Testosterone. Is there a more overused, misunderstood word in existence? We hear of testosterone fueled violence, or stupidity. Sometiems peopel complain about being in too testosterone filled environments. It is regarded as a very MANLY thing, but one that is the cause of all problems when it comes to men as well. Strange though, because testosterone is actually a wonderful thing for men, woman, and society in general. For you though – if you are a skinny guy trying to build muscles – it can be an AMAZING thing to help your efforts for an amazing body.
Let’s dig into this a little more.
What is Testosterone & What Does it Do?
Testosterone is a hormone that is mainly produced in a mans testes (though small amounts are produced in women as well for a healthy functioning body as well). It is the chief hormone that helps men with what we consider very masculine traits such as: hair growth, sexual development, libido, healthy bones, inhibits breast growth, and most importantly for bodybuilding – improves muscle hypertrophy.
It is a primary part of building muscle and having good body function in men. It is something to be prized and increased to good levels if you plan to get bigger and more ripped. Not only does it help grow muscle along with proper training, but high levels of testosterone also prevent the rate of atrophy of muscles helping to keep your gains longer.
Testosterone therefore is a great thing and we want more of it right? However, there are some things that get in the way such as:
I have written about cortisol before and how it is a hindrance to skinny hardgainers trying to get bigger muscles. However, in this context we can see it as a direct antagonist to testosterone. Cortisol is catabolic meaning it will break down muscles compared to Testosterone which is anabolic (builds muscles). Cortisol triggers our fight or flight response and kicks out danger sense into overdrive releasing short term boosts to all attributes needed to fight or flee for survival – a useful tool when faced with a hungry sabre toothed tiger … but not so good in the office when faced with an angry peer you cannot run from … or punch.
Cortisol is the stress hormone really. Having high levels of stress on an ongoing basis is terrible for testosterone production and for muscle building – and it seems to be the basis of the aggression myth of having high T levels (Testosterone levels – bodybuilder slang). Men with high T levels when faced with a win or lose situation released more cortisol when they lost – while men with lower T levels did not have such a change happen. So testosterone fuelled men might react less well when they lose, though winning does not seem to be a problem.
To aid the destruction of the myth of testosterone as aggressive behaviour inducing – another study found that men with low T levels seemed to be more aggressive, and when given hormone replacement therapy with Testosterone they felt more calm and friendly than before!
There is also another hormone to beware of …
You have probably heard of this one, the opposite of testosterone as it is the main female hormone. Estrogen is vital for a womans sexual development and general health – but men have some estrogen as well. Do not be fooled into thinking you need to completely get rid of all estrogen in your body, this is very bad for your health as we all need a small amount for healthy body functioning. In fact a certain amount of estrogen actually HELPS muscle development. Estrogen is bad when you have too MUCH of the hormone which can cause bodybuilding issues such as:
- Gynecomastia – Male breast development
- Excess fat storage on the body
- Catabolic reduction of muscles
So making sure you do not get too much estrogen is highly beneficial. It also means people go go nuts with estrogen blocker drugs are probably hurting their own health more than they are helping their body development.
Promoting T Levels While Reducing Cortisol & Estrogen
So, all in all the above heading is what you need to aim for. Cortisol and Estrogen play their part when needed but there are a bunch of things that spike those hormones which inhibits good muscle building. Testosterone on the other hand should be high when you are aiming to get bigger muscles – however too much testosterone (mainly gained through excessive use of supplements) can causes issues too such as your hair thinning, acne, and other problems. All this means a healthy drug free approach to this problem will serve you best – lets take a look at how you can achieve this!
- Decrease Soy products – Soy products have been proven to raise levels of estrogen in the body
- Do not drink from cans and plastic bottles – Most plastic bottles and cans leak estrogen causing chemicals. Try drinking from a glass instead.
- Increase Protein Consumption – This should be done for bodybuilding reasons anyway, but it also decreases estrogen and decreases cortisol.
- Increase Fiber – Good for your digestive health, but fiber also decreases blood estrogen levels
- Sulphur Foods – Foods that contain sulphur can help your liver. The liver will get rid of a lot of excess estrogen so keeping it in great shape is important. Spinach, eggs, garlic, lemons and limes are all good for this.
