An article came out today (Thursday, January 20, 2011 in The Post Game of Yahoo! Sports) that prompted my friend Dave to write. This:
I heard your car got snowplowed. And I just discovered
(through reading) that deer antler velvet can boost HGH.
I like venison, Bambi and Red Dead Redemption so...
would I be crazy to try this? thepostgame.com.
In case the link stops working, this is the title: "Latest PED Gives Sports Deer-In-Headlights Look." And this is the article:
Deer antlers? Yes, deer antlers.
They harvest the so-called velvet antler (a soft coating that covers deer antlers) in New Zealand, freeze-dry it and then grind it into a powder. It then gets shipped to the United States, where it gets put into either capsules or liquid extracts that can become a simple mouth spray. You can buy it for $68 a bottle.
For the elite athlete, experts say it’s essentially a human growth hormone, one of the substances organized sports is trying to keep out. The difference here is deer antlers are natural, not synthetic, and properly discovering it in a test falls somewhere between extremely challenging to virtually impossible.
Best anyone can figure, first you need to run a blood test (which leagues such as the NFL or Major League Baseball don’t do). Then you need to run a blood test at the exact proper time. Otherwise, nothing comes up.
“You can find it,” Jonathan Danaceau, a director at a World Doping Agency approved lab, told ThePostGame in its report about new Raiders coach Hue Jackson’s connection with a supplement company that produces the spray.. “But saying whether this is synthetic or natural is hard to determine. It’s only detectable in blood, and most anti-doping tests are done in urine.”
It’s a loophole for the athlete – turning drug tests into intelligence tests. You have to be stupid to fail one. The benefits of deer antler – or more specifically the substance IGF-1 that comes from it – are clear. IGF-1 is banned by everyone.
“It’s one of the proteins that is increased in human growth hormone … it’s considered performance-enhancing,” Danaceau said.
“It’s similar to HGH in that it aids in recovery. It helps build tissue, and strengthen tissue – more than you can ever do by training alone. Any preparation that is not naturally occurring is banned. Taking IGF-1 through deer antler is banned as well.”
So it’s banned, but difficult to detect, which leaves sports leagues in a quandary.
How the heck do you stop this?
“I use the spray all the time,” Bengals safety Roy Williams said. “Two to three times a day. My body felt good after using it. I did feel a difference.”
Williams never tested positive for anything. Considering various NFL assistant coaches, including new Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson (pictured below) have been associated with a company that admits shipping it to NFL players, it stands to reason the stuff is all over the league.
And this is my response: It's interesting. The horn powder stuff is. But I would be surprised (if not more than that) if Dave took it and somehow made measurable gains in anything. Measurable gains beyond what he could get with ground up hen claws or coral or something (i.e. placebo).
The problem with growth hormone is that it's not just "growth hormone" and then that's it. As in it's not a single hormone. It's been (exaggeratedly) credited with performing something like a thousand functions. A single hormone is not doing that. Nor are all the variants of growth hormone put together doing that, but the point is, there are at least a hundred variants of it. And not all of the variants actually do stuff (athletically enhancing stuff).
The GH in your blood (what people are testing) are free monomers. This includes the 22 kilodalton form
(common drug form... what everyone thinks of when they think of GH). But that form hardly interacts with anything. It doesn't even interact with bone. Acromegaly is the common side effect everyone thinks of when they think of GH (think Jaws from Moonraker, the crazy height and weird-boned face). And the common form of GH isn't yielding those bones. Everything you think of when you think GH is accomplished by the aggregates. And when they're measuring your GH, they're not measuring the aggregates. I could be wrong, but I suspect the only thing they're measuring is how much of the 22 kilodalton variant is in the blood.
And GH in the blood, no matter what form it is, isn't doing anything. Any hormone in the blood isn't doing anything. With androgenic hormones, the androgen receptors matter. Let me use testosterone to illustrate. Testosterone in the muscle does a lot. Everyone knows this. But testosterone in the blood does nothing. Fewer people know this. When blood T binds to muscle androgen receptors, those receptors are converted into transcription factors. Then it's translocated to the nucleus to associate with the DNA to regulate gene expression. THEN you get changes. But nothing is going to happen when stuff is floating around in blood.
Often when people take supplements and it looks like GH or testosterone or whatever else goes up or down, the opposite effect is actually happening. If there's an effect on androgen reception, and those receptors are taking more of that hormone in from the blood, less of that hormone thereafter exists in the blood. More of it is in the nuclei actually doing stuff, but less in the blood. Thus, "doing this reduces GH." Contrarily, if none of the hormone is being taken in, you probably have a bunch in the blood. Thus, "this increases GH."
Does that make sense? If you have more GH actually working, you probably have less doing nothing. And they're measuring the GH that's doing nothing.
"Well can't they measure how much GH is actually being used?"
No. Certainly not validly. And if someone says otherwise, they're making a lot of assumptions that truly can't be made.
This is why there was a (really embarrassing) debate about eating after workouts. Go do a bunch of squats and all sorts of hormone expression happens. Go eat a bunch and all sorts of receptor activity happens. Thus, eating following a workout lowers the androgenic hormone levels. Thus, "it's bad."
"Well then why do I grow like crazy when I eat after workouts and I don't grow at all when I don't?"
"Because it lowers serum levels and that's all we're testing. We're not measuring levels of hormones that are doing stuff. Just serum. But yeah, eating after working out lowers those serum levels, so don't do it."
Do you get the fallacy in this? This is why I hate most research. It's misleading on a lot of levels. And the media (and supplement companies) take a lot of liberties in ignoring those levels. As do the researchers. But that's another topic altogether. As for this topic, if I had to place a bet, I'd say the buck horns or whatever are more ergogenic hype than aid. But i could be wrong.
But I'm also to the point where I think GH hardly even does anything. I mean it does some stuff. And that stuff is helpful. But the magnitude of GH's involvement in those pathways is overstated. And taking a supplement by any mode of delivery probably won't do anything for you. Testosterone will. But that's not a fad anymore. It's not new. So it's not as interesting.
"You used to say otherwise about GH."
Yeah, I probably did. That was ten years ago. If the articles on this site don't have a date next to them, I wrote them a decade ago. A) I was a kid. And B) Nobody knew anything about GH back then. Now that we (and I) do, I've changed my mind.
And yeah, my car was ravaged by a snowplow, which furthers my hatred for both people and automobiles (to answer all of Dave's questions).
Feel free to send me your thoughts, everyone else: firstname.lastname@example.org