To say that building muscle is difficult, would be like saying that quantum mechanics is difficult, as building muscle naturally is one of the hardest things to do in the entire world. Despite this however, it can still be done very efficiently if you know what you’re doing. Knowledge is power, and in the bodybuilding world, this saying rings truer than ever before. If you know what to eat, what to drink, and what to do in the gym, and outside of the gym, building muscle and improving your physique will become easier than you could have ever imagined. Remember, bodybuilding is a lifestyle, it isn’t just an activity to perform now and then whenever you feel like it. You get out of bodybuilding what you put into it, so the more effort you put into it, the better your results will become. Muscle growth is not simply down to how much weight you can lift in the gym, as building muscle is also influenced heavily by what goes on inside of your bodies. Every single second, there are thousands of physiological processes being carried out in your body, many of which are influenced via your hormones. In terms of building muscle, controlling and regulating certain hormones is more important than ever. Here’s a look at some of the most anabolic hormones inside of your body, and at what you need to do to control and regulate them in order to pack muscle onto your frame.
First up we’ll take a look at Estrogen. Estrogen is the dominant female sexual health hormone, that is also present in men. It is the female equivalent of testosterone, and it is one that must be regulated carefully if you wish to keep your body fat levels low, and your muscle mass percentages high. Estrogen in men, plays a key role in bone maintenance and sperm production, and although levels are still much, much lower in men than they are in women, if levels get too high, all kinds of negative side effects can rear their ugly heads. Studies have found that increased levels of Estrogen can result in muscle atrophy and increased rates of fat gain. There is also evidence which suggests that too much estrogen in men, can actually result in an increased risk of prostate cancer. Ideally, if a lean and muscular physique is your goal, you will want high testosterone levels, and very low estrogen levels. The good news is that there are things you can do to bring down your estrogen levels, including: reducing body fat levels, cutting back on alcohol consumption, cutting back on soya consumption, and eating a lot of green leafy vegetables as these veggies contain compounds that can inhibit estrogen absorption.
Up next we have the exact polar opposite to estrogen – Testosterone. Testosterone is the dominant male sexual health hormone, that is also present in women in small amounts. Testosterone is arguably the king of all bodybuilding hormones, as it plays such a crucial role in so many bodybuilding-reliant processes within the human body. Testosterone builds muscle size and strength, it assists with the growth of other tissue, it is responsible for libido and fertility, plus it plays a key role in immunity and in well-being in general. To really benefit from testosterone’s many anabolic properties, we must do all we can to keep T levels elevated, and that is where we struggle. You see, T levels peak in our early twenties, which means that they gradually decline as we grow older. There are however, natural things we can do to help elevate our testosterone levels. These include: using effective testosterone boosting supplements, getting plenty of rest, consuming zinc-rich foods and supplements, training with relatively heavy weights, cutting back on alcohol, cutting back on junk food, getting plenty of healthy fats, trying to avoid elevated stress levels.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, because it is the hormone our bodies secrete when we are placed under a lot of stress. Stress comes in all forms, and whilst mental stress is a huge factor, physical stress is also a very real threat, which is where bodybuilders struggle. You see, although hugely beneficial, the human body still views exercise as a form of stress, because it places the body under a lot of pressure. To counteract the stress placed upon the body during an intense workout, the body secretes cortisol. Cortisol suppresses the metabolism, it weakens the immune system, it inhibits feel-good chemicals and neurotransmitters, and it can leave us feeling tired and unwell. To reduce cortisol levels, try the following: get plenty of sleep, avoid unnecessary stress, cut back on caffeine consumption, regulate blood glucose levels, eat plenty of nutritious foods, and try to increase your mood with supplements such as magnesium, 5HTP, and St John’s Wort.
HGH, or Human Growth Hormone, is arguably the second most anabolic hormone in the world, second only to testosterone. As you might expect then, increasing natural HGH levels is hugely beneficial for muscle growth and repair. HGH stimulates cell production and muscle growth, plus it initiates the release of insulin-like growth factor, which is a hormone responsible for protein synthesis. This means that the more HGH you can produce, the more muscular you are likely to become. HGH levels can be increased by: getting enough sleep each night, training with heavy weights, training large muscle groups such as the quads, keeping body fat levels relatively low, and taking in plenty of Niacin each day.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas to help regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin however, can be beneficial for bodybuilding, and it can potentially be detrimental as well. If you release too much insulin at the wrong times, it will promote the storage of body fat. If used at the right time however, it can actually shuttle more anabolic nutrients into your muscles, creating the perfect environment for muscle growth and fat loss. Ideally you should only spike insulin levels following a workout, which you can do with simple sugars to help shuttle nutrients into the muscles. For the rest of the time however, go with complex carbs to keep insulin levels under control.