Illustration of a bodybuilder using turkesterone to build muscle.

Does Turkesterone Work? (Explaining the Scam)

Is turkesterone a good supplement for building muscle? It’s been promoted everywhere lately—Joe Rogan, More Plates More Dates, Greg Doucette, and Vitruvian Physique have all discussed its benefits. The idea is that it can boost testosterone production, allowing us to build muscle faster and more leanly. But is there any good evidence to back those claims up? And if so, what kinds of results can you expect?

Our specialty is helping skinny guys bulk up. Cutting-edge supplements are a bit outside of our wheelhouse. That’s why we spoke with Eric Trexler, Ph.D. He’s got a doctorate degree in sports science, has published over 30 strength and hypertrophy studies, and professionally reviews research for Monthly Applications in Strength Sport (MASS). This is exactly his area of expertise. We also have a few studies to review. And then there’s the official position of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN).

So, does turkesterone live up to the hype? Can it help you build muscle?

Is turkesterone a good muscle-building supplement? Or is it a scam?

What is Turkesterone?

Turkesterone is a phytoecdysteroid, a chemical produced by plants (such as spinach) as a defence mechanism against insects. When insects consume the plant, the phytoecdysteroids make their shells fall off (moult), killing them. Kind of brutal. But on the other hand, ecdysteroid has the word “steroid” in it. So, as you might imagine, bodybuilders have started supplementing with it. And they aren’t totally wrong. Turkesterone is thought to be an agonist of the estrogen beta receptor, which could then boost testosterone, increasing anabolism and thus increasing muscle growth. At least in theory.

That’s where turkesterone comes in. Turkesterone is a phytoecdysteroid, and it’s currently one of the most hyped supplements on YouTube. But does it work?

Is Turkesterone Good for Building Muscle?

A few studies found ecdysteroids (such as turkesterone) had performance-enhancing effects in birds and beetles (study, study). But the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) considers these studies unreliable because they weren’t published in reputable journals, the design of the studies was subpar, and the results were poorly presented. This is not the evidence we’re looking for. So, what about human trials?

There’s one study that’s often used to show the muscle-building benefits of supplementing with ecdysterone. It’s this paper by Isenmann et al. The results were impressive:

One study found increases in muscle mass from supplementing with ecdysterone.

But the study is a little weird. The ecdysteroid supplements they were testing only contained 6% of the dosage listed on the label, which shouldn’t have been enough to produce an effect. But it did. At least according to the BIA scale they used. But BIA scales are a poor way of measuring muscle growth. So although these results are interesting, I’m skeptical, as are most experts.

Graph showing that supplementing with ecdysteroids like turkesterone doesn't increase muscle growth.

There’s another study we can look at, though. The researchers used DEXA scans to measure muscle growth, which is a much more reliable tool. And in this study, the placebo group gained 2.2 pounds more muscle than the guys taking ecdysteroids, though the results didn’t reach statistical significance. This doesn’t suggest that turkesterone harms muscle growth, just that small studies often find differences between groups. These differences don’t necessarily prove anything. And in this case, the difference isn’t statistically significant.

This second paper is more credible, especially since DEXA scans are more reliable than BIA scales. As a result, the ISSN’s stance on turkesterone is:

Ecdysterones [including turkesterone] are not recommended for supplementation to increase training adaptations or performance.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition

It’s also worth pointing out that the above are studies on ecdysteroids, not on turkesterone specifically. At the moment, there’s no good research showing turkesterone is effective. But this isn’t our area of expertise. Maybe we’re missing something. So we asked Eric Trexler, Ph.D., for a more specific answer, asking him whether he recommends using turkesterone to bulk up.

Dr Trexler has published over 30 studies. Perhaps more relevantly, he professionally reviews hypertrophy research, including both of the turkesterone studies. He told me:

At this time, there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that turkesterone enhances increases in strength or muscle mass in humans.

Eric Trexler, PhD, Monthly Applications in Strength Sport (MASS)

If you’ve been in the fitness industry for a while, you know how these things go. Glutamine is the hot thing, then gets disproven. Then arginine. Then BCAAs. Then Tribulus. All of them were disproven. Supplement hype rarely lasts long, but while it does, millions of dollars are made from people yearning for an edge.

