Ecdysterone and Turkesterone Supplements for Muscle Building: Worthy or Worthless?
Ecdysteroid supplements, notably turkesterone and ecdysterone (20-hydroxyecdysone), are burgeoning as of late, especially within bodybuilding subculture. The putative anabolic steroid-like effects of ecdysterone and turkesterone supplements are intriguing for gym-goers and athletes who want to pack on muscle mass and improve body composition (without the health risks of taking anabolic-androgenic steroids).
Researchers have made considerable progress on ecdysteroids and phytoecdysteroids over the past four decades, but many questions remain about the performance-enhancing effects of turkesterone and ecdysterone in humans . Before jumping on the ecdysterone or turkesterone bandwagon, let's see what science has to say about some of the popular ecdysteroid supplement claims.
What Are Ecdysteroids?
Ecdysteroids are anabolic steroids produced by arthropods (insects), non-arthropod invertebrates, and various plant species, namely Ajuga turkestanica. Many natural and synthetic ecdysteroids exist, but the biological effects of 20-hydroxyecdysone (ecdysterone) and its close relative turkesterone seem especially relevant.
Due to the occurrence of phytoecdysteroids in plant foods, notably quinoa, chestnut, and spinach, many mammals, including humans, consume nominal amounts of ecdysterone and turkesterone as part of the diet. Researchers assert that the longstanding presence of ecdysteroids in the diet evidences the safety of these compounds .
In arthropods and non-arthropod invertebrates, ecdysteroids prompt molting and growth by binding to the ecdysone receptor (not found in vertebrates), much like testosterone promotes tissue growth in human males and females . More simply, ecdysteroids have anabolic effects in insects, plants, and ostensibly mammals. This fact led to the theory that ecdysterone and turkesterone bolster protein synthesis and, by extension, muscle growth in humans.
Importantly, ecdysteroids circumvent liver toxicity and the associated safety issues of synthetic anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) since they are unmethylated and polyhydroxylated (unlike typical anabolic steroids) . They also don't interfere with normal endocrine function in humans. Hence, ecdysteroids may obviate the need for orally-active AAS when treating age-related muscle wasting (sarcopenia) and other degenerative conditions.
Do Ecdysteroid Supplements Help Build Muscle Mass?
The muscle-building mechanism of action of ecdysterone and turkesterone in higher mammals remains elusive . Recently, studies have uncovered plausible pathways involving the estrogen receptor linked to the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) .
A handful of studies from the mid-to-late 1900s and early 2000s suggest that ecdysteroids enhance protein synthesis, increase strength, and reduce body fat in mice [7, 8]. More recent evidence suggests the anabolic effect of ecdysteroids occurs in human muscle tissue .
Interestingly, the anabolic effect of ecdysteroids isn't mediated by the same androgen-receptor-dependent pathway as testosterone and other AAS . Therefore, ecdysteroid hormones confer no androgenic activity and won't produce the same side effects as performance-enhancing androgens.
So, how do ecdysteroids promote protein synthesis and increase muscle mass in humans? The current hypothesis is that ecdysterone (20-hydroxyecdysone) and its structural analogs (e.g. turkesterone) are non-peptidic activators of the Mas1 receptor, a component of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) . The Mas1 receptor is linked to estrogen receptor beta, increasing protein synthesis and reducing myostatin [12, 13, 14].
The physiology of the RAS is convoluted since its activity has also been shown to increase muscle wasting . However, research findings indicate that ecdysteroids specifically activate the "protective arm" of the RAS . Such evidence could explain why ecdysteroids have seemingly extensive therapeutic properties, including:
- Alleviating stress (adaptogenic)
- Enhancing insulin sensitivity
- Healing musculoskeletal damage
- Promoting lean muscle building
- Supporting immune function
- Protecting the liver and heart
It's also worth noting that ecdysterone treatment has been shown to reduce estradiol and stress hormone (e.g. cortisol) levels in animals .
The human data on ecdysterone and turkesterone supplements is encouraging, albeit derived almost entirely from in vitro models (e.g. myotube cultures). Only three clinical trials investigating ecdysterone are available as of early 2022, and turkesterone lacks published clinical research.
Does Ecdysterone Increase Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1)?
A handful of in vitro studies from a recent research review indicate that ecdysterone, and likely turkesterone, reduces myostatin gene expression, thereby increasing circulating levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) .
Myostatin is a peptide hormone secreted by the brain that serves as a negative feedback signal for growth hormone production. Thus, inhibiting myostatin stimulates growth hormone production, subsequently elevating IGF-1 levels.
Though growth hormone is not intrinsically anabolic, IGF-1 is well-known to increase protein synthesis . Alas, the presumed myostatin-inhibiting effect of ecdysterone is based on cell culture studies from several decades ago. Hopefully, future research will confirm if ecdysteroid supplements are potent myostatin inhibitors in humans.
Ecdysterone and Turkesterone Supplementation: What to Watch For
Any supplement that can mimic the effects of anabolic steroids like testosterone is inherently alluring to gym-goers and athletes. Naturally, more people are turning to ecdyterone and turkesterone for help building muscle mass and increasing strength.
But there's a catch when it comes to ecdysteroid supplements: They are often poorly made. A recent analysis of ecdysterone supplements discovered that they consistently failed to meet label claims for potency; some contained 99.7% less ecdysterone than the label claim .
Thankfully, Jacked Factory's upcoming TruTurk™ formula is changing the ecdysteroid supplement game with an emphasis on quality and accountability. Unlike many of the bunk turkesterone products on the market, we searched rigorously to find authentic turkesterone that actually meets the label claim for potency and purity. Keep an eye on the JF website and social media pages for further announcements!