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Dietary supplements with ecdysterone are growing in popularity, especially among strength athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. They expect the growth of strength, muscle mass, improvement of sports performance, and even an increase in testosterone levels. On the other hand, there is an equal number of sceptics who claim that ecdysterone is not that effective. What does modern science have to say about it?
What is ecdysterone?
Ecdysterone is a plant steroid that is most commonly extracted from a herb called Maral Root (Rhaponticum carthamoides). It is native to the Siberian region, where the locals were the first to notice its beneficial effects on physical and mental health. Ecdysterone is also found in small amounts in common foods such as spinach and quinoa. It is one of the ecdysteroid hormones, which promote the growth of plants or insects, making them considered anabolic substances. They resemble androgens in structure and are therefore a popular natural steroid substitute among athletes. Unlike anabolic steroids, we do not have to worry about unpleasant side effects when using them routinely. [1–2]
There are several types of ecdysteroids in nature. Among the most studied is ecdysterone followed by turkesterone. Their effects are very similar, often compared, but according to recent research, turkesterone is considered more effective in terms of promoting muscle growth (a stronger anabolic). [1-2]
If you are also wondering what effects turkesterone has, read our article What Is Turkesterone, How Does It Work and Can It Really Boost Testosterone Levels?
What is behind the effects of ecdysterone?
When scientists took a closer look at ecdysterone and its effects in the human body, they found that it could not directly bind to the testosterone receptor. Instead, it probably forms a complex with beta-oestrogen. This mechanism is most commonly associated with its effect on muscle growth, strength, and athletic performance. 
What are the most common effects of ecdysterone?
- accelerated muscle mass gain
- growth in strength abilities
- improvement in muscle regeneration
- increases the synthesis or formation of muscle proteins
- quicker weight loss 
The list of effects of ecdysterone looks very promising. And especially from the point of view of athletes who participate in competitions. For them, every extra gram of muscle or a few percent improved recovery rate can bring about a great improvement in their discipline. However, these are anecdotal effects that are mainly based on personal experience and assumptions. Unfortunately, only some of them are based on scientific evidence, but that may yet change in the future due to the limited amount of studies dealing with ecdysterone so far. 
1. Can ecdysterone increase testosterone?
Optimal levels of testosterone in the body are important for overall male health. This hormone also affects the size and overall strength of both muscles and bones. In addition, it is involved in the proper functioning of male sex hormones and sexual health. Optimal testosterone levels are thus essential for athletic performance, maintaining vitality and a healthy body.
A number of athletes, most often from the ranks of bodybuilders and fitness competitors, seek to increase testosterone levels to the maximum. It promises them faster muscle growth and better performance. Ecdysterone resembles testosterone in its chemical structure, so the possibilities of using this substance in this regard are often discussed. In addition, it does not cause risky harmful side effects, as is the case with the application of synthetic testosterone, which is one of the most common doping substances. [4-6]
Unfortunately, the studies that have tested ecdysterone in this regard have not produced any dramatic results. This is because, according to scientific works, this substance is unable to bind to the testosterone receptor and thus affect its level or action. The good news, however, is that experts say ecdysterone can mimic the effects of testosterone in the body in some way. They just haven’t yet been able to describe the exact mechanism. This capability of ecdysterone is thus currently under investigation. [4-6]
This means that if you want to increase or maintain healthy testosterone levels in the body, it is better to turn to more proven supplements. [7-10]
Which substances can support healthy testosterone levels?
- Zinc is needed for the production of testosterone, but also to maintain normal blood levels, as well as other things.
- DAA or D-Aspartic Acid is an amino acid that plays an essential role in the very process of testosterone production in the body.
- Fenugreek contains steroidal saponins that are being studied for their promising potential to boost testosterone levels. In one study, a 12% increase in total testosterone levels over baseline values was observed. But in the case of this herb, more research is needed to confirm its effects.
- Tribulus Terrestris is an extract of St. John’s Wort, which also contains active saponins, mainly protodioscin. This makes it very popular and used to increase testosterone levels, libido and support reproductive functions.
- Ashwagandha is a herb that has been shown in a number of studies to have a positive effect on increasing testosterone levels. In two of them, among others, it was actually able to increase total testosterone levels by 15 – 40%.
- A complex supplement called AlfaMale Testobooster in capsule or powder form contains the already mentioned zinc, DAA, fenugreek, and even Beta Ecdysterone and other biologically active substances. Thus, it is an effective combination of substances that can help optimize testosterone levels.
If you are wondering what consequences testosterone deficiency can have on your health, read our article 10 Symptoms of Testosterone Deficiency – What Causes It and How to Address It?
You might be interested in these products:
2. Does ecdysterone really affect muscle growth and strength?
Ecdysterone has been used since the last century, especially among elite Russian and Soviet athletes, who sought to use it to promote muscle growth and strength capabilities. Having even bigger muscles without extra effort is still a dream of many bodybuilders, and also regular gym goers today. That is why they are increasingly adding ecdysteroids, led by ecdysterone and turkesterone, to their supplementation plans.
It is believed that this substance can increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS – Muscle Protein Synthesis). In doing so, the body repairs, rebuilds and builds muscle mass. 
The anabolic effects of ecdysterone have been confirmed in animal studies, but also in vitro (on a sample in the laboratory). With it, scientists observed an increase in the process of muscle mass formation by 20%. 
