Ecdysteroid supplements are marketed as "natural anabolic agents". Manufacturers promise that these supplements increase strength, and accelerate recovery and muscle growth. One of these substances is ecdysterone, which in the 80s was called the “Soviet secret”. If you've been wondering if you need this supplement and if there's a solid evidence base behind it, then read this post.
WHAT IS ECDYSTERONE?
Ecdysteroids are a class of hormones that are insect androgens. Let me remind you that androgens include hormones that affect the development and maintenance of the male reproductive system. The predominant and most active androgen is well-known testosterone. Ecdysteroids are structurally similar to this hormone and are considered to be the most active testosterone-like compound in insects.
Also, ecdysteroids are found in many plants, although their content is considered insufficient for biological activity. The function of these substances is to repel predators. Foods rich in bioactive ecdysteroids include spinach, quinoa, champignon, etc. By the way, the most active plant ecdysteroid is ecdysterone too.
EFFECTIVENESS OF ECDYSTERONE FOR ATHLETES
Interestingly, this supplement has been on the market for many years. At the same time, the vast majority of the declared effects of ecdysterone were studied on different types of animals: rats, mice, quails, and cattle. In these studies, multiple pharmacological effects beneficial for the body were indeed found.
In animal studies, ecdysterone has been shown to have an even more powerful anabolic effect than illegal drugs. For example, in one study, ecdysterone had a strong hypertrophic effect on soleus muscle fibers in rats. While there have been several experiments involving people, their results are rather unconvincing.
Also, an unexpected result of one of the studies was that when analyzing the effectiveness of 12 supplements containing ecdysterone, the concentration of the active substance itself was significantly lower than indicated on the package label.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has placed ecdysterone in its 2021 Monitoring Program based on data from just one study. However, the duration of the experiment (10 weeks), the selection of participants (46 people), and the method of assessing body composition (bioimpedance analysis, which is not the "gold standard") do not give the reason to say: "Yes, ecdysterone is a working thing."
But if WADA puts an eye on it, my advice is to periodically monitor this website regarding ecdysterone and not only it.
In conclusion, we can say that scientists are not of common mind as well as athletes, who use this supplement. There is no single opinion on whether it works or not, what dosage and intake duration could be optimal for Olympic weightlifters.
Unlike creatine monohydrate, which has been studied in 1000 experiments, ecdysterone has been studied in only a few tests. Is this enough to call the evidence convincing? That is not how conclusions are made so we will wait for further research.
If you want to know for sure which safe and non-prohibited supplements work, I have a sports supplements guide for you, which details their effects, dosages, and the schedule for using them. This manual is also included as a bonus in Maximum Performance Nutrition, which was launched before the New Year.