The Ultimate Guide to Prohormones!

The Ultimate Guide To Prohormones

Click Here to View IPYU’s Selection of Prohormones

When the question becomes “what are the strongest supplements on the market”, there can be only one answer: Prohormones. Since they were introduced in 1996, prohormones have been the subject of considerable controversy and numerous FDA crackdowns. Controversy because many bodybuilders and potential users question how safe and “natural” they really are. FDA crackdowns because, well, in the eyes of the FDA (and the media) all supplements are “evil”. That seems to be especially true about the ones that work the best.

History

Prohormones were first introduced to the supplement market in 1996 by chemist and ErgoPharm founder Patrick Arnold. He developed the original androstenedione. I can still remember the original product and the attention it received; it took the bodybuilding world by storm! At that time, there was nothing else even close to Andro. By 1998, Andro made it to mainstream headlines. This was when baseball great Mark McGwire admitted use of the supplement. This unleashed a storm of negative media attention (those evil supplements again!) while he was attempting to break the home run record.

The Launch Of 1-AD

The success of Andro opened the door for other prohormones such as androstenediol, norandrostenediol, 1-4-androstadienedione, and 5 alpha androstenediol. In time, ErgoPharm introduced 1-AD, which converted into a hormone known as 1-testosterone. This was really the first prohormone that was considered comparable to real steroids such as Winstrol or Primobolan. In fact, at the time it was really a milder version of Trenbolone Acetate.

The introduction of 1-AD brought prohormones to a new level of effectiveness and popularity. In fact, many supplement companies followed the lead of ErgoPharm and began to market products such as 1-testosterone (the hormone which 1-AD would convert to). Eventually, this included the famous methyl-1-testosterone (M1T), which was a methylated hormone. This meant that the liver could not break it down, but it produced rapid muscle and strength gains. This made it the strongest prohormone on the market at the time. However, it also had the potential of causing such negative side effects as high blood pressure and liver toxicity.

Methylated Prohormones

It was at this time that many people in the supplement industry, including Patrick Arnold, argued that the increase of products as powerful as M1T would eventually lead to significant negative publicity for the supplement industry. These products were considered borderline steroids and therefore, should not be sold as supplements. Of course, Congress got involved and passed into law the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004. This effectively classed all prohormones on the market at that time as illegal drugs on virtually the same level as anabolic steroids.

By early 2005 they were gone from the shelves of every supplement retailer in the United States. In fact, I worked in retail at the time, managing a supplement chain store and I can remember the push to try and get petitions signed, hoping to block the ban. I also remember having to pull all these products off the shelf. If you were hardcore and a fan of prohormones, this was a sad time. This began a cycle of supplement companies finding loopholes so they could get a form of prohormones back on the market. That is, until the government caught on and closed the loophole. This went on until 2014 when the Designer Anabolic Control Act was passed.

Fast Forward To 2020

What is left on the market here in 2020 is primarily derivatives of DHEA. These products offer comparatively mild results and are generally considered to be safe. There’s minimal to no liver toxicity or estrogen conversion. Even so, it makes sense to invest the time to research what you are using and the best way to use it.

Definition and Mechanism of Action

A prohormone can be defined as “a precursor of a hormone, such as a polypeptide that is split to form a shorter polypeptide hormone or a steroid that is converted to an active hormone by peripheral metabolism” (1). Or, put another way, a prohormone is a compound that undergoes an enzymatic process that allows it to convert into an anabolic hormone in the human body. They will promote an effect that’s similar to but milder than anabolic steroids. These effects include rapid muscle gains, rapid strength gains, and with some products, accelerated fat loss. The effects are milder because of a rate-limiting effect that’s caused by the enzyme conversion. This limits how many you can effectively take each day because the body has to replenish its levels of natural enzymes before the conversion process can take place.

