If you’ve been a reader or a podcast listener for a while, chances are you’ve heard me throw around the term “peptides” in a number of different contexts.
Perhaps at this point, you’ve gathered that they’re simply some kind of crazy miracle molecule that one might inject into their abs or butt for systemic absorption or in a joint for localized healing for some kind of vastly accelerated healing effect, anti-aging hack, or mitochondrial upgrade. And you'd be a bit correct to think so.
But despite having written several articles and published just as many podcast episodes about peptides over the last few years, I still get questions about this topic nearly every darn day, including…
What exactly are peptides?
How do they work in the body?
What are the best sources?
How do you “take” them?
How can I stack peptides for the best effects?
Are they safe?
Are they legal?
To be honest, I completely understand why people still have so many unanswered questions about peptides. Peptide therapy is still a fairly new concept for the general population, there aren’t many experts out there talking about this stuff (though the numbers are certainly growing), and, what’s more, peptides aren’t technically FDA approved or patentable, so despite the fact that some of the smartest functional medicine physicians I know use peptides daily in their practice, most mainstream health websites are certainly not going to talk about peptides.
In other words, most folks have no choice but to seek out alternative sources for information on peptides.
So with that being said, I want to do my very best to educate and be a trusted source of information on the incredibly intriguing field of peptide therapy, not only because I’ve used them myself to great success, but also because I believe they can truly revolutionize everything from human performance to athletic recovery, anti-aging, immune treatments, skin and hair restoration, and much more.
Here's what you can expect in this comprehensive three-part peptides series:
- Everything You Need To Know About Peptides Part 1: What Are Peptides, Where to Get Peptides, How To Reconstitute Peptides, Peptide Storage, Peptide Injections & More!
- Everything You Need To Know About Peptides Part 2: The Best Peptide “Stacks” for Everything from Recovery to Fat Loss, Muscle Gain, Immunity, Anti-Aging, and More.
- Everything You Need To Know About Peptides Part 3: Are They Safe? Are They Legal? & Other Frequently Asked Questions About Peptides.
Today, I'm covering Part 1. Stay tuned over the next two weeks, because I’ll be rolling out Parts 2 and 3! And if you want to go back and review any of my past peptides material, here's a good list of resources:
- How To Use BPC-157: A Complete Dummies Guide To Healing The Body Like Wolverine.
- Demystifying Growth Hormone-Releasing Peptides – Everything You Need To Know About GH, Ipamorelin, Tesamorelin & More!
- Are Peptides Legal? What The FDA’s New Bulk Drug Substance Crackdown Means For Peptides (Plus 9 Promising Little-Known Peptides To Watch Out For In The Future).
- The Dark Side Of Peptides: Why You Need To Proceed With Caution When Using These Powerful But Potentially Carcinogenic Molecules.
- How To Build New Blood Vessels, Regenerate Muscle Tissue Fibers, Increase New Cell Growth & More With Something Called “TB-500”.
- How To Use Growth Hormone Stacks For A Better Body: Everything You Need To Know About IGF-LR3, GHRP, and GHRH Peptide Stacks.
- The Little-Known Russian Wonder Compound & The Fringe Future Of Anti-Aging Medicine
- The Peptides Podcast: Everything You Need To Know About Anti-Aging, Muscle Gain, Fat Loss & Recovery Peptides.
- Is Metformin Really Dangerous, Little-Known Peptides For Muscle Gain & Fat Loss, Testosterone Replacement Therapy & Much More!
- What You Didn’t Know About CBD & THC, Fixing Lyme Disease, The Full Body Blood Change Reboot, Peptides 101, Hyperthermia & Much More!
- Peptides Unveiled: The Best Peptide Stacks For Anti-Aging, Growth Hormone, Deep Sleep, Hair Loss, Enhanced Cognition & Much More!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not to be taken, interpreted, or construed as medical advice. These are just my own personal thoughts and not a prescription or a diagnosis or any form of health care whatsoever. Please talk with a licensed medical professional if you’re interested in using peptides. In addition, most of this stuff is banned by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA), US Anti-Doping Association (USADA), and other international governing bodies of sport, so you should not use any of these compounds if you are competing in any sanctioned sport. You can click here to search for whether peptides (or other compounds) are legal in your sport. Also, please note that the world of peptides is ever-evolving, and while I do try to keep posted articles updated, I can only attest that this information is current as of January 2022.
