Thursday, July 18, 2013

Steroids and performance enhancing drugs in Sports Supplements? By Veeraj V. Goyaram

Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports Supplements?
Researched and composed by Veeraj Goyaram
Article published 27 July 2013
It is not uncommon for over-the-counter health and sports supplements to contain steroids and other  classified substances that improve performance. Most of us have certainly heard of several cases in the media about products that have been found to contain controlled substances or athletes who have been tested positive after the consumption of over-the-counter supplements. Although I have been an avid follower of the sports supplements scene for nearly 17 years now I did not fully realise the severity of this problem until I attended a lecture by Dr. Hans Geyer last year. It was one of the key lectures at the International Sports and Exercise Nutrition Conference that took place in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England. Dr. Hans Geyer is from the Cologne Doping Control Laboratory Center for Preventive Doping Research (German Sport University Cologne) and is heavily involved with doping control in athletes. He has masterminded research into analytical tools for detecting controlled substances in athletes, over-the-counter and black market sports supplements and therefore a lot of Dr. Geyer's work is cited in this article. 

This article aims to give you a lowdown on the situation of performance enhancing drugs in over-the-counter supplements. We will also provide a few interesting case studies, including an update of the issue of methylhexanamine (DMAA), the popular pre-workout energy ingredient which we are sure may interest you. Finally, as we are editing this article we just read a fresh news release by the FDA of a vitamin B supplement found to containing steroids. This will be covered as well. 
Dr. Hans Geyer
How can classified drugs find their way into supplements?

Sometimes, supplements contain "more than what's listed on the labels". Below are the two major ways by which controlled substances can find their way into supplements.

A. Cross-contamination
Supplements may sometimes be cross-contaminated with controlled substances such that small amounts of the latter may be detected. These amounts may possibly be insufficient to give an athlete any real edge on the playing field but sufficient to have an athlete test positive for particular substances. For example, a number of positive cases for prohormones in athletes who consumed vitamin supplement intake were seen. That was due to nutritional supplements being manufactured on the same production line as prohormones without proper cleaning on the production line between batches.  This can lead to inadvertent doping cases.

In fact, an international research study was carried out in 2001-2002 on 634 different nutritional supplements from 13 countries showed that 15% of the supplements tested contained anabolic steroids that were not declared on the label. Cross-contamination largely accounted for the presence of these substance in the tested supplements which included vitamins, minerals, proteins and creatine etc. (Geyer et al., 2002). The findings are summarised below.
Figure 2:Cross contamination detected in supplements from 13 European countries (Geyer et al., 2002)
Figure 3: Another study in Germany and Spain found traces of classical steroids
in vitamin and mineral supplements. These amounts are enough to have an athlete test positive 
(Adapted from Geyer et al., 2006)
B. Products "faked" with performance enhancing drugs
On an even more serious note, numerous supplements were detected with high amounts of ‘classic’ anabolic steroids like metandienone (Dianabol), stanozolol (Winstrol), boldenone (Equipoise), oxandrolone (Anavar), dehydrochloromethyl-testosterone (Oral Turinabol) etc. This intentional "faking" of products is done in order to make supplements work better as a means to generate sales. These steroids are either not declared on the labels or are listed under fancy names. These supplements can be easily purchased and pose great risks because of the inherent health risks of steroid usage and the dosages are not listed on the labels so that users have no idea of the amount of steroids that they are ingesting. Additionally, most of these steroids are 17-methylated to make them orally ingestible. The addition of the 17-methyl group increases their liver toxicity and carcinogenic properties. 

As a side note, those in the business know that many steroids are now sourced from Chinese pharmaceutical companies. Underground labs purchase them, reconstitute and dispense them into vials using very basic equipment and oftentimes under non-sterile conditions. You may easily recognise these vials as they differ from the sealed vials of steroids like legit Deca Durabolin from Organon from Karachi, Pakistan. It is worth noting that several products are also faked with other classified substances besides steroids (e.g. Sibutramine and Clenbuterol in weight loss products) as will be elaborated in the case studies below.

