Strength training does more than just create muscle damage – it also stimulates the release of a variety of hormones that have a big impact on the rate of recovery and muscle growth. And according to modern bodybuilder wisdom, designing your program in a way that maximizes anabolic hormone production will help you get bigger, stronger and leaner in less time.
In fact, hormone management has become a vital part of muscle building and there are a ton of guys who spend all their time on finding ways to boost their T levels instead of focusing on let’s say, lifting heavy stuff more often. Online bodybuilding gurus constantly advocate specific methods for structuring your training to get the most out of your hormonal environment and diet programs seem to emphasize the influence of certain foods and meal timing on hormone activity more than ever.
But does obsessing about your hormones really lead to substantially better gains?
In our search for solid proof, we consulted science and found that the data from most studies actually raises more doubts than it provides evidence in support of this hype. Truth be told, the only thing that has been repeatedly shown to build muscle size and strength is muscle overload, while everything else seems to be – more or less – based on speculations and partial evidence. Which leads us to the following question: do anabolic hormones derived from exercise affect muscle building in a significant way, or have we all been buying into myths?
Knowing the answer to this question can help you get rid of ineffective practices that only waste your time and energy and inspire you to focus more on what’s really crucial for achieving your physique goals, so read on!
Here’s how it works. Hormones are the chemical messengers that make up our body’s communication system, where every different hormone represents a specific “message” or instruction that needs to travel throughout the body to reach its destination and influence the function of an organ. By enabling communication between distant parts of the body, they coordinate complex and vital bodily processes like growth, metabolism, fertility, immune responses and even behavior.
In response to a signal from the brain, hormones are secreted directly into the blood by the glands in the endocrine system that are responsible for producing and storing them. Once they’ve entered the bloodstream, hormones travel throughout the body looking for specific receptors to which they can bind. In other words, although all cells are exposed to hormones, not all of them react – only the “target” cells, which have receptors (you can think of them as antennas) for that hormone will respond to its signal.
The hormone then binds to its receptor and creates an adequate biological response within the cell, and effectively the body as a whole. So you can think of hormones as managers who are telling an employee what to do.
Hormonal Changes During Exercise
Right after you begin your first set, a complex variety of hormones get to work to create an adequate response to the physical activity and coordinate the repair process across multiple tissues. We’ll skip the effects of epinephrine, norepinephrine, vasopressin, aldosterone and cortisol, all of which have important roles in guiding bodily changes during exercise, so that we can focus on the holy grails of muscle building: testosterone and growth hormone.
Growth hormone is a chain-structured group of 191 amino acids, released by the pituitary gland, which basically have the task to stimulate the growth of all tissues of the body. More specifically, growth hormone increases protein synthesis and cell transport, regulate metabolism, and remodel bone and collagen tissues. The production of growth hormone increases during exercise, where it plays a quintessential role in repairing muscle tissue and producing hypertrophy and strength gains.
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