Prohormones Are Not Steroids

It needs to be understood that prohormones are much weaker than steroids. You will not see anywhere near the same effects as you would if you took steroids. It should also be understood that here in 2020, most prohormones are non-methylated. This means you’ll experience mild to no side effects. Still, prohormones should not be taken lightly. You should do your research and understand how to run a cycle properly if you want to get the best results.

Benefits and Side Effects of Prohormones

Benefits include:

  • Rapid Increases In Lean Muscle
  • Rapid Increases In Strength
  • Faster Recovery
  • Accelerated Fat Loss
  • Improved Sex Drive

Possible side effects may include:

  • Liver Stress
  • Hair Loss
  • Gynecomastia (Or “Gyno”)
  • Swollen Prostate Gland
  • Higher Blood Pressure Levels
  • Sore Joints
  • Headaches
  • Gastric Discomfort

It should be noted that most of these side effects can be controlled with proper post cycle support. This approach gives you the best results with prohormones. It’s important to have these safeguards in place before you begin your prohormone cycle.

Cycling with Prohormones

Be sure you follow the recommended doses when using prohormones. This approach ensures you’ll get the best results with the least side effects. In other words, more is not better. A typical prohormone cycle lasts about 6-8 weeks. Beginners should use one prohormone for their first cycle. Advanced users often stack several prohormones as well as an on-cycle support product. This is usually followed by a 4-6-week Post Cycle Therapy phase. There are two basic types of cycles, a bulking cycle, and a cutting cycle. What’s the difference? Your choice of a prohormone – you’ll want one that targets your goals. Of course, if you are on a cutting cycle, you’ll be eating and training for that goal. If you are doing a clean bulk, the same will be true.

How Does A PCT Program Look?

When you end the prohormone cycle, your own natural hormonal balance is out of line. This hormonal imbalance happens because the body thinks that it doesn’t have to produce and release testosterone. After all, the levels of this hormone basically surge during a prohormone cycle. When you’ve finished your cycle, your testosterone levels tend to be low while the estrogen in your body is high. Your goal is to control the excess water retention and fat gain of excess estrogen and bring levels back in line. Also, you’ll need to control the catabolic effects of cortisol and keep your gains. You do this by stimulating your own natural testosterone production. This is why you must run a PCT program immediately after you end your cycle.

The Available Prohormones in 2020

Let me start off this section by saying that I would not expect anything currently on the market and labeled as a “prohormone” to be safe from our trusty government. Therefore, it’s possible that by the time you read this, the list of available products may have changed. Let me also say that it is not my intention to present an in-depth technical explanation of what everything is. Rather, I want this to be clear and easy to understand. I would like this section to be a great resource for those new to bodybuilding who are trying to understand how it all works. To that end, it’s something I wish I had when I started way back in 1980.

1-Andro

Also known as 1-DHEA or 1-Androsterone. This a legal prohormone that undergoes a two-step conversion process in the body. This process converts 1-Andro into 1-Testosterone. 1-Andro is a non-methylated prohormone. This means it doesn’t convert into estrogen or DHT. Therefore, you won’t experience any unwanted side effects such as bloating or gyno. Additionally, there’s little to no liver toxicity.

4-Andro

Also known as 4-DHEA or 4-Androstene. Like 1-Andro, 4-Andro undergoes a two-step conversion process to become the target hormone, in this case, testosterone. 4-Andro is a “wet” prohormone. This means there is a chance of estrogen conversion and excess water retention. There are also excellent muscle mass and strength gains. Due to water retention, 4-Andro is a good choice for bulking.

19-NorAndro

Also known as 19-Nor-DHEA and NorAndrost-4-ene-3b-ol, 17-one. 19-NorAndro is more of a prohormone precursor. Through a two-step conversion, 19-NorAndro will ultimately convert to Nandrolone (Deca). Nandrolone isn’t as strong as testosterone. That means that advanced prohormone users may not want to use this compound. Still, users claim to see strength and lean mass gains. 19-Nor-DHEA is a good choice for increased muscle growth and strength, while also accelerating fat loss.

