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Does Deer Antler Velvet Work and Build Muscle?

Ray Lewis

The notification hit my computer:

Born… can you please give us clarification on deer-antler spray? Why are athletes using it?

Immediately, I knew that Ray Lewis was to blame. And even worse? I was about to deflate all the media hype.

The message was from Neema Yazdani. Some of you might recognize Neema’s name from my most recent book, The Men’s Health Big Book: Getting Abs. Neema was a test subject that epitomized the great results you could receive with the program. As a guy that had tried just about everything during the last 12 years, Neema dropped body fat and added muscle with a simpler approach included in the book.

But the desire for an edge still burns within. Neema is always looking for ways to become better. And I can’t blame him. He is just like any other warm-blooded human. We want results—and we want them fast.

So when news of Ray Lewis using deer antler spray (also known as deer antler velvet) found it’s way onto the internet, the media started clamoring and men everywhere started salivating about the potential over-the-counter super supplement.

While consumers wanted more information on the product. Let’s not forget the supplement industry is a multi-billionaire dollar business. And if Ray used the product then it must be legit, right? That’s what the immediate response in supplement sales would have you believe, as ESPN business reporter Darren Rovel reported that purchases skyrocketed within 24 hours of the report.

Take away the question of him using the product (he has denied it, and the timing of the report is a little odd, given that the source claims he began taking the product months ago), and let’s just focus on the bottom line: does deer antler spray actually work to build muscle and speed recovery?

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.

The Truth About Deer Antler Velvet

Deer antler velvet is supposed to help you build muscle. It allegedly elevates levels of IGF-1, an important hormone that helps you pack on mass. As “side effects” you also should see improvements in strength and endurance. And some products even claim it speeds recovery, which is why it was linked to Ray Lewis who earlier suffered an apparent season-ending injury, and yet has played and performed at a high level in the playoffs.

The truth? While research is limited, there’s nothing to suggest that deer antler velvet (or deer antler spray in the supplement form) actually does what it claims. In fact, there are two published studies (in real scientific journals, you can see them here and here) that suggest deer antler velvet does not (I repeat, does not) even elicit a hormonal response. What’s more, it also did not increase muscular strength or aerobic power.

Ok, so what’s two studies? I fully expect many readers will claim studies suck. Or that some things occur “in the trenches” and will always be ahead of scientific research. And you know what? That’s a valid argument. A lot of great information will never get published. That’s why I work with Jason Ferruggia and other credible coaches in the Renegade Inner Circle to answer questions and provide guidance to what really works.

If people see results with deer antler velvet it’s probably the result of another valid argument: The placebo effect. If you believe something works, it sure can seem to have a powerful impact. Nothing is stronger than your mind. And with deer antler velvet, that’s most likely what’s happening.

Just in case you don’t want to take my word, I decided to dig a little deeper. After all, I don’t care about winning arguments. All I care about is helping you find better ways to improve your health and fitness, and make sure you don’t blow your money. So before you dismiss my evidence, you’ll want to read this.

Deer Antler Velvet: A Big Hoax?

Most deer antler spray bottles contain about 3,000 to 5,000 nanograms of IGF-1 from antler velvet. That’s not my guess—it comes straight from the manufacturer. You know, those same people that are selling you on the miraculous benefits.

Now, you’ll probably read a lot about the power of IGF-1 in many reports about Ray Lewis. And while it’s true that IGF-1 is illegal in man-made form, let’s not mistake illegal products (because they are synthetic) with guaranteed amazing results. IGF-1 can have a significant impact on your body, but it’s not that easy to get the levels you need from deer antler. In fact, given what’s in a typical bottle, it is damn near impossible.

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.

I’m no math major, but take a quick look at the numbers. An entire bottle of deer antler velvet contains only 3,000 to 5,000 nanograms of IGF-1. To receive growth hormone benefits you need to take 25 million nanograms. PER DAY.

Assuming that deer antler velvet is the next biggest thing in muscle building and athletics isn’t just a massive leap of faith, it’s something that can’t be supported by science in any way, shape, or form. So why is it illegal? Because it’s still a synthetic, man-made growth hormone precursor. Those are illegal, according to most professional sports.

You want to see great results? The formula hasn’t changed. Train hard, recover harder (sleep, nutrition, massage), eat well, smile, and enjoy life. And yes, find reputable information and sources.

