Soy protein supplementation is not androgenic or estrogenic in college-aged men when combined with resistance exercise training

Sci Rep. 2018 Jul 24;8(1):11151. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-29591-4.


It is currently unclear as to whether sex hormones are significantly affected by soy or whey protein consumption. Additionally, estrogenic signaling may be potentiated via soy protein supplementation due to the presence of phytoestrogenic isoflavones. Limited also evidence suggests that whey protein supplementation may increase androgenic signaling. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the effects of soy protein concentrate (SPC), whey protein concentrate (WPC), or placebo (PLA) supplementation on serum sex hormones, androgen signaling markers in muscle tissue, and estrogen signaling markers in subcutaneous (SQ) adipose tissue of previously untrained, college-aged men (n = 47, 20 ± 1 yrs) that resistance trained for 12 weeks. Fasting serum total testosterone increased pre- to post-training, but more so in subjects consuming WPC (p < 0.05), whereas serum 17β-estradiol remained unaltered. SQ estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) protein expression and hormone-sensitive lipase mRNA increased with training regardless of supplementation. Muscle androgen receptor (AR) mRNA increased while ornithine decarboxylase mRNA (a gene target indicative of androgen signaling) decreased with training regardless of supplementation (p < 0.05). No significant interactions of supplement and time were observed for adipose tissue ERα/β protein levels, muscle tissue AR protein levels, or mRNAs in either tissue indicative of altered estrogenic or androgenic activity. Interestingly, WPC had the largest effect on increasing type II muscle fiber cross sectional area values (Cohen's d = 1.30), whereas SPC had the largest effect on increasing this metric in type I fibers (Cohen's d = 0.84). These data suggest that, while isoflavones were detected in SPC, chronic WPC or SPC supplementation did not appreciably affect biomarkers related to muscle androgenic signaling or SQ estrogenic signaling. The noted fiber type-specific responses to WPC and SPC supplementation warrant future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / metabolism
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / metabolism
  • Genistein / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / metabolism
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Phytoestrogens / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage*
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism
  • Resistance Training*
  • Soybean Proteins / chemistry*
  • Sterol Esterase / metabolism
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Whey Proteins / chemistry*
  • Young Adult


  • AR protein, human
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Isoflavones
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Extracts
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Soybean Proteins
  • Whey Proteins
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol
  • daidzein
  • Genistein
  • Sterol Esterase
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase