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Exercise & Sport: Boron, Insosine, Androstenedione, DHEA and Testosterone and Muscle Mass

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Can boron raise testosterone levels?

When boron supplements led to elevated levels of testosterone in post menopausal women, boron supplements became somewhat popular for weight trainers and bodybuilders, as it was believed that boron could increase testosterone levels. However, researchers have not been able to prove that boron supplementation increases testosterone levels, strength, and muscle mass in weight trainers. At this time, boron supplementation does not appear to be beneficial for weight-training athletes. 


Can DHEA and androstenedione enhance testosterone levels? 

DHEA and androstenedione are prohormone molecules. When the body makes sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogens, they are actually constructed during several chemical reactions beginning with cholesterol. In the gonads (ovaries for females and testes for males) cholesterol can be completely converted to testosterone and estrogens and released into the blood. Two molecules along the way to the sex hormones are DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) and androstenedione, with the former coming just prior to the latter (see Steroid Hormone Production Figure). Androstenedione is just one chemical reaction shy of testosterone which is one of the most significant factors that evokes muscle protein production and promotes growth.

In order for androstenedione and DHEA to raise testosterone levels they must be absorbed from the digestive tract, circulate, and be converted to testosterone by enzymes in organs such as the liver and testes. Interestingly, skeletal muscle lacks the enzymes needed to convert DHEA and androstenedione to testosterone. It should also be mentioned that both androstenedione and DHEA can be converted to estrogen molecules as well. To counter this, some supplement manufacturers recommend taking substances such as diadzein or chysin (flavonoids) in an attempt to block this undesirable conversion.

In general, researchers have failed to show that androstenedione and DHEA supplements do indeed increase testosterone levels in the blood when dosages mimicked manufacturer recommendations (100 milligrams of androstenedione and 25 to 50 milligrams of DHEA). However, when three times the recommended dosage was tested for androstenedione, testosterone levels did increase by 24 percent but estrogen levels also increased by 128 percent. Furthermore, one research study revealed that when men with more body fat were provided androstenedione supplements they were more efficient in converting androstenedione to estrogen than leaner men. This makes sense, as adipose tissue contains the enzymes necessary to convert androstenedione to estrogens.

Androstenedione and DHEA are considered nutrition supplements as they are naturally found in foods such as meats (muscle and organ). Recently the FDA demanded that supplement companies stop selling supplements with androstenedione because of health risks. It should be mentioned that both of these substances are among the list of so-called sport doping agents banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Football League (NFL) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).


Can inosine enhance strength and mass development? 

The molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) provides the energy that directly powers muscle contraction. Logic would have us believe that if we provide the building blocks of ATP in supplements, muscle cells would have more ATP available and exercise performance would be enhanced. Adenosine of ATP can be made from the molecule inosine. However, adenosine concentrations in the cells seem to be tightly controlled and supplemented inosine is not efficiently converted to adenosine. Also, it has been suggested that the processes necessary to break down the excessive inosine may generate free radicals. In addition, inosine is broken down to uric acid, which is involved in the formation of certain types of kidney stones and gout if not efficiently removed from the blood.


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