Are Bodybuilders Dying for DNP?
The bodybuilding and fat loss drug DNP has become a hot topic of discussion. Recently, everyone from Jason Blaha to Jerry Ward to Tiger Fitness’ own Marc Lobliner have chimed in on the subject of its use.
Before we explore just exactly what DNP is, and why it has so many major YouTube personalities fired up, let’s look at a few quotes:
Marc Lobliner, from “The Most Dangerous Drug in Bodybuilding | DNP“
DNP makes your body essentially burn through energy, burn through fat. There are a lot of top trainers in this industry giving DNP to their clients. I’ve said before that insulin is the most dangerous drug in bodybuilding. I was wrong. I rescind that. That comment was made because I didn’t know people were still ****ing using DNP.
You will never find anything that will burn fat like DNP. It is a risk/reward that should never ever be taken. I’m going to tell you why. Even so much as a minor overdose and your body cooks from the inside out, and you die.
Jason Blaha, from “RE: DNP The Most Dangerous Drug in Bodybuilding“
I do not ever advocate people using DNP or insulin. You compare something like DNP (to fat burners) and people try to say the risk isn’t that high, only a few people die from it every year.
Not that many people are using it, so what one percent of people using die every year? That’s not a good risk. Here’s the thing you have to factor in with these risk
This article will present a general overview of DNP, including its history as a fat burning drug, modern era use and known side effects. Before I dive into the topic I must strongly reiterate the opinions of those in the know: DNP is the most dangerous body recomposition drug on the planet.
Those who use this potent but highly dangerous drug have little room for error. DNP will kill you. It should be avoided at all costs. Period, end of story.
What is DNP? 2,4-Dinitrophenol
DNP, or 2,4-Dinitrophenol, is a biochemically active organic compound that is capable of hindering cellular ATP production. Commercially, DNP is used in herbicides and as an antiseptic. During World War One, DNP was combined with picric acid to make explosives.
In the 1930s DNP was used extensively as a dieting aid. 100,000 people used DNP (in pill form) during its first year on the market. Typical weight loss was around 3.3 pounds per week. It should be noted that this weight loss occurred without dietary restrictions, meaning that subjects lost weight despite eating freely.
At the cellular level, DNP functions as a proton translocator (protonophore). This means that DNP creates an environment in which protons are able to flow through the inner mitochondial membrane, essentially circumventing ATP synthase. This leads to decreased cellular ATP production efficiency. The result: cellular energy is dissipated as heat.
Bottom line: DNP impairs energy production in cells. Because of this the body will then use carbohydrate and fat stores as energy.
As the dose of DNP is increased, the human body will experience a rapid rise in temperature. This cellular-level heat production can quickly result in fatal hyperthermia (the body is producing heat faster than it can dissipate heat).
Tolerance to DNP varies. For some, a minimal dose could be deadly, while for others a standard dose is extremely tolerable.  This fact amplifies the risk of using DNP for fat loss, acting as a form of chemical Russian roulette. For some, ingesting a minimal dose could be fatal. The risk involved is that there is no way of knowing what your tolerance is to DNP before you ingest it.
During its widespread use as a weight loss aid in the 1930s, dosages were raised slowly and meticulously. One case study found that 20-50mg of DNP per kilogram of body weight could be fatal.  In 1938 DNP was removed from the market because of deaths and illnesses related to its consumption.
It was noted during this time that DNP could increase the amount of calories burned by up to 50%. Because of this fact, DNP continues to be used by both bodybuilders and recreational lifters looking for assistance in loosing extra/unwanted fat.
Lack of Tolerance to DNP, and Potential Side Effects
The body develops a tolerance to most drugs, meaning that equal doses can become less effective over time. DNP does not work this way. In fact, quite the opposite is true. DNP’s effects actually improve and grow more intense with time.
Even if an initial dose feels tolerable during the first few days of ingestion, side effects are (very) likely to quickly amplify. Can you see the extreme danger here?
DNP can create a false sense of security. You might feel OK one day, and be dead the next. Not only is the tolerance to initial DNP doses highly individual, but so are the escalation of its side effects.
During the first few days, and if you are lucky enough to have a high tolerance to DNP and not overdose (and die) right out of the gate, you might only feel a slight elevation in body temperature. Inevitably, these mild side effects quickly turn worse. Without warning you will start to overheat, sweat profusely and grow lethargic.
For lack of a better term, you are slowly cooking from the inside out. Think of the “boiling frog” anecdote. Initially the heat feels tolerable. Before you know it, things may spiral out of control. At this point there is no “off button” to hit. You are forced to ride out this amplifying heat wave, praying that it doesn’t turn you into an over-baked (but now lean) corpse.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, if you do survive DNP it might catch up to you later in life in the form of cancer or cataracts. Though DNP has not been proven to cause cancer, it does contribute to the release of free radicals. Also, 2.5% of those who ingested DNP during the 1930s developed cataracts.
Other side effects can include:
- Extreme sweating
- Yellow bodily fluids
- Shortness of breath
- Depletion of electrolytes
- Increase in appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Decreased insulin production
- Decreased T3 levels
It should be noted that these side effects are far from mild. Most individuals who take DNP experience most of these side effects.
After exiting prison in the late 1990s, Dan Duchaine began trumpeting the benefits of DNP, calling it the “king of all fat loss drugs.”
Dan Duchaine and the Rise of DNP in Bodybuilding
While in prison, notorious steroid guru Dan Duchaine learned of Russian-born doctor Nicholas Bachynsky. Nicholas Bachynsky, while translating Russian medical journals for the United States government, discovered that the Soviets had been providing DNP to their soldiers to help keep them warm during winter. One of the side effects noted in these journals was weight loss.
In the 1980s Bachynsky eventually set up a series of weight loss clinics that promoted DNP as a method of treatment for obesity. He treated 14,000 patients before the FDA issued an injunction preventing further use of DNP.
After exiting prison in the late 1990s, Dan Duchaine began trumpeting the benefits of DNP, calling it the “king of all fat loss drugs.” Duchaine also advocated the use of another dangerous bodybuilding drug, insulin, in concert with DNP:
“Protein synthesis stops on DNP. Luckily for most sedentary people the research has not really shown a loss of muscle mass although it would stop testosterone production out of the gonads and might interfere with the transference of testosterone in the cells. However, they did show a study where by supplementing the DNP with growth hormone and insulin, they re-established protein synthesis. However, I must tell you about half of the heat producing ability of DNP comes from glucose being burned as heat and the other is fatty acids; so, if you put more glucose in your cells with insulin, you will become more uncomfortable because there will be more heat put off. We’ve done it both ways… we’ve done DNP with no insulin and those with it, and they were better off with it. We didn’t need much, maybe once a day with short-acting stuff.”
Despite being extremely dangerous, DNP remains available for purchase on the Internet. Several prominent bodybuilders and physique recomposition celebrities/”experts” continue to promote DNP, claiming it “can be safe when used in moderation.”
Given what we know about DNP, I can unequivocally say this advocacy is reckless and sheer lunacy.
1) Simkins S. (1937). “Dinitrophenol and desiccated thyroid in the treatment of obesity: a comprehensive clinical and laboratory study”. J Am Med Assoc 108: 2110–2117. doi:10.1001/jama.1937.02780250024006
2) Hsiao AL, Santucci KA, Seo-Mayer P et al. (2005). “Pediatric fatality following ingestion of dinitrophenol: postmortem identification of a “dietary supplement””. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 43 (4): 281–285. doi:10.1081/clt-200058946