1,4-Andro

Like the other prohormones we’ve talked about, 1,4-Andro will go through a two-step conversion to convert to Boldenone.

One of the effects of Boldenone is that it increases your appetite. This makes it great for bulking. Additionally, you can expect an increase in mass and strength. 1, 4 Andro is an ideal option for those looking to increase mass with little to no water retention.

Epi-Andro

Epi-Andro is a metabolite of DHEA that’s a popular cutting prohormone. You can expect dry, lean gains. Epi-Andro is milder than the other prohormones in the guide.

What About Training and Nutrition?

As far as training, I suggest using a good mass program that emphasizes progressive overload and heavy, basic exercises. You can include some intensity techniques as well. I would suggest techniques such as rest-pause and partial reps.

As far as nutrition, eat a clean, higher calorie, higher protein diet if mass is your goal. However, if you are on a cutting cycle, I advocate a carb cycling approach, with carbs ingested in the hours around your workouts. I also advocate a high protein intake, at least 1 gram per pound of protein.

Who Should Use Prohormones

Whether or not you choose to take prohormones is entirely up to you. It’s a choice you should make based on your goals, your progress, and your research of these products. I will say, if you are under 21, a beginner, or have less than 1 year of training experience, I would not even think about using prohormones.

Beginners tend to rush everything. They quickly jump into the super-advanced routines typically used by steroid-using Pro Bodybuilders. Then they wonder why they’re burning out and aren’t making progress. I understand the excitement and desire of the beginner. Yet most of them rush into advanced techniques and never gain the foundational knowledge and experience they need before they take the next step. This means the use prohormones (or even steroids for that matter). Having said that, the choice is yours and yours alone to make.

Terms To Know(3)

Anabolic – This is the positive or building stage of metabolism. You want to be in an anabolic state as much as possible if you want to build muscle mass. Referring to prohormones, it means the growth of muscle tissue with little or no masculinization (deepening of the voice, facial hair, etc.).

Androgenic – Pertains to the development of male aging sex hormones and is responsible for things such as body hair and muscle mass.

Aromatase – Aromatase is an enzyme that converts an androgen into an estrogen. When the body has an excessive level of testosterone in the body, it can also raise its estrogen to balance out its high hormone levels.

Bulk – The process of being in a caloric surplus to gain as much quality mass as possible. This process includes intense weight lifting sessions. Any bulking program should be a “clean” bulk. That is, eat high-quality foods, don’t just pig out on everything you see.

Catabolic – This is tearing down or destructive phase of metabolism. You do not want to be in a catabolic state if you want to build muscle.

Cut – The process of being in a caloric deficit to lose as much body fat as possible while also holding on to as much muscle tissue as possible. Burning calories through cardio and weight training, as well as strict dieting, will be the focus through this period.

Cycle – The length of time you plan to use a prohormone

Cycle Support – A combination of ingredients taken during the cycle to counteract potential negative effects of and protect bodily organs.

More Terms To Know!

Dry – A compound which typically results in lean gains, causes very little to no water retention/bloat and has a minimal conversion to estrogen. Typically, these are more anabolic than androgenic.

PCT, or Post Cycle Therapy – After a cycle of prohormones this protocol brings your hormones back into balance and restores normal production.

Recomp- Body recomposition is the process of burning fat and building muscle at the same time.

Stacking – The use of two or more compounds taken within a cycle.

Wet – A compound that has some conversion to estrogen and can cause some water retention. Typically, these are more androgenic than anabolic and usually serve as a base compound within a stack.

A Note About Estrogen

Please note that not all prohormones convert to estrogen(1-andro) and some can reduce estrogen(epi-andro). Don’t let the fear of side effects scare you away from a cycle. Just do your research and understand what would be best for you as an individual. AI or aromatase inhibitors help reduce the amount of estrogen in your body.

Conclusion

Prohormones have changed a lot since they first stormed the market back in the day. They’re definitely nowhere near steroids. Still, they can be helpful in your quest for size and strength. The choice to use them is yours. I hope this guide helps you make an informed choice.