If you want to take supplements, don’t expect any miracles. They can help, but they are still just supplementing what you do with diet and exercise. If you want to know what supplements I take, the list is below. (The exact products I take are directly linked.)

And if you want me to be honest, the only one’s you probably “need” are fish oil and Vitamin D. Everything else you can get from a rock-solid diet.

That’s a headline that won’t grab anyone’s attention or help anyone make a quick dollar, but it’s still the best advice to looking awesome and feeling good.

Make it Count,

Born

Looking for more guidance?

If you want help building muscle and losing fat, you can apply to work with me one-on-one. You’ll receive professionally designed workouts, have access to me and some of the best strength and nutrition coaches to ask your questions and get the help you need. Best of all? The first month is risk free so you can ensure that the program is right for you.

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About Adam Bornstein

Adam Bornstein is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning editor, speaker and business consultant. He is the CEO of Born Fitness, a company that specializes in viral content creation, publishing, online coaching, social media, and branding. View all posts by Adam Bornstein →
  • Mike Nelson

    Boom! Like a boss and you’ve made any article I would write on this now inferior!
    Totally agree. Lots of big “ifs” for it to work and 2 studies as you cite say “negatory” so far.
    I talked to some guys who work at a supplement company that makes it and they claim it works. They are also working to publish a study on it, which is great. In the meantime, I am still not holding my breath that this will do anything. Great article! Thanks my man! Mike T Nelson

  • Evan

    Ray Lewis drinks ViSalus along with 7 other Ravens players.

    • http://twitter.com/JCDFitness JC Deen

      so what? those are just overpriced protein powders. :v

  • Sharee McCloskey

    This sounds so weird, how is the deer antler spray made?

  • http://thinksteroids.com/author/millard-baker/ Millard Baker

    I wonder why the media (Sports Illustrated) is so intent on creating a doping scandal based on a clearly ineffective product. They overlook the fact that trace amounts of hormones (e.g. testosterone, IGF-1, etc) could be present in a variety of animal products yet are not absorbed and result in zero hormonal response.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dexter.benson.503 Dexter Benson

    i have been using the Dr Max Powers HGH spray for years (which contains the highest dosage of deer antler you can buy online). It is an integral part of chinese herbal, internal formulas. The spray works great and you will need to make sure you use the 3 pack, because the 3 month program is what makes a HUGE difference.

  • Fredi

    Great article! However, looking at your list of supplements, I have to question Fish Oil. I heard a guest speaking on the AM radio show Coast to Coast. He said that we are being poisoned with fish oil, I believe due to the large amount in supplements, furthermore If I recall correctly he said it was linked to skin cancer. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  • James

    Hey Adam,

    Great article, in part.

    Just to clear the air, I own a Deer Velvet company based in Australia – Kingly
    Velvet. We sell only deer antler velvet powder.

    Just to let you know deer antler velvet (DAV) and IGF-1 Spray (what Ray was
    taking) are two different things. DAV is a powder made from the antler of the
    male deer. IGF-1 spray is made by extracting the IGF from the powder using alcohol.
    Just like fruit juice is made from a fruit, they are still two different
    things.

    I have never used IGF-1 Spray and we don’t sell the product, so I can’t say
    how/if it works. The product we sell does work and we have hundreds of
    customers who would agree.

    Now for some info – IGF spray is a bi-product of DAV powder. This product
    offers you one ingredient, IGF. As mention above retailers are offering 3,000
    to to 5,000 and even up to 90,000 nano grams (ng) of IGF in their products. Now
    if you don’t know what an ng is, ng stands for nono gram, a nano gram is 1,
    000,000th (one millionth) of a gram. So when you are being offered 9,000ng you
    are being offered .000009 of a gram of igf-1

    Again, I have never used this product and can’t say if it works. These are just
    simple facts on what each product is.

    DAV has been used for over 2,000 years and is still considered one of the more
    important ingredients in TCM today.

    DAV is the velvet hair like substance that forms on the antlers of the deer
    during mating season. These are removed each year during this time, freeze
    dried and made into a powder.

    Deer are the only mammal in the world that can repeatedly grow an appendage -
    antlers. So the deer are not harmed during the removal process.

    DAV is the only natural renewable source of glucosamine and chondroitin in the
    world and DAV contains over 390 active ingredients including – omega 3,
    protein, IGF, amino acids, etc, etc, etc.

    It is the combination of these ingredients that makes DAV so amazing. Take just
    a few of these away and you lose that perfect balance.

