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  • Nutrition

  • Lift Weights, Eat Mustard, Build Muscle

    Since anabolic steroids mimic the muscle-building effects of natural testosterone so efficiently, finding alternate steroid sources with potent anabolic properties and minimal side effects has been of great interest to bodybuilders and athletes alike. Interestingly, a recent study by Esposito et al.1 investigated a steroid found in the mustard plant known as homobrassinolide (HB) that has robust, anabolic muscle-building qualities with negligible unwanted androgenic side effects.


    In this study by Esposito et al., rats were fed either 20 or 60 milligrams of HB per kilogram of bodyweight for a total of 24 days. Both groups receiving different quantities of HB showed a significant increase in mTOR activity, producing an increase in muscle protein synthesis of approximately 40 percent along with a considerable decrease in muscle protein degradation of about 9 percent, compared to the control group that received no HB. Consequently, both HB-ingesting groups experienced a total increase in muscle mass along with a decrease in body fat— with the group receiving 60 milligrams of HB showing the best outcome, a total increase in lean body mass of 8 percent compared to the control group consuming no HB. Furthermore, the increase in muscle mass was primarily from type II muscle fiber, which is the fiber type primarily targeted by bodybuilders and athletes because type II muscle fiber confers greater strength and size as compared to type I muscle fiber. Accordingly, the muscle growth produced while consuming HB predictably produced extensive increases in strength as well.This study also showed that consuming a high-protein diet enhanced the muscle- and strength-building influence of HB— suggesting that consuming protein along with HB may produce an even greater anabolic effect.


    Intriguingly, HB possesses potent anabolic muscle-building qualities with minimal androgenicity. This favorable anabolic to androgenic profile may be due to HB's ability to preferentially bind and activate a different receptor2 than the one preponderantly activated by testosterone or anabolic steroids. Testosterone and anabolic steroids characteristically function by binding and activating the nuclear steroid receptor.The activated nuclear steroid receptor subsequently turns on protein synthesis, with the primary anabolic effect coming from enhanced protein synthesis within muscle tissue promoting muscle growth and strength.The main unwanted androgenic effects come from activating the nuclear steroid receptor and protein synthesis in non-muscle cells. Since HB doesn't preferentially bind to the nuclear steroid receptor, it may not cause a significant amount of these unwanted androgenic effects.

    In summary, plant steroids such as HB could be a fruitful way to promote muscle growth and strength— as HB has many desirable anabolic characteristics as well as a good anabolic to androgenic ratio. HB consumption ought to stimulate muscle hypertrophy and strength in humans despite HB's apparent low specific potency, as demonstrated from the large amounts of HB used to produce muscle growth in the study by Esposito et al. Despite this shortcoming, Esposito et al. also showed that consuming a high-protein diet increases the effectiveness of HB. Perhaps this phenomenon may also reduce the need to consume such prohibitively large quantities of HB, therefore making the consumption of HB more practical—which should facilitate the process of significantly increasing muscle size and strength.

    By Michael J. Rudolph, Ph.D.

    1. Esposito D, Komarnytsky S, et al. Faseb J 2011;25(10), 3708-3719.
    2. Rahman F and Christian HC.Trends Endocrinol Metab 2007;18(10), 371-378.

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