Is Turkesterone A Scam?

The next question is whether turkesterone supplements contain the ingredients they advertise in doses that could conceivably be effective. This is where the argument for turkesterone begins to break down even more.

The controversy began with Nootropics Depot, a lab that tests the quality of various supplements. They tested a few of the most popular brands of turkesterone, including the turkesterone sold by Gorilla Mind (owned by More Plates More Dates) and Harder Than Last Time (owned by Greg Doucette). They found that these supplements contained less than 1% of the turkesterone they advertised.

Nootropics Depot also sells its own supplements, including ecdysterone. This makes them a competitor to the brands who sell turkesterone. As a result, their claims were met with quite a lot of skepticism. However, when More Plates More Dates and Greg Doucette hired independent labs to test their own supplements, they confirmed that the turkesterone was fake. The supplements did indeed contain less than 1% of the turkesterone advertised on the bottle.

So it seems that even the anecdotal evidence in favour of turkesterone comes from people using fake turkesterone supplements.

2023 Update

A new study was just published. It was looking at whether supplements actually contain the ingredients on the label. They tested turkesterone supplements. None of the turkesterone supplements contained even 1% of the turkesterone quantity claimed on the label.

At this point, the evidence is overwhelming: turkesterone is a scam. It probably doesn’t work, and you can’t buy it anyway—all of the turkesterone on the market is fake.

Final Review

There aren’t any good studies showing turkesterone will help you build muscle. In fact, the most relevant evidence shows that other ecdysteroids that are similar to turkesterone don’t increase muscle growth. There’s no evidence to show it’s dangerous and nothing to prove it’s safe.

Most hype surrounding turkesterone comes from the people who produce it, sell it, or make affiliate revenue from promoting it. There are few, if any, unbiased experts who believe it works. The most credible experts recommend against it.

Plus, at the time of writing, there’s no reliable way to buy turkesterone. The biggest vendors cannot reliably fill their capsules with even 1% of the turkesterone they advertise on the label. It’s one of the scummiest parts of the supplement industry, which is already rife with fraud.

With supplements, it’s wise to be a late adopter. There are a few good muscle-building supplements with decades of research proving their effectiveness: creatine, caffeine, and protein. These are the supplements you should turn to when you’re looking for better muscle-building results.

Finally, keep in mind that even the best supplements pale in comparison to hypertrophy training, eating a good bulking diet, and getting enough good sleep.

Photo showing the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program for Skinny and Skinny-Fat Guys

If you want all the latest muscle-building information, we have a newsletter for naturally thin guys. If you want a full foundational bulking program, including a 5-month full-body workout routine, diet guide, recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Beastly Bulking Program. Or, if you want a customizable intermediate bulking program, check out our Outlift Program.

Shane Duquette is the founder of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, each with millions of readers. He's a Certified Conditioning Coach (CCC), has gained seventy pounds, and has over a decade of experience helping more than ten thousand naturally thin people build muscle. He also has a degree in fine arts, but those are inversely correlated with muscle growth.

Marco Walker-Ng is the founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell. He's a certified trainer (PTS) and nutrition coach (PN) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. He has over 15 years of experience helping people gain muscle and strength, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

How to build 20 to 30 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Even if you have failed before

FREE Bulking Mini-Course

Sign up for our 5-part bulking mini-course that covers everything you need to know about:

  • Hardgainer genetics and how to make the most of them.
  • How to take a minimalist approach to bulking while still getting great results.
  • What you need to know about aesthetics, health and strength while bulking up.

11 Comments

  1. John on August 27, 2021 at 11:16 am

    Nice article Shane. I think a great section to add would be a comparison against testosterone. A lot of social media influencers are hopping on steroids and if there was a clear comparison shown against a more natural compound like turkesterone, folks would be better educated in making the best fitness and lifestyle decisions for themselves.

    • Shane Duquette on August 27, 2021 at 11:28 am

      Hey John, that’s a good idea, but I’m not sure it really applies here. Steroids reliably increase muscle growth. This is well proven. Even TRT, since it keeps testosterone high through the day instead of letting it fluctuate naturally, has performance-enhancing effects. These benefits come with varying side effects, depending on how you go about it. And I have zero experience with steroids. I don’t even know anyone who takes them.

