Reblogged from Scrawny to Brawny here: http://www.scrawnytobrawny.com/hack-your-hormones
Learn how to safely and naturally manipulate your hormone levels (including testosterone) with 5 simple workout, nutrition, and lifestyle tips.
The Sex Education That Wasn’t
I have fleeting memories of my junior high “sex education” class: A well-meaning but clueless PE teacher, complicated chalkboard diagrams of various glands and body parts, and lots of penis jokes followed by hysterical laughter. (We were 13, what do you expect?)
Yeah, we were just a bunch of prepubescent boys about to enter a period in our lives where much of our existence would be governed by hormones. Too bad we had no idea what the heck was going on or what the teacher was talking about.
We’re older now, but most guys still don’t understand the chemicals flowing through their blood — or how they can naturally manipulate those hormones to become bigger and better men.
This article will give you a quick primer on the things you need to know — and how to put that knowledge into action immediately with our Top 5 Hormone-Boosting Tips.
What The Heck Is a Hormone?
Hormones are like tiny chemical messengers that transmit information from one part of the body to another. Most hormones are produced by glands located throughout the body and are collectively known as the “endocrine system.”
Once the gland produces their respective hormones, these hormones are secreted into the bloodstream where they travel to all parts of the body looking for particular cells.
Each cell has receptor sites (imagine a locked door) for specific hormones (imagine the matching key), which can open and enter the cell. Once inside, the hormone goes to work flipping on and off switches that govern pretty much every function in the body.
Hormones don’t last forever and must be made and released at precise times to maintain optimal balance within the body.
4 Hormones To Hack
So here’s where the fun comes in: you can easily and safely “hack” your endocrine system and strategically influence certain hormones and use them to your advantage to help you build more muscle, increase your sex drive, and generally feel more powerful.
The hormones we’ll focus on are testosterone, growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and insulin.
For easy and quick reading, the most important points are bolded. If you want to skip the science, just skim down and read the section, “Top 5 Ways To Naturally Boost Your Hormones.”
Testosterone is a steroid hormone that has androgenic and anabolic effects in both men and women. It’s considered the daddy of all hormones and has many important functions like regulating libido, energy, bone health, immune function and muscular development.
Special cells in the testes convert cholesterol into testosterone when they get a signal from the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. Testosterone is then secreted in a circadian pattern. Though no two guys have the same cyclical pattern, it’s safe to assume that for most guys, testosterone levels peak early in the morning and slowly tapers off as the day progresses.
Growth Hormone and Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1
The pituitary gland makes and secretes growth hormone (GH) in a pulsating manner, much like testosterone. However, unlike testosterone, GH levels peak at night with a big spike in the first couple of hours of sleep and smaller spikes every four hours or so.
Once GH enters the bloodstream it positively affects metabolic functions, glycogen production, protein synthesis, fat metabolism and structural elements such as bone and cartilage. Perhaps the coolest thing GH does is to stimulate the production of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 triggers a chain of events that ultimately make your muscles grow.
It appears that GH mostly impacts the fat burning process, while IGF-1 mostly impacts muscle growth. So GH and IGF-1 working together lead to the greatest results in looking better.
Insulin is a hormone secreted in low levels by the pancreas and will spike proportionately in response to increased blood sugar levels, usually following the ingestion of food and/or beverages. As the level of blood sugar subside so do insulin secretion levels.
Once insulin is in the blood it transports nutrients like glucose, amino acids and fatty acids into tissue cells. If these nutrients are shuttled into muscle cells, then the muscles will grow. Conversely, if these nutrients are shuttled into fat cells, then body fat increases.
The key is to get insulin to store more of the nutrients into the muscle cells and less into the fat cells by increasing insulin sensitivity in the muscle cells while decreasing insulin sensitivity in the fat cells. Doing this turns insulin into a powerful anabolic hormone.
Top 5 Ways To Naturally Boost Your Hormones
Here are the top five strategies you can do today to hack your body and improve the levels of anabolic hormones flowing through your veins:
1. Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
To place the body into an anabolic (muscle-building) state, adequate sleep is essential. While you’re sleeping, protein metabolism occurs at a more proficient rate, mainly due to a big spike in GH release within the first hour or so of sleep. Then, smaller bursts of GH are secreted about every four hours. The more sleep you get, the more GH you produce.
