For the majority of bodybuilders the approach to pre-contest dieting can be summed up to the same old-fashioned rule: cut the carbohydrates! Following a diet plan without carbs or a very small amount of carbs has been repeatedly proven as effective.
Additionally, following such a plan will always mean consuming less calories, which is basically how the athletes lose weight. It will invariably mean that insulin, which has the potential to cause fat storage, will have its levels controlled and maintained. All of this, however, does not guarantee that you’ll get to a shredded, 5-6-7% body fat.
The secret to building a shredded physique is about monitoring and controlling your caloric intake whilst keeping your hormonal levels in check at the same time. The aim of this article is to help you balance your hormones and guide you in achieving an optimal hormonal environment that will enable your metabolism to burn body fat at a healthy and steady rate.
We present you with a list of hormones while examining each hormone’s action in our body and how you can optimize its effects.
1. How to balance Testosterone levels
Testosterone is one of the most important hormones responsible for many male primary and secondary s****l characteristics as well as the development of both overall body strength and muscle size.
The most important thing is that you strive to keep your testosterone levels increased as much as possible. Any type of dieting has the tendency to cause failing testosterone levels.
You might like : A Few More Reasons to Boost Your Testosterone Levels
This is because having low levels of testosterone will decrease the metabolic rate and this is related to GH (Growth Hormone). Generally, when testosterone levels decrease, growth hormone also starts to plummet and growth hormone is known to be very efficient in fat burning.
There are two ways you can increase your testosterone levels whilst on a diet. First of all, you need to increase dietary fat consumption, having beef as the main source of protein, plus egg yolks, fish oil and small amounts of nuts. Monitor your carb intake at all times.
Lowering the fat intake can help in lowering the overall amount of calories, but eating no fat at all for a prolonged period of time has been proven to decrease overall testosterone levels. Eating higher amounts of fat every couple of days will prevent a decline in testosterone levels.
Second, increase your carb consumption drastically once a week. You can eat up to 3 grams of carbs per lb of body weight. This sudden increase will increase insulin levels, which will in turn decrease the SHBG (s*x hormone-binding globulin). SHBG’s function in the body is to attach to testosterone molecules in our blood and transport it. This is a major factor in how much testosterone can actually reach different tissues. When you increase insulin levels, this will separate SHBG from the testosterone molecules.
This in effect, “releases” testosterone, thus allowing it to reach the tissues, including muscle tissue, instead of further binding it to SHBG and denying its muscle building properties. Triggering growth will boost your metabolism and will aid you in getting a more shredded body.
2. How to balance Insulin
As we already mentioned, insulin has the potential to store fat, but it is also crucial in creating the proper anabolic environment for muscle gain and glycogen storage.
What you need to do is keep insulin levels increased post-workout and steady and low as much as possible while you rest. The reasons for this is that having low insulin levels while resting will help you burn more body fat if you control your caloric intake. On the other hand, increased levels of insulin after your workout will help the anabolic process by transporting glycogen to your muscle cells.
How to do it: Consume low amounts of calories and carbs most of the day. Opt for veggies and sources of lean protein, like fowl, eggs, fish, beef or whey protein powders. Pre and post-workout ensure that you consume carbs along with protein. A general recommendation while dieting is that you eat 0.2 grams of carbs pre-workout and 0.3 grams post-workout, per pound of body weight.
For example, a bodybuilder that weighs 200 pounds would need to consume 40 grams of carbs pre-workout and 60 grams post-workout. This will create an optimal anabolic environment while your body is most receptive to nutrients which is the time before and after exercising.
You might like : Carbs, It’s All in the Timing
3. Balance Growth Hormone (GH)
Growth hormone aids in burning fat, but more importantly it can prevent muscle wasting, which is why it is essential that you increase its levels.
Saving precious muscle tissue whilst on a cutting diet is essential to maintaining the metabolic rate. Increasing growth hormone levels also has the potential to speed up fat burning.
There are numerous ways to increase GH levels and one of them is through the use of supplements. Exercising itself increases growth hormone levels, as well as quality sleep. Taking certain supplements before exercise and before going to bed can accentuate the natural GH spikes.
Taking 4 to 6 grams of arginine pre-workout will not only increase your GH levels, but it will also increase the blood flow to your muscles. Taking 300 to 400 mg of Mucuna pruriens pre-workout can also help. Mucuna pruriens is a tropical legume and has L-dopa, which is an amino-acid derivative and has the potential to increase GH levels. Our suggestion is to take 4-6 grams of arginine and 300-400 milligrams of MP an hour before going to bed.
4. Minimize Cortisol
Cortisol can be a sword with two blades. It can help you burn more fat, but if its levels are too high, it starts breaking down muscle tissue, which will result in a decrease of the metabolic rate. What you need to do is maintain your cortisol levels in a healthy range so that they don’t get too high for longer periods.
Having high cortisol levels for prolonged periods of time will inevitable burn more muscle tissue instead of body fat. If you manage to keep it low, you will save your muscle tissue. And we know that the more muscle tissue you have, the more efficient your metabolism is at burning fat.
You might like : 10 Simple Ways To Fight Stress And Reduce Cortisol
Post-workout insulin spikes will neutralize high cortisol levels. In order to prevent increasing cortisol levels, you need to pick any two low-carb days of the week and ensure that the carbs you consume post-workout are fast carbs, like white rice or russet potatoes. All kinds of sweets, cookies, cold cereals, sugar-coated rice cakes will cause bigger insulin spikes in comparison to other carbs. This will in turn decrease cortisol, prevent muscle tissue breakdown and keep the metabolic rate elevated. If you choose to take a supplement, consume 700 milligrams of phosphatidylserine, which can help you in preventing cortisol levels spikes.
5. Minimizing Estrogen Levels
Men have estrogen too, popularly known as the “female hormone”. When you have increased estrogen levels, losing fat is a lot more difficult. That is why it is essential that you maintain high testosterone and low estrogen levels.
The testosterone-estrogen level ratio in your body will have a huge impact on how you look. Minimizing estrogen, increasing testosterone or a mix of both will make you look more shredded, with less body fat and less water retention.
In vegetables, especially of the cruciferous type like cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage, there are compounds known as indoles. Nutritionists believe that indoles decrease total estrogen levels in your body by reducing estrogen production or inhibiting absorption of estrogen by the tissues. When you’re on a low-carb diet, add all kinds of cruciferous vegetables. You can also choose to take 6-OXO, a product meant to keep low estrogen and high testosterone levels.
6. Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4)
The thyroid hormones regulate protein synthesis and help the fat loss process. You need to maintain balanced thyroid hormone levels at all times and prevent crashes. All the diets eventually result in thyroid hormone levels decline. When this happens, fat burning slows down (or stops) as well as protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is basically how fast your body can extract the amino acids from foods rich in protein and store them inside the muscle tissue.
Prolonged periods of dieting can result in decreased thyroid hormone levels. This is why it’s useful for a dieter to introduce cheat days once in a while. Eating 3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight for a day, every 10 to 12 days will lead your body to believe that the caloric reduction is over, thus preventing drastic reduction of thyroid hormone levels.
Knowing how to control hormone levels is a very valuable tool when it comes to making your diet more effective. When you know the side effects and which actions you need to take, you will definitely start seeing better results. It’s imperative to know that any prolonged strict diet, whether it’s low-calorie, low-fat or low-carb will inevitably send the body a signal it’s starving instead of triggering fat loss.
You should take occasional breaks from your diet by using the described methods. All of these methods have two end goals in mind: reduce body fat and protect muscle tissue at the same time.