What Are Peptides?
Peptides are naturally occurring biological molecules containing two or more amino acids connected to one another by peptide bonds.
Like amino acids and proteins, peptides perform a number of critical, fundamental processes in the body. Most notably, they serve as signaling molecules that communicate with our cells and “tell them what to do” with laser-like specificity–whether it’s repairing tissues, producing certain hormones, or sending out anti-inflammatory compounds to promote healing.
- Amino acids are individual molecules;
- Peptides are (generally) short chains of 2-50 amino acids;
- Proteins are (generally) long chains of 50+ amino acids.
But, lest you think peptides are some kind of “fringe biohack,” you should know that they’ve actually been used therapeutically in medicine for over a century. In fact, life-saving medicines like morphine, penicillin, and insulin are all peptides, and there are many peptide-based vaccines as well.
What has changed recently, however, and why peptides have suddenly exploded on the health scene, is two-fold:
- Technological advancements have allowed us to enhance the circulatory half-lives and therapeutic potency of peptides–such as attaching the peptide to a molecule that increases the overall size which can help with receptor-mediated recycling (absorption by cells) or manipulating the amino acid chain in a way that enhances its stability in the bloodstream.
- The commercialization of peptides, which has made them more publicly available, especially online. However, I will issue a forewarning here that the ability to easily buy peptides from just about any website has not exactly been the best thing when it comes to ensuring the safety and purity of peptides, but alas, I will discuss that more below.
The Health Benefits of Peptides
So, why would you want to go through all the trouble and expense of finding a trusted peptides practitioner–or, perhaps, if you’re taking a more DIY approach–navigating the interwebs to find a safe, reputable source and then proceeding to inject oneself with a syringe full of these strange “wonder compounds,” anyway?
The short answer is, the results can undoubtedly be worth it.
Personally, I can attest to the incredible, fast-acting benefits of therapeutic peptides. I’ve used BPC-157 to shut down gut inflammation, as well as completely banish a number of injuries such as golfer’s elbow, medial epicondylitis, inner elbow pain, and a torn upper hamstring. LL-37, an anti-microbial peptide, helped my gut recover from a nasty bout of giardia thanks to a water filter snafu during a wilderness survival course. And for a nootropic-like brain boost, the peptide Semax is one of my favorites, as it can provide hours of focused cognitive performance without deleteriously affecting sleep or causing any type of anxiety or jitters.
(And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I cover many more of my personal favorite peptides in my book Boundless.)
When administered correctly, peptides work by replenishing our natural levels that decline with age, providing a seemingly endless list of health benefits (depending on the peptide), such as:
- Improving sleep
- Supporting brain health
- Boosting immune health
- Increasing lean muscle growth
- Enhancing longevity and anti-aging
- Stopping hair loss (and even regrowing hair)
- Improving insulin sensitivity and metabolic health
- Supporting injury healing and muscular/joint recovery
- And much, much more…
How can peptides have such wide-ranging effects on nearly every bodily system? Well, it’s because they are essentially “biological chameleons,” acting as circulating hormones, neurotransmitters, local regulators–or all of these at once–which allows them to play a fundamental role in controlling human development, reproduction, physiology, and behavior. Additionally, peptides have extremely high specificity and affinity for their intended target (you can think of them like heat-seeking missiles) and can easily penetrate those cell membranes due to their small size. Plus, an added benefit of using peptides as a treatment is that, because of their shorter half-life, they don’t accumulate in specific organs (e.g. kidney or liver) which makes their toxicity levels extremely low.
Pretty cool, right? Now that you understand how peptides work and what benefits they have in the body, let’s discuss where you might find these magic molecules.
Where To Get Peptides
Now, since peptides are natural compounds, they are technically not patentable, period. That means Big Pharma can't make money off them, and thus, they will never be marketed to your local doctor or hospital or anywhere else in the conventional health care system.
Peptides, though incredibly safe and effective, are also not currently approved by the FDA and are therefore largely unregulated. This doesn’t mean they’re illegal for you to consume per se (unless you are, say, an athlete competing in a sanctioned sport that restricts peptide use), but rather that they cannot be legally sold or advertised as “for human consumption” (this is why you’ll see them labeled as such on websites).
