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Hormone Manipulation Perpetuates Growth and Anabolic Drive

George L. Redmon PH.D.

The apparent cause of illness is often an infection, an intoxication, nervous exhaustion or breakdown, or merely old age. However, the breakdown of the hormonal adaptation mechanism appears to be the most common ultimate cause of death in man.
Dr. Hans Selye, M. D., Ph.D.

When you review the comments above by one of society’s most respected researchers ,  considered to be the father of stress related research and its negative impact on body systems, it would appear that how the body adapts to changing hormonal cycles is critical to sustaining metabolic processes that perpetuate one’s life cycle. Equally, sports medicine researchers have discovered that by manipulating the actions of various hormones, resistance training individuals could up-regulate anabolic processes that sustain what could be referred to as the body’s anabolic drive. For example, investigators at the International Sports Science Association in California maintain that hormones circulating during and after workouts  affects muscle adaptation. However, these researchers contend that the importance of hormone manipulation and adaptation is still one of the most misunderstood aspects of resistance training.

The goal of this report is to introduce some of these anabolic hormones, the role they play in muscle development, how they adjust and re-adjust body chemistry (adaptation) to counter exercise induced trauma and how you can naturally manipulate their actions.

Hormones 101
Hormones reside within endocrine gland such as the thyroid, the reproductive glands (ovaries and testes) or pancreas. For example, insulin is a hormone that's made in the pancreas. When released into the bloodstream insulin helps regulate how the cells use glucose for energy. Other examples of endocrine glands are the Hypothalamus, Pineal, Pituitary and Thymus. While researchers now know that due to some pre-programmed mechanism, hormones start declining in production and function during aging, conversely, sports medicine researchers now know that some nutritional habits and poor sleep patterns can derail the proposed action of specific hormones without intervention. Making adjustments to these and other factors is important because hormones once secreted into the blood stream, they travel thru the blood to other sites in the body giving  instructions to either increase some activity like protein synthesis or to decrease it. Practically, hormones could be compared to the Joint Chiefs of Staff  that command and instruct millions of service men.However, hormones are released, turned on and turned off on a scheduled cycle of physiological events, by control mechanisms medical professionals refer to as a negative feedback loop. Hence, the contention that a clear understanding of how these guys operate can greatly assist in manipulating their capacity  to enhance your ability to add on additional muscle, while adapting better to the rigors of training.

Hormone Power-You and the Anabolic Continuum
While this reports can’t cover the multitude of hormones within this inborn communication system, the hormones that this report will focus on are: cortisol, glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, and testosterone.

 Although cortisol is classified as a catabolic (muscle wasting) hormone, it doesn’t get the press it deserves. Ironically, the focus is placed on hormones like growth hormone, insulin growth factor (IGF) and testosterone, all considered to enhance the body’s growth potential. However, exercise induced elevation of cortisol production causes muscle tissue breakdown to increase by 5% to 20%. Additionally, cortisol production is primed to rise with increased physical and mental stress. Conversely, this is one way to determine if you are overtraining by having your blood levels of testosterone to cortisol ratio measured.  Ironically, cortisol is responsible for breaking down food for fuel, regulating immune function, modulating the stress response, healing tissue and increasing blood flow in response to the negative aspects of mental and physical stress or injury.  When it remains elevated, cortisol becomes very destructive, hence the basis of its reference to as the death hormone. For instance , scientist now know that elevated levels of cortisol accelerate aging, tissue and memory destruction because it attacks the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls the endocrine system as well as the adrenal glands, where cortisol production takes place.

The Cortisol Flushing Plan
Because of your intense workouts, cortisol can be a reoccurring problem if not recognized as a serious continuous catabolic event. Other potential problems that cortisol can cause are:
•Decreased utilization of glucose and insulin sensitivity.
•Reduced utilization of amino acids for protein formation.
• Redistribution of body fat and storage.

Please Note:  This occurs as a result of the suppression of an enzyme known  as 5’deiodinase.  It is responsible for activating T4 (the inactive thyroid hormone) to its active form T3 (triiodothyronine). The mishap causes a drastic reduction in the body’s metabolic rate thus inhibiting fat burning.
• Reduction of circulating free testosterone levels.
•Sodium retention and potassium excretion causing bloating.
Furthermore, cortisol reduces growth hormone production by increasing release of somatostatin, the hormone that inhibits growth hormone release, as well as inhibiting IGF-1 (insulin growth factor) expression which regulates growth hormone manufacture.

Managing Cortisol’s Release
Dr. Robert S. Elliot, M.D., Director of the Institute of Stress Medicine in Denver, insist that you can disrupt the destructive nature of cortisol substantially by making a few adjustments. Some of those adjustments are:

  1. Consuming protein and carbs following workouts. This puts the brakes on cortisol’s release.
  2.  Maintaining a steady flow and a concise amount of calories to match your present size and performance level. When you reduce your caloric intake this can inadvertently signal the body to increase cortisol secretion, by as much as 38% when normal calorie intake is reduced by 50%.
  3.  Incorporating supplements like DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone), L-Glutamine, MagnoliaBark, Phosphatidylserine(PS),  Rhodila Rosea, Vitamin B’s(especially panothenic acid [B5] which helps regulate the adrenal glands, the glands that helps the body di-stress- stress) and Vitamin C. All of these supplements help reduce cortisol production.

Based on the findings above cortisol deserves more attention although during intense workouts the body increases the production of the anabolic hormones testosterone and growth hormone, but substantially more of the catabolic hormone cortisol.

This hormone causes the liver to convert stored glycogen into glucose. Manipulating the actions of glucagon is critical to maintain enough fuel for hard working muscles. Its secretion is stimulated when protein is consumed and when blood sugar (glucose) levels begin to fall. This reduction of glucose is quickly accelerated during an intense workout. For this reason, fueling up with carbohydrates before, during and after workouts is suggested, as carbohydrates and not protein replenish glycogen in the liver and muscle tissues. Paradoxically, by managing glucagon secretions this hormone works in opposite fashion to that of insulin. Instead of locking fat in the cell when insulin levels remain high, glucagon unlocks the cell to facilitate fat’s release so that it can be burned as fuel.

Growth Hormone (HGH)
HGH is manufactured in the pituitary gland and is referred to as the youth hormone. Dr. Ronald Klatz the Founder and President of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and author of Grow Young with HGH characterizes HGH as a compound that has the Lazarus effect on the body. To put this analogy into proper perspective, consider the fact that HGH  builds muscle and strength, improves fitness, assist in regulating  how the body uses food for energy, increases protein, lipid (fat) and carbohydrate metabolism,  stimulates cell reproduction and regeneration, the production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), encourages lipolysis (release of fat from lipid cells), accelerates protein synthesis, initiates the growth of all internal organs except the brain, plays a role in maintaining homeostasis, (normal internal conditions), promotes healing and a host of other biological functions.

HGH: The Biological Key to Growth
From this view point and groundbreaking studies conducted by the late Yale Medical   School endocrinologist Dr. Daniel Rudman, M. D., sports medicine researchers have also sought to understand the anabolic nature of HGH and how best to manipulate its action. What they have found is that its activity and release is more profound right after a workout and right before sleep. Correspondingly, sleep deprivation suppresses GH release according to Dr. Walter Thompson, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Sports Medicine, Science and Technology at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Equally, Dr. Eve Van Cauter, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago studying subjects with no history of sleep problems, used audio stimulation to disturb the sleep of participants to disrupt deep sleep phases by 90 minutes. This resulted in a 25% reduction in the production of HGH. Additionally, elevated blood sugar, poor dietary habits and lack of exercise  contribute to a decline in HGH output. On the other hand, resistance training routines are considered to be one of the most effective ways to boost HGH production.

The Insulin Blood Sugar Connection
While insulin is considered to be an anabolic hormone, when it is overly secreted and or remains in excessive amounts in the blood, it blocks the production of HGH. Likewise ,  from a nutritional standpoint,  consuming an enormous amount of simple carbohydrates ( sugar) as compared to protein and fiber based foods, your HGH output  is probably low. However, sports nutrition researchers have discovered that consuming a protein-carbohydrate meal two hours prior to working out and another meal immediately afterward elicited a significant increase in growth hormone. This protocol has a positive impact on blood sugar stabilization. The other factor here as reported by researchers at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) is a large decline in growth hormone (up to 24%) secretion when only carbohydrates were consumed before workouts. Additionally, these researchers also discovered that when food was consumed within a two hour window, rather than before workouts, that those partially digested food stuffs, as well as elevation of insulin within the system decreased growth hormone production by 54%.

Some Stand-Up Allies
To assist the body in its natural cyclic release of HGH, current research data indicates that there are several nutrition supplements that help increase HGH release. They are: acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR), arginine, citrulline, gamma amino butyric Acid (GABA), glutamine, glycine, lysine, OKG (ornithine alphaketoglutarate)  and Ornithine. Overall, within the context of growth, as your growth hormone levels decline, so does your growth potential and your internal systems drive toward sustaining it.

