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What Are The Side Effects of Taking Prohormones?

Like it or not, performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) are being used every day and not just by bodybuilders or pro athletes. Although opinions differ on whether PED’s are considered cheating, they always bring forth a myriad of side effects and risks. PED’s include steroids, prohormones, blood-doping, and more. Of these, you might think that steroids present the most threat to your health, but I’m going to tell you why prohormones are actually far worse and could in fact be considered the biggest danger to the fitness community.

The Dangers of Taking Prohormones

✗ Prohormones, unlike steroids, are not always illegal

Any fourteen-year-old kid could go to his local supplement shop and get persuaded or peer pressured into buying prohormones, whilst lacking the required knowledge to understand the dangers that comer with improper use. People think because they are legal that they’re safe. This is a dangerous way to think about them.

✗ Steroids are often approached and used with extreme caution. Prohormones are not

Prohormone users often rush into a cycle without the proper education, liver support, or post cycle therapy. This lack of preparation leads to severe consequences, both in the short and long-term, and can even lead to losing all the progress you sacrificed your health, money, and time for.

✗ Nobody REALLY knows what goes into prohormones

Prohormones are constantly getting banned. What companies will do to combat this is to tweak a few molecules here and there, tip toeing around the bans. Eventually prohormone names become so complicated that no one could actually tell you what it is.

For example, 2a,3a-epithio-17a-methyl-etioallocholan-17b-ol is the name for the now banned prohormone epistane on labels. I highly doubt your average supplement salesman will be able to tell you what you really need to know. Another danger associated with changing the prohormone every two to three years is that they are not tested long-term, or even short-term, for safety and practicality. People who buy prohormones are usually putting things in their body that have received almost no research, even from trusted sellers.

✗ Permanent Liver Damage

Prohormones are extremely liver toxic. Without proper liver support and conscious nutritional decisions, the liver will sustain damage. Furthermore, alcohol consumption while on prohormones can overwork the liver beyond its limits, putting your health and well-being at serious risk.

side effects of prohormones

What Are Prohormones?

Prohormones are chemicals, consumed orally, that are converted to hormones that become or help anabolic steroids once ingested into the body. Essentially, prohormones are just steroids sold under a different name to be legal. For example, 1,4-OHP – 17beta-{1-Ketoethyl}-androsta-1, 4-diene-3-one, 17a-ol – 1,4 OHP is a precursor to the anabolic steroid equipoise. Equipoise is illegal, while this prohormone version is legal because it isn’t the direct hormone, but rather converts into it after consumption.

Prohormones, similar to steroids, allow you to recover faster, utilize increased levels of hormones that promote muscle gain, and promote fat loss, but also come with all of the side effects.

What Are The Side Effects of Taking Prohormones?

Taking prohormones can cause hair loss, acne, cardiovascular disease, a loss of testosterone, loss of sex drive, mood swings, headaches, dizziness and gynecomastia.

Prohormones are easily obtained, easy to take, and fairly cheap, so many athletes committing to performance enhancing drugs tend to opt for prohormones.

Common name examples of some prohormones include:

☐ Epistane

☐ Androdrol

☐ Dianavar

☐ Winabol

☐ Helladrol

Anabolic Steroids vs. Prohormones

First off, what do I mean by anabolic steroids? Anabolic steroids are what people typically think of when picturing performance enhancing drugs: injectable doses that directly influence or introduce hormones, typically mimicking or boosting testosterone.

There are some notable differences.One major difference between steroids and prohormones is that prohormones are consumed orally. Why is this important?

Injectable steroids bypass many of your organs and take effect by different mechanisms. Prohormones, on the other hand, put serious stress on your organs during the digestion cycle and can cause severe damage. The reason this organ damage, mostly liver, occurs is that prohormones are almost always methylated for prohormones to work effectively. The hepatic first pass of the liver metabolizes drugs ingested orally and highly limits their effectiveness (Thummel 1997).

Without the alkylation process (methylation), the liver greatly reduces the prohormone concentration and breaks down its basic structure. What methylation does is replace a hydrogen atom with a carbon atom, often added with a methyl group, making the drug resistant to liver breakdown and keep its potency. Unfortunately, this process of altering the drug through alkylation can often increases estrogen related side effects due to a more potent form of estrogen. The main issue, however, is that this process is very toxic to the liver and extremely dangerous if not monitored.

Prohormones are precursors to hormones which are converted into anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids enhance or introduce the anabolic hormones themselves. Put simply, steroids already exist in the body, while prohormones become them.


Both prohormones and anabolic steroids claim to increase size and strength or promote fat loss. Additionally, both are performance enhancing drugs that come with similar side effects, manipulate hormones, and are cycled.

Pros & Cons:

✓ Pros

☐ Rapid muscle gain

☐ Quick fat loss

☐ Easy to take, you can just pop a few pills throughout the day.

☐ Legal – many prohormones have been banned and are actually currently illegal, but many others are legal and available at stores and online.

☐ Cheap – the prohormones themselves typically don’t cost too much. The expensive part is the accompanying hidden costs necessary to prevent some side effects.

✗ Cons

☐ Gynecomastia, acne, organ damage and disease, increased blood pressure, hair loss, inability to produce testosterone later in life, mood swings, lack of sex drive, and more.

☐ Hidden costs

☐ Liver support, post cycle therapy, estrogen blocker

☐ Lack of research into the short term and long term effects on your body

This leads to major problems because effectiveness isn’t tested, nor are the potential short-term and long-term side effects.

side effects of prohormones

Why is Taking Prohormones a Big Deal?

The majority of prohormone users are youth, concluded Kyle Magdziak (Magdziak 18). This is a massive problem! As members of the fitness community, we are uninformed and manipulated to buy these magic supplements, but by buying prohormones we don’t truly know what we’re getting ourselves into. While, prohormones used properly, build muscle and lose fat like magic, they are often untested, dangerous, and difficult to obtain accurate information on.

Do not take prohormones if:

☐ You are under 21 years of age

☐ Do not have 4-5 years experience of working out properly

That being said, I still would not recommend prohormones to older, more experienced people either. Anybody can justify the decision to hop on a cycle of prohormones, but in the long-term is it really worth it?

Take Home Message

Fitness isn’t all about the end goals. It is about health, vitality, and the virtues developed along the journey. And whether you think prohormones are cheating or not, they are extremely dangerous. They are risky, abused by the youth, hazardous to your health, underestimated, and information about them is not well distributed. Let’s just take this opportunity to remind ourselves of the negative side effects of taking prohormones:


Cardiovascular disease

Loss of testosterone

Loss of sex drive

Mood swings




Prohormones have become the biggest danger to the fitness community. Train hard. Eat well. And above all be smart. You never know if that magic supplement you just dropped your whole paycheck on might be the very thing hurting you the most.

Thummel, Kenneth E., Kent L. Kunze, and Danny D. Shen. “Enzyme-catalyzed Processes of First-pass     Hepatic and Intestinal Drug Extraction.” Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 27.2-3 (15 September         1997): 99-127. ScienceDirect. ELSEVIER, 11 Mar. 1999. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

Magdziak, Kyle & Osman, Niara & Tvaroha, Alex & Ding, James & Fagan, Julie M.. Pro-Hormones and      Body Image: How Much is Too Much?” Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2011. Web     19 Nov. 2016.

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Matt Watson

Matt Watson

Writer and expert

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