"Some companies are really cunning and what they will do is add steroids (or other performance enhancing drugs like stimulants) to the first few batches of a new product in order to "wow" users and get favourable reviews. Then fearing detection they will cease to use these substances so you are left wondering what happened (sometimes you think your body has got used to the product)"

Case#1: Designer steroids and the Novedex XT case 
Designer steroids, as their name implies, are steroids that have been manufactured from existing steroids by small chemical modifications. The resulting designer steroid is thus unable to be detected by doping tests because the doping controllers are not yet aware of these new steroids. In addition, a subgroup of designer steroids are also steroids that have been developed in the 50s and 60s by pharmaceutical companies and universities for a variety of medical conditions but for reasons of safety (among other reasons) were not commercially exploited. There are literally thousands of different such steroids and some of them were given "new life" when steroid suppliers decided to market them. The chemical structure of these steroids may be available fairly easily and pharmaceutical factories, particularly in China, are quite eager to synthesize these steroids. One common example of a designer steroid is Norboletone, also known as "The Clear" because of its ability to fool drug tests. It was marketed by chemist Patrick Arnold who became known as "The Clear Chemist". 

That being said, many designer steroids found their way into supplements marketed as testosterone boosters and aromatase inhibitors. Marketers were able to fool the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 because these steroids were not on the list of banned steroids. That was until the doping authorities upped their game and began research to develop assays to detect these designer steroids. Perhaps, the most striking case of a common product containing designer steroids was the Gaspari Novedex XT case. Authorities nailed down on Novedex XT after several urine sample testing of athletes showed some signals that indicated steroid metabolites in September 2006. These athletes reported to have taken Novedex XT. After analysis, these positive signals were identified as the "new" steroids androstatrienedione and 6-oxo-androstenedione (Geyer et al., 2007). Novedex XT was advertised as a testosterone booster and aromatase inhibitor and I have heard several reports of the effectiveness of this product. As soon as Novedex would come on the shelves it would disappear and a lot of guys were using it as part of their post steroid cycle therapy. The Rich Gaspari we are a huge fan of is a very decent and nice guy and the products were rapidly taken off the shelves. We can't imagine Rich Gaspari, a highly intelligent man, being silly enough to include steroids in his products. We don't think that he would compromise his reputation in bodybuilding for some easy bucks. Anyway, we now hope that Gaspari's products now conform to WADA regulations.
Figure 4: Gaspari Novedex XT was effective because it contained androstatrienedione
and 6-oxo-androstenedione (Geyer et al., 2007)
Case#2: The Pharm-Tec bust in Germany
The Pharm-Tec bust was a very interesting episode. Pharm-Tec was a German company that was very innovative in terms of the delivery formulations it used for "supplements", namely stamps (paper), powders, pills and effervescent tablets. Two supposedly prohormone effervescent products were busted, namely Stanozolon-S and Parabolon-S (note the similar-sounding name to the classic steroids Stanozolol and Parabolan). These products were tested by a German team (Parr et al., 2006) and were respectively found to contain high amounts of the oral anabolic androgenic steroids stanozolol (14.5mg/tablet) and methandienone (Dianabol, 16.8 mg/tablet). This was a clear case of intentional faking of supplement products.
A quite funny thing also happened with Pharm-Tec: they were selling the product Oxa-17-Dion and the label says that it contains 25mg of 5-alpha-adrostan-2-oxa-17alpha-methyl-17-beta-ol-3-one. That's the chemical name of Oxandrolone (Anavar)! Another product named Testexx listed 1,4-Andro-4-chloro Stadien 17alpha-methyl-17beta-ol-3-one. That's the chemical name of Oral Turinabol! In this case what they used the scientific names of "classical" steroids on the labels as almost nobody understands these names. That's very funny indeed.

