Building High-Performance Muscle™

Behind the Scenes
ZMA vs. Andro—Interview With Victor Conte


I'm totally committed to training! I admit it; I'm hooked—forever! Over the last 25 years, I bet I've spent close to 5,000 hours in the gym workin' hard. I've done just about everything in the name of "training science," too. It's a wonder I survived some of my escapades. I've pushed myself—in torrid exercise experiments—to the point of shock, clinical hypothermia, unconsciousness, dehydration, and hypoxia. I've had the "privilege" to nearly hit cardiac fibrillation!

All of these "fond" memories remind me of the time when I was doing heavy squats in my second-floor apartment (not the smartest thing I've ever done). I had 400 pounds on the bar and on my second rep I started losing my balance and began teetering forward. There I was, stuck...trying to pull myself back from the brink of disaster. The more I fought, the worse it got.

As unbelievable as it seems, I managed to strain—right before the crash—into a flexed "good morning" position with a 400-pound guillotine (bar) on my neck. My training partner, Tom, was quite animated over the event, excited even, kinda' like a kid watching the cops work a freeway pile-up. He didn't know whether to stop-n-stare or call 911. So he did the next-best thing...

Tom tried to hoist me off the ground with a "power" heimlich maneuver. Of course, his efforts weren't effective. And we—Tom, the 400 pounds, and me—went, like some massive cow orgy, head-over-heels down...crashing through the sub-floor, stopping just as the barbell plates creased the ceiling in the apartment below...

We all have lots of "great" memories from the training sessions we've been through, which shows—in some twisted way—the level of commitment we have toward building our "ideal" body. For some of us (including me), we'll do just about anything to add a couple more pounds of muscle. But as we all know, if you're not careful in your zest, you can screw things up and actually lose mass—a price that's just way too much to pay.

If you can prevent these setbacks (muscle/strength losses) from occurring, I believe it'd be the single most important factor in helping you reach your bodybuilding goals!

And if you want to continue "building," you have to get (and keep) the body in an anabolic state. Without this super-physiologic condition, you're goin' nowhere. Even though the ultimate anabolic weapon is modern, scientific strength training, strength training can only take you so far. The rest of the way must come from diet, rest and recovery, and anabolic aids.

A lot of bodybuilders have tried prohormones, hoping they've found a real, but legal, anabolic steroid that's safe. But stories are beginning to surface that indicate andro supplements are anything but effective and safe. Andro users, showing symptoms of elevated DHT, estrogen, and blunted endogenous testosterone, are fairly widespread. In fact, each week I receive several emails from readers who are experiencing severe to complete androgen shutdown (click here to read some of these emails). These guys are terrified!

Even most of the researchers involved with prohormones are now skeptical about their ergogenic benefits. And none of the ones I know will take any of the andro products. It's not because they believe that andro's too powerful—no, not at all! The muscular science "brains" I spoke with are convinced that it's impossible to create a super-physiologic anabolic state with prohormones. In fact, you get the exact opposite effect; you actually create a super-physiologic catabolic state!

One of my goals in BTS is to give you anabolic alternatives to prohormones that really work! It's not that I'm necessarily "anti-prohormone." It's just that none of us knows very much about their side effects. And based on the emails and research "leaks" I've been getting, I'd say that the andro products are doing more harm than good. The good news, though, is that there are alternatives out there.

Remember, "anabolic" refers to a metabolic state of increased protein synthesis. This simply means that you've increased the body's ability to incorporate protein into lean mass. You can do this in several ways, too. It's not just limited to steroids. In fact, the ergogenic dream for every bodybuilder is to find the ultimate anabolic compound that has zero androgenic activity.

Now, what I'm going to say next might sound like a self-serving, smarmy promotion for Tribex, but it's important and I'm gonna' say it. So please focus on the principles of my discussion and not the fact that we sell Tribex.

My objective in formulating Tribex-500 was to design an anabolic agent that wasn't based directly on androgens. From my experience with steroids, I knew that androgens could be effective, but you had to be smart about how you used them. In other words, if you don't know what you're doing with steroids or prohormones, you'll end up worse off than you were before you tried them. Furthermore, I knew that I could get my own testosterone levels (both free and total T) into the "high normal" range without the use of any androgens.

Taking nothing but Tribex, I've been able to get my testosterone levels to 1,016 ng/dl. Average for healthy strength athletes is about 450-550 ng/dl. And on very rare occasions, you'll see someone naturally going over 1,000 ng/dl. With Tribex, I've seen increases in testosterone range between 30% and 110%, with the average being around 70%. Of course, like all other drugs and supplements, there are a few individuals who won't find Tribex effective. But their numbers are few.

I'm convinced that by combining herbs, flavones, and other compounds, you can create a safe and very effective anabolic agent. In addition to Tribex-500, I believe there are probably several other powerful anabolic compounds that are actually "safe" to take. Now I'm not claiming that we can "mimic" the effects of Deca or Test, but I am saying that you can get a significant anabolic boost!

One such compound that I've written about in previous articles is ZMA. ZMA is a special blend of zinc and magnesium that has proven anabolic properties. It's amazing that just two common minerals, when "tweaked" a bit, can turn into ergogenic rockets. Victor Conte, the inventor of ZMA, has really done his homework, too. I've never seen this guy lose when it comes to debating the facts about minerals and their effects on human performance.

Recently, I spoke with Victor Conte about how ZMA would stack up against Andro, sorta' like the ""two men enter, one man leaves" scene from "Mad Max."

