Testosterone & Myostatin Levels Effect on Muscle Gains

When people think about muscle building and what in the body helps muscle gains they usually just think of testosterone. Testosterone is a very important muscle builder, in fact its probably the most important factor. That is why women generally can't build muscle as well as men naturally, unless they take steroids, to get a artificial source of testosterone. There is other hormones that interact with testosterone and others that are unrelated that affect muscle growth like myostatin.

Testosterone impact on muscle growth

Testosterone as most bodybuilders know increases protein synthesis by attaching itself to the androgen receptors on the muscle. One important thing most don't realize is it also simultaneously blocks cortisol. It allows you to avoid over training more and not have to worry about muscle breakdown from high cortisol. That is why guys on steroids can workout longer and more frequently and have faster recovery. Natural bodybuilders need to do the opposite and keep workouts short and volume and frequency low.

Another mechanism people don't realize that testosterone does is it stimulates a thing in the muscle cells called satellite cells or myonuclei. These are the powerhouse centers inside the muscle cells. As you will see in studies I give below, the muscle fibers need a certain amount of myonuclei before they grow. So if testosterone isn't there to stimulate the growth of new myonuclei, then your muscle gains will plateau.

Patrick Arnold, an expert on steroid physiology, has alluded to this powerful effect of satellite cells from testosterone / steroid use. He also theorizes it may lead to more permanent muscle gains via hyperplasia (formation of new muscle fibers). Hyperplasia has been a hot debate in the bodybuilding community, but there is evidence that testosterone can play a crucial role in it.

Here is a study that supports Patrick Arnold's theory of steroid use on increased satellite cells and actually the growth of new muscle fibers. Even though this blog advocates natural use an no steroids, studies on steroids often help us understand how hormones like testosterone work on muscle growth.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Nov;31(11):1528-34.

Muscle biopsies were obtained from the trapezius muscles of high-level power lifters who have reported the use of anabolic steroids in high doses for several years and from high-level power lifters who have never used these drugs.

RESULTS: The overall muscle fiber composition was the same in both groups. The mean area for each fiber type in the reported steroid users was larger than that in the nonsteroid users (P < 0.05). The number of myonuclei and the proportion of central nuclei were also significantly higher in the reported steroid users (P < 0.05). Likewise, the frequency of fibers expressing developmental protein isoforms was significantly higher in the reported steroid users group (P < 0.05). CONCLUSION: Intake of anabolic steroids and strength-training induce an increase in muscle size by both hypertrophy and the formation of new muscle fibers. We propose that activation of satellite cells is a key process and is enhanced by the steroid use. The incorporation of the satellite cells into preexisting fibers to maintain a constant nuclear to cytoplasmic ratio seems to be a fundamental mechanism for muscle fiber growth. Although all the subjects in this study have the same level of performance, the possibility of genetic differences between the two groups cannot be completely excluded.

The study below showed that preventing activation, proliferation, and/or differentiation of satellite cells seems to stop hypertrophy.

Phelan JN, Gonyea WJ. Effect of radiation on satellite cell activity and protein expression in overloaded mammalian skeletal muscle. Anat. Rec. 247:179-188, 1997

Irradiation may prevent hypertrophy by impairing activation, proliferation, and/or differentiation of satellite cells. Small fibers in overloaded muscle appear to be new fibers arising from satellite cells. IGF-I may have a role in muscle hypertrophy involving satellite cell activation, or perhaps a more direct role that requires additional factors

Study below shows evidence that during hypertrophy the number of myonuclei increase proportionally to the increase in fiber volume

J Appl Physiol. 1999 Aug;87(2):634-42.

The effects of 10 wk of functional overload (FO), with and without daily treadmill endurance training, on the cross-sectional area, myonuclear number, and myonuclear domain size of mechanically isolated single fiber segments of the adult rat plantaris were determined.

All fiber types in both FO groups had a significantly larger (36-90%) cross-sectional area and a significantly higher (61-109%) myonuclear number than did control. The average myonuclear domain size of each fiber type was similar among the three groups, except for a smaller domain size in the type IIx/b fibers of the FO compared with control. In general, these data indicate that during hypertrophy the number of myonuclei increase proportionally to the increase in fiber volume. The maintenance of myonuclear domain size near control values suggests that regulatory mechanisms exist that ensure a tight coupling between the quantity of genetic machinery and the protein requirements of a fiber.

Bodybuilders with higher natural testosterone levels may have more muscle fibers due to hyperplasia. Boosting testosterone naturally may help induce this too.