Because of these reasons, the process of finding a reputable, high-quality source of peptides can be extremely tricky and daunting.
Personally, I have to admit that my first foray into peptides was a bit “sketchy” and I tinkered around with some sites that may or may not have been the most high quality of sources (though I did not grow a tail or third nipple, thankfully).
However, after I did more research, spoke with a number of doctors and peptide experts, and became aware of quality issues with peptides, which were made public in the New York Times article, “At the Heart of a Vast Doping Network, an Alias,” I became much pickier about my sources. For example, according to that article, “the head of Switzerland’s anti-doping organization said that his agency’s tests have shown that 80 percent of the peptides advertised on the web are adulterated or outright fakes.” Yikes.
Since I’m assuming that you, like me, don’t want to be spending your hard-earned money on fake peptides, nor taking the chance of injecting questionable substances into your precious meat suit, I would highly caution you against buying peptides willy-nilly from any old website you find.
Frankly, the very best (and safest) option would be to get your peptides through a legitimate health care provider that can work with you to develop an appropriate protocol for your needs.
You can either visit the International Peptide Society to find a physician near you, or you can seek out working with any number of clinics/practitioners I’ve interviewed and can personally vouch for, such as:
- Matt Cook of BioReset Medical (my trusted source for the highest-quality peptides)
- Jean-François Tremblay of CanLabs
- Craig Koniver of Koniver Wellness
- Matt Dawson of Wild Health
However, if for whatever reason working with a physician is not an option, I have also managed to find some reputable online sources for quality peptides, including:
- CanLab Research (The products they offer are for lab research use only by law and available for research and dev purposes only.)
- Peptide Sciences (The products they offer are for lab research use only by law and available for research and dev purposes only.)
- Tailor Made Compounding (They don't actually offer peptides on their site—you need a consultation first.)
How To Use Peptides: Reconstitution, Storage, & Administration
So, now that you understand what peptides can do and where to get them, you might be wondering how the heck you actually use them.
The truth is, there are a number of ways you can take peptides, and the route you choose depends on a) what peptide you’re using and b) what benefits you’re seeking.
Some peptides can be applied topically, which is the best route if you’re looking for an external benefit such as skin or hair care. For example, Jay Campbell’s “age-defying” peptides are designed to be applied directly to your skin or hair for best results. However, if you’re not using a ready-made formula, you can also mix peptides with a cream or gel to make your very own topical formula. For example, this video walks you through how to make your own anti-aging peptide serum.
Peptides like BPC-157 can also be taken orally–such as in a lozenge, spray, or tablet form–which can be the most convenient option for something like intestinal or gut health benefits. However, there are very few peptides that are stable enough to resist gastric digestion, so be sure to do your research before purchasing an oral form.
Additionally, intranasal application, usually in the form of a nasal spray is another option. This route tends to be best if looking to directly target the brain, such as with the aforementioned nootropic peptide Semax.
However, the most effective, most common–and, admittedly, most complicated–way to administer peptides is via injection, which may sound scary but is pretty much the equivalent of what millions of diabetics do every day with the tiny needle found in an insulin syringe. However, the administration route of injection obviously requires a bit more planning and preparation than topical, oral, or nasal peptide formulas, so the remainder of these instructions will cover the process for administering your own peptide injections.
Peptide Injections: How To Reconstitute Peptides
Before using your peptides, you’ll need to “reconstitute” them.
This is because most peptides will come in a powder, or lyophilized form, which will need to be “reconstituted” into a liquid solution using sterilized or bacteriostatic water (BAC).
Here are some general guidelines on how to reconstitute your peptides:
- Remove the plastic safety caps on both vials (peptide and BAC).
- Gently alcohol swab the rubber stopper on each of the vials.
- Use the reference guide that came with your peptides, or a helpful tool like this Peptide Reconstitution Calculator or the PepCalc app to determine the amount of BAC you need to reconstitute your specific peptide.
- Draw as much BAC as you need into your syringe (plus a little bit more). Flick the side of your syringe to remove the extra air bubbles and push a little bit of liquid out of the top.