Insulin is the most well-known hormone as it is linked to the abnormal blood-sugar condition diabetes. It’s secreted by the pancreas and governs the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Insulin is considered to be one of the body’s most anabolic hormones that increases muscle development due to its ability to promote glucose utilization, inhibit breakdown of muscle tissue and encourages cell volumizing. As you know increasing the cell’s volumizing capacity centers on infusing a larger proportion of nutrients into muscle cells, which accelerates protein synthesis (the creation of new muscle). This occurs due to insulin signaling molecules imbedded within receptors on muscle cells. These receptors once insulin enters the cell transmit instructions to the muscle to open wide, literally sucking glucose, amino acids, creatine and other nutrients into the muscles like a vacuum cleaner. Hence, by combining protein and carb’s with glutamine and or other amino acids manipulate insulin’s release at post-workout facilitates muscle repair and recovery. Additionally, while not highly publicized this post- workout spike of insulin also boosts vascularity causing blood vessels to relax and dilate. As a point of clarification here, more vascularity equates to more blood vessels, more oxygen being delivered to muscles and less anaerobic metabolism taking place, meaning reduced lactic acid production as well as acceleration of its disposal. This will help minimize bouts of muscle catabolism.Insulin also disrupts cortisol production by accelerating cortisol’s exit from the body. 

While insulin heightens the physiological actions of many anabolic processes, when it is secreted unnecessarily or remains elevated it sends signals to store more fat, as it inadvertently turns down metabolic activities to spare fuel. Over time elevated insulin levels can eat away at blood vessels and result in organ dysfunction as seen in diabetic patients. This is why manipulating or balancing spikes in its release at the right time is important. This can be accomplished by eating 6 to 8   smaller meals versus 2 or 3 larger ones. Consumption of foods considered that have a low-glycemic number (fruits, vegetables, whole and minimally processed grains and legumes ) as well as high fiber foods helps stabilize insulin’s secretion. Several nutritional supplements like, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Banaba Leaf Extract ,  Bitter Melon, Chromium, Cinnamon, Coffee Berry Extract , Magnesium and Pintol all help stabilize blood glucose.

Testosterone is considered to be the dominate male hormone and the number one hormone for bodybuilding. It is responsible for the development of male physical characteristics, muscle mass, strength, fat distribution and sexual drive.  The body maintains a delicate balance of testosterone via an inborn feedback communication system between the brain and the testes.  After testosterone is secreted into the bloodstream 98% is bound to proteins called albumin and globulin. The resulting testosterone known as free testosterone is considered to be active and carries out its anabolic commands or capabilities. When levels of testosterone drop below normal, the brain signals the testes to make more.

Boosting Testosterone Naturally  
Generally, testosterone levels tend to be about 30% higher in the mornings than compared to evenings which physiologically suggest that regular sleep patterns (8 to 10 hrs) enhances night-time secretion of testosterone. This irregularity has long been verified which parallels the notion that hormones rise and fall via a pre-programmed cyclic loop. In this case, during sleep, controlled bursts of luteinizing hormone, the hormone that stimulates the testes in men and the ovaries in women  jump-start testosterone production. Conversely, like growth hormone when normal sleep patterns are interrupted, so are circulating levels of testosterone upon awakening. In fact, in a recent study appearing in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers at the Rambam Medical Center in Israel concluded the better men sleep, the higher their testosterone level rise. Conversely, researchers at the National University of Singapore reported that one extra hour of sleep a night beyond normal sleep patterns can increase testosterone production by 12%. On the other hand, researchers have found that surgery foods and snacks before bedtime inhibits night-time production of testosterone. Other testosterone killers are elevated blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides and uric acid levels.

Keep On Pumping
Researchers now know that pumping iron in short concise burst of power lifts naturally causes the body to stimulate testosterone release. How much of a hormonal response you get depends on the amount of muscle you use, as well as the training intensity and volume. The key here truly depends on the concept of resistance training, meaning your ability to handle a heavier weight capacity during short reps to attain a substantial bump of testosterone. Additionally, some supplements that can help boost testosterone levels are Arginine /Ornithine combo, Horny Goat Weed, Long Jack Root, Maca Root, Melatonin and Tribulus Terrestris

To achieve large gains in muscle mass with significant body fat decreases, many hormonal events need to occur in the body. Exercise intensity with consistent bouts of resistance training, paralleled with some sound nutritional and supplemental choices designed to illicit the appropriate hormone response can and will jump-start and shift your anabolic potential into over-drive. However, for all intents and purposes, how adept you become at manipulating those hormones will to a large degree determine how well this process goes.

George L. Redmon, Ph.D.
Dr. Redmon has been associated with the vitamin and health industry for over 25years, having served as The National Product and Education Director for one of the countries largest retailers of nutritional supplements. He has been widely published in many major bodybuilding, fitness and alternative medicine publications. He is the author of Natural Born Fat Burners, Managing and Preventing Arthritis: The Natural Alternatives, Energy for Life and is a member of The National Academy of Sports Medicine and The International Society of Sports Nutrition.


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