Other hormones working with testosterone to build muscle

IGF-1 seems to be a potent hormone that works in conjunction with testosterone to increase protein synthesis and satellite cell activation. Postworkout there is a huge spike in IGF-1 and many believe this helps activate the protein synthesis increase we see for about 24 hours post workout. When testosterone levels are high IGF-1 tends to be high and when they are low so is IGF-1. Estrogen actually helps anabolism too. Estrogen is a natural byproduct already from the conversion of testosterone to DHT and estrogen. Growth hormone also seems to help muscle building. Growth hormone doesn't seem to build much muscle on its own. Most bodybuilders suggest that growth hormone works together with testosterone to build muscle.

Myostatin studies on muscle growth

Myostatin levels is more ingrained into your genetics. Its not something that fluctuates based on many lifestyle factors like testosterone. Unfortunately, it does play a big role in muscle growth. Rats that were able to have this gene removed grew to freak size muscularity.

This study showed that myostatin declined a lot post excercise. Remember that a myostatin DECLINE means that muscle growth becomes easier because the higher the levels of myostatin the more it inhibits (slows) muscle growth.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 May;36(5):787-93.

We determined and compared the magnitude of changes in resting plasma myostatin and IGF-1, muscle strength, and size in response to whole body or local muscle resistance training in healthy men.

RESULTS: In subjects of both groups, elbow flexor 1-RM and cross-sectional area increased (P = 0.05) by 30 +/- 8% (mean +/- SD) and 12 +/- 4%, respectively. Individual changes in myostatin ranged from 5.9 to -56.9%, with a mean decrease of 20 +/- 16%, whereas IGF-1 did not change from pre- to posttraining. There were no significant differences in any of the responses of the subjects between the two training programs. CONCLUSION: Myostatin may play a role in exercise-induced increases in muscle size, its circulating levels decreasing with resistance training in healthy men.

The study below says that myostatin mrna declined during weight loss. This may help as a way to help avoid too much muscle wasting during weight loss.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jun;89(6):2724-7.

Myostatin mRNA levels result clearly decreased after weight loss, suggesting a role in counteracting the progressive decline of muscle mass after BPD. Myostatin may provide therefore another mechanistic explanation for the control of energy partitioning between protein and fat, working against muscle wasting. Our data suggest that myostatin might represent an important regulator of skeletal muscle size also in conditions of food restriction in obese subjects.

How to change natural testosterone and myostatin levels

Testosterone levels are easy to boost naturally via a high calorie surplus. Studies show that eating a high calorie surplus boosts your testosterone, IGF-1 through the roof. Eating plenty of fats helps maintain or increase testosterone too. Getting a healthy amount of saturated fat and monounsaturated fats really helps boost testosterone. Polyunsaturated fat doesn't have that effect, it actually works against you, so don't eat too much of your fat from polyunsaturated sources. You should try to get plenty of fats while bulking or dieting to help maintain testosterone levels. There is many studies that show high fat diet helps boost testosterone. One thing I will say though if your already eating a large calorie surplus the fat boost probably won't be existent. Calorie surplus already increase testosterone dramatically, so you probably can't boost it any higher just by increasing the amount of fat you intake together with a calorie surplus.

There is also studies showing colder weather, lack of quality sleep, stress, and alcohol lowers testosterone. There isn't much evidence on how to manipulate myostatin levels naturally, other than the studies I gave. It seems to fluctuate based in response to your weight training and dieting. There are some myostatin blocking supplements you could try to manipulate your myostatin levels.

Most Important Factors to Build Muscle

The most important thing I’ve learned after all these years of trying to build muscle is how much time I spent worrying about the stuff that has very little effect on building muscle and the wishing I had spent more time on stuff that does build muscle. As a newbie its easy to get confused in priorities. You see supplement ads everywhere promising all these amazing muscle building properties with no effort. Then you have bodybuilding gurus promising their workout program is the "magic routine" that will build muscle better than any other program.

After awhile you realize the vast majority of supplements are a bit overrated and even the ones that seem to work don't make a significant impact on building muscle in the long run. Generally beyond protein powder and vitamin orientated supplements, most are just a drain on your wallet. You also learn that those magic routines aren't so magic after all. Its just a genetic freak that will respond to any workout routine given to him. When you try the same routine your results aren't much different than from your old routine. If their routines are high volume and your used to lower volume your results will probably be even worse because your genetics can't handle the high amount of volume like a genetic freak who has fast recovery.

Top Important Factors to Build Muscle

Here is the most important factors in order

1) Calories - Gaining muscle, especially in significant amounts, is virtually impossible without a calorie surplus. If you are not gaining weight don't expect to gain muscle. PERIOD! On the flipside if you gain weight you will gain muscle. There have even been studies done on people who massively increase calories for 2 weeks and build muscle even without weight training! This is because dramatically increasing calories to a surplus to gain weight increases testosterone, IGF-1, growth hormone, and other hormones. Thats the main reason why calories are extremely anabolic and its almost impossible to build muscle without a calorie increase. Of course you should weight train with the calorie surplus, so your muscle gains will be better and less of your gains will be fat.

