Ecdysterone, also known as Beta-ecdysterone or,20-Hydroxyecdysone) is a plant extract (or plant sterol, also sometimes referred to as a ecdysteriod) extracted from the rhaponticum carthamoides. It exists as a compound in herbs like Rhaponticum/Leuzeae and Cyanotis vaga. More than 150 ecdysteroids have been identified in many plants and insects. Ecdysterone evolved from Russia. The Russians would give it to their athletes before competitions in order to maximize performance coming off anabolic steroids. Some studies have suggested that that ecdysterone is a strong anabolic agent that may enhance protein synthesis, increase nitrogen retention and thereby increase lean muscle size. This is another small supplement category with only a handful of choices. When this first hit the market it was heavily touted as the next big thing but never really followed through with supplement users and now, while still available, does not hold the lofty place it once did. However, any product that ties into protein synthesis is worth looking into as protein synthesis is critical to muscle growth.
- Increases protein synthesis
- Increases nitrogen retention
- May be helpful in fat loss
- May help lower cholesterol
Since the first two benefits are so strongly tied into muscle growth, ecdysterone may have strong muscle size enhancing properties. What is protein synthesis and nitrogen and why are they so important to muscle growth? Protein synthesis refers to the method by which muscles are constructed – pretty important! Nitrogen is an element of protein and ties into the protein balance of the body , commonly referred to as positive or negative nitrogen balance– do you have enough to warrant muscle growth or do you have to little, resulting in a catabolic environment that results in loss of muscle tissue? So if we can aid protein synthesis we can aid muscle growth and if we can help nitrogen retention we can help set up the environment for muscle growth to occur.
Early research by Russian researchers Syrov and Kurmukov (1976) found that ecdysterone had anabolic activity and increased protein synthesis. Animal studies in both rats and Japanese quail have demonstrated significant anabolic effects (Slama et al., 1996; Dinan, 2001). Ecdysterone is also believed to have an anabolic effect in humans (Chermynkh et al., 1988; Simakin et al., 1988; Bizec et al., 2002; Chen et al., 2005).
A Russian research study (Chermynkh et al., 1988) compared the muscle building activities of methandrostenolone, a powerful anabolic steroid, and ecdysterone. They demonstrated that ecdysterone had a wider anabolic action on contractile proteins of the muscle than methandrostenolone.
In the same year another group of Russian researchers (Simakin et al., 1998) looked at the combined effects of ecdysterone and a high protein diet. They found that when athletes combined a high protein diet with ecdysterone, lean muscle mass increased by 6-7% and body-fat decreased by 10%.
Researchers have also found that ecdysterone can help to lower blood glucose levels without altering insulin levels (Yoshida et al., 1971; Chen et al., 2005). In a recent study ecdysterone lowered blood sugar levels when they were in the normal (5.5mmol/l) and moderate range (11.1-16.7mmol/l) but not when it was in the high range (22.2mmol/l). Therefore, it could be of benefit in the treatment of type-II diabetes, and may aid weight loss. Ecdysterone may also exert anti-tumour properties (Konovolova et al., 2002) and may act as a strong adaptogen and anti-oxidant (Kuzmenko et al., 1997; Kuz’menko, 1999).
While there are no direct human studies, these results do show promise.
Ecdysterone comes as a stand alone product and as part of formula products such as prohormone replacement products, a newer category attempting to fill the vid left by recent prohormone bans. It can also be found in one product designed as a women’s fat loss aid. It comes as a capsule or tablet, I haven’t seen it as part of a powder based product. A high protein diet is important if you use this product and you should take it 1-2 times per day with a protein meal. The recommended dose is 300mg per tab or cap. Some label directions may vary from the above suggestion, and the dose may vary but 300 mg is considered a optimum dose. As always, read the label before using or buying!