Peptides are a buzzy word in the skincare industry, with the popularity of collagen peptide supplements reaching new heights, and ingredients like copper peptides, and polypeptides taking over skincare brands. But did you know that peptides come in an injectable format that are rumored to produce results like muscle-building? It's true, and the procedure is gaining popularity with bodybuilders.
To find out more, we spoke to plastic surgeons about what exactly peptide injections are, and whether or not they can help you reveal that six-pack you've worked so hard on.
Meet the Expert
What Are Peptide Injections?
Peptides exist in all cells. They have properties that offer selective messaging within a cell. Peptide injections travel into the bloodstream and circulate through the body. Some peptides are injected underneath the skin, directly into muscle tissue, or near an injury site or other specific treatment area. "Many that we use in clinical practice are injected with small needles just under the skin into the subcutaneous layer," says David Shafer, MD, FACS, double-board certified plastic surgeon.
"Peptides are protein compounds that are found in different parts of the body that help to fight infections and promote wound healing. These peptides can also help to improve muscle growth and regenerate different types of cells in the body. They are found in the largest organ of the body, which is the skin, and helps to protect against aging and ultraviolet light," explains Alexander Zuriarrian, MD, board-certified plastic surgeon.
What Are Peptides?
Peptides are molecules that combine between two and fifty amino acids that are held together by peptide bonds. If you know anything about amino acids, you know that they are part of what makes up proteins. "Adding more amino acids after 50 makes the molecules a polypeptide and after 100 amino acids, it becomes a protein. Peptides exist in all cells and have properties that offer selective messaging within a cell," explains Shafer.
Some medications or supplements require an injection to be effective since this bypasses the digestive system, where stomach acid can interfere with the active ingredients before getting into the bloodstream. Peptides are vulnerable to this interference since the peptide chains can break down into separate amino acids before getting into the bloodstream, rendering them ineffective.
Benefits of Peptide Injections
While peptide injections may be used for various health or aesthetic concerns, we wanted to know the benefits for those looking to reveal their fitness efforts. "There are definitely benefits to peptide injections for cosmetic and fitness purposes. They help to activate the release of certain hormones that promote fat loss, increase muscle tone, and can enhance physical fitness and endurance," says Zuriarrian. One such hormone is human growth hormone (HGH) which is thought to increase muscle mass and reduce body fat.
So, peptide injections may not only have immediate results but may increase your ability to perform in future workouts. "All of these components can lead to helping people work out longer and get better results from their fitness protocols," says Zuriarrian. "There are many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts that use peptide injections to enhance their results."
How to Prepare for Peptide Injections
There are a few tips to consider before receiving peptide injections. Namely, you should always discuss your current health and medication status with your doctor and let them know you plan on having the procedure. "You should prepare for peptide injections by avoiding the use of medications that thin your blood prior to receiving the injections. This can include discontinuing daily baby aspirin and supplements that decrease clotting," says Zuriarrian.
It's also critical that you seek out top-quality professionals to advise you on and perform the injections. "It is always recommended to visit a board-certified physician who is using sterile technique when performing the subcutaneous injections. There are many "street pharmacists" who believe they are qualified to perform these types of injections and they are not," warns Zuriarrian.
Once you've chosen your physician and spoken to your primary care provider, there are steps you should take for the best results. "Prior to receiving peptides, it is important to have a consultation with a practitioner that is knowledgeable in peptides, have a physical exam, review your medical history and bloodwork. This will help to choose which peptides would be the most appropriate for you," advises Shafer.
What to Expect During Peptide Injections
According to the experts, you should expect to have minimal pain or discomfort from peptide injections, despite the needle. "These are subcutaneous injections which means they are very superficial. They are not painful. The needle that is used is very small and produces a simple pinprick sensation," explains Zuriarrian.
"Peptide injections are virtually painless. It involves a very small needle and is injected just underneath the skin. It is common to inject the peptide on a daily basis for a month or longer depending on the treatment program. It is easy enough to do in the comfort of your own home," says Shafer.
At-Home vs. In-Office Treatment
Some types of peptide injections can be performed at home after receiving a consultation and instructions from a physician. The results should be the same if you've completed the injections properly. However, self-injection has some drawbacks, including greater risks of side effects like an infection.
Be sure you learn the proper safe method of self-injection, which your physician should demonstrate. Watch for pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site, itching, bruising, infection, fluid retention. Check your needle before use for breakage or malfunction.
Potential Side Effects
As far as safety and after-effects go, peptide injections seem relatively safe and incident-free. "Side effects are fairly minimal," says Shafer. "One of the best things about peptides is they have an excellent safety profile. That being said, it is important that you are having them prescribed for you and that they are being made by an FDA registered compounding pharmacy. The best pharmacies do third-party testing on their products to ensure potency and stability."
"Any type of peptide injection can result in a potential side effect," says Zuriarrian. "Some examples can include allergic reaction, itching, rash, headache, dizziness, fatigue, numbness at the injection site, among others. In general, a peptide injection is not any more dangerous than a simple vaccination."
The cost of peptide injections varies greatly by the type of peptide treatment you are receiving, how long and how many times you get the treatment and the provider. Typically, peptide injections range from $100 to $300. Self-injections will be cheaper than in-office treatments.
The in-office treatment provides more options for post-treatment care. "At Shafer Clinic we have incorporated pre-and post-op peptide treatments. We have noticed substantial improvements in healing timelines after surgery, increased energy levels, and patients returning to their daily activities faster. Surgical results are enhanced as patients have less swelling and less inflammation after surgery," says Shafer.
If you are self-injecting, watch for all of the side effects mentioned previously. If you experience a little bleeding, apply pressure over the shot area with your finger, a cotton ball, or a piece of gauze. Avoid rubbing the injection site to prevent it from bruising.
The Final Takeaway
Peptide injections are a relatively painless, safe option and may provide cosmetic results such as helping reveal your abs. However, results are not guaranteed, and the procedure can get expensive. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons and discuss the idea with your primary care provider. Seeking out a highly-skilled plastic surgeon for a consultation to see if peptide injections are right for you is advisable.
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