Case#3:  Clenbuterol and Sibutramine in weight loss products
Fat loss products are sometimes faked with classified drugs too to make them work better. For instance, German researchers tested a weight loss product named "Anabolic burner" and found that it contained 30mcg of Clenbuterol per tablet (Parr et al., 2007). In another case, Polish researchers (Stypułkowska et al., 2011) found that several Chinese weight loss products contained generous amounts of the the class IV controlled substance Sibutramine and its derivatives. Sibutramine is an anorexic drug that was used to treat obesity until its withdrawal in 2010 after it was found to cause cardiovascular  events and strokes. Of course, Sibutramine was not listed on the labels of these slimming products which could easily be purchased on the internet.  
Figure 6: The Chinese herbal weight loss supplement "Li Da" (Left) was found to contain
Sibutramine. The latter drug was used to treat obesity until 2010.
Case #4: Steroids in B-complex tablets
As I am editing this article I came a "hot off the press" news release by the FDA (26/7/2013) about a vitamin B-complex supplement found to contain the potentially harmful steroid methasterone, and dimethazine. This product is called First B-50 and is made by Healthy Life Chemistry By Purity First B-50. This investigation followed reports of incidents associated with the consumption of this supplement in which 29 people reported effects like fatigue, muscle cramps and pain. Biochemical analyses revealed abnormal liver and thyroid function values as well as high cholesterol levels. Female users reported unusual hair growth and missed menstruation, and males who used the product reported impotence that was confirmed by low testosterone levels. The press release by FDA can be viewed on this linkThe FDA runs an online alert program called "MedWatch: The FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program". It can be accessed here.    
Figure 7: One of the products of Healthy Life Chemistry
The Methylhexanamine (DMAA) ban situation
I believe the topic of DMAA deserves an article on its own as I followed the evolution of this supplement ingredient with interest. But here is a brief update of the situation: 1,3 DMAA stands for 1,3-dimethylamylamine. It is also called methylhexanamine. On some supplements you will also find it listed as geranium oil extract (on the basis of its plant origin) and Geranamine, the latter being the trade name held by a company called Proviant technologies. This company belongs to Patrick Arnold, the one who introduced DMAA on the supplements market in 2006, following the Ephedrine ban in 2005. In my personal opinion, it is DMAA which gave the greatest boost to the once-lackluster preworkout business. DMAA worked like a bomb, especially in formulations containing Caffeine. Unfortunately, DMAA has been linked to a number of deaths and subsequently the FDA issued a letter of warning to companies selling DMAA-containing preworkouts.  

Supplement companies resorted to listing Geranium oil extract or Geranium stem as a source of DMAA on products because these botanicals don't fall under FDA. For that purpose, they cited an article by Chinese researchers (Ping et al., 1996) that found that Geranium oil/ stem contains DMAA. As a side note, the same thing happened with Ephedrine. When the latter was under scrutiny, companies resorted to listing MaHuang extract (source of Ephedrine) on product labels in an attempts to keep the bucks flowing while escaping the FDA. Interestingly, recent studies by (Zhang et al., 2012) found that Geranium oil/ stem contains no DMAA and provided evidence that the Chinese study was a flawed study, thereby suggesting that the DMAA in all products is of synthetic origin. There is an ongoing debate among analytical chemists about the tools they use to detect DMAA in geranium extracts. The current stand is that geranium does not contain DMAA while pro-industry chemists state that some cultivars of geranium contains the substance and these cultivars are what the supplements industry uses in their products. Recently, USP labs destroyed a massive amount of Oxyelite pro and Jack3D and had to reformulate their products. Finally, the amount of DMAA in many products was a best-kept secret, falling under proprietary blends. Zhang et al. (2012), was kind enough to analyse these products and disclose the amount of DMAA. In my opinion, it was the amount of DMAA that gave different preworkouts different strengths. For instance, Nutrex Hemorage had 33mg per serving while Jack3D had 142mg per serving. 
Figure 8: Zhang et al., 2012 discloses the amount of DMAA found in common
supplements. In one case the product contained nearly 15 times more DMAA
than what's listed on the label!
Any responsible companies in the business?
Although the supplement industry is largely unregulated there are still several responsible companies who go the extra mile to a) source ingredients from trusted suppliers, b) have their R&D team constantly evaluating product formulations to see if ingredients conform to World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) regulations and c) have their products tested at an independent laboratory for controlled substances.

Summary and take-home message
  • The presence of banned substances can either be accidental or intentional.
  • Accidental contamination can lead to enough banned substance in the body to produce a positive drug test.
  • There are many reliable companies who push the envelope further to ensure their products don't contain banned substances.
  • The biggest danger with products that contain banned substances is that these are not disclosed on the label and therefore you are clueless about the amount of drugs you are ingesting. If you don't mind your creatine product containing some Dianabol because you are already taking steroids then you are in a bad situation because you don't know how much total steroids you are taking.
Geyer H, Parr MK, Reinhart U, Schrader Y, Mareck U, Schänzer W. Analysis of Non-Hormonal Nutritional Supplements for Anabolic Androgenic Steroids—an International Study -. In Recent advances in doping analysis (10), SchänzerW, GeyerH, GotzmannA, MareckU. (eds). Sport und Buch Strauß: Köln, 2002; 83. eds).

