What you need to know before trying peptide injections at home

Juan Lega, 38, had a problem: He was a personal trainer and a serious lifter whose elbow pain kept him from doing some of the most important lifts. “I had tendinitis for a year, but it was severe for about six months,” he recalls. “I felt like something was broken.”

Just as Leija began to worry about his ability to train, a friend of his who owns a health clinic told him about something called BPC-157. It’s an injectable peptide complex that, his friend said, can do for Leija’s elbow what conventional and alternative treatments can’t do for a year: eliminate the pain.

“I went home and looked it up,” Lega says. Evidence was scarce, but enthusiasm was not. Satisfied users – athletes, fighters, soldiers, and gym rats among them – have referred to it as Wolverine’s peptide for its healing powers.

BPC-157 is part of a growing list of compounds called peptides that are gaining interest in the fitness, wellness, and anti-aging circles. The hype comes from its supposed ability to help you build muscle, reduce fat, sleep better, or, with the PT-141 peptide, revive libido — all without the side effects of riskier, more powerful options like testosterone and synthetic growth hormone.

Some peptide names, such as MK-677, sound like secret mind control experiments. Others, like sermorelin, appear to exist only for 12-year-olds to stumble upon a spelling bee. But what are peptides? Why are so many people promoting it all of a sudden? Do they even work?

The promise of peptides

“Peptides are short chains of amino acids,” says Ryan Green, MD, medical director of Monarch Athletic Club in West Hollywood, California. Your body already produces more than 7,000 of them, and they all have specific duties: regulating metabolic health, your appetite, and your body’s natural growth hormone.

There is now a perception in gym culture that injecting peptides, albeit those made in a lab, is a safer way to achieve gains than taking human growth hormone (hGH) and/or anabolic steroids. But the sales pitch isn’t new. Anti-aging clinics have been making the same promise in appearance and performance since the late 1900s.

New is the price, says Graham Simpson, MD, at Opt Health, a telemedicine clinic that offers peptides. For example, instead of paying $1,200 a month for doses of growth hormone — the original source of youth — you’d pay a few hundred a month for peptides that stimulate your body to release its own growth hormone. Or you’ll pay for peptides that are thought to stimulate tissue healing cells.

The allure is so strong that people inject it daily or several times a week. Dr. Simpson considers these treatments “reasonable things we can do.” [increase] How healthy and how old we are.” Jeremy Walker, MD, fellow Dr. Simpson at Opt Health, agrees: “They mimic what your body is already doing but with more specificity. It’s the difference between using a hammer and a scalpel.”

What does science say about peptides

For all the supposed benefits of peptide injections, none of the ones we mentioned have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for improving sexual function, promoting healing, or slowing aging. (Sermorelin is approved for use in children with pituitary problems.) The World Anti-Doping Agency has banned BPC-157 and any growth hormone-releasing peptides as well, meaning that no athlete competing in a drug-tested sport should approach them. The WADA ban indicates that they can give an advantage – which also means that there may be something to them.

However, when you look for scientific research, you don’t come up with much. One study with BPC-157 showed an acceleration of healing in rat tendon tissues. Another study, on MK-677, was published in Journal of Endocrinology and MetabolismIt was shown to boost growth hormone levels in real older people to the normal range found in younger adults. But what kind of large-scale clinical trials are you relying on to see if something is worth it? Not there yet.

Proponents argue that the peptides are relatively low risk. It is made of amino acids. The theory, Dr. Green says, is that if your body doesn’t need it for a certain use, it can be broken down and used for something else. But low risk does not mean no risk.

If you constantly stimulate your body over time to produce its own growth hormone, Dr. Green wonders, “Is there a potential risk of something similar to what you see with synthetic growth hormone? I think yes, sure.” Known side effects of taking synthetic growth hormone alone include an increased risk of certain cancers and diabetes.

Beyond the potential health risks, the peptide industry is a target-rich environment for scammers. “The current situation is very chaotic in the peptide world,” Dr. Walker admits. “I kind of like what we go through with cryptocurrency and the old financial system.” Opt Health doctors use phrases like “buyer beware,” “emerging industry,” and “kind of scammers now.” Prescription peptides are manufactured by health clinics and sold by compounding pharmacies with minimal standardization.

If this sounds intimidating to you, you are not alone. Take, for example, endocrinologist Karl Nadolsky, Dr. He’s a former NCAA Division I wrestler who has described himself as a “methed in the gym, but with a focus on health.” “I would never take or suggest anyone to take any of these peptides without clear clinical evidence of their benefit in treating disease,” he warns. Dr. Green says that if you are taking them you should only do so under a doctor’s supervision, so they can have regular checkups and blood work.

snapshot of reality

Which brings us back to Juan Lega, the personal trainer who turned to the BPC-157 to deal with worsening elbow pain. In keeping with Dr. Green’s advice, he went to the doctor for a prescription.

It has succeeded. “Within two or three weeks, the pain in my elbow started to go away,” Lega says. “Five weeks later, he’s not there anymore.” He’s been using it ever since, injecting the peptide into his stomach five days a week. It is considered that the cost of treatment is money well spent.

On the other hand, obesity specialist Spencer Nadolsky, DO, had a completely different experience with the same peptide. Despite all the skepticism he shares with his endocrinologist brother, Carl, he bought BPC-157 from a compounding drugstore in an effort to alleviate his tendinitis. And the? “I didn’t get bad results.”

Anecdotes won’t stop many men. “Many bodybuilders consider themselves to be on a par with guinea pigs,” says Rick Collins, a criminal defense attorney who specializes in cases involving anabolic steroids and nutritional supplements. “They have a much different threshold than the average person. If they are harmed now, they cannot wait for FDA approval.” But popularity should not be confused with prescription. Only evidence can fill it.

Bonus: Which peptide is said to do what

These 4 popular peptides promise quick fixes. But there are other scientifically tested ways to take advantage of it. Here are the promises, along with other ways to get to the same place.

Peptide: BPC 157

Hope: Accelerates recovery and exercise recovery.

Do this instead: If you don’t recover from exercise quickly, says Dr. Green, “my first question is ‘Why?'” How is your hydration, how is your sleep? If all of these are OK, it could be because of your age or the type of training you do.” For tendons, platelet-rich plasma therapy, in which platelets are concentrated and injected to promote healing, is expensive but proven effective.

Peptide: MK 677

Hope: Increases muscle mass and reduces fat.

Do this instead: Lift constantly, gradually, and with enough effort to get bigger and stronger. Eat meals rich in protein to give your body what it needs to build and repair muscle. Adding creatine may also help.

Peptide: PT-141

Hope: Increases sexual function and arousal.

Do this instead: Keep the blood flowing vigorously by eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and of course trying medications (Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and other ED pills).

Peptide: Sermorelin

Hope: Maintains muscle tissue and slows down the signs of aging.

Do this instead: You can increase natural growth hormone production by fasting, getting a good night’s sleep (growth hormone levels are higher when you sleep), exercising (high-intensity exercise seems to work better), losing excess body fat, and limiting sugar and other refined carbohydrates .

This story originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Men’s health.