2) Progressive overload - This basically means that you must make your routine harder each workout. Try to do more reps or weight or more sets or shorter rests than the previous workout. When you use progressive overload in conjunction with a calorie surplus you are putting your muscles in the optimum position to build muscle. Progressive overload isn't effective without a calorie surplus. Your body will plateau if you do it that way.

3) Start your bulk at a LEAN bodyfat percent - There is studies that suggest when someone bulks leaner they tend to put on more of their weight as muscle instead of fat. In other words if you bulk at a high bodyfat percent a lot of your new gains will just be fat. I've also experienced it myself. When I bulk at a high bodyfat percent my new gains tend to be a lot more fat. The magic number that many bodybuilding experts who have looked over this and based on my own experience find under 15% bodyfat is considered the sweet spot to start bulking. If your over 15 percent bodyfat you should cut first.

4) Concentrate on compound free weight excercises Stick to the basic excercises like bench press, bent over rows, pullups, squats and deadlifts, and shoulder press. That should be where the majority of your sets are from. Thats where most of your growth will also come from. You should do isolations for arms and traps, but compounds should be your main focus. Compound excercises release the most testosterone and GH and involve the most muscles and weight overload, so they are going to stimulate the most muscle growth in your body. Isolations don't even release any hormones. Avoid machines too.

5) Don't do too much Most naturals only need a 3 day split to grow optimally. Take one rest day between each workout to allow the body to rejuvenate. All these guys working out 4 or 5 or 6 days a week are following splits designed by steroid users. Steroid users can resist volume and over training a lot better than naturals because they block the action of cortisol and they don't have to worry about the lowering of testosterone after a workout since they get an artificial source to keep it high. You want to do the opposite of them. Keep your workouts under an hour and 3 days a week.

6) Take Breaks. Even with a calorie surplus your body becomes stale after awhile. Our body gets tired of adapting to change, it prefers to be in homeostasis. Our anabolic hormones decline, our cells become more resistant to adaption to training and building muscle after many weeks of weight training. After 2 or 3 months you should take one to 2 full weeks of complete rest from excercise. It gives your body a chance to reset hormonally and mentally. It desensitizes your body so it will be primed for another growth phase. In bodybuilding taking 1 step back in order to do 2 steps forward is important approach you will learn over time.

There you go. Follow those simple principles and that's all you need to build muscle. Don't waste time trying to find some special workout technique that you think is going to turn you into a pro-bodybuilder overnight. Forget it its not going to happen. Genetics plays a big role in bodybuilding and workouts are only a small portion, supplements play an even less importance. Diet is actually is responsible for the majority of your results. As the ole bodybuilding saying "Muscles are made in the kitchen not in the gym".

How to Naturally Lower Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is a hormone with many negative effects, especially for bodybuilders. Your body is constantly producing low amounts of cortisol and it does have its purpose in low amounts, so Cortisol is not all bad.

Normal Cortisol levels vs. High

When Cortisol is at normal levels it helps mobilize fat while dieting, heal wounds, and it helps remodel muscle tissue when you are building muscle. When it gets too high it eats away at muscle and lowers your testosterone levels, causes inflammation, fatigue, insomnia, loss of strength. It also has negative effects on fat metabolism.

Cortisol levels during excercise

Your body will release large amounts of cortisol during weight training or hard cardio sessions. Studies show that the more intense your weight training or cardio the higher the release of cortisol and testosterone and growth hormone during your workout. This cortisol spike is not a bad thing if you keep your workouts brief. It becomes a problem when someone does marathon training and the cortisol is elevated for hours doing a workout. That's why naturals have always been recommended to do short workouts and not do too much volume per workout.

Causes and cures for high chronic cortisol levels

Cortisol becomes a real problem when you have chronic excessive amounts of high levels of cortisol even during rest. Chronic high levels of cortisol at rest are caused mainly 3 factors based on my research findings. One major factor is Visceral fat. Visceral fat that is covering your organs and that can't be pinched on your outside like subcutaneous fat. A big gut is caused by a lot of visceral fat in men because men tend to carry more visceral fat than women and the belly has the ability to store a lot of visceral fat. That's why men and not women tend to get a pot belly when they get a lot of fat.

There is cortisol receptors on visceral fat that stimulate visceral fat gain. And unfortunately visceral releases a lot of cortisol. The more visceral fat you have the more cortisol you will release. The more cortisol you release the more visceral fat that you gain because its stimulating the visceral fat receptors. As you can see its a perpetual cyclical cycle. The only way to stop it is to stop gaining visceral fat. Which means you have to stop gaining weight to stop the cycle and start losing fat if you want to start reversing it.