      Turkesterone doesn’t have any good evidence proving a benefit. It could be that it does nothing. Maybe when you take turkesterone, your stomach acid obliterates it, and all you’ve done is burn a hole in your wallet. So at the moment, there’s no reason to think it compares to steroids in any way at all. It’s possible that new evidence will come out showing benefits, but that hasn’t happened yet.

      I’ll keep an eye on turkesterone, though, and adjust the article as new evidence comes out.

  2. Max on January 3, 2022 at 6:33 pm

    Never in any study it is stated that Turkesterone would boost testosterone.

    It actually works by activating the Estrogen Receptor Beta. Different studies have actually proven that the Estrogen Receptor Beta is responsible for muscle growth and regeneration when activated.

    Another study has proven that Ecdysteroids actually activate the Estrogen Receptor Beta.

    The study that you are referring to only confirms the previous 2 studies. Now you state they only had 6% of the amount of Ecdysterone that was stated on the label. Now you say the it isn’t enough to show any effects… So show me the study that confirms that 6% of 200 – 800 mg isn’t enough to show any effects. Doesn’t your statement actually admits that it WOULD show effects if the dosage was higher? And if it was not a trustworthy study, then why would WADA bother to put it on their watchlist?

    Though there aren’t a lot of human studies, there are enough rodent and in vitro studies that actually show promising results. And asking 1 random scientist doesn’t really mean a lot. All the while you promote “30+ pounds bullshit in 5 months” kind of crap on this website. Like that is naturally possible. Clearly you have an incentive.

    • Shane Duquette on January 5, 2022 at 8:57 am

      Hey Max, those are good points.

      I’m not sure why WADA put turkesterone on the watch list. I’m guessing it’s to keep an eye on it as more research comes out.

      I didn’t ask a random scientist, I asked a researcher with a Ph.D. in bodybuilding nutrition and supplementation. He works professionally as a research reviewer, reviewing bodybuilding nutrition and supplementation research. Of the research reviewers out there, I find him to be the most knowledgeable, unbiased, and credible. You may disagree, but I asked this specific researcher on purpose.

      There are always incentives. Ecdysteroids have been around for a while, falling in and out of favour. Turkesterone is the new supplement on the block, and the people selling it are getting rich from the possibility that it might be better than what came before it. Based on the evidence we have so far, I’m not convinced it’s effective. Most unbiased experts aren’t, either.

      It’s not just turkesterone. It’s the same for most new supplements. Give them a few years and they usually fade away because they don’t work nearly as well as people hoped they would. If you’ve been in this niche for a while, you might remember glutamine, Tribulus, arginine, BCAAs, and the long list of other popular muscle-building supplements that were all the rage until they were eventually proven ineffective.

      Our flagship program is designed to help skinny guys gain 20 pounds in 20 weeks. That’s a pound per week, and gaining a pound per week while bulking is a totally reasonable pace for a skinny beginner. It lines up perfectly with the research and with what most experts recommend. That’s what we based those goals on. I’ve also done it myself, watched my business partners do it, and seen thousands of our members do it. It’s absolutely naturally possible. (And for the record, we’re natural, we work with natural clients, and we strongly advise against taking PEDs.)

      Our methods aren’t experimental or mysterious. We lay them all out in our free articles. You have to eat enough food to gain weight, follow a resistance training program that stimulates muscle growth, and get enough rest and sleep. Nothing crazy there. It’s all conventional, foundational stuff. If a workout program was advertising some crazy new trick that gets you 3x the muscle growth, I’d be just as skeptical of that. And for the record, we’re not claiming that our program builds more muscle than other comparable programs.

      Again, everyone has an incentive. But turkesterone has nothing to do with ours. If it worked, we’d recommend it. It could be even better for our business if we advertised an extra 5 pounds of muscle growth by following our cutting-edge supplement protocol, right? There’s no incentive for us to downplay the results of a supplement that actually works. And on that note, we do recommend some supplements. Creatine, for instance. I’m not sure why it would be in our interest to recommend creatine (which we don’t sell or profit from) but not turkesterone (which we also don’t sell or profit from).

