- What are ecdysteroids?
- Do they actually build muscle? Are there any other benefits to taking them?
- Do they have the same bad effects as anabolic steroids?
- Are they banned in sports?
- Where do I get them? (Food sources, amount needed for anabolic effect)
- BONUS: Spinach and Quinoa salad recipe
What if I told you that I knew of a supplement that could build more muscle than anabolic steroids? You’d call me crazy, right? Or at least you’d be skeptical.
But what if I told you that it’s not even a banned substance, and you don’t have to buy it from some sketchy guy at the gym or from some sketchy website you saw on reddit.
What if I told you that this incredible substance could also help you stay slim, strengthen your bones, help repair cartilage in your joints, make you live longer, and also keep your skin looking young.
I SINCERELY hope you’d be running out the door if I told you all of that.
Strangely, though – it may all be true....
The stuff I’m talking about is a class of substances called “Ecdysteroids.” They were first discovered as a hormone in insects that promotes molting (or the shedding of their exoskeletons). But as time has gone on, scientists have discovered many other sources of ecdysteroids, along with some of their amazing properties. It turns out that many plants have high ecdysteroid contents, too, which seem to help protect them from getting eaten by bugs.
But in mammals, this stuff seems to hold a huge amount of potential for building muscle, keeping you young, and improving insulin resistance.
And here I’m going to do the responsible thing, and mention that further studies need to be done in order to confirm the results we’ve seen in animal studies.
Examine.com - one of the most trusted and reliable sources for supplement information, suggests the same. Ecdysteroids SEEM to have an incredible potential, but all the details haven’t been exactly worked out yet. In their summary they state,
“They have some biological effects in mammals when orally ingested, and have been called by some researchers as "behaving similar to anabolic steroids putatively without the androgenic effect" Due to the lack of androgenicity, their safety profiles are much greater than anabolic androgenic steroids
Additionally, they seem to have a wide variety of side-effects that are deemed as healthy. Ecdysteroids can lower cholesterol and blood glucose, are seen as healthy for the liver and intestines by increasing protein synthesis rates, and may have protective effects on neural tissue.
A lack of trials are currently available for humans, but promising evidence is available for in vitro studies on human muscle fibers as well as a multitude of animal models showing enhanced growth rates with ecdysteroid ingestion.”
So even according to the notoriously hard-to-convince editors at Examine.com, this stuff has some serious potential. And to address that dirty word you keep reading – yes, ecdysteroids ARE steroids. But this is really important – ecdysteroids ARE NOT THE SAME as anabolic (androgenic) steroids. They work on a different pathway, which means that there are no androgenic effects (aka none of the side effects of anabolic steroid use). So ingesting them won’t suppress your testosterone levels, or mess with your estrogen, or anything like that. They appear to have no side effects and no real toxicity issues, either (although as mentioned, many more studies need to be done to confirm this).
In fact, ecdysteroids seem to have so much promise that several published studies on them recommend they be added to the banned substances list for the World Anti-Doping Agency under “other anabolic substances.” However, to date, they have NOT been added to the anti-doping list which means you can ingest them free and clear.
“The most recent study in humans, published in July of 2019, showed that at doses of 12mg and 48mg per day for 10 weeks, subjects gained 3-4lb of muscle mass and increased their bench press by about 20lb.”
How do you ingest them, you ask? Well, that’s the reason you’ve been reading about this subject on a meal prep blog. Because ecdysteroids are found in many foods! Two foods with the highest ecdysteroid content are spinach and quinoa. It’s a long and dark road diving into the research to find out how much quinoa you need to eat to get a dosage of ecdysteroids that will provide a noticeable benefit, but I have been down that road, and I have returned with the scepter of knowledge. In one of the best studies to date, Kumpun et al found that eating 50g of quinoa seeds would provide at least 15mg of ecdysteroids.
Ecdysteroid content of various foods and roots is listed below:
While the exact dosage needed to elicit beneficial effects hasn’t yet been fully figured out, I’ve seen doses ranging from 20mg up to 400mg. In most studies, anabolic effects are seen with doses of around 5mg/kg of bodyweight, or about 350mg for a 154lb person. To be clear, there may still be other benefits at lower doses. Some animal studies have shown increases in bone strength at doses as low as 4mg per day. The most recent study in humans, published in July of 2019, showed that at doses of 12mg and 48mg per day for 10 weeks, subjects gained 3-4lb of muscle mass and increased their bench press by about 20lb.
Practically speaking, that means that if you eat 1 cup of quinoa and 100 grams of spinach per day, you’ll likely ingest close to the same 48mg of ecdysteroids as the subjects in the study. Now, obviously you’ll have to include training to see those benefits, but my guess is if you’re paying this much attention to your food, you’re probably already training.
So there you have it – Eat spinach and quinoa every day and you’ll likely be stronger than if you didn’t eat them. And yes, this does mean that Popeye the Sailor had it right – eat your spinach and your muscles will grow.
But so could your bones, and your insulin sensitivity, and a host of other health benefits.
One more thing – like any food that has the potential to make you stronger or healthier, LOTS of people will start making supplements containing these substances. But analyses have shown that ecdysteroid supplements often contain significantly less than what the labels claim, and often include other fillers or ingredients.
Sometimes the simplest answer is actually the best one. In this case, just eat your quinoa and spinach!
And remember: use your powers for good!
Bonus Recipe: Spinach & Quinoa Salad with Feta & Dill
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, RINSED (see Step 1)
- Sea salt
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced or 1 garlic clove, minced
- 6 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (3 ounces)
- ½ cup chopped fresh dill
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint (optional)
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 ounces feta, preferably made from goat or sheep’s milk
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Rinse quinoa in a bowl with water or place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Drain and transfer to a medium saucepan with a pinch of sea salt and 1 ¾ cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let sit, covered for 10 minutes. Quinoa can remain in the pot until ready to combine with other salad ingredients or transfer to a serving bowl and fluff with a fork. Allow quinoa to cool slightly.
- To the quinoa add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. * Or you can place the spinach on a serving platter and toss with 1 Tablespoon of the lemon juice and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Combine quinoa with remaining ingredients and mound on top of the spinach leaves. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Notes: Other additions can include Kalamata olives, halved cherry tomatoes, diced cucumbers, and/or fresh corn kernels.
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