    DAV is used for hundreds of different ailments including – arthritis, psoriasis,
    improving liver function and many more.

    Now when it comes to sports use, this product is not going to make to HUGE
    over night that is not what it is used for!

    DAV is used for recovery from training. The idea being, if you recover
    quicker you will be able to train harder.

    We currently supply our product to one of the top race car drivers here in
    Australia to aid his recovery. His largest race is around 500km on a very tough
    track. These guys put their bodies through amazing physical stress every race
    and in training, so they need to recover as quick as possible. He has seen a
    30%+ recovery time since taking the product and feels his time behind the wheel
    has been made easier from this.

    Sorry for the long rant, but it is hard for us to see DAV slapped round the
    net and put in the same boat as IGF-1 spray. They are very, very different
    products that clearly have very different results.

    Adam if you are interested we would be happy for you to trial our product
    for a few months and you can make your own mind up on the results.

    If you have any questions you can email me via our site. This is not a plug,
    I just really want to clear the air.

    Best,

    James.

    • Patricia

      Hello James, I would like to know how I can buy this product from you, because I’m from Brazil, and I don’t have cartilage on my knees.
      Thank you
      Patricia

  • MAth

    1 bottle is 2oz. Article states 3,000-5,000ng of IGF-1 in bottle. Going with minimum content that means 25000000/3000 results in the maximum oz. consumed to be effective being 833. If the velvet can be concentrated to a more potent extract that a professional athlete might afford, a 10x concentration would need only 83.3 oz, a 20x = 41.7oz, 50x = 16.66oz.

    The last being near one large red bull can a day.

  • bodiddley23

    ive been using the Deer Antler Extract and I will say it has worked for me. I have been working out for years and I can feel the difference. Im not here to discredit your opinion. Just wanna put in my two cents. I will say that the recovery during and after my workouts are for real. Its not in my head. My muscles are not sore at all. Trust me when I say I know the difference. I go in the gym and big the heavy stuff and I feel I can go the very next day with the same workout. once again im just saying from my own personal experience.. Good day peeps

    • ant-roid

      I’ve been working out for years, also, and can tell you that I never feel sore anymore. Its an adaptation to working out, you are getting stronger and your muscles are tougher from it. Probably nothing to do with deer antler. Take a month off and then hit the weights hard, I guarantee u will feel sore. After years of lifting, soreness is no longer an issue, I can describe the feeling more as a tiredness within the muscle. And I love it when I really fry a muscle, and then later on in the day I’ll do something that causes a cramp in said muscle, and I’ll think to myself damn that was a good workout. Even then, it isn’t a soreness.

      • http://www.antlerfarms.com/ Antler Farms

        When Olympic athletes and professional athletes state the same thing, that they recover faster with deer antler velvet, would you be so quick as to tell them they are just adapted to working out? They’ve been working out, very strenuously, for their entire lives.

        • ant-roid

          Yea because you’re not biased. I’ve always wanted to try deer antler. Every time I convince myself to I never want to spend the money.

  • Scott

    I believe WebMD who says differently and have case studies. To say it does nothing while they say it does so much…. someone needs to do more study I would say.
    Scott

    • http://www.antlerfarms.com/ Antler Farms

      There are literally millions of people who use deer antler velvet. We hear from customers everyday who tell us about the positive changes they’ve experienced after use of deer antler velvet. It is not a miracle food and doesn’t cause overnight changes. Most people experience subtle, gradual changes over a period of time (months). Born, if we send you a three month supply, will you consistently use it and report back to your audience about the results?

  • Val

    Hi Adam, thank you for providing this information. The growth factor, known as insulin-like growth factor-1, or IGF- 1, is necessary for proper growth in children, but studies of men and women more than 40 years old raise the possibility that it contributes to the growth of tumors.
    Would you provide any comments on it? Does it mean that Power IGF should be avoided by people over 40 years of age?

  • Jared

    Just an FYI, Fish oil is now being linked to increase risk for prostate cancer in men. Check the National Library of Medicine’s recent study. Flax see oil is a good substitute

  • Jeremiah

    Too many reports from people having success from Deer Antler Velvet for me to think it amounts to nothing. I noticed Antler Farms responded to this article but I get my Velvet from Nutronics, who FIRST introduced Deer Antler Velvet to the US 19 years. And their strongest formula boasts 200,000nanograms of IGF-1 per bottle. Doses like this have huge, noticeable effects. Best to try this out first before passing judgment. Amazing stuff!