both groups completed the same weight training program for 8 weeks.

     

    Interestingly, they found no difference between groups in muscle size and strength gains.

     

    From there, the research around ecdysteroids went quiet -- until a paper was published in 2019 that kickstarted the turkesterone supplement rage we know today [4].

     

    In this study, the researchers split trained males into one of three groups:

     

    1. Placebo group (no ecdysteroid)
    2. Low group (taking 200mg of ecdysteroids per day)
    3. High group (taking 800mg of ecdysteroids per day)

     

    Then they put all three groups through the same 10-week weight training program. Interestingly, while all groups saw the same improvements in strength, both of the ecdysteroid groups saw greater increases in muscle mass than the placebo group, and the greatest gains were observed in the high dose group.

     

    Many people saw this as a huge win for ecdysteroids, including turkesterone -- but there is a part of the study that is often overlooked.

     

    The researchers also took the ecdysteroid supplement they used through full laboratory analysis, and what they found was very interesting. Instead of the supplement containing 100mg of ecdysteroid per capsule, they only contained 6mg.

     

    No, that is not a typo -- the supplement contained a mere 6% of what was advertised.

     

    This means that it is highly unlikely that ecdysteroids could explain these findings. 

     

    While we have yet to have a clear answer as to why the ecdysteroid groups saw larger increases in size, I have a couple of thoughts.

     

    Firstly, there were only about 14 participants per group in this study. As such, there is a possibility that some of the individuals allocated to the placebo group were "hard gainers", which could have influenced this result.

     

    Secondly, muscle mass was measured using a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) scale, which can be notoriously inaccurate (especially compared to a DEXA scan). As a result, this finding may have also been partially explained by measurement error.

     

    All of which is to say turkesterone and other Ecdysteroids are not all they're cracked up to be.

     

    If that's what you are even getting in the bottle in the first place…

     

    Am I Even Getting Turkesterone?

    I want to highlight that many supplement companies selling Turkesterone are a little dodgy. Which makes you wonder if they are even providing the compound in what we would consider "possibly effective doses."

     

    The above study is an example of that, where they found that the turkesterone supplement they used contained 6% of what was advertised on the label. But this is not an isolated finding.

     

    A recent study looked to see how many ecdysteroid supplements contain what is on the label, and the results were what you might expect. Of the eleven supplements analyzed, none of them had what was advertised, and six had less than 20% of what was advertised [5].

     

    All of this is to say that even if you think turkesterone could work, you're probably not buying it in the first place.

     

    Why Do People Swear By Turkesterone?

     

    Considering all the information presented leans towards turkesterone being ineffective, you might wonder why so many people swear by it as a supplement. I have a reasonable explanation that goes beyond the placebo effect.

     

    When people invest in something new, they get excited about it. 

     

    As a result, they may subconsciously apply more effort towards achieving their goals.

     

    For example, if someone hears great things about Turkesterone, they might buy some. This financial investment creates a sense of importance, where they want to make the most out of the supplement they have purchased.

     

    In turn, they might find themselves a little more motivated to train. They might subconsciously push themselves a little harder in the gym, and pay a little more attention to their diet than normal.

     

    Obviously, their results improve. But this is not due to the turkesterone -- it is due to them unknowingly putting in more effort.

     

    A simple explanation. But a plausible one.

     

    The Lowdown on Turkesterone

     

    In short, turkesterone is not worth the hype.

     

    While there may be some promising animal research on the topic, all ecdysteroids have been proven ineffective in increasing strength and muscle growth in long term human trials.

     

    Moreover, with published research showing that practically all Turkesterone (and other ecdysteroids) supplements are underdosed, we suggest staying away from these supplements altogether.

     

    Stick to the basic, folks. 

     

    References:

    1. Syrov, V. N. "Mechanism of the anabolic action of phytoecdisteroids in mammals." Nauchnye Doklady Vysshei shkoly. Biologicheskie Nauki. No. 11. 1984.
    2. Slama, K., et al. "Insect hormones in vertebrates: anabolic effects of 20-hydroxyecdysone in Japanese quail." Experientia 52.7 (1996): 702-706.
    3. Wilborn, Colin D., et al. "Effects of methoxyisoflavone, ecdysterone, and sulfo-polysaccharide supplementation on training adaptations in resistance-trained males." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 3.2 (2006): 19.
    4. Isenmann, Eduard, et al. "Ecdysteroids as non-conventional anabolic agent: performance enhancement by ecdysterone supplementation in humans." Archives of toxicology 93.7 (2019): 1807-1816.

    Ambrosio, Gabriella, et al. "How reliable is dietary supplement labelling?—Experiences from the analysis of ecdysterone supplements." Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis 177 (2020): 112877.

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