Is ecdysterone also behind spinach’s mythical superpowers?
In the course of researching the anabolic effects of Ecdysterone, it was even found that it may have something to do with the unearthly power of our childhood hero Popeye the Sailor. The spinach that was Popeye’s pick-me-up contains ecdysterone as well as iron. And it was this connection that scientists in Germany looked at in a study. 
- Participants were divided into four groups, not knowing which group they belonged to.
- Each group took different amounts of ecdysterone in the form of spinach extract, ecdysterone in combination with leucine, or a placebo.
- Of these, three groups were strength trained and one was without training.
- After ten weeks, the participants taking the highest dose of ecdysterone alone experienced the best results. Their muscle mass had increased by more than two kilograms on average, while the placebo group had surprisingly reduced muscle mass by an average of 0.35 kilos.
- The same group also ranked first in average improvement in the high jump and an increase in squats to the the maximum (by 19.4%).
According to the authors of the study, these results are evidence of the effect of ecdysterone on improving athletic performance and body composition. But before you run to the store for a big pack of spinach, it’s important to note that the scientists used a concentrated extract of this vegetable in the study. So to achieve similar effects, you would need to eat around 250 g to 4 kg of spinach a day, which is probably impossible even for spinach lovers. Concentrated dietary supplements can then help. 
Does ecdysterone have reliable anabolic effects?
The effect of ecdysterone on muscle growth was also investigated in a 2019 study, which yielded interesting results. Its participants were divided into three groups, with each group taking a different amount of ecdysterone.
- After ten weeks, the group taking the highest dose (800 mg) had gained two kilograms of muscle.
- In comparison, the group taking the lowest dose (200 mg) achieved a muscle growth of 1.6 kilograms.
- Participants receiving placebo experienced the smallest increase in muscle mass. 
But most experts are sceptical about the study. According to subsequent laboratory analysis, the ecdysteroid supplement contained only 6 mg of the active ingredient instead of 100 mg, which they say is not enough for such a large effect on muscle growth. Moreover, body composition was measured using bio-impedance, which is not accurate enough for scientific purposes. 
The two studies mentioned are among the few that have been conducted on humans. Other scientific work has examined the effects of ecdysterone mainly in mice or rats. So one cannot automatically expect the same results in humans. One cannot draw definite conclusions based on these results. At present, there is a deficit of good quality studies to prove or disprove the anabolic effect of ecdysterone.
If your goal is to grow muscle mass, it is still true that the basis is a well-designed training and supplementation plan, diet, adherence to the principle of progressive overload and sufficient rest. However, dietary supplements such as ecdysterone can also be part of a comprehensive approach, and although they are still awaiting definitive confirmation of their effects, they might still be quite effective.
If you’re wondering what you can do in terms of exercise and diet to grow more muscle, check out our article 10 Nutrition and Training Tips for Maximum Muscle Growth.
3. Adaptogenic effects of ecdysterone
Maral root, which is a rich source of ecdysterone, also belongs amongst the adaptogens. These substances are known for their positive effects on psychological resilience, stress management and overall human wellbeing. According to studies, the extract of this herb can also help reduce anxiety. [1, 15]
Ecdysterone may contribute to increased resistance to stress and better adaptation of the body to challenging conditions, according to studies conducted so far. It can help cope more easily with difficult life situations, stressful exams at school or new work challenges. Even in this case, however, we have to make do with the results of animal studies for the time being and wait for studies carried out on humans. 
If you are wondering which other plant substances belong amongst the adaptogens, read our article Adaptogens: Natural Substances that Help Manage Stress.
What is the recommended serving amount of ecdysterone?
- Ecdysterone is most commonly found in the form of a plant extract in capsules or tablets.
- It is recommended to take it in two servings. One in the morning after breakfast and the other after training or during the day, but never on an empty stomach.
- The recommended daily dose of Ecdysterone is most often in the range of 100 – 2000 mg per day. It is advisable to start with a smaller amount and increase it gradually. [17-18]
Is it necessary to cycle ecdysterone?
Ecdysterone is not classified as an androgen and thus should not cause suppression of the body’s natural testosterone production. This often happens when taking anabolic steroids. For this reason, it is not essential to discontinue its supplementation after some time. Still, most people include a four-week break in its use after 6 – 12 weeks. 
Does ecdysterone have side effects?
Ecdysterone is considered safe, unlike anabolic steroids. It does not bind to androgen receptors in the body, which is considered risky with these substances. Thanks to this, there are no risks of side effects at normal dosage. However, if it is not taken as instructed or if the substance is taken on an empty stomach, nausea or indigestion may be experienced. 
What should you remember?
Based on what it is currently known about ecdysterone, one can’t deny its potential impact on improving many factors of everyday and athletic life. On the other hand, there is not yet enough scientific evidence to definitively confirm its effects. However, it is a safe supplement at normal dosages, so anyone can see for themselves the effect of this substance if they wish. However, one should always follow the basic rules of training, diet and rest when achieving set goals such as muscle growth or optimizing testosterone levels. To this, you can then add ecdysterone supplements.
Do you have someone among your friends who are interested in the latest sports supplements? Share this article with them, thanks to which they will also learn interesting information about ecdysterone.
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