Peptides 101: A Steroid? A Supplement? Can They Help Men’s Muscle Growth?

If you’ve ever talked to somebody obsessed with biohacking, you’ve probably heard the term peptides come up. Perhaps you’ve even heard of them going to a “peptide therapy” clinic that sounds a bit like steroids.

Peptide therapy is increasingly popular, and these days you can find peptides for sale far and wide. But what are peptides, exactly? And do they really help with performance, muscle building, fat loss, and a number of other big promises? What are the risks you need to know.

Peptides are hardly new. In fact, you’ve got plenty of peptides in your body right now.

A peptide is simply a short chain of amino acids, and they form the building blocks of essential proteins. In fact, peptides help regulate a wide range of bodily functions. It’s no exaggeration to say that you can’t live without peptides!

Understandably, clinicians have long sought ways to harness and control the power of peptides, using them to kickstart the body’s natural healing capabilities. As such, many healthcare companies have begun synthesizing peptides, each one targeted toward a different therapeutic purpose.

Synthetic peptides are not exactly like the ones that occur naturally in your body. Having said that, they can be made to carefully mimic the biochemical structures of your natural peptides., which means they boast a high level of biocompatibility.

What does this mean? Basically, many peptides are extremely well-tolerated, at least when they are taken as directed. You also must take the right type. Understanding this could require a PhD, to be completely honest.

You absolutely should not take any peptides without talking to your healthcare provider.

Oh look, a neat little table of contents.

Peptides and Muscle Growth

That brings us to the next question: Are there any merits to using peptides to build muscle mass?

The short answer is yes, there is ample scientific evidence to demonstrate how peptides can assist in muscle development.

The slightly longer answer is that there are different types of peptides out there, and some are better-suited than others for generating muscle.

To get a sense of the broad utility of peptides, consider a few highlighted studies:

  • Collagen peptide supplements, when paired with resistance training, can contribute to pronounced increases in muscle mass. The study is pointed in saying that using collagen peptides is more effective than strength training alone.
  • A second study confirms that collagen peptides pair well with strength training, resulting in a significant boost in muscle mass.
  • Additional studies show that a muscle-secreted peptide called Apelin can improve both the size and function of muscle mass. (To be fair, this research online takes into account mice studies.)
  • Pea peptide has also demonstrated real potential to boost muscle mass, particularly when combined with strength and resistance training.

The Risks of Peptide Supplements

The Risks of Peptide Supplements

While peptide supplements are gaining popularity in the fitness and wellness communities for their potential benefits, including muscle growth, improved recovery, and enhanced overall health, it’s crucial to approach them with caution. Like any supplement, peptides come with their own set of risks and considerations. Here, we delve into the potential downsides to keep in mind.

Regulatory Oversight

One of the primary concerns with peptide supplements is the lack of regulatory oversight. Unlike pharmaceuticals, supplements do not undergo the rigorous testing and approval process by regulatory bodies like the FDA. This lack of scrutiny means that the purity, safety, and efficacy of peptide supplements can vary widely between products and manufacturers. Consumers must conduct thorough research and choose reputable brands to mitigate this risk.

Side Effects

Peptide supplements can also have side effects, which may vary depending on the type of peptide, dosage, and individual response. Common side effects include irritation at the injection site (for those taking injectable peptides), increased water retention, numbness, and fatigue. More serious, though less common, side effects could include changes in blood pressure, kidney issues, and hormonal imbalances. It’s essential to start with lower doses and monitor your body’s response.

Long-Term Safety

The long-term safety of peptide supplements is still largely unknown. While short-term studies have shown promising results, the lack of long-term clinical trials means we don’t fully understand the potential health impacts of sustained peptide use. This uncertainty underscores the importance of caution and moderation in their use.

Potential for Misuse

The performance-enhancing nature of peptides can also lead to misuse, particularly in competitive environments. Misuse can increase the risk of adverse effects and lead to ethical and legal issues, especially in sports governed by strict anti-doping regulations.

Interactions and Contraindications

Peptides can interact with other medications and supplements, potentially leading to adverse effects. Individuals with pre-existing health conditions or those taking medication should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any peptide supplement. This precaution ensures that the peptides will not interfere with their health regimen or exacerbate existing conditions.

How to Use Peptides to Grow Muscle Mass

There is ample reason to consider peptide therapy as a means of growing muscle mass. There are a few tips to keep in mind as you seek to do so safely.

Talk with your healthcare provider. Peptides are widely considered to be safe and well-tolerated, but in some cases there may be adverse reactions with other supplements or medications.

Choose the right products. Ensure you purchase peptides from USA-based manufacturers that can attest to rigorous standards of safety and purity.

Time it right. You’ll want to time your peptide use to coincide with your workouts. Many trainers recommend taking peptides the night before your morning gym session.

Consider the delivery system. While oral supplements often work well, injectables may offer a higher level of bioavailability.

Can Peptides Pump Up Your Workouts?

Peptide therapy isn’t a silver bullet or a miracle cure, but it can certainly be one way to augment your existing workout pattern. Consider using peptides to enjoy greater results and bigger muscles.


Oertzen-Hagemann, V., Kirmse, M., Eggers, B., Pfeiffer, K., Marcus, K., Marées, M., & Platen, P. (2019). Effects of 12 Weeks of Hypertrophy Resistance Exercise Training Combined with Collagen Peptide Supplementation on the Skeletal Muscle Proteome in Recreationally Active Men. Nutrients, 11.

Jendricke, P., Centner, C., Zdzieblik, D., Gollhofer, A., & König, D. (2019). Specific Collagen Peptides in Combination with Resistance Training Improve Body Composition and Regional Muscle Strength in Premenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 11.

Vinel, C., Lukjanenko, L., Batut, A., Deleruyelle, S., Pradère, J., Gonidec, S., Dortignac, A., Geoffre, N., Pereira, O., Karaz, S., Lee, U., Camus, M., Chaoui, K., Mouisel, E., Bigot, A., Mouly, V., Vigneau, M., Pagano, A., Chopard, A., Pillard, F., Guyonnet, S., Cesari, M., Burlet-Schiltz, O., Pahor, M., Feige, J., Vellas, B., Valet, P., & Dray, C. (2018). The exerkine apelin reverses age-associated sarcopenia. Nature Medicine, 24, 1360-1371.

Jia, S., Wu, Q., Wang, S., Kan, J., Zhang, Z., Zhang, X., Zhang, X., Li, J., Xu, W., Du, J., & Wei, W. (2022). Pea Peptide Supplementation in Conjunction With Resistance Exercise Promotes Gains in Muscle Mass and Strength. Frontiers in Nutrition, 9.

About the Author

David William Rosales is a writer and strength coach. He’s the head trainer and editor at Roman Fitness Systems. In addition to helping run RFS, he’s also the head editor for, the official website of the Strength and Conditioning Association of Professional Hockey. You can also check out his Instagram, he’s pretty easy on the eyes.

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