The 2nd reason for high chronic levels of Cortisol is mental stress. Your pituitary releases cortisol during mental stress. Thats why people that are very stressed out all the time tend to have insomnia, muscle twitches, fatigue, and other symptoms of high cortisol. High chronic levels of cortisol can give you a burned out feeling that you can't get out of. This leads to a perpetual cycle because as you get stressed out you release cortisol, which then stresses you out more and you continue to release cortisol. You won't stop this cycle unless you do something proactive to break it.

There is ways to get out of excessive long term cortisol levels due to stress. Obviously you need to stop doing whatever is that is causing the stress. You just can't expect the Cortisol to lower because as I said the body responds in a perpetual cycle feedback system, so the only way to stop it is to get rid of the cause. The other way to stop it is with Vitamin C. Taking vitamin C has been shown in countless studies to help prevent the release of cortisol in response to mental stress. Another way you can deal with it is taking some over the counter cortisol blocker supplements that deal with stress. There are some herbal cortisol blocking supplements that help you get relaxed. This can help minimize the stressful mental response so your less likely to release cortisol. How well it works is open to debate, but if you can't stop your stressful job or environment stacking vitamin C together with a natural cortisol blocking supplement might be worth the effort. There is also some scientific evidence that relaxing your mind through music or having sex can reduce stress and cortisol.

The final reason for long term high chronic levels of cortisol is over training. Doing way too many sets per muscle and per week and never taking any rest off will lead to this effect after 2 or 3 months usually. To help avoid this keep your set volume reasonable, take a rest day between each weight training sessions, and take one or 2 weeks of total rest from excercise at least every 3 months. Even when you keep volume low you must take a break once in a while because over time the cortisol will rise and your testosterone levels will lower as your body over trains from week after week of excercise. The breaks allow the body to restore its hormones back to normal and give your mind a break too.

Steroids actually block the action of Cortisol at the cortisol receptor which is why bodybuilders on steroids can train a lot more volume and not worry about muscle loss or over training. This is why as naturals we need to keep our workouts short and take vitamin C pills to blunt the cortisol spike like steroid users do. Some argue that you shouldn't try to blunt the cortisol response during weight training because you need that cortisol spike to help build muscle. I say if we didn't want to blunt it, then steroids wouldn't be helpful in muscle building since they are very effective Cortisol blockers too. Also, we are not blocking it totally, there still will be a cortisol spike during your workout. Cortisol seems to be blunted for up to 24 hours when taking high dose vitamin c preworkout, so its not just during the workout you are reducing cortisol. Therefore, I will continue to take my vitamin C preworkout.

Vitamin C supplementation and Cortisol

As pointed out earlier, Vitamin C helps blunt the release of cortisol to mental stress. What about high levels of cortisol during weight training? Studies have shown taking a gram of vitamin C dramatically reduces cortisol. Here is just one of many studies of vitamin C taking preworkout:

1: J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008 Jun;48(2):217-24.Links
Effect of vitamin C supplementation on lipid peroxidation, muscle damage and inflammation after 30-min exercise at 75% VO2max.Nakhostin-Roohi B, Babaei P, Rahmani-Nia F, Bohlooli S.
Department of Exercise Physiology, Guilan University, Rasht, Iran bnakhostin_aau@yahoo.com.

AIM: Hypothetically, supplementation with the antioxidant vitamins C could alleviate exercise-induced lipid peroxidation. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of vitamin C supplementation on exercise-induced lipid peroxidation, muscle damage and inflammation. METHODS: Sixteen healthy untrained male volunteers participated in a 30-min exercise at 75% Vo2max. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of two groups: 1) placebo and 2) vitamin C (VC: 1 000 mg vitamin C). Blood samples were obtained prior to supplementation (baseline), 2 h after supplementation (immediately pre-exercise), post-exercise, 2 and 24 h after exercise. Plasma levels of VC, total antioxidant capacity (TAC), creatine kinase (CK), malondealdehyde (MDA), total leukocytes, neutrophils, lymphocytes, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and cortisol were measured. RESULTS: Plasma vitamin C concentrations increased significantly in the VC in response to supplementation and exercise (P<0.05). TAC decreased significantly in Placebo group 24 h after exercise compared to pre-exercise (P<0.05). Although MDA levels were similar between groups at baseline, it increased significantly 2 h after exercise only in the Placebo group (P<0.05). CK increased immediately and 2 h after exercise in both groups and 24 h after exercise only in placebo group compared to pre-exercise (P<0.05). Markers of inflammation (total leukocyte counts, neutrophil counts and IL-6) were increased significantly in response to the exercise (P<0.05). In VC group, there was significant increase in lymphocyte counts immediately after exercise compared with pre-exercise (P<0.05). Serum cortisol concentrations significantly declined after supplementation compared with baseline (P<0.05) as well as declined 2 and 24 h after exercise compared with immediately after exercise in VC group (P<0.05). CONCLUSION: VC supplementation prevented endurance exercise-induced lipid peroxidation and muscle damage but had no effect on inflammatory markers.