Geyer H, Mareck U, Kohler K, Parr MK, Schanzer W. Cross-contaminations of vitamin and mineral-tablets with metandienone and stanozolol. In Recent Advances in Doping Analysis (14), Schanzer W, Geyer H, Gotzmann A, Mareck U (eds). Sportverlag Strauß: Koln, 2006; 11.

Geyer H, Koehler K, Mareck U, Parr MK, Schänzer W, Thevis M. Nutritional supplements cross contaminated and faked with prohormones, “classic” anabolic steroids and “designer steroids”. Effectivness of the Antidoping Fight. 2006 IAAF World Anti Doping Symposium. IAAF: Monaco, 2007; 95.

Parr, M. K., Koehler, K., Geyer, H., Guddat, S. and Schänzer, W. (2008), Clenbuterol marketed as dietary supplement. Biomed. Chromatogr., 22: 298–300.

Ping Z, Jun Q, Qing L. A study on the chemical constituents of geranium oil. Journal of Guizhou Institute of Technology. 1996. 25(1):82-85.

Zhang Y, Woods RM, Breitbach ZS, and Armstrong DW. 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA) in supplements and geranium products: natural or synthetic? Drug Testing Analysis. 2012:4(12):986-990. Available here. Accessed January 7, 2013.
About the author: I am currently a PhD student in Exercise Science at the University
of Cape Town in South Africa. My MSc research looked at the regulation of glucose
transporters in muscle by exercise and nutritional factors.  For my PhD I am looking at the influence of diet and exercise on mitochondrial function in skeletal muscle. If you enjoy my articles please feel free to recommend them to others. Your comments and suggestions are welcome. For correspondence email me on vicgoyaram
©,2013, Veeraj Goyaram, Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited.
Disclaimer: The Content on this site is intended to be used for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be and should not be interpreted as medical advice or a diagnosis of any health or fitness problem, condition or disease; or a recommendation for a specific test, doctor, care provider, procedure, treatment plan, product, or course of action. BODYBUILDING MAURITIUS is not a medical or healthcare provider and your use of this site does not create a doctor / patient relationship. We disclaim all responsibility for the professional qualifications and licensing of, and services provided by, any physician or other health providers posting on or otherwise referred to on this Site and/or any Third Party Site. Never disregard the medical advice of your physician or health professional, or delay in seeking such advice, because of something you read on this Site. We offer this Site AS IS and without any warranties.  Correspondence:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bodybuilding and Students: your brain functions better after exercise. By Veeraj V. Goyaram

Bodybuilding and Students Series

Science shows How Your Brain Functions Better after Exercise
By Veeraj V. Goyaram/ Cape Town, South Africa
My parents always say that I became brighter in my studies when I took up bodybuilding at the age of 14 (Form 4). Later during my undergraduate education, whenever I was stuck with some difficult problem, the same problem would solve itself after a gym session. I was also always in the gym on the eve of most of my major exams. Very often, during my postgraduate education, instead of going home after a grueling night session at the gym, I would go back to the university laboratory and work until late night or early morning. Furthermore, most of the writing of the articles on this website and my masters thesis was done during my post-exercise "mental high" phase. I am sure that most of you must have felt a similar effect. 
Coaching by a Scientist who lifts! Click here for details
Your hero found: Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor 

Resistance and Endurance exercise both increase BDNF
The processes and biological chemicals regulating brain functioning are very complex and as such there may be many molecules, known and yet unknown, that may contribute to the "feel good" effect after exercise.  However, quite recently, research has shown that physical activity increases the expression of a protein called the the brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the brain of rats. Subsequently, several studies were undertaken in humans to see a) whether this protein is also increased after exercise and b) to establish the link between this increase and the enhancement of mood and cognitive functions exercise (Yarrow et al., 2010). Indeed, plasma and/or serum BDNF concentration were increased after exercise in humans (Matthews et al., 2009) and this provided cognitive benefits (described below)

How does BDNF work?
Although originally thought to be produced only in the brain, BDNF is also produced in a variety of body tissues, like skeletal muscle (Fig 1) after which it is released into the bloodstream and transported to the brain. BDNF crosses the blood-brain barrier easily for entry into the brain where it brings about its various functions. Of note, BDNF has activity in the region of the brain called the hippocampus which is involved with memory and learning.  
Figure 1: BDNF protein levels increase in skeletal muscle after exercise
The top right picture shows muscle fibres stained for BDNF protein
(Pedersen et al, 2010)
Exercise-induced BDNF provides cognitive mental benefits to students
In one study by researchers in Texas, USA (Ferris et al., 2007), students were made to cycle for 20 minutes at two different intensities (low and high). The researchers used a test called the Stroop Test to assess the cognitive abilities of the students. This test measures the ability of the brain to deal with information.  The students performed better at the test after high intensity exercise, as shown in the graph below. The researchers found that the increase in BDNF after exercise was dependent on the intensity of the cycling exercise as higher intensity exercise increases BDNF levels to a greater extent. This explains the better results in the test at higher intensity.
Figure 2: Students performed better at the Stroop Test after high intensity
cycling exercise compared to low intensity exercise.
(Adapted from Ferris et al.,  2007)
Benefits of BDNF not limited to memory, learning and cognition
Interestingly, the health benefits of exercise-induced BDNF is not limited to the effects of the molecule on the brain. BDNF has also shown promise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. This explains partly why exercise also plays an important role in treating these diseases.  
Figure 3: Medical conditions associated with low circulating levels of BDNF
(Pedersen et al., 2006)
The take-home lessons and a message to parents
  • Exercise is one of the greatest remedies for both mental and physical problems. Exercise produces so many factors that aid tremendously in health and your body's functioning. If your doctor only prescribes medications and psychoactive drugs do not hesitate to discuss the possibility of also including an exercise program in your treatment. If you are a medical student, seriously learn more about the kind of studies cited in this and other Bodybuilding Mauritius articles. These research papers show a molecular basis of exercise-induced health improvement. Always keep an open mind and do not become a prescribing machine. Do not select a speciality that will only bring a lot of money. Consider becoming a specialist in exercise and sports medicine. Exercise is indeed medicine.
  • If you are a student, balance your studies with some form of exercise. A personal tip is to go to train after school for some time before you start homework and revision. Contrary to what students think, you must not give up training during exams period, probably step down a bit in frequency and intensity. I have personally always been in the gym on the eve of all my major exams. You must plan your study and revision accordingly. 
  • Do the tasks that require the greatest mental ability after training but don't forget that you also need to recover from training.
  • If you are a parent, encourage your child to exercise or participate in sports. Contrary to what you may believe, exercise and sports won't distract your child from  his studies. On the contrary, these activities help his studies as has been shown above. Do not pressurise your children to excel in his studies and maybe realise the dream that you couldn't realise. Also don't think that bodybuilding and sports in general are for inferior people. You must aim for the complete development of your child, not just school results. For your information, many top universities base their recruitment on participation in sports/ exercise activities. For instance, at the exercise science research unit at the University of Cape Town where I do my studies, every student and staff member is seriously into some form of sport (running, cycling, cricket and rugby being very popular).  

Ferris LT, Williams JS and Shen CL. The effect of acute exercise on serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels and cognitive function. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39: 728-734, 2007.

Matthews VB, Astrom MB, Chan MH, Bruce CR, Krabbe KS, Prelovsek O, Akerstrom T, Yfanti C, Broholm C, Mortensen OH, Penkowa M, Hojman P, Zankari A, Watt MJ, Bruunsgaard H, Pedersen BK and Febbraio MA. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is produced by skeletal muscle cells in response to contraction and enhances fat oxidation via activation of AMP-activated protein kinase. Diabetologia 52: 1409-1418, 2009.

Pedersen BK, Pedersen M, Krabbe KS, Bruunsgaard H, Matthews VB and Febbraio MA. Role of exercise-induced brain-derived neurotrophic factor production in the regulation of energy homeostasis in mammals. Exp Physiol 94: 1153-1160, 2009.

Yarrow JF, White LJ, McCoy SC and Borst SE. Training augments resistance exercise induced elevation of circulating brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Neurosci Lett 479: 161-165, 2010.