On the other end, a lack of sleep contributes to an increase in cortisol production, a catabolic, muscle-damaging hormone, which will lower testosterone levels. Not good.
2. Do stress-reducing activities like meditation or yoga every day.
The modern way of life that most of us have become accustomed to also creates a constant, high degree of daily stress. Being overly stressed will quickly increase cortisol levels, cause testosterone levels to plummet and decreases the secretion of GH. Doing a daily stress-reducing activity will allow you to manage daily stress and minimize any negative effects.
3. Perform regular, high-intensity exercise with short rest periods.
Compound, multi-joint exercises (think squats, lunges, pull-ups, and presses) at high-intensity with minimal rest between sets increases GH, IGF-1 and testosterone secretion. The release of this hormonal trifecta is proportionate to intensity. The more intense a workout, the more anabolic hormone is released.
The daily frequency and amplitude of these hormones will increase when this type of exercise is followed consistently. (That means you gotta make it to the gym and actually follow your program!) This will allow more anabolic hormones to pulsate through your blood more frequently throughout the day.
4. Drink a protein/carbohydrate drink within an hour after working out.
The post-workout drink is arguably the most important “meal” of the day for anyone looking to build muscle. High-quality, fast digesting protein consumption immediately after a workout allows for the proper “building blocks” to be in plentiful supply.
Adding some carbs into the mix will create an insulin spike that will shuttle all of those muscle-building nutrients directly into the muscle cells, jumpstarting the repair and regrowth process.
5. Eliminate or significantly reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other drugs.
If you want to be super-anabolic, you need to stop or seriously reduce the amount of alcohol, caffeine and other drugs you take.
Alcohol interferes with protein synthesis, dramatically reduces testosterone levels, decreases GH secretion and lowers insulin sensitivity causing nutrients to be delivered into fat cells rather than muscle cells. Caffeine and other drugs will elevate cortisol levels, which drive down testosterone production as previously mentioned.
(It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some coffee or a beer a few times per week; it just means you need to be aware of the potential effects.)
Warning: 3 Things That NEGATIVELY Affect Your Hormones
Now that we’ve gone over 5 things you can do to naturally boost your hormones, let’s quickly talk about 3 things that can negatively affect your hormones.
Interestingly, the factors that decrease insulin sensitivity in the muscle cells and suppress testosterone, GH, IGF-1 levels are essentially the same.
Here are the top three things to avoid:
Overtraining, sporadic or poor sleep patterns, lack of quality nutrition, excess alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, drug use and environmental stressors are all forms of stress that will cause the body to limit testosterone, GH and IGF-1 production, decrease insulin sensitivity in the muscle cells and in turn increase stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine A.K.A. adrenaline.
All right, so you can’t really avoid this. But it’s good that you know this, too. GH and testosterone level drop significantly around age 30 and will continue to drop by as much as 10% every decade thereafter. This will decrease insulin sensitivity and decreased insulin sensitivity can escalate the aging process leading to a vicious downward spiral.
(Note: even though we’re getting older, hope is not lost. You can still boost your natural hormones significantly by following our 5 Tips above.)
Extra Body Fat
Extra body fat will cause insulin to shuttle more nutrients into fat cells. (Which you don’t want.) Also, extra body fat throws the optimal testosterone and estrogen ratio out of whack causing more testosterone to be converted into estrogen. Just another reason to stay relatively lean.
Your Homework: Follow The Top 5
Now that you have a basic knowledge of the hormones that make you a man, try following our top 5 tips. Don’t worry about trying to follow them all at once, however. That’s how plans fail.
Instead, pick just one strategy from below — the one that sounds the easiest to you — and practice it for two weeks without missing a day.
Give it a few days and you may just feel like a brand new man.
- Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
- Do a stress-reducing activity like meditation or yoga every day.
- Perform regular, high-intensity exercise with short rest periods.
- Drink a protein/carbohydrate drink within an hour after working out.
- Eliminate or significantly reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other drugs.
About the Author: Calvin Buhler is a Scrawny to Brawny Coach. You can find him on Facebook.