Your hormones are absolutely crucial when it comes to building muscle and burning fat. If you’re a bodybuilder, then understanding how hormones work in the body and how they can be manipulated is perhaps the most crucial lesson you can take and is something that everyone should spend some time looking into.
Now of course there’s one hormone that will always stand out when we’re talking about muscle mass – and that’s testosterone. Testosterone is the prototypical ‘anabolic hormone’ and it’s the one that most articles focus on. Testosterone is important indeed – as the male hormone it’s responsible for adding muscle as well as increasing energy, healing, drive and virility. But there are more hormones at play than just the one, here are some others that you need to look into…
DHT is dihydrotestosterone and is a derivative of testosterone. This means that testosterone can turn into DHT in the blood and this makes it actually even more potent in terms of its anabolic effects.
Oestrogen is of course the female hormone and is in many ways the opposite of testosterone. High levels of oestrogen in men result in extra water retention, weight gain, mood swings, low energy and gynecomastia. Unfortunately, oestrogen can also be a derivative of testosterone meaning that when you raise one, you normally raise the other. Meanwhile, foods like soy have also been shown to raise levels. Be careful!
Cortisol is another ‘enemy’ of testosterone. Of course we also know cortisol as the ‘stress hormone’ and it’s infamous for increasing lipogenesis – weight gain.
Cortisol is also interesting though because it can be used to indicate recovery or lack thereof. If you have a high ratio of cortisol to testosterone in your blood, this is a sign that you aren’t fully recovered from your last training session and you shouldn’t engage in another round of intense exercise until it returns to normal.
Insulin is important because it signals the body to use up the glucose in the blood and to burn it for energy or store it as fat. Diabetes is caused either by a lack of insulin or a tolerance to it – but actually we all vary in terms of our resistance to this hormone. Likewise, insulin can be somewhat controlled by monitoring blood glucose levels which is a key part of a number of diets including the low carb diet and IF.
Growth hormone is another anabolic hormone associated with growth, muscle repair and wound healing. Growth hormone is produced when we sleep as well as after training and is one of the key metabolites that leads to gains in size and strength. Increasing GH can be just as beneficial as increasing testosterone and the best way to do this? Sleep more!
IGF-1 is insulin-like growth factor, a hormone very similar to HGH that likewise plays an important role in the formation of muscle and burning of fat. IGF and HGH tend to be released at the same times in the body but IGF comes from the liver rather than the pituitary gland and has a structure similar to insulin.