- Carefully insert the tip of the BAC syringe into the peptides vial and very slowly administer the liquid, ideally along the side of the syringe and not directly into the peptides powder.
- Slowly rotate the peptides vial (don’t shake, peptides are very fragile) to mix the powder with the BAC.
Voila, your peptide is now reconstituted!
While many sites will state that reconstituting your peptides is simple math, there’s still a ton of confusion. Why? Are we all just too dumb to do a little number crunching? I don’t think so. For one, there are a number of different types of syringes. Insulin syringes are the most popular, but those differ between U40 and U100 (meaning some are smaller and some are larger, so the amount of volume you add to a syringe is going to be different based on the syringe size). There are also non-insulin syringes, called “Tuberculin”, which feature decimal markings in milliliters instead of IU's like an insulin syringe does. Your “tick marks” on your syringe will vary based on the type you have, and that can also change your calculations. Peptides also come in different size vials (meaning the mg volume in the peptide can vary), as does the volume of BAC water sizes.
Anyways, it's pretty simple if you think about it though. If I have a 5mg vial BPC-157 and I want a somewhat standard 250mcg dose, that means I'd need 1/20 of the 5000mcg of BPC-157 that is in that vial. So if I add, say, 5mL of BAC to that via, then 1mL has 1mg and .25mL has my desired 250mcg. Easy, right? Now, if you want to fiddle around with the math, you can also start with this equation in which you'll want to solve for “X” (x = tick marks on syringe).
(Amount of peptide / Amount of BAC water) * (x tick marks) = (Dose desired) * (Number of ticks / Syringe volume) >> this varies per syringe
Here's an example of the calculations for reconstituting BCP-157 with a U-100 insulin syringe (you'll want to convert the 5mg BPC-157 to mcg, so 5mg BPC is 5000 mcg BPC):
(5000mcg / 5mL) * (x ticks) = 250mcg * (100 ticks / 1mL)
Solving for x, you'd get 25 ticks, so you'd pull back to the 25 mark on a 1mL syringe.
However, I’d highly recommend just using one of the helpful calculators I included above if this is confusing to you. :)
If you’re more of a visual learner, you can also follow this handy YouTube video that walks you through the peptide reconstitution process:
Peptide Injections: How To Store Peptides
Now, if you’re not going to administer your peptide right after you receive it, you’ll need to know how to store it properly.
Peptides are fragile compounds, so proper storage is crucial if you don't want to waste your hard-earned dough. Peptides in all forms should be stored away from light, heat, and moisture. Try to leave them undisturbed for the most part, except when taking them out to reconstitute or administer.
Below are some tips for storing and maintaining your peptides to avoid any contamination, oxidation, and degradation that may render your precious peptides useless.
Storing Lyophilized (Powder) Peptides:
If you’re going to store your powder peptides, the best practice is to immediately put them in the refrigerator (under 4°C / 39°F), where they can remain stable for 1-2 years.
The exception would be if you’re not going to use your peptides within 1-2 months. At that point, you should store them in the freezer (-18°C / 0°F) where they’ll typically remain viable for 2-3 years.
Storing Reconstituted (Mixed) Peptides:
Reconstituted peptide solutions should also be stored in the refrigerator, where they will generally remain stable for up to 30 days.
It’s typically not recommended to store reconstituted peptides for more than 30 days, which means you should really only reconstitute one month’s worth of peptides at a time and leave the remaining powder peptides in the fridge/freezer.
Peptide Injections: How to Administer Subcutaneous and Intramuscular Peptides
Once you’re ready to administer your peptide, you’ll need to know whether you’ll be doing a subcutaneous or intramuscular injection.
Ideally, your physician or peptide source should provide instructions on which type of injection to do for your specific peptide, but if not, below are some guidelines.
A subcutaneous injection is given under the skin but doesn’t pierce the muscle, so it’s a bit more comfortable, less potentially painful, and easier to administer. Peptides that work “systemically” or need a slower absorption rate into the bloodstream will typically involve subcutaneous injections, and this usually includes peptides used for general health, systemic anti-inflammation, mitochondrial health, or anti-aging.
Intramuscular injections, on the other hand, are a little tougher since you must stab the entire needle through the skin and into the muscle (even though it sounds scary, your basic flu shot is an intramuscular injection). Intramuscular injections are usually used when you want to bypass the digestion process and enter the bloodstream as quickly as possible, or when you want to target a site of injury directly.