I take a gram of Vitamin C pre and post workout. As mentioned earlier cortisol during your workout isn't really a terrible thing as long as your workouts are short. I take the Vitamin C to make sure my cortisol doesn't spike too high. I don't think someone should just let cortisol spike uncontrolled.

Other supplements that block cortisol

The only other supplements I have seen that block Cortisol besides Vitamin C and mind relaxers were the vitamins magnesium and zinc and Vitamin B's. However, these seem to be only effective if the person is deficient. Obviously if someone is getting enough of these vitamins already it won't have an effect. Another was 11-oxo which is off the market now. 11-oxo had steroidal / prohormone qualities though, so it wasn't a safe option. The other is Imodium AD (loperamide) which is an anti-diarrhea product. Obviously it's not something you want to take for that purpose. Carbohydrates lower cortisol too. Thats probably the reason why when you diet the carbs have a muscle sparing effect.

Deadlifts & Squats Increase Testosterone levels?

I was always told as a bodybuilder, to do squats and deadlifts because they increased testosterone and helped build muscle throughout the body. I decided to try and seek out a definitive answer to these common beliefs.

Studies on Testosterone Increase in Squats & Deadlifts :

It didn't take me too long to stumble across research studies showing that after squats or deadlifts, there was a large increase in serum testosterone levels. Not only is there a increase in testosterone levels, but in Growth Hormone and IGF-1, a couple of other important anabolic hormones. This anabolic release didn't just happen in squats and deadlifts, but also in smaller resistance excercises, including bench press and isolation excercises. Research indicates that the larger more involved excercises, like squats and deadlifts, will have the largest increase in Testosterone and Growth hormone. Although all resistance training has this effect, a curl for example, would have only a very small increase in Testosterone and Growth hormone. A study published in (Int J Sports Med. 1991 Apr;12(2):228-35) showed this hormonal increase after weight training in both men and women.

I was glad to see there is research to back up that squats and deadlifts are good for increasing testosterone levels. However, there is one major caveat. According to studies it seems to be temporary increase, as a few hours to about a day later, your Testosterone and Growth Hormone levels drop below normal and cortisol remains high. This is where your body is recovering hormonally and people warn about overtraining.

After about a couple days your testosterone levels will return to the same or maybe even slightly higher. I couldn't find any research that showed those who squatted or weightlifted in general, have significantly higher body testosterone levels long term. In fact, you have to be careful of overtraining. In a study published in (Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1993 Aug;25(8):929-35), strength lifters who came back from a break of weight training, had a surge in testosterone and lowering of cortisol levels. Therefore, taking a break was actually a good thing for them for restoring / increasing their anabolic hormones. If anything, it looks to be long term weight training, is more likely to cause lower testosterone levels than higher levels, if you don't take a break from training every few weeks and watch workout volume.

Do squats help increase overall muscle mass in body?

This is a little more difficult question to answer. There is no research directly on it, but if we use some logic here, we can probably answer the question. When you do squats, your releasing a substantial amount of anabolic hormones that your whole body can feel the effect. When your testosterone increases in your blod, it reaches all parts of the body. It's not like your arms are going to grow significantly from just a leg workout, but I believe the testosterone increase in the blood can cause muscle growth to other parts of your body. Steroids help you grow by increasing testosterone in the blood, so it makes sense that squats could have a similar stimulus effect on other muscle parts in the body.

Muscle Building Genetics

These days, researchers are always talking about the components of genetics that contribute to our risk of disease, personality, and ability to gain or lose fat. Why is it so many bodybuilders I see, act like muscle building genetics is not a factor in bodybuilding? If everyone had the same muscle building genetics, there would be no pro-bodybuilders because everyone could be one if they took enough steroids and be strict on their diet. Unfortunately, not everyone will have equal muscle building or fat loss genetics.

Some bodybuilders will follow a strict diet and not drink alcohol and see their buddies drink and not be too strict on their diet and still gain muscle easier than them. It can be frustrating, but we have to face the fact that some of us will struggle building muscles more than others.

