DHT is referred to as the androgenic metabolite of testosterone, as it is more potent in affecting sex glands (e.g., prostate, seminal vesicles) and invoking gender-specific changes (e.g., male-pattern balding, sebaceous gland hypertrophy and inflammation— or acne). DHT has long been considered to be irrelevant to muscle growth and strength. However, it appears that viewpoint is outdated and incorrect.
DHT was long thought not to affect muscle growth because it has a high androgenic:anabolic ratio— based on a comparison of the growth of the prostate with the growth of the levator ani muscle in mice. In fact, DHT is much more androgenic than testosterone, five times as much by that scale. Early research in anabolic steroid design sought to separate the androgenic (think gender-specific or male sexual effects) from the anabolic, creating drugs with androgenic:anabolic ratios that suggested ridiculous muscle growth.1 To demonstrate the madness, testosterone is the standard— and is considered to have an androgenic:anabolic ratio of 1:1 (actually 100:100, but let’s keep it simple). Nandrolone’s ratio is four times as “anabolic;” oxandrolone’s is 15-30 times as “anabolic.” No bodybuilder would say that either (by itself) provides greater (or even equal) muscle mass or strength gains than testosterone. DHT is, by this measure, less “anabolic”— one-fifth the value of testosterone.
“Test is best” is a quote that has long circulated through gyms, as it generally provides the gamut of size and strength as well or better than any other anabolic steroid. The downside to testosterone is the emergence of side effects such as gynecomastia due to estrogen conversion or hair loss due to androgenic effects.
Testosterone can be considered a prohormone in many tissues, as it is converted into either estradiol (a female sex steroid hormone) by aromatase or DHT by 5-alpha reductase (5AR). These enzymes are present in the tissues that are sensitive to the estrogenic or androgenic effects— breast tissue is high in aromatase, the prostate is high in 5AR. Muscle has generally been considered to be gender insensitive— responding to testosterone, not its estrogenic or androgenic metabolites. In fact, this is incorrect.
There are anabolic steroids that are DHT derived, rather than testosterone derived, such as Masteron, Primobolan and ironically oxandrolone. These anabolic steroids are typically used during pre-contest phases or by models/actors/posers seeking a hard, dry physique. DHT-derived steroids are not known for being mass builders or for being very efficient for strength increases. Aside from oxandrolone, DHT-derived steroids typically have more pronounced androgenic side effects. Female bodybuilders and athletes who use/abuse anabolic steroids typically avoid these due to the risk of voice deepening, facial hair and other “male-like” changes. Masteron and others in this class have antiestrogenic effects, possibly by inhibiting the aromatase pathway. Many male bodybuilders have noticed increased hair loss during cycles including this class of steroids.
DHT AND MUSCLE HYPERTROPHY
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