Intelligent Drug and Supplement Info
by Cy Willson
Baseball and BALCO
Q: Concerning the recent steroid outings in baseball, any idea what the "clear" and the "cream" actually are? (I'm guessing not flax seed oil.) How effective were they anyway?
A: From what's been reported, the "clear" was ingested while the "cream" was rubbed into the skin. The "clear" is likely THG since it's C-17 alpha-alkylated. The cream? Its difficult to say unless you were one of the people on the inside.
|Bonds admits to using the "clear" and the "cream," but said he didn't know they were steroids.|
Id suspect that whatever was in the transdermal preparation, it was something naturally occurring in the human body (e.g., Testosterone, DHT), but theres really no way for me to know for certain. Its even difficult to make a somewhat accurate guess as I'd have to know just how knowledgeable the person or persons involved were. For all we know, its possible they didnt understand that THG was orally bioavailable and decided to use two forms of administration (barring parenteral).
Or, they could've been rather knowledgeable and realized that using 5-10 mg/day of a transdermal Testosterone preparation wasnt likely to cause a T/E ration that would exceed the 6:1 limit. As many of you know, the general media usually provides drastically distorted and oftentimes false information when it comes to these topics, so its really hard to predict exactly what they were using.
As far as how effective these substances were, again impossible to say, but if we were to assume that it was indeed THG and perhaps Testosterone, results would be rather decent. As I went over in a previous column, it would appear thus far that THG is a very potent androgen. In that case, it would actually make some sense that they were using a small amount of exogenous Testosterone via transdermal administration in order to act as replacement for suppressed endogenous T production caused by the very potent androgen agonist, THG.
Again, we're trying to "think" like the accused when we have no idea how smart and knowledgeable they were other than what the press has reported. Again though, that practice does seem to make sense and its commonly what youll see people do when using androgens with similar pharmacological properties. For example, people will often use small amounts of exogenous Testosterone when using nandrolone and trenbolone in order to prevent a reduction in libido, decline in positive mood, etc. Thats fitting with THG as well as its been shown to have progestogenic activity. (1)
Maybe one day we'll have all the info and can look deeper into this subject.
They're putting what in protein powder?
Q: I got a sample of a new protein supplement that contains "spray dried plasma (bovine)." Um, what the hell is that?
A: Its spray-dried plasma from cow's blood. Really. Essentially, they take the blood of a cow, remove platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells, etc., and are left with water and most everything else thats dissolved in it like certain growth factors (peptides), electrolytes, albumin and enzymes.
Anyone whos ever been broke while in school is probably familiar with the process of selling their plasma for money. Well, think of this as the same thing except these are cows that are slaughtered and then the blood is drained in a rather precise manner.
Also, anyone whos ever worked in a biotechnology or even biochemistry lab will probably be familiar with at least some products derived from bovine plasma or perhaps bovine serum albumin. I can still remember the smell of the latter. Its the same smell Ive come across at a packing plant for beef, and the same smell you'll encounter if you smell a bloody beef pattie.
My point of telling you that is because I'd tried one of these products back when visiting a friend of mine in California. When I smelled the product, it seemed as though they did a good job at masking it, so I figured that perhaps it would taste fine. Wrong! It had the most disgusting aftertaste you can imagine.
Now, as far as the claims being made that this plasma has great anabolic effects in humans, think again. Its highly unlikely that the growth factors contained within these products ever make it into systemic circulation before being destroyed in the GI tract. For example, IGF-1 isn't orally bioavailable to any appreciable extent.
Of interesting note, however, is the fact that in the only study I found which contradicted those findings, it was noted that IGF-1 could significantly increase the risk for cancer of the GI. In other words, even though Im certain IGF-1 doesnt make it in to systemic circulation to any significant extent after oral administration (based upon both data and taught principles), even if it did, that route of administration isnt something youd want to take.
So, in summary, what you have with spray dried plasma products is a horribly tasting whey protein supplement thats no more effective than the next brand. (2-3)
Baseball Player Wants a New Drug
Q: I'm a minor league baseball player hoping to go pro. I've done a couple cycles of steroids in the past, but with all the shit going on now in MLB, my cycling days are probably over. What can I take to keep an edge without failing a drug test?
A: Id recommend using something that'll stimulate endogenous (natural) Testosterone production. Although Im obviously biased, Id recommend using Alpha Male.
You cant expect to have the same type of strength gains as you would if using large amounts of exogenous Testosterone (or other androgens), but the advantage here is that Alpha Male can be used for prolonged periods of time and, of course, it wont cause you to fail a urinalysis.
