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.

Illustration showing the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program

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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4 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).

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