ZMA vs. Andro, which one will survive? Well, here's how the conversation went:


TP: Victor, the study that started all the hype about andro products showed that androstenedione and androstenediol appear to cause a "rapid spike" in testosterone levels, which seem to peak in 60 to 90 minutes. Is the testosterone elevation significant enough, or long enough, to cause an increase in protein synthesis?

VC:

TP: So, this study doesn't mean all that much to the strength athlete or bodybuilder, does it?

VC:

TP: I'm getting a lot of emails from readers who are showing side effects from taking andro supplements, like male-pattern baldness and gynocomastia. I know the science community is worried about the dangers as well. These symptoms are a direct result from increased DHT and/or estrogen. Is it because anything that increases testosterone increases levels of DHT and/or estrogen, or is it because some of the andros are being converted directly to these compounds?

VC:

TP: Let's take this to the extreme, just of for the sake of argument. If elevating testosterone levels produces undesirable effects, such as increased DHT or aromatization to estrogen, wouldn't intense exercise, which also raises testosterone levels, have potential adverse health effects?

VC:

TP: Okay, so how does ZMA compare to the popular andro supplements that are so widely used today?

VC:

TP: Did Dr. Brilla's study provide evidence that supplementation with ZMA improves athletic performance by increasing muscle mass, strength, and power, etc.?

VC:

TP: Are there additional studies which provide evidence that ZMA is effective?

VC:

TP: Victor, I know that your product actually raises testosterone levels, and that product—ZMA—is essentially a combination of zinc and magnesium. Are you implying that most people are deficient in these minerals?

VC:

TP: Don't we get plenty of zinc and magnesium in common food?

VC:

TP: We've mostly talked about the effects of increased testosterone, which as I understand it, comes from the zinc in ZMA. What are some of the benefits from the magnesium?

VC:

TP: Since ZMA is not an androgen, can or should women use it?

VC:

Similarly, women who received magnesium supplementation for 2 months reported a significant reduction in cluster "pain" and "mood changes" during their menstrual cycles.17

TP: Okay, we have a lot of teenage bodybuilders reading Testosterone, how about them?

VC:

TP: "Baby-Boom" males and "andropause" is getting a lot of attention. I know ZMA works well with young, big buffed studs, what about men over 40?

VC:

TP: You've sold me on zinc and magnesium, and I want to run out to GNC and get both minerals. Which brands do you recommend?

VC:

TP: Most athletes take a daily multiple vitamin/mineral supplement, don't we get the additional zinc and magnesium that we need from this source?

VC:

TP: So, now that you've convinced me that there's a reason to buy ZMA over the ordinary forms of zinc and magnesium, what's the price? I bet you're gonna' stick it to me, right?

VC:

TP: So as a summary, why don't you give a "point by point" comparison of the ZMA and "andro" research?

VC:


If you're not already taking ZMA, I highly recommend it. ZMA's one of those supplements that really works! And it's fairly inexpensive, too. So if you're interested and want to order some ZMA, give SNAC Systems (Victor Conte's company) a call at 800-697-2086. Victor offers a 100% money-back guarantee.

(If you live outside the US, call 650-697-2086).


If you've got something to say, or a question burning a hole in your mind, just
click here and send it our way. Good or bad, favorable or not, we'll publish the best right here in this column.
 

References

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3) Brilla LR, A novel zinc and magnesium formulation (ZMA) increases anabolic hormones and strength in athletes. Sport Med Train and Rehab (in press).
4) Tietz N, Clinical guide to laboratory tests, W.B. Saunders, (1995) page 579.
5) Brilla LR, Effect of magnesium supplementation on strength training in humans. J of the Amer Coll of Nutr (1992), Vol. 11, No. 3, 326-329.
6) Krothiewski, W, Zinc and muscle strength and endurance. Acta Physio Scand (1982), 116:309-311.
7) Mahajan SK, Effect of oral zinc therapy on gonadal function in hemodialysis patients. A double blind study. Ann Intern Med (1982), 97: 357-361.
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12) Holden JM, et al, "Zinc and Copper in Self-Selected Diets", J Am diet Assoc. 75.1 (1979):23-28.
13) Morgan KJ, et al, "Magnesium and Calcium Dietary Intakes of the US Population", J Am Coll Nutr 4.2 (1985): 195-206.
14) Golf SW, et al, Plasma aldosterone, cortisol and electrolyte concentrations in physical exercise after magnesium supplementation. Clin Chem Clin Biochem, 1984, Vol. 22, pp. 717-721.
15) Kleiner SM, et al, Nutritional status of nationally ranked elite bodybuilders. Int J Sport Nutr (1994) Mar, 4:1, 54-69.
16) Abraham GE, et al, Serum and red cell magnesium levels in patients with premenstrual tension. Am J Clin Nutr (1981) Nov, 34:11, 2364-6.
17) Facchinetti F, et al, Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes. Obstet Gynecol (1991) Aug, 78 (2):177-81.
18) Castillo Duran C, et al, Zinc supplementation increases growth velocity of male children and adolescents with short stature. Acta Paediatr (1994) Aug, 83:8, 833-7.
19) Parsad AS, et al, Zinc status and serum testosterone levels in healthy adults. Nutrition (1996) Vol. 12, No. 5, pp. 344-348.
20) Prasad AS, et al, Zinc deficiency in elderly patients. Nutrition (1993) 9:218.
21) Vermeulen A, Androgens in the aging male. J Clin Endrocrinol Metab (1991) 73:221.
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23) Weight L, et al, Am J Clin Nutr (1988) Feb 47: 186-91

 

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