Updated For 2020 by Jim Brewster

References:

  1. Prohormone. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/prohormone
  2. DHEA. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/dhea/background/HRB-20059173
  3. Prohormone Guide. (2017, January 02). Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://leavingweakness.com/prohormone-guide/

8 responses to “The Ultimate Guide to Prohormones!

  1. Great info, I currently take test boost, do you know this product? Is your product natural ingredients? Always interested in the best products to achieve my goals. I’m 57 and need to lean out more and build legs, genetically gifted on top but have to work hard to earn my legs, and always looking for any help in order to achieve this goal.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Prohormones are on the very edge of being a natural product. They are not test boosters, they’re stronger. In fact, prohormones are the strongest legal supplements you can buy. You can stack a cutting prohormone with a fat burner if you want to lean out more. They will help build your legs, but that’s also a function of training. The answer is heavy squats, with an emphasis on a full, complete range of motion. After warm-ups, try a 4 second negative, then explode out of the bottom of the movement whole maintaining perfect from and complete control. Do that for 4 reps. Next, do 5-6 regular reps. Now, do an 8-10 second negative. That’s all one set. If you aren’t working in a power rack with the pins set for safety, use a leg press. The other key is to add weight to the bar every other week. Finally, take in plenty of protein and use a good pre-workout with creatine.

        1. No doubt, SARMs are powerful compounds. I’ve seen the “which is better” articles, and I’ve seen the SARMs product hype. Ultimately, I would say that both are powerful compounds that stimulate greater test production. Which is better? If it was me, I would try them both, and all things being equal, whichever compounds gives me the result would be the most powerful…for me. Personally, I’m a big fan of prohormones. Let me know which ones you have tried, and what’s working the best for you. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the info Jim, I would like your take on how i should go ablout taking prohormone and workout regime.
    I want to get stronger and leaner, ive always been an athlete so i got an athletic body but now im 38yrs old. Ive got stubborn belly fat n i want 2 get my bench over 315, im at 310. I get alot of compliments on how good i look but thats with a fitted shirt, i dnt look cut like ppl think with my shirt off. Would prohormones help towards those goals. I just purchased lg science 6wks bulking kit prohormone, are you familiar?
    BTW ive been taking your basic creatine, protein, arginine etc. Do you recommend taking those while on the prohormone bulking kit or not. THANKS

    1. Thanks for the question. I would add a good PCT besides what LG offers, such as 5% Nutrition Post Gear. Personally I would use a test booster like Just Test Me post cycle also. Anytime I’ve used prohormones, I’ve found the hardest part is hanging on to gains once your cycle ends. Keep your protein high, keep using the creatine, and use a good, balanced pre-workout that’s clinically dosed. I would eat a high protein, moderate carb, moderate health fat diet. Keep sugar low, but have some fruit/high glycemic carbs post-workout with your shake. If you want to gain, it should a lean gain as much as possible. The thing with prohormones is you have to eat, but you should keep it as clean as you can. The prohormones should help you stay lean if you’re eating quality food. Add weight to the bar every other week, even if it’s 2.5lbs. Two keys to getting stronger are eating enough and getting enough sleep. Lacking in either will hurt your strength. Finally, a good prohormone will promote good strength gains. But remember, you lose some of what you gained once your cycle is over. I don’t know what your routine looks like, or how often you train. However you do it, don’t over do it and make sure you recover. No recovery = no growth. You asked about a workout regime. Personally, I use a modified Stronglifts 5×5. I modified it with a rep performance approach that emphasizes the negative part of the rep. I also train quickly, with as little rest between sets as I can get away with. If you have anymore questions, please let me know.

  3. Hey man. About to star a prohormone cycle with Decabolin and Test-1. Question, is it fine to take pre-workout before training? I hit the gym at 6AM every day before work and would take the first (pro hormone) dose when waking up and the pre-workout when at the gym. Any issues with that? Thanks.

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