My Bio: I am a Mauritian originally from Roche Bois, Port Louis and now based in Cape Town, South Africa where I am busy with my postgraduate studies in molecular biology of exercise. My research, supervised by Prof. Edward Ojuka, looks at the influence of nutrition and exercise in gene expression in muscle, research which is relevant and applicable to exercising individuals, sportspersons and diabetic individuals. The knowledge that I share with you stems from my 18 years of experience in bodybuilding and 8 years (and counting) of university education in the field. I have also published work in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism (2013), International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (2013) and co-authored two book chapters on exercise and diabetes. I also presented my research work at the 2012 International Sports and Exercise Nutrition Conference (UK). I am grateful to each and everyone at the UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. "Knowledge without sharing is worth nothing"
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©,2013, Veeraj Goyaram, Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited.
Disclaimer: The Content on this site is intended to be used for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be and should not be interpreted as medical advice or a diagnosis of any health or fitness problem, condition or disease; or a recommendation for a specific test, doctor, care provider, procedure, treatment plan, product, or course of action. BODYBUILDING MAURITIUS is not a medical or healthcare provider and your use of this site does not create a doctor / patient relationship. We disclaim all responsibility for the professional qualifications and licensing of, and services provided by, any physician or other health providers posting on or otherwise referred to on this Site and/or any Third Party Site. Never disregard the medical advice of your physician or health professional, or delay in seeking such advice, because of something you read on this Site. We offer this Site AS IS and without any warranties.  Correspondence:

Beware of Fake Dianabol. By Veeraj Vic Goyaram

Beware of Fake Dianabol
Researched and composed by Veeraj V. Goyaram
Bodybuilding Mauritius does not encourage the use of steroids. The information we provide is for educational purposes only. Our articles on the topic of drug use in bodybuilding can be accessed on this link. In this article we report one case of counterfeiting for the popular oral steroid Dianabol.

In a recent article published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, Italian scientists (Favretto et al., 2013) analysed Dianabol tablets of the blue heart-shaped variety and found that the concentration of active ingredient methandienone (dianabol) was only 1.5mg per tablet, much less than the 5-10mg/ tablet in licensed products. Furthermore, another steroid, methyltestosterone, was also detected in the tablets at a dose of 1.7 mg/ tab. The scientists report that these doses are enough to give a feeling to users that the steroids "are working" but insufficient to produce any anabolic effect.
Click to read article on Science Direct
The above paper is one of the many reports of steroid counterfeiting which serves to tell you that by buying gear from non-legit sources you run the risk of:

a) Getting less than what you pay for, meaning that the steroids may contain only a fraction of what the label (or dealer) says it contains. 

b) Getting more than what you pay for, meaning that some steroid products contain other steroids that you don't know about or don't intend using. In this example, the "Dianabol" tablets contained Methyltestosterone which has been added intentionally (as it is present in a 1:1 ratio to dianabol)

Favretto D, Castagna F, Maietti S, Boscolo-Berto R and Ferrara SD. When color fails: Illicit blue tablets containing anabolic androgen steroids. J Pharm Biomed Anal 83: 260-264, 2013.         

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©,2013, Veeraj Goyaram, Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited.
Disclaimer: The Content on this site is intended to be used for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be and should not be interpreted as medical advice or a diagnosis of any health or fitness problem, condition or disease; or a recommendation for a specific test, doctor, care provider, procedure, treatment plan, product, or course of action. BODYBUILDING MAURITIUS is not a medical or healthcare provider and your use of this site does not create a doctor / patient relationship. We disclaim all responsibility for the professional qualifications and licensing of, and services provided by, any physician or other health providers posting on or otherwise referred to on this Site and/or any Third Party Site. Never disregard the medical advice of your physician or health professional, or delay in seeking such advice, because of something you read on this Site. We offer this Site AS IS and without any warranties.  Correspondence:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sexual Activity and Bodybuilding. By Veeraj Vic Goyaram

Male concerns
Sexual Activity and Bodybuilding
(& some interesting facts)
Researched and Composed by Veeraj V. Goyaram
We are discussing Biology, not morality
I have decided to write this article following the numerous questions that I have seen on our facebook page regarding the effect of sexual activities on bodybuilding. Sexual activity, in the context of our article, refers to sexual intercourse and/ or masturbation leading to ejaculationImportantly, right at the outset I want to make it clear that this article discusses these sexual activities from the point of view of biology rather than morality. For instance, there are mixed thoughts regarding the moral aspects of masturbation. If you feel that masturbation is immoral then I respect your views and suggest that you don't read further.  

