When searching for nutrition supplements, you'll probably come across deer antler velvet. As the name suggests, these supplements contain the velvet-like organic material that grows on deer antlers during the precalcification stage. After the velvet is harvested, it's crushed into a fine powder. The end result is a powerful supplement with some surprising benefits.

Origins of Deer Antler Velvet*

Whether it's a whitetail, elk, moose, mule deer or red deer, all male deer (bucks) produce velvet on their antlers. They've been doing this since the beginning of time to potentially help stimulate the growth of new antlers. When a buck sheds his antlers, he'll begin growing new antlers with a furry, velvet-like covering. This velvet helps to supply the new antlers with nutrients.

Humans have used deer antler velvet to treat and protect against a wide variety of ailments. Some of the first known uses of the substance date back to Ancient China. When archaeologists unearthed a tomb in China's Hunan province, they discovered a 2,000-year-old scroll describing the use of deer antler to increase energy levels, stamina and vitality. Since then, deer antler velvet has remained a staple component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Benefits of Deer Antler Velvet*

So, what benefits does deer antler velvet offer? It's important to note that deer antlers are one of the fastest growing tissues on the planet. Whitetail deer antlers, for instance, can grow by half an inch per day. Part of the reason for this fast growth lies in the velvet.

You see, deer antler velvet contains the hormone insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which is essential for proper growth and development. If you don't get enough of this key hormone, you may experience symptoms such as slowed growth, muscle atrophy, dry skin, fatigue, elevated triglyceride levels, hair loss and anxiety. Low IGF-1 levels has even been linked to musculoskeletal pain.

The good news is that our bodies produce some IGF-1 which is converted in the liver from HGH. The bad news, however, is that it's not always enough to meet our body's needs. Therefore, some individuals look towards supplements like deer antler velvet to boost their intake of IGF-1.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of deer antler velvet is its ability to potentially help stimulate muscle growth and reduce post-workout recovery times. Because of its high concentration of IGF-1, antler velvet is a popular supplement for bodybuilders and athletes. Active users have suggested that regular use can result in increased muscle mass, reduced fatigue and shortened recovery periods.

In 2013, Ray Lewis, former linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens reportedly used deer antler velvet to assist in the recovery of a torn triceps tendon. Of course, Lewis isn't the only professional athlete to use antler velvet. According to a Business Insider cited by Draxe, 20 percent to 40 percent of MLB and NFL athletes say they've purchased and used deer antler velvet.

Is Deer Antler Velvet Right for Me?*

You might be wondering if deer antler velvet is right for you. Well, it depends on what you are trying to accomplish. The substance certainly offers a myriad of benefits due to its high concentration of IGF-1. With that said, different velvet supplements have different effects, and not all supplements are of equal quality. If you're planning to try deer antler velvet, take your time to research the different supplements.

The Bottom Line*

After reading this, you should have a better understanding of deer antler velvet and how it works. To recap, antler velvet is the soft, furry tissue that grows on deer antlers before they harden and calcify. Properly harvested deer antler contains a substantial amount of constituents that support healthy muscles and normal exercise recovery.