Deer antler velvet has made its way into the spotlight recently thanks to claims that Super Bowl winner Ray Lewis used it in spray form to recover from his October triceps injury. Lewis denied the claim, but had many people wondering if deer antler velvet, a substance that is banned by the NFL and claims to increase strength and boost muscle recovery, really works. The natural supplement, made from the fuzz that covers male deer antlers, is a growth hormone known as IGF-1, which supposedly can repair cartilege damage and increase strength and muscle mass.
A study conducted in rowers given 560mg Velvet Root for 10 weeks of training has failed to find improvements in rowing performance or other parameters of strength (bench press and leg press) in both sexes. 1350mg of Velvet Antler twice daily (daily dose of 2,700mg) for 10 weeks was noted to increase leg strength (assessed via leg press) more than placebo with no differences in the bench press; this study had a 44% dropout rate and conclusions that can be drawn are limited.
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The answer is that deer antler velvet is just another fat burner. Another cell volumizer. Another body-toning shoe. It’s fitness marketing at it’s finest—playing off a goal you desire (gaining more muscle and size) and drawing unsubstantiated and wildly exaggerated claims. There’s nothing miraculous about deer antler spray. And after a closer look at the product, there’s really—well—nothing to it at all.
Currently, one study that induced a fracture unto a rat bone and injected 20mg/kg of Velvet Antler polypeptides into the area every other day for 7 weeks noted that fracture healing rate was dose-dependently increased at weeks 4-7 relative to control and that the bone loading weight was increased following rehabilitation with 10mg/kg (60.7%) and 20mg/kg (93% more than control) after 7 weeks. An in vitro study suggested that this was due to a concentration-dependent mitogenic activity on osteoblastic precursors and chondrocytes.
A growing trend in western medicine is the proliferation of influences from ancient eastern medicine. Over 2,000 years ago, the Chinese were administering deer antler velvet to treat conditions ranging from serious illnesses to lack of sexual desire. After closely examining the wide range of health benefits deer antler velvet promotes, it's no wonder why the Chinese used it as a medicine for thousands of years.
Generally researchers agree that deer antler velvet protects, strengthens and restores the body's functions that are out of balance. In other words, it can act as an adaptogen on the human body, helping where it is needed. Studies suggest that deer antler velvet may have beneficial effects related to: increases in muscular development, strength and endurance; improved recovery; prevention and reduction of inflammation; improvement of sexual health; reduction in blood pressure; improvement in bone and joint health; stimulation of the immune system; and more.
Published research has shown that IGF-1 can produce similar results to growth hormone. The catch? If you do the math from the study, a 150-pound man (that’s a pretty small guy, so a bigger man would need more) would have to take more than 25 million nanograms just to experience the growth hormone-like effects of more muscle, less fat, and faster recovery.
People with osteoarthritis take chondroitin sulphate as an anti-inflammatory and velvet antler contains a high concentration of this compound, as well as significant amounts of glucosamine sulphate. Both appear to inhibit the depletion of bone and cartilage. The use of velvet antler in treating rheumatoid arthritis is being studied at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta.
Deer antler velvet can play a pivotal role in helping to not only relieve the symptoms of diseases that affect joints, such as osteoarthritis, they can possibly eliminate them entirely. The way it may do this is through the introduction of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate into the body. Both of these compounds are abundant in deer antler velvet.