Illustration of a bodybuilder using turkesterone to build muscle.

Is Turkesterone a Good Supplement for Building Muscle?

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 talked about 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 go over, and the official position of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN).

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

Before and after results of someone taking turkesterone to build muscle.

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?

Illustration of a bodybuilder building tons of muscle.

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 to measure muscle growth. 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 isn’t to 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.

Of the two papers, this second is generally seen as more credible, especially since DEXA scans are so much 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 reached out to 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 also professionally reviews strength training and hypertrophy research, including doing brief reviews of the two studies above. Most recently, he broke down the research on turkesterone for the Stronger by Science podcast. 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.

Summary

Right now, there aren’t any good studies showing turkesterone will help you build muscle. In fact, the most relevant evidence shows ecdysteroids like turkesterone don’t increase muscle growth. There’s no evidence to show it’s dangerous, but also nothing to prove it’s safe.

With supplements, we think it’s wise to be a late adopter. And there are some good, old supplements with decades of research proving their effectiveness. These supplements are creatine, whey protein, and caffeine. These are the supplements you should turn to when you’re looking for better muscle-building results. And you don’t need any supplements to get great results. Much better to focus on hypertrophy training, eating a good bulking diet, and getting enough good sleep.

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If you want more muscle-building information, we have a free bulking newsletter for skinny 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 co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has nine years of experience helping over ten thousand skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

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2 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.

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