Muscle building Genetic Factors:

There are various components of the human physiology that play big roles in why have better muscle building genetics than others. The most obvious is your natural testosterone levels. There is a wide range of levels that men have that are considered in the normal range. Some men may even be naturally borderline low testosterone levels. Fortunately, there are ways to help increase testosterone levels naturally.

Another major component is your muscle type fiber makeup. Each person has a different percentage of type 1 vs type 2 that varies between muscles and persons. Type 1 and type 2 have very different functions. Type 2 hypertrophies (gets larger) much easier than Type 1 and also fatigue faster. Type 1 fibers are quicker and do better at endurance, but they don't have that much potential for long term hypertrophy. Heavy weight training has been shown to induce fiber changes in sub types to act more like type 1. However, the changes are small and since all of us weight train, it's not going to make up differences between others who lift weights.

Myostatin is another factor, rarely talked about because its a relatively new discovery. Rats were genetically modified a few years ago with lower amounts of myostatin. They turned into very muscular rats. Myostatin seems to put the brakes on muscle building and may be the biggest reason why everyone can only gain muscles to a certain point. Unfortunately, you can't do anything about lowering myostatin levels in the body. The levels in your body is purely genetics. Supplement makers have tried to claim their myostatin products builds muscles through blocking myostatin, but they are all scams. Genetically modifying humans through myostatin, might be something of the future though. I hope I never see that because it would take the fun out of bodybuilding, if others are able to change their genetics by paying a doctor a visit.

How Sex Affects Muscle Gains

Almost every male bodybuilder has wondered if ejaculating too frequently, could hurt their muscle building gains. Some have even recommended holding off for days to help boost their muscle gains.

Sex & Ejaculation effects immediately on testosterone levels

The basis for the argument that ejaculation hurts muscle gains, I believe is probably rooted from the belief that it reduces testosterone. I used to believe the same thing, until I did research on it. From looking at animal and human studies, there doesn't seem to be any basis that ejaculation will lower testosterone levels immediately afterwards.

Animal studies show a rise in testosterone during mating and arousal. Human studies such as one published in (Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1993;18(3):205-18), have shown men's testosterone levels rise during sexual arousal and even aggressive activies, such as holding a gun. I have only seen animal studies, that measured testosterone levels post ejaculation. Some of these studies show no changes post ejaculation, while others show a rise in testosterone. No study I have seen, has shown a actual drop in testosterone post ejaculation.

So why is it such a common belief that testosterone drops after ejaculation? I believe this is because men get tired and satisfied after ejaculation, leading people to think it lowers testosterone levels. I believe this mental effect is actually from changes in the brain after ejaculation. An interesting study at Department of Pharmacobiology, Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados. measured the androgen receptor density (how potent testosterone would feel in the brain) after ejaculation. The study showed a decreased density, post ejaculation in rats. The density didn't return to normal for 72 hours. So, we may feel like testosterone levels in the blood drop post ejaculation, but they actually don't.

Sex & Ejaculation long term effects on testosterone levels

We have established that there is no short term lowering of testosterone levels from ejaculation, but
many think ejaculating too often can lead to lower testosterone levels long term. The only study that looks at more of a long term effect from ejacualation, was done by chinese group (J Zhejiang Univ Sci. 2003 Mar-Apr;4(2):236-40). 28 men volunteered to not ejaculate for one week. There was no change in testosterone levels for the first 6, then on the 7th it spiked by 47% on average. However, the next day while still abstaining from ejaculation, it lowered quickly back to normal. I believe this is because the large spike in testosterone shut off natural production, until testosterone levels went back to normal. This study tells me that every 6 or 7 days, there may be a large increase in testosterone, if someone abstains from ejaculation. Then testosterone will naturally balance out to normal afterwards. So, long term there doesn't seem to be much (if any) benefit from abstaining from ejaculation.

Sex & Ejaculation effects on strength

Ejaculation may have a effect on your strength in the weight room. Testosterone has a natural stimulant and energy effect on the brain. High testosterone makes you feel stronger and more aggressive. In that study I cited earlier, it showed a lowering of androgen receptor density in the brain after ejaculation. This lowering could effect your strength because your brain perceives less testosterone, even if it actually doesn't drop. Ejaculation also releases endorphins into the bloodstream. These are opiates that make you feel sleepy. This is not exactly the ideal conditions right before a workout. If you ejaculate hours before a workout, you might be weaker and have less energy. Since strength gains usually help muscle gains in the long run, ejaculating before a workout would not be a good idea for optimal muscle gains. So in that aspect, sex (or ejaculation) will have a negative long term effect on muscle gains.

