Hormones are defined as molecules whose role is to transmit chemical messages through the body, to ask the different organs to perform functions vital for its survival. From the regulation of blood sugar, to muscle growth through fat metabolism and other functions, each hormone regulate the functioning of the body so that it keeps working in a normal state. The goal is always allowing him to recover a state where he can continue to live normally. As bodybuilding and training generally, degrade muscle tissue and deplete energy resources, it is obvious that hormones are called to repair thoses damages. The object of this article is to highlight the hormones in close relation with the practice of bodybuilding.
In first position, testosterone remains in my opinion the most important hormone. Chemically, it is one of the hormones derived from cholesterol (C19H28O2 molecule). In addition to its androgenic characteristics, testosterone also has an anabolic aspect, impotant in building muscles. I remind you that anabolism is a process taking place within the body, which aims to build different tissues including muscle fibers. The role of this hormone is not limited to anabolism, but also contributes to protein synthesis, useful for the recovery of damaged fibers. Finally, it is involved in the activation of metabolism, and therefore, the metabolism of adipose tissue, in other words the fat burning process.
The level of testosterone produced by an individual is defined primarily by his genetics, but also by several factors related to his lifestyle. For an adult man aged between 20 and 45 years, the testosterone level would be between 3 and 8.5 µg / l, but decreases with age over decades. The goal is to try to have an optimal natural production and to keep a stable level of testosterone. This is why you need to improve your lifestyle and adopt the good habits that contribute to that.
- Training by lifting heavy loads (with keeping a controlled form) would have a positive effect on the increase of testosterone over the hours following the workout. It is a good idea to include heavy poly-articular exercises involving several muscles in your sessions, such as bench press, squats or deadlift.
- Following a balanced nutrition plan is of utmost importance in the production of this hormone. You should also keep an eye on reducing the consumption of sugars and carbohydrates with an excessively high glycemic index. Never neglect the consumption of essential fats, foods rich in zinc such as fish and oilseeds. Finally, if you are not providing enough of these nutrients, supplementation is highly recommended (zinc and omega 3).
- The first enemy that will lower your testosterone levels is drinking too much alcohol. Stopping or significantly reducing its consumption is essential for optimal production of this hormone.
- The better you reduce stress in everyday life, the better your testosterone will feel. Indeed, being constantly stressed by life events greatly increases cortisol, which is harmful for testosterone levels. Relax, nothing deserves too much stress !
Right after testosterone comes the growth hormone (GH). It is also a very powerful hormone, it is about growing the limbs and organs of the body. Growth hormone contributes greatly to bone and muscle growth, cell rejuvenation and many other functions, as long as they are produced naturally in sufficient quantity. Secreted in large quantities for children and growing teenagers, its quantity decreases with age, causing aging of cells and bones, and contributing to muscle wasting. For adults, the growth hormone level is between 3 and 5 µg / l, with a peak during the first hours of sleep. The production of a good level of GH is a characteristic linked to the genetics of each, but also influenced by the lifestyle. Like testosterone, improving your lifestyle will have a positive impact on your natural production.
- Regular exercising contributes greatly to the release of growth hormone. It is therefore important to maintain a regular long-term training program
- In terms of nutrition, you must think about reducing the consumption of sugars in order to reduce the secretion of insulin, which release in large quantities causes GH to drop. Following a protein-rich diet has an effect on the good production of GH, thanks to the absorption of amino acids.
- Practicing intermittent fasting would have had an influence on the production of growth hormone. When you are dietting, fasting for a period of the day will increase the GH level, due to the stabilization of the insulin level.
- Growth hormone release peaks during the first hours of sleep. You must therefore ensure that you sleep for a sufficient period of time (7 to 8 hours) as early as possible. Taking magnesium before sleep, enables you to better the quality of your sleep and optimize the production of GH.
Insulin / Glucagon
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the body, specifically in the pancreas. Its role is to regulate the level of glycemia in the blood, following the digestion of meals. Thus, the food ingested will be transformed into energy to be used by the body or stored, according to the need of cells. In order to load cells with energy, insulin opens them to allow glucose to enter them and provide the required energy. Unused glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and then in the liver for later use. In addition, insulin has an anabolic characteristic, essential in the recovery of muscle tissue. In fact, as with glucose, insulin brings amino acids into the cells and thus repair muscle damage. The same for stored adipose tissue (fat), if the glucose intake is too much higher than the caloric requirement. On the other hand, glucagon is an insulin-antagonist hormone, also secreted in the pancreas. Unlike insulin, glucagon plays a role in the breakdown of the glucose stored in glycogen, releases it into the blood, to provide cells with usable energy.
- Regarding insulin, the goal will be to optimize its sensitivity. In other words, to ensure that the body does not secrete more and more insulin to eliminate the rise in blood sugar. Therefore, you should avoid eating a quantity of carbohydrates much higher than your needs. Forget the dirty bulking phases that will deteriorate your insulin sensitivity, and settle for clean mass gains with a moderate surplus of carbohydrates. Among the best nutrients that improve insulin sensitivity : zinc, magnesium, green tea, cinnamon, good fats (omega 3).
- To increase the production of glucagon and thus speed up the processes of breaking down glycogen and fat into energy, it is crucial to keep blood sugar relatively stable, avoiding insulin spikes. It is therefore advisable to consume sources of carbohydrates with a low glycemic index and favor the intermittent fasting, which ensures stable blood sugar levels.
Thyroid hormones (T3, T4) are hormones secreted by the thyroid, a gland located in the neck. These hormones are involved in regulating the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, depending on energy expenditure and caloric intake. The lack of thyroid hormones will cause the metabolism to slow down, increasing the ease of gaining weight. The reverse is also true. In addition, they participate in essential functions in the body, such as the nervous system or the maintenance of bones. They are naturally produced with an adequate consumption of iodine. The body is unable to synthesize this mineral on its own, so it must be provided by nutrition.
- As explained, iodine is involved in the production of thyroid hormones. This is why it is important to consume foods rich in iodine. Among these foods, there are salt enriched with iodine (to be added to your meals) and all seafood generally (fish, seafood, …)
- Zinc and selenium have also a role in the secretion of thyroid hormones. Selenium is generally found in fish (tuna for example) but also in egg yolks.
Dopamine / Endorphin
Classified among the hormones of happiness, endorphins and dopamine intervene in the feeling on mental level, very useful in sporting activity and bodybuilding, particularly. For dopamine, it is produced in any situation that is supposed to generate pleasure (eating a cheat meal, having a huge pump, achieving a goal, …). Following the activity generating the release of dopamine, the pleasure felt will give you motivation to take action and will push you to repeat the practice of the activity in question, until you develop a certain dependence. Lack of dopamine will make you feel flat, drained of motivation and energy to set goals and work hard to reach them. A simple tip helps to regularly release dopamine, by dividing a big goal into several small ones. Successfully accomplishing each small goal will force you to continue until the main goal is achieved, thanks to dopamine !
On the other hand, endorphin is a hormone providing a feeling of happiness, pleasure and well-being, with the added bonus of a relaxing and anti-stress effect. It is released mainly during fairly intense physical efforts. Regular training and a long-term program will increase your well-being and significantly reduce your anxiety level.