There are a lot of things that we can do to build muscle and burn fat. Eating clean and training hard can go a long ways, but there are other areas that we can focus on as well that will help us develop the physique we are after.
Our bodies produces a variety of hormones that are all designed to do different things. Many of these hormones greatly influence our ability to utilize fat for energy and develop lean muscle mass. I want to go into detail on all of the hormones we produce, what their role is and how we can influence these hormones through training, diet and the timing of our meals.
This is obviously a broad topic, so in order to go into the detail that serves this topic justice, I will only be covering one hormone per blog post. So be sure to check back often or sign up for email updates at the top right of this page. Let’s start this series of posts off with a bang and begin with the Master of all hormones; Testosterone.
As you may already know, Testosterone is THE male sex hormone. It’s responsible for a lot of things to say the least, but most importantly (for this post anyways) Testosterone is responsible for the production and maintenance of lean muscle mass! This is achieved because of the the body is able to quickly repair soft tissue/muscle tissue damage via protein synthesis. When Testosterone levels are high or are increased protein synthesis is also increased as well as fatty acid oxidization and resting metabolic rate (calories burned at rest).
Men produce more of this hormone than women do (roughly 15 times as much per day). The majority of Testosterone is produced in the testes, while a small amount is produced in the adrenal glands which are located on top of the kidneys (ladies, this is where your Testosterone comes from…obviously).
Testosterone has a lot of other jobs as I stated earlier, so not all of the hormone that is produced is used to increase protein synthesis and muscular development. In fact most of this precious, muscle building hormone is delegated to other tasks. On average only about 5% of the Testosterone you produce will be used to increase muscle mass!
If you’re lucky 5% of the Testosterone you produce will be “Free Testosterone”, that is if you have normal testosterone levels. Free Testosterone could also be called “Left Over Testosterone”. If you’re body requires 95% of normal production to take care of other things and you’re only producing 95% of what you should be, guess what? You won’t have any Free Testosterone! This is a bad thing if you’re trying to build muscle. In fact building muscle will be damn near impossible!
Naturally Increasing Testosterone Levels
Chill, there’s good news. You can do a lot of things to improve your testosterone levels naturally. First off, you can start by modifying your diet. If your T levels are down this is the first thing you should work on.
Step 1. Stop eating high glycemic carbohydrates. Spikes in your blood sugar levels, which happens upon digestion of HG carbs, will lower Testosterone production! Stop eating foods high in sugar! If you do consume this junk do it within 30 minutes of exercising so your blood sugar levels are lowered naturally instead of via Insulin (another hormone that will be discussed in this series).
Step 2. Eat more Fat! Monounsaturated fats, Saturated fats and cholesterol consumption all contribute to increased T levels. Nuts, Seeds, Meat and Dairy products all contain these fats. Eat them at every meal, just don’t over do it.
Step 3. Consume a post workout protein shake. Drinking your protein shake immediately after a workout boosts T levels and provides your body with the nutrients it needs to begin the recover process via protein synthesis. No protein = No protein synthesis.
Step 4. Eat more vegetables, specifically Broccoli, Asparagus, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage. Vegetables are not only high in fiber but they also release many phyto-chemicals that have been known to help increase Testosterone levels while minimizing Estrogen production.
Step 5. Train Hard & Keep it short! Lifting heavier weight with reps in the 6-10 range have been proven to stimulate Testosterone production. Compound exercises like the Squat, Press, Pull-up and Dead-lift stimulate even more Testosterone because of the amount of stress applied to the body while performing them. Keep your workouts short though. There is no need to go much longer than an hour. After that Cortisol (A very bad hormone that will be discussed later) levels increase rapidly while Testosterone levels drop! Get in, Get Crazy, Get Out!
Step 6. Sleep! While researching this topic, I found a lot of varying information. One study suggested that it was higher levels of Testosterone that allowed an individual to get more sleep. While other studies suggested more sleep elevated Testosterone levels. While it remains in-conclusive as to whether T levels are improved with more sleep, it is a fact that other hormones are produced and released during sleep.
There are a lot of other things that a person can do to improve their Testosterone levels. The number of supplements that are available to assist with this are infinite. I’m not going to take the time to discuss all of them in this post, nor do I recommend that you go straight to a pill or powder. Try implementing the suggestions above first and be consistent for 12-16 weeks. Once you’ve made it that far you probably won’t even want to take any extra supplements.
Hopefully I’ve explained why Testosterone is so important to building muscle and burning fat. I’ve also explained some simple ways to increase your bodies natural production of this crucial hormone. I hope that you have found this information useful and that you can take these suggestions and apply them! Good luck!