  3. Sean on December 7, 2022 at 9:21 am

    Shane,

    Any updates to this post? Additionally, I think it would be beneficial to include an explanation of BIA vs. DEXA scans to include why one is more preferable than the other for muscle growth analysis.

    While your Doc may be a reliable source, I think it would be more beneficial to incorporate reviews from multiple PHD’s. One opinion from a reliable source is good, but reviews from a larger pool of experts would be better. Furthermore, an in-depth review and report of findings as opposed to “brief reviews” (Section 2 of the Article) could potentially increase your readers’ confidence in your articles.

    V/r,
    Sean

    • Sean on December 7, 2022 at 9:31 am

      One last piece: You may want to check out this PubMED study from 2019 concerning the use of ecdysteroids as non-conventional anabolic agents. It may warrant further review/refinement of your article.

      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31123801/

      V/r,
      Sean

      • Shane Duquette on December 7, 2022 at 9:50 am

        Hey Sean, good question!

        Turkesterone hasn’t aged very well. It turns out that all of the top turkesterone retailers were selling fake turkesterone. They were largely relying on anecdotes to advertise their products, and the turkesterone they were selling wasn’t real, so it just goes to show that anecdotes aren’t always reliable. For instance, after being exposed by a third-party lab that tested their supplements, both More Plates More Dates and Greg Doucette have admitted that their turkesterone supplements were fake.

        The counterargument is that their supplements DID contain ecdysterone. Perhaps that ecdysterone was producing good results. There isn’t much evidence of that, and I’m skeptical. Ecdysterone has already been a popular supplement. It fell out of favour because it failed to produce noticeable results in the people who were using it. It had so little evidence in support of it that it was never even widely studied. It’s not impossible that it does anything, but it’s looking pretty unlikely at this point. I’m happy to change my mind if more evidence comes out.

        That paper by Isenmann and colleagues is already included in the article. It’s the third study referenced in the section titled “Is Turkesterone Good for Building Muscle?” There’s a graph for it, too.

        I agree that contacting more experts can sometimes be better. In this case, Eric Trexler’s view lines up with the expert consensus, so it would give the same result. He’s also an unbiased expert who specializes in muscle-building supplement research, and he’s reviewed the research on ecdysterone, including the study you linked. Of all the experts, I think that makes him one of the best, if not the best, to ask.

        • Sean on December 7, 2022 at 9:58 am

          Shane,

          Thanks for the timely response. Missed the Isenmann article while I was reading. Thanks for clarifying. Following up for my own edification, what’s the benefit to DEXA vs. BIA scans?

          V/r,
          Sean

          • Shane Duquette on December 7, 2022 at 3:25 pm

            BIA is more accessible but less accurate. It just measures how fast an electric pulse passes through you. Even if you account for obvious things like hydration status, they still don’t do a very good job of telling you what your body composition is. They tend to be especially bad while bulking, typically showing higher body-fat percentages with higher body weights. It’s especially ridiculous because you need to tell the scales whether you’re athletic or overweight. It can’t tell by itself. And that means while bulking or cutting, at a certain point, you need to decide whether you’re “athletic” or not, at which point you change the setting, and it will subtract a few points from your body-fat percentage.

            DEXA is often considered the gold standard, and it has its issues, and it isn’t perfectly accurate, but I think it’s the best option if you have access to it and can afford it. It will give you a pretty good idea of how muscular you are, where that muscle is, how dense your bones are, and how much fat you have. It’s not perfect, but it’s more than good enough.

            I’ve written more about the accuracy issues of the various methods in an old article, here.



  4. M on April 22, 2023 at 1:22 am

    If dexa is so accurate, why are y’all telling me that after I did 3 months of Outlift w/ ~3300kcal/day and more than 1g/protein per lb of body weight, all organic diet, and my dexa showed 4 lbs fat gain and .2lb muscle loss, that the reason my results are so poor it’s because dexa is so inaccurate? I submitted my full workout & diet records and never heard back anything other than “dexa isn’t accurate”

    • M on April 22, 2023 at 2:29 am

      Redacting the above as I see that Shane did reply on the forums with some helpful thoughts beyond “dexa is inaccurate”, and I hadn’t seen it.

Leave a Comment