Estrogen’s Effect on Men in Muscle Building

Bodybuilders commonly assume estrogen always equals bad because it is considered a women’s hormone. While that is generally true, I believe that your body needs a certain level of estrogens for muscle gains. If you have ever taken an anti-estrogen, you may have noticed a muscle hardening effect, but it’s hard to gain a lot of muscle mass even though they boost testosterone levels significantly. Many bodybuilders on testosterone cycles have also noticed a difference in gains from using anti-estrogens , which is why some either advocate not using them or using low dosages.

Estrogen seems to probably have many different pathways it can help with muscle building. Estrogen helps with growth hormone levels, a important factor in muscle building. Estrogens also help with water retention. Retaining water helps hydrate the cells promoting protein synthesis and storage in the cells. The water retention also helps with strength gains, which should help long term muscle gains. Estrogen also has a vital role in the protein kinase cascade, which is important in the muscle building process.

While excessive Estrogen in men is certainly a bad thing, eliminating it completely through anti-estrogens isn't going to automatically mean a large boost in gains. There are too many ways that estrogens can help your gains, that the boost in testosterone won't fully make up for all the losses from lower estrogen.

Muscle Memory a Myth?

Bodybuilders spend years building up their muscle mass. That is why most bodybuilders hate cutting because they know in the process they will lose some of their hard earned muscle while they lose fat. Most bodybuilders think that if you take off a few months from lifting or you get injured or sick, you will have to start all over again taking many months or years to build muscle back. However, this is not true. Instead you will experience a much easier time gaining muscle often called “Muscle memory”.

I’ve had personal experience with muscle memory. As a hardgainer, it took years and tons of effort to put on a lot of weight. When I got off my diet for a couple years, I lost a ton of weight. When I got back on a higher calorie and higher protein diet again, I immediately started gaining weight and muscle back quickly. Muscle memory doesn't mean the muscle just flys on with no effort, what it means is that you will get there a lot quicker with the same effort as before.

What causes muscle memory?

There is no research studies on what causes muscle memory. I don't think there could even be a way to measure how to even find the cause. However, I think the cause of muscle memory can be pinned down to some possibilities. Your first guess for the cause of muscle memory, maybe might with hormones, like Testosterone and Growth hormone. This can't be the cause because studies have shown when you raise calories, these hormones goes up for about a couple weeks, but it drops again after that. Muscle memory can last months, not just a couple weeks. It wouldn't make sense anyways, since anytime you start back on a new diet, your anabolic hormones are going to go high anyways in the beginning, regardless of what your muscle base was in the past.

Another theory could be hyperplasia. Hypertrophy is the growing of the diameter of the muscle fibers, by sythesizing new protein. Hyperplasia is the division of muscle fibers to make new fibers. Many have argued that hyerplasia doesn't exist in humans, but from my research I believe it does. I believe muscle gains are from both hypertrophy and from a little bit of hyperplasia. Heavy weight training can help induce hyperplasia. Therefore, it could be easier to gain the muscle back in the future because you now have more muscle fibers to work with, that have potential to grow.

The most common theory I've seen bodybuilders explain for muscle fascia tissue is fascia stretching. There is a connective tissue that tightly hugs around muscles, called the fascia. Some theorize that fascia helps slow down muscle building because muscles can't grow with it binding. Once you stretch the fascia, it tends not to shrink back. Some have incorporated fascia tissue stretches with weights into their weight training routine, including pro-bodybuilders Jay Cutler. These deep stretches help permanently stretch the fascia tissue. From my research I'm also a firm believer in fascia stretching to help muscle gains, so I often incorporate it into my workouts.

I personally believe muscle memory is caused by a combination of hyperplasia, fascia stretching, and maybe some other unknown factors. It may be caused by hyperplasia alone, or fascia stretching alone, we don't know. Muscle memory is a fascinating thing and it's good to know that if we hit a rough time and can't follow diet and training, we can get our gains back much easier in the future thanks to muscle memory.

How to increase natural growth hormone (HGH) levels

HGH (human growth hormone) together with testosterone, plays a crucial muscle building role as a bodybuilder. It’s been a long debate in the bodybuilding and scientific community though, on how much growth hormone plays a direct role by itself in muscle building. I haven't found any convincing bodies of research that shows growth hormone levels are directly correlated with muscle building, but there are studies that may point to it as a direct fat burner. So unless some new research comes out, worrying about how you can increase your growth hormone levels naturally in the body, isn't likely to help build bigger muscles. However, it may help aid you in fat loss and bulking with more "clean gains".

Below are some tips I've compiled over the years based on my research.

Ways to increase your natural HGH (Growth hormone) levels

No carbs before bed. The biggest releases of growth hormone by your body are in the first couple hours of sleep. High insulin levels will blunt growth hormone production. It is recommended to not have any carbohydrates before bed.

