Muscle Building Hormones

Muscle Building Hormones

Hormones are vital components of building muscle mass which are often the ‘forgotten’ ingredients for success.

The two main anabolic hormones critical for creating muscle mass are testosterone and growth hormone and these rely on a supporting cast of other hormones to help work with their ‘building’ magic‘.

These include insulin and the thyroid hormones and when the anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormones are high then the less beneficial and/or catabolic hormones are kept at bay.

The interaction and constant change of our hormonal balance may be a catalyst for building muscle and/or it can cause a huge amount of issues such as a lethargic metabolism, reduced energy levels, difficulty in recovering from work outs and slow protein synthesis within the muscle tissue.

So what exactly are these hormones and how do they operate to build or suppress muscle mass? Please read as we go on a whistle stop tour of these six essential hormones

Testosterone

Testosterone is fundamentally a male hormone that is the main ‘lynchpin’ for promoting the growth of many body tissues and it vital for general health and well-being.

In terms of creating clean muscle mass, testosterone is a hormone that needs to be kept elevated because it has a crucial role in protein synthesis.

An increase in the rate of protein synthesis can facilitate building muscle at a much faster rate and elevated levels of testosterone can also play a key role in fat burning.

Low levels of testosterone can hinder your chances of packing on any serious muscle but rather than turning to synthetic anabolic steroids try the following tips:

  • Implement adequate rest days between work outs to give your body time to recover. Having 48 hours rest between training each major muscle group is about the right timeframe
  • Training with compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, presses and rows
  • Add in some heavy weight periodically, training at a lower rep range between 6-8
  • Lower or maintain between a 10-12% body fat range
  • Reduce your alcohol intake
  • Try to add in some healthy fats from nuts, Omegas 3-s from oil fish and saturated fats from lean red meat as this can boost your testosterone levels
  • Supplement with magnesium, zinc and vitamin D can also boost testosterone levels

Growth Hormone

Growth hormone helps to stimulate muscle growth, the release of IGF-1 which plays a key role in creating muscle tissue; it boosts your fat burning potential and helps to protect the muscle tissue from degeneration.

Similarly with testosterone the higher levels of GH the better for building muscle mass. High levels of growth hormone can help the body to fight against losing its muscle tissue.

This mechanism is important because a high metabolism from a good level of muscle mass equates to a boost in your fat burning potential.

You can boost your growth hormone levels via the following strategies:

  • A good quality interrupted sleep of around 8 hours is an excellent
  • Add in some heavy weight periodically, training at a lower rep range between 6-8
  • Replace conventional cardio with some HIIT training
  • Keep lean and avoid sugary junk food as this suppresses your insulin levels
  • Supplement with niacin and glutamine as this boosts your growth hormone levels

Insulin

The potential of insulin on the body is a double edged sword. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas; it has an active role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism and if spiked too high at the wrong times it can facilitate fat storage.

Muscle BuildingOn the other hand if harnessed correctly, insulin can be very ‘anabolic’ thus creating muscle tissue and boosting fat loss. High levels of insulin post exercise can be used as vehicle to drive the glycogen and amino acids into the muscle tissue.

The best method of spiking insulin levels is to consume a fast acting carb such as maltodextrin immediately post exercise.

This is the ultimate time when your muscles are like sponges ready to absorb all of the nutrients to help with recovery and then growth.

The Thyroid Hormones

The two thyroid hormones (thyroxine T4 and triiodothyronine T3) are responsible for the regulation of your metabolism; they help with protein synthesis and fat burning.

Low thyroid levels can be caused by a low calorie restrictive diet and/or other conditions such as an under active thyroid gland.

However eating foods that are rich in iodine such as kelp and shellfish etc., can help to increase your thyroid hormone levels.

Another strategy is to add a cheat meal into the equation every 8-10 days as this can up-regulate the thyroid hormones and this causes an increase in your metabolism and protein synthesis within the skeletal muscle.

Cortisol

Cortisol is a stress hormone and high levels can have serious implications on your health. High levels of cortisol can shut down parts of your immune system that help to fight disease and this can make you a lot more susceptible to illness.

Apart from playing havoc with your immune system high cortisol levels can promote muscle wastage, weight gain, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, fatigue and insomnia.

To minimise your cortisol levels following these basic guidelines:

  • Reduce your stress levels by building in some relaxation time into your schedule
  • Avoid sugary and processed junk foods
  • Reduce your caffeine and alcohol levels to within safe limits
  • Try to keep your blood sugars stable with adequate amounts of proteins and healthy carbs instead of high GI carbs
  • Take stress busting supplements such as antioxidants, zinc, magnesium and chromium

Estrogen

Estrogen is predominantly produced by females and to a lesser extent men.

However men with a higher % body fat have increased levels of estrogen which one of the main rationales behind having ‘man boobs’. There is also a strong correlation behind high levels of estrogen and prostate cancer.

High levels of testosterone in comparison to estrogen will ensure that lean muscle gains are maximised.

To lower your estrogen levels follow these simple guidelines:

  • Reduce your % body fat below 15% because the higher the body fat the more aromatase we have. Aromatase converts testosterone into estrogren
  • Eat a diet high in cruciferous vegetables such as kale and broccoli as this blocks the absorption of estrogen within the body
  • Reduce your alcohol intake

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