This additive can be recognized as a dopant.
What is ecdysterone?
Ecdysterone or. Shuvalov, O. Fedorova, E. Tananykina. An arthropod hormone, ecdysterone, inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells by different mechanisms/Frontiers in Pharmacology (20-hydroxyecdysone, 20E) is a hormone found in arthropods and secreted by some plants to protect against insects.
Dietary supplements containing this substance make R. Lafont, L. Dinan. Practical uses of ecdysteroids in mammals including humans : and update / Journal of Insect Science of medicinal herbs: leuzea, sweet fern, Brazilian ginseng, Turkestan survivor, or cyanotis.
Ecdysterone is considered a “natural anabolic”, a tool that can increase strength and muscle mass, reduce fatigue and speed up recovery. Additionally, some manufacturers claim it affects blood sugar, helps eliminate body fat, lowers cholesterol, and protects against oxidative stress.
Due to its potential anabolic effects, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is following the 2022/Rusada monitoring program to investigate ecdysterone and decide whether or not to include it on the prohibited list. Observation has been ongoing since 2019, and so far the substance has not been included in this list.
Does ecdysterone really help straighten up and get stronger?
In vitro studies in animals and muscle cells have revealed1. J. Gorelick-Feldman, D. Maclean, N. Ilic. Phytoecdysteroids increase protein synthesis in skeletal muscle cells / Journal of Food and Agricultural Chemistry, 2. J. Gorelick-Feldman, W. Cohick, I. Raskin. Ecdysteroids induce rapid Ca2+ flux leading to Akt activation and increased protein synthesis in skeletal muscle cells / Steroids, 3. M. K. Parr, P. Zhao, O. Haupt. Estrogen receptor beta is involved in skeletal muscle hypertrophy induced by the phytoecdysteroid ecdysterone / Molecular nutrition and food research that ecdysterone accelerates protein synthesis, promotes muscle building and provides better results than testosterone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).
In terms of human studies, we could only find three scientific papers, and those with opposite results.
In an experiment, E. Isenmann, G. Ambrose, J. F. Joseph. Ecdysteroids as an unconventional anabolic agent: performance enhancement by ecdysterone supplementation in humans / Archives of Toxicology 18-pound bench press.
In another scientific work involving men and women over 50, S. Pérez‑Piñero, V. Ávila‑Gandía, J. A. R. Arias. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 12-week clinical trial evaluating the effect of spinach extract supplementation on skeletal muscle fitness in adults over 50 years of age / Nutrients 2 g extract of spinach daily (about 3 mg of ecdysterone) provided a greater increase in leg strength and power than exercises without supplements. Moreover, the men gained more muscle during the 12 weeks of the experiment.
But in the third study, C. D. Wilborn, L. W. Taylor, B. I. Campbell. Effects of methoxyisoflavone, ecdysterone, and sulfopolysaccharide supplementation on training adaptations in resistance-trained men / Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition on strength and muscle volume of young athletes during the 8-week experiment .
Although the anti-doping agency is seriously interested in this substance, three studies are not enough to recognize it as an effective anabolic. Also, in one of the experiments the supplement did not work and in the other a spinach extract with a small amount of ecdysterone was used.
Will ecdysterone help improve health?
In many studies R. Lafont, L. Dinan. Practical uses of ecdysteroids in mammals, including humans: and the update / Journal of Insect Science found that ecdysterone can:
- lower cholesterol levels;
- improve healing;
- stimulate the conversion of glucose into glycogen;
- improve glucose utilization and increase insulin sensitivity;
- protect the brain from nerve cell death;
- stimulate liver function;
- reduce inflammation;
- reduce oxidative stress.
However, none of these have been tested in humans. Therefore, the long lists of ecdysterone benefits that supplement makers like to write about have no scientific basis.
Should I try ecdysterone?
Currently, this substance is not on WADA’s list of prohibited substances, and therefore even athletes can take it without fear of disqualification.
Also, the supplement appears to be safe for health. At least 10 weeks of taking 48 mg of ecdysterone per day did not affect E. Isenmann, G. Ambrose, J. F. Joseph. Ecdysteroids as an Unconventional Anabolic Agent: Performance Enhancement by Ecdysterone Supplementation in Humans/Toxicology Files on Participants’ Liver and Kidney Health and Not Affecting Hormone Levels.
However, given the lack of scientific evidence, the benefits of such a “natural anabolic” are questionable.
Also, in the experiment mentioned above, E. Isenmann, G. Ambrose, J. F. Joseph. Ecdysteroids as an Unconventional Anabolic Agent: Performance Enhancement by Ecdysterone Supplementation in Humans/Archives of Toxicology noted that the actual dose of the substance in the supplement was several times lower than stated on the package: 6 mg per capsule vs. 100 milligrams claimed
Therefore, even if ecdysterone really helps to build muscle and increase strength, no one guarantees that the purchased supplement contains exactly the amount indicated on the package. Or whatever happens.
It makes more sense to spend money on a proven nutritional supplement like protein or creatine, and find a good trainer if you don’t already have one.