By a Scientist who Lifts!! Click here for more details
The effect of sexual activity on exercise performance
While doing background work to write this article I did not come across any scientific article that looked into the effect of sex and masturbation on athletic and exercise performance. If any one of you come across any research article please let me know. Interestingly, there are numerous anecdotal reports about the practice of abstinence in sports circles whereby coaches would demand complete abstinence from sexual activities to team members. This practice has been around for a long time. Whether or not this provides any benefit is unknown. 

The few research papers that I came across looked at the effect of masturbation and orgasm while watching sexually arousing material on a number of hormones (Kruger et al., 1998; Kruger et al., 2002) under non-exercising conditions. While the data looks interesting, it is not easy to extrapolate these findings to deduce the effects that masturbation would have on a) performance of exercise following masturbation or on the day of masturbation and b) the effect of masturbation frequency on exercise performance and bodybuilding progress.

The first part of this article will discuss the available data on the effects of masturbation or intercourse induced orgasm on various hormones which is of interest to exercising individuals like Testosterone and Cortisol. The second part will attempt to dispel some of the common myths regarding the effects that sexual activity has on bodybuilding. 

What does Science say?

No decrease in testosterone
Short term changes in levels of certain hormones as a result of masturbation has been the subject of several studies. In one study by German researchers (Krüger et al., 1998), hormones were measured in healthy males during masturbation, orgasm and in the moment following orgasm. Interestingly, they found no decrease in testosterone levels (Fig. 1) but did find an increase in the noradrenaline which explained the increase in blood pressure and heart rate around the time of masturbation and orgasm. Blood pressure and heart rate went back to normal levels 5 minutes after orgasm. Interestingly, the catabolic hormone Cortisol was not decreased as well (Fig. 2A).
Fig 1: Masturbation and orgasm did not change testosterone levels
(Kruger et al., 1998)
Increase in Prolactin and its biological effects
Another important observation was that Prolactin levels increased post orgasm. Prolactin is a hormone which has a variety of biological functions, more than 300. One of its main functions in women is to stimulate milk production. Both men and women produce prolactin. With regard to our topic at hand, the rapid increase in Prolactin seen after orgasm works on the central nervous system to reduce sexual arousal and provide sexual gratification after the sexual act, explaining the "high" and the feeling of sleepiness that one feels after orgasm. 
                              A                                                      B
Fig. 2: Masturbation and orgasm did not alter Cortisol levels (A).
Orgasm significantly increased Prolactin levels (B).

(Kruger et al., 1998)
Prolactin is also involved in the sexual refractory period which is the time during which it is physiologically impossible for a man to have additional orgasms. Prolactin provides a psychological feeling of "satiation" and are temporarily uninterested in further sexual activity; the penis may be hypersensitive and further sexual stimulation may even feel painful during this time frame (Rosenthal, 2012). During this phase, understandably, Prolactin also reduces erections as it acts on the corpora cavernosa (erectile chambers) in the penis. 

Now, the interesting thing is that 
a) both men and women experience this rise in prolactin after orgasm
b) both sex and masturbation-induced orgasm increase prolactin levels
c) Prolactin remains elevated for about 1 hour post orgasm in both men and women and then returns back to normal levels (Krüger et al., 2002)

The implications of this for bodybuilding may be as follows:

a) Exercise performance post-orgasm: given the action of prolactin on the central nervous system to give a feeling of gratification and sleepiness and that prolactin remains elevated for about 1 hour post-orgasm we may extrapolate to say that performance may be affected if any exercise or physical activity takes place during that period. Or maybe one's willpower to go to hit the weights is so strong that even after "pleasing the missis" or "pinching the one-eyed snake" you overcome this feeling of sleepiness and hit the gym. Many people I spoke to reported that they have no problem going through a workout after having had a quickie shortly before.

b) Multiple-orgasms for the day and testosterone levels: it is a well known fact that long term (chronic) elevations of prolactin (hyperprolactinemia) produce pronounced reductions in animal sexual activity, and significant reduction of libido and gonadal function in both men and women. In men, this stems from a reduction in testosterone production. This leads us to question "what if I have an orgasm several times a day? And knowing that each orgasm bring about an elevation in prolactin that lasts one hour". Will this decrease my testosterone in the long run? This is not easy to answer because we don't know what happens to prolactin in the case of multiple daily orgasms. The link between multiple orgasms, prolactin levels, testosterone levels and exercise performance hasn't been studied. These would make for great scientific studies, indeed. 