So, make sure to know which type of injection you’ll be using before getting started!
Preparing for Injection:
Before you actually do the injection, there are a few basic things you’ll need to do to prepare.
List of items you’ll need:
- Alcohol wipes
- For subcutaneous injections: A box of insulin syringes, preferably 1ml/1cc, with 28 gauge 1/2 inch attached needles (single use)
- For intramuscular injections: A box of 22-25 gauge needles (single use)
- Disposable gloves (optional)
- Your reconstituted peptide
Before the injection:
- Warm the peptide vial to room temperature before opening. This prevents moisture contamination.
- Weigh out the desired quantity of peptide quickly.
- Reseal the vial tightly and store the remaining peptide back in your refrigerator or freezer.
- Put on your disposable gloves or wash your hands well.
- Use your alcohol wipes to sterilize the area of skin you’ll be injecting and let it dry.
- Prepare your syringe: Take the syringe in your dominant hand, pull the cover off with your other hand, and pull the correct amount of peptide into your syringe from your vial.
- Proceed with administering your peptide.
OK, so let’s get to the part of exactly how to exactly jab yourself with a needle. Fun!
Subcutaneous Injection Instructions
Here’s a YouTube tutorial on how to do a subcutaneous injection:
First, choose the site of injection–usually either the thighs, abdomen, upper arm, or buttocks (unless your specific peptide requires a different site).
Pinch one to two inches of skin at the injection site. Generally, you can place the needle straight in at a 90-degree angle if you can pinch more skin, but if you can only pinch an inch of skin you can insert the needle at a 45-degree angle. However, if it's too tough to simultaneously pinch your skin and inject yourself, you can always recruit a helper.
At this point, you’ll want to inject the needle completely into the skin, making sure to avoid muscle tissue. Once you completely empty the syringe you can pull the needle out, and you’re done!
Intramuscular Injection Instructions
Here’s a YouTube tutorial on how to do an intramuscular injection:
If doing an intramuscular injection, you’ll want to find a site with lots of muscle, including your shoulder muscle, thigh muscles, or muscles on the hip.
The instructions for intramuscular are essentially the same: Pinch as much skin as you can at the injection site, insert the need at ideally 90 degrees, administer the peptide solution, and pull the needle out carefully (except for this one you may want to try your very best to think of puppies and rainbows as it’ll hurt a tad bit more).
For both the subcutaneous and intramuscular injections, you'll experience better results and a more complete absorption and administration if you “massage” the general area of injection for about 30-60 seconds to really work the peptide into the tissue.
Oh, and of course, be responsible and make sure to clean up and dispose of your needle appropriately–which ideally means don’t just throw it in your trash for your local garbage man to stick himself on. Right after injection, you’ll want to clean your needle with an antibiotic wipe and put it in a sharps disposal bin. Long-term, take your bin to a proper disposal facility such as a local dropbox or hazardous waste facility, sign up for a residential pick-up service, or look into an FDA mail-back program.
So, there you have it…
…a complete guide on peptides, what they do, where to get them, and how to use them.
I think a little recap might be necessary at this point, so here are the main takeaways:
- Peptides are chains of amino acids that serve as biological messengers in the body, making everything from the immune system to gut health, cognition, injury healing and recovery, hair growth, and metabolism work properly.
- They are not FDA-approved and therefore labeled as “not for human consumption,” remaining a fringe therapy despite their safety and efficacy.
- Most peptide sources are questionable. Your best bet is to work with a qualified practitioner or get your peptides from one of the reputable sources provided in this article.
- There are some formulas that can be administered topically, orally, or intranasally–but the most effective route seems to be subcutaneous or intramuscular injection.
- Make sure to follow the steps provided to properly reconstitute, administer, and store your peptides.
And that’s it for now! Make sure to stay tuned for next week when I’ll be publishing Part 2 of this series, which will be all about how to stack peptides, how to dose peptides, and much more!
In the meantime, hope I answered many of your questions about the hot topic of peptides here in Part 1, but if not, let me know what other questions you have in the comments section below, and feel free to add your own experiences, tips, and peptides or peptide stacks of choice!