High Reps. During weight training studies have shown that growth hormone is released. During major lactic acid buildup, like with high reps done fast to get a "burn", seem to cause the largest growth hormone spike. This has led to some bodybuilding programs promoting a high rep "burnout set" or superset, immediately after a workout set.

Supplements / Prescription drugs. There are many growth hormone supplement scams that it is hard to find the good ones. The amino acid Glutamine, commonly taken by bodybuilders for other reasons has been shown to increase growth hormone levels in blood by a large percentage. GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid) another amino acid, also has been shown to do the same. Bodybuilders used to take GHB because it helped release growth hormone, it was made illegal a few years ago as a serious drug. GABA and GHB are both inconvertible in the brain and the difference between GHB and the FDA legal supplement GABA, is that GHB can pass directly through the blood brain barrier. Most people underdose GABA, as it requires a few grams to get the growth hormone promoting effect.

Excercise regularly. Regular excercise helps maintain a healthy hormone balance, including Growth Hormone.

Avoid stress. The fastest way to kill growth hormone levels is with high cortisol levels. Cortisol and growth hormone levels have an inverse relationship, when one goes up the other goes down. People who have stressful lives, tend to have long term higher levels of cortisol, which means lower growth hormone levels.

Get a good consistent quality sleep. Not getting adequate quality sleep or constantly changing your sleep schedule, will lead to higher cortisol levels long term and less Growth Hormone produced during sleep.

Increase Testosterone Levels

Testosterone levels is by far the most important muscle building factor in the body. Bodybuilders for decades have been trying to increase testosterone levels, be it artificially or naturally. Artificially it is done with the use of Steroids, but in this article we will discuss how to help maintain or increase testosterone levels through your own bodies natural production system. This article is mainly for men, although following the advices here can help women maintain healthy levels of testosterone and estrogen and other hormones, making them feel healthier and vibrant.

Ways to increase testosterone levels:

- High fat diet. Countless research has shown that fats help maintain and even increase testosterone levels. Omega-3's, monounsaturated and even saturated fats in diet, have all shown to increase testosterone levels.

- Quality consistent sleep. Your body can't recuperate it's hormone levels if you dont get at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. People who work swing shifts or change the times of day they sleep constantly, also throw their hormones out of balance.

- Long term dieting. When you are in a calorie deficit, you releas cortisol and lower your testosterone levels. It also lowers other hormones such as Thyroid. During dieting, people generally aren't as healthy or energetic.

- Don't overtrain. Excessive weight training and other excercise like cardio, eventually leads to a gradual build up cortisol and lowering of testosterone.

- Prescription / Over the counter drugs. Find out if a prescription drug or over the counter drug interferes with testosterone or DHT. Some drugs for hair loss (Nizoral, proscar, etc), block or interfere with the conversion of testosterone to DHT and may cause side effects, since DHT is more responsible for masculinizing sex effects than testosterone in males.

- Zinc. A few years ago, Zinc was shown to boost testosterone levels in football athletes, when taken together with Vitamin B6. This led to the ZMA craze among bodybuilders, which was a proprietary blend of Zinc and vitamin B6. Zinc prevents the conversion of testosterone to dht, helping to maintain healthy testosterone levels. It is also good for the prostate and if taken before bed, very helpful for getting a good deep sleep. Most people are deficient to some degree in zinc. You can supplement with extra zinc even beyond your multi-vitamin. Taking ZMA specifically is not necessary for the benefits of Zinc, as vitamin B6 only helps aid in Zinc's absorption.

- 6-OXO. A anti-estrogen supplement developed by the well known bodybuilding supplement chemist Patrick Arnold. Anti-estrogen supplements available on the market today help boost natural testosterone production, by lowering the estrogen in your body. They should be safe for those over 21, as long as it is for brief occasional cycles. Unlike steroids, they do not shut down testosterone production or create supraphysiological levels many times that of natural levels. Instead they increase testosterone levels to a level moderately higher than you normally would have. When you get off of anti-estrogens, your testosterone levels will decrease again as your body goes back to equilibrium.

-Warmer weather. I've come across studies that showed that in the cooler months, men's testosterone levels dropped. I'm sure there is a genetic basis for this, so living in warmer weather most of the year is an advantage for maintaining testosterone levels.

- Lower bodyfat %. The higher your bodyfat % is, most likely the lower your testosterone levels will go. Your fat cells aromatize testosterone to estrogen instead of DHT. Estrogen in the body tends to decrease natural testosterone levels.

- Excercise regurly. Excercise helps keep your testosterone and other hormones at healthy levels, just don't overtrain.

I hope you learned from this article, how to effectively increase your Testosterone levels. This is the list I've compiled after reading research studies and bodybuilding articles for years.

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