So much for the science. Let us now look at the fiction

Some common misconceptions regarding sexual activity

1. You will lose your gains
This is a bunch of nonsense. Correct me if I am wrong but I think about it this way: The aim of the human race is to survive and perpetuate. This relies on reproduction. We are here today because our ancestors were able to copulate and reproduce. Therefore, the body is not meant to waste itself when reproducing therefore we don't lose muscle or precious "life" each time we have sex and ejaculate. It's as simple like that. Sexual intercourse may set you back by a few calories but in no way will it make you lose your gains. 

2. You lose vitamins and minerals when you ejaculate
Semen contains minerals of which Zinc (about 0.5mg per normal ejaculate) is the most significant, as well as small amounts of fructose and glucose. Contrary to popular belief you won't enter a state of Zinc deficiency if you ejaculate on a regular basis although Zinc deficiency is sometimes an issue for men due to inadequate nutrition. (Click here for my article on Zinc supplementation).

3. Ejaculation increases your risk of prostate cancer
It has been hypothesized that sexual activity increases the rate of prostate cancer. However, the evidence for this is very limited. In fact, the contrary is now known to be true. In a study conducted by American researchers (Leitzmann et al., 2004) it was found that increased ejaculatory frequency was associated with lower risk of developing prostate cancer because there is an increased clearance of secretions of the prostate that can cause cancer.

4. Masturbation weakens the knees and cause one arm to grow bigger than the other.
I've heard this one in Mauritius only. No, masturbation does not affect the knees. Masturbation also won't cause the working arm to get bigger and more vascular. Most of you already know that this is not true, anyway. Therefore, no need to alternate arms. Neither will there be any impairment in recovery if you masturbate after an arm session unless you stay awake the whole night. 

Take-home lessons:
  • Masturbation does not affect testosterone and Cortisol at least during the time of masturbation. The effect of regular masturbation on these hormones has not been studied.
  • Orgasm from masturbation and intercourse leads to a transient increase in Prolactin in both men and women. This prolactin gives a feeling of gratification and sleepiness. It may or may not interfere with training just after orgasm, depending on the individual.
  • Prolactin influences testosterone production. The effect of regular masturbation on Prolactin levels and its effect on testosterone is currently not known as no studies has been carried out.
  • Sexual activities are part of life. Enjoy it as long as it doesn't interfere with other aspects of your life. Well, sometimes a little back pain or soreness from the previous day's love making may stand in the way of your deadlifts and squats the next day but that's not a big deal. You can work around it. 
Final thoughts
  • Me I would say, enjoy love making. If your woman wants it give it to her and as much as she wants. Bodybuilding can wait. If you need to skip gym then so be it. You are not a professional bodybuilder. You can still make plans to catch up on your workout later. Sex does burn quite a bit of calories if you go intensely enough. If you got a "big mamma" to work on then she may leave you sore and unable to walk the next day. Then it may affect your bodybuilding but then your aim should be to please your "big mamma". Put her needs first. It is useless to have huge muscles if you don't satisfy your woman. 
  • Even if you are in a relationship, "pinching the one-eyed snake" may be fun at time when the Mrs. is not available. But masturbation mustn't be the only sexual activity option that you have. Everyone can get a sex partner. 


Krüger T, Exton MS, Pawlak C, von zur Mühlen A, Hartmann U, Schedlowski M. Neuroendocrine and cardiovascular response to sexual arousal and orgasm in men. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1998 May;23(4):401-11.

Krüger TH, Haake P, Hartmann U, Schedlowski M, Exton MS. Orgasm-induced prolactin secretion: feedback control of sexual drive? Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2002 Jan;26(1):31-44.

Rosenthal, Martha (2012). Human Sexuality: From Cells to Society. Cengage Learning. pp. 134–135. ISBN 9780618755714.

Leitzmann MF, Platz EA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Giovannucci E. Ejaculation frequency and subsequent risk of prostate cancer. JAMA. 2004 Apr 7;291(13):1578-86.

©,2013, Veeraj Goyaram, Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited.
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