Theres another product on the horizon that will definitely fit the bill, too, once Biotest releases it. For starters, it too can increase endogenous Testosterone production. It can also allow you to increase lean body mass while concurrently decreasing fat mass and has, anecdotally, demonstrated some pretty impressive increases in strength. Best of all, its actually good for you in many respects and can be used for long periods of time without a break of any sort.
In short, if I were forced to pick one compound which compares to the effects of some of the more "mild" anabolic steroids (yet isnt a steroid). Id sit tight for a few weeks until Biotest releases this new product. Im not saying its going to compare to using outrageous amounts of trenbolone combined with methandrostenolone and stanozolol, but its certainly comparable to something like oxandrolone.
Site Injections for Powerlifters?
Q: I know that injecting short-acting steroids like test propionate directly into the muscle will greatly enhance site protein synthesis and recovery, but what will it do for strength? I'm a powerlifter and I was thinking of using site injections in my triceps for more bench press strength. Will that work?
A: I wouldnt be so quick to assume your first hypothesis is correct. Ive yet to see any conclusive data which demonstrates that site injections allow for localized hypertrophy of skeletal muscle, or as youve stated, that protein synthesis in the area of injection is significantly greater than any other portions of muscle throughout the body which are exposed systemically to the given androgen.
Now, as far as increasing strength, Im no muscle physiologist, but I'd tend to think that this too is unlikely. First, Id be curious as to how consistently injecting into the triceps (or any muscle) would affect the structural integrity of muscle tissue over time and how any potential scar tissue would affect performance. Those are things I dont readily know, so Id have to defer to someone in that field.
That aside, youre then left with the question of exactly how many mechanisms are involved in terms of androgens and their effects upon strength levels. Its logical to assume there's more than one mechanism involved. One quick assumption would be that the CNS is heavily involved, in which case systemic circulation of the given androgen is of importance and a localized injection would have little implication.
Now, in terms of other effects, lets say upon neurotransmitter levels, receptor content, degradation rate, etc., its also likely that androgens have an effect upon certain aspects, again, resulting in an enhancement of neuromuscular transmission. Would a localized injection have an effect upon these? Yes. Would it be any greater than that seen if the drug had reached the tissue via systemic circulation after being injected at another site? I would tend to think not.
Now, would the strength increase occur any quicker in that area? That would be my question. Id tend to think that's possible, but whether it could be confirmed or what significance that has is up for debate.
'Roid Rage: Myth or Reality?
Q: I recently saw a study showing that supraphysiological doses of Testosterone didn't lead to angry outbursts or so-called "roid rage." However, I know bodybuilders who swear they feel more aggressive and short tempered when "on." What's the real scoop?
A: A clear and direct establishment between Testosterone levels and aggression (in humans) has yet to be conclusively demonstrated. However, if you ask most people and even many psychologists and endocrinologists who havent done any direct research on the subject, theyll likely tell you that Testosterone is responsible for aggressive behavior in humans.
Now, what Im not going to do is deny that androgens more than likely do indirectly affect behavior whether it be via monoamine metabolism or some other pathway. On the other hand, I definitely think that psychological and genetic predispositions play a much larger role. In other words, if youre not prone to such behavior in the first place, administering exogenous Testosterone isnt going to lead to some psychotic episode.
So what's causing some of these people using androgens other than Testosterone to experience these "episodes?" Again, Id say its the same situation, with perhaps pharmacological factors playing a slightly larger role than with Test. So, this goes back to psychological factors. Just as a simple test, survey 10 or 20 people at random and ask them what they associate Testosterone with. I can promise you nearly everyone will mention "aggression" or some synonym thereof as one of their first comments. Even your grandma has heard of "'roid rage." Its no surprise that Hollywood has also allowed this thinking to permeate various films such as The Program and many others.
What's my point? If someone truly believes that some sort of compound is going to increase aggressive behavior, then in many cases they're going to become more aggressive. Ive met fitness models and bodybuilders whove appeared in various magazines, athletes (NCAA and NFL) as well as everyday people, and Ive yet to come across one single incident where the person had an episode of 'roid rage. In fact, theyre some of the most laid back people youll ever meet. And these are people that aren't, by any means, using small amounts of androgens.
On the other hand, Ive met literally two people in my life who supposedly had such an episode. Want to know what they had in common? Both knew nothing about weight training, nutrition or androgens. Both had actually only lifted for four months. Both relayed to me that they had used Winstrol (stanozolol) and that one punched holes in his wall and the other threatened his girlfriend with a fork. Also, these guys were 18 when this happened and were relaying this story to me several years later.
I asked both if they were aware of "roid rage" prior to using the stanozolol and both were very familiar with it. Now, for those of you who dont know, stanozolol isn't something known for any type of behavioral affect, but these guys didnt know that. They simply behaved the way they thought they were supposed to behave when on steroids. In most cases (but certainly not all) its a placebo effect slightly reinforced with a small and indirect effect upon behavior via the androgen at hand.
Ive always known that the placebo effect could play a large role, but it wasnt until a psychologist friend of mine shared some of her findings with me that I realized the full extent. In short, she'd shown that in experiments (blinded and placebo controlled) where mood or cognition are measured, people are always going to try and guess which group they were in. She essentially gave two placebos to two groups of subjects and measured cognitive function.
What was found? A group emerged that demonstrated that the inert compound used produced a statistically significant effect upon cognition. Why? Well, the subjects were informed prior to the study that one group would be taking a compound which could potentially increase cognitive function.
This demonstrates just how powerful suggestion and the placebo effect can be, especially when it comes to mood and cognition more so than something that can be looked at physically, although that too is susceptible in many cases.
Finally, its important to note that those with Testosterone levels below the normal range are actually more prone to mood disorders/depression. My final answer is that yes, certain anabolic steroids may contribute to a slight behavioral change, but is it enough to send a normal human into a state of rage? No. Can it be enough to affect someone whos already mentally ill or highly predisposed to such behavior? Yes. (4-9)
Q: Cy, is this agmatine stuff any good? It's some kind metabolite of arginine and I read it might be coming to the supplement market.
A: I can't say if its good or bad, simply because I dont think you can really say any biomolecules are "good" or "bad." I dont know whos planning on bringing it to the supplement market, but it doesn't sound like a great idea.
Thus far, it seems many authors are ready to classify agmatine as a neurotransmitter. Upon a review of the literature, its easy to point out that this molecule does in fact have a diverse range of effects both in the central nervous system and the endocrine system. Although it appears this compound is probably somewhat orally bioavailable, its probably not the best idea to begin supplementing with it when we really dont know that much about it, other than it appears to be a diverse neurotransmitter.
Agmatine has been shown to have activity at certain serotonin receptor subtypes (e.g. 5-HT2A agonist), nicotinic-cholinergic receptors, imidazoline receptors and may behave as an alpha 2-adrenergic agonist. It was also shown to inhibit release of catecholamines from the adrenal medulla.
There have been several propositions made about what roles the molecule has in the body. Quite a number of authors think it may serve (in part) as an endogenous anti-stress factor so to speak, as plasma and brain concentrations tend to increase in response to stress in animal models at least. Findings of an antidepressant and anxiolytic effect as well as the individual effects noted above tend to support that hypothesis.
However, until we know more, I wouldn't supplement with it. If you want a shot at increasing agmatine levels, try taking more substrate (l-arginine). If you ask me, this makes much more sense, as its the same principle behind taking more tyrosine to increase dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine.
Its unfortunate that some people think that just because something is a metabolite of something like an amino acid that we should begin trying to supplement with it. Again, if thats the case, lets start injecting dopamine and epinephrine! (Kidding, kidding.) (10-13)
Is Buffered Creatine Any Good?
Q: Is it worth paying the extra money for buffered creatine products? There's a lot of hype out there about these.
A: I dont believe so. The basic idea is that you use the effervescent formulation in order to use the buffer created to resist degradation to creatinine while in the acidic environment of the stomach. It's also supposed to speed the transit of the creatine from the stomach to the small intestine, again, reducing the amount of time the creatine is exposed to an acidic environment, and thus reducing the degradation to creatinine.
In short, this, along with potentially enhanced solubility in solution, would all be expected to significantly increase absorption and overall bioavailability. Unfortunately for the companies which make them, these products weren't shown to increase absorption/bioavailability in an in vitro assay commonly used. Obviously, this study tends not to be mentioned by these companies!
Ive also yet to see any actual data which compared tissue saturation between the buffered product and a regular product. Aside from this, anecdotally, Ive yet to see anyone actually experience any greater gains than they normally would from creatine monohydrate.
Do you really want to increase the dissolution rate and maximize your creatine monohydrate use while decreasing the amount of GI upset? Then do what I do and utilize two basic, cheap steps:
1) Purchase micronized creatine monohydrate and dissolve five grams into water warm enough to dissolve all five grams.
2) Heat it to the general temperature that youd use with hot coffee or tea.
In fact, thats how I drink mine in the morning. I heat a glass of water, add five grams of micronized creatine monohydrate, stir until its dissolved, and then add two capsules of green tea extract and two packets of sucralose. Afterwards, I do what's referred to in the scientific community as "drinking it." (14)
I want to add, though, that both John Berardi and Tim Patterson maintain that "even creatine non-responders" derive great benefit from mixing micronized creatine powder into Surge. I havent tried it, but it makes sense.
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