- Eat More Organic Foods – Many foods that are not organic contain huge amounts of hormones that play havoc with YOUR hormones. Chickens are a prime example of this, pumped full of growth hormones to get the bigger, quicker. This leaks into your body and can increase estrogen levels.
- Drink Black Tea Not Coffee – Coffee has shown to increase estrogen marginally depending on genetic background – but black tea has been shown to reduce cortisol!
- Be Careful With Carbs – Low GI carbs are good for reducing Cortisol in your body, but higher GI carbohydrates can play havoc with your insulin which is a known cause of estrogen dominance. So be careful with what type of carbs you eat.
- Get More Zinc – Zinc is essential for good testosterone production. Good zinc foods are lean beef, oysters and beans – you can also take supplements but you should be able to get enough from your food.
- Avoid Binge Drinking – A little bit of alcohol is fine (1-2 drinks a day maximum) more than this, or more in a short period of time will depress your testosterone production due to inflammation.
- Lower sugar consumption – Sugar intake spikes your blood sugar, which in turn spikes insulin levels to deal with the sugar, which in turn causes issues with other hormones such as – testosterone. Less sugar will stop this pattern and help elevate your T levels.
- Intermittent Fasting – Taking a day off from eating food might seem like madness when you are trying to gain weight, but doing this one every week or two weeks helps increase T levels, and your muscle building capabilities actually shoots up the days after the fast.
- Heavy Weights – The very act of weight lifting which stresses the muscles prompts the body to produce more Testosterone.
- Low Cardio More Intense – Too much cardio is going to hurt your muscle gains and does not help your T levels when you are just jogging along. High intensity training, or interval training is a better way to do cardio instead. This is where you exercise for 30 seconds as hard as you can without stop til you feel like you cannot go on, then back off to a moderate pace for 90 seconds. Then repeat this process 6-7 times. Doesn’t take long, helps your cardiovascular system, and pushes your T levels up.
- Slow Down Your Lifts – One, this forces you to have good technique and form which is great. Two – when you slow down your lifts you really maximise the muscles stress that helps you grow and produces Testosterone.
Rest & Lifestyle – There are other ways to help boost your T levels and keep cortisol and estrogen in check …
- Get More Vitamin D – This is the easiest thing to do. All it requires is that you go out in the sun a little more! Do not burn yourself, but gaining a little sun exposure boosts Vitamin D which boosts libido and T levels. You can take supplements but come on – the sun is free!
- Reduce Stress – Stress and cortisol are good buddies. If you are in a high stress environm,ent then you are going to be producing Cortisol by the bucket-load destroying your muscle building ability. Find a way to avoid or lower stress.
- Get Lots of Sleep – Rest is vital for muscle growth after you exercises, but the benefits of sleep help keep your T levels and growth hormones high when you rest.
- Sex – Yep, sex is not only fun, but it is good for producing more testosterone and for relieving stress and cortisol. Do not believe the myth that sex saps your vital energy and reduces your gym intensity. Sex is great – if you got it, keep doing it.
A lot of these points come up in my other articles as simply good thing to do for skinny bodybuilding anyway, but I hope it adds some mroe things to do, or avoid into the mix and gives you a greater understanding of how these three hormones interact and what you can do to get the optimum levels of them for your muscle building efforts!
James McLain here, owner of skinnytomuscle.net
I hope this article has opened your eyes to the complex interactions of hormones in your body. Great bodybuilding is more than just lifting heavy things and there is a lot to know, and a lot of stuff you need to personalise to your own situation and body type. However, the more you know, the more you see the golden rules, the constants that are good for any guy (or girl).
While I usually recommend Vince Delmonte’s No Nonsense Muscle Building Guide (and i still do!) I wanted to bring another guide to your attention if you are looking for more information because the one I am about to reveal has some of the greatest tips about your internal workings for getting the perfect body. I do not jsut ay the perfect body glibly either. Men’s Health Magazine had a story on the author of this guide calling it the “Perfect Body Formula” which is pretty damned impressive.
It goes in depth to the most primal, genetic blueprints for the most attractive, buff, muscular body without any drugs. It is all about unlocking a blueprint for the type of body that we all crave because it is the most genetically desirable and respectable body. What I love about this is that it stops you from doing things over and over that are fighting against your natural perfect shape just because you are focused on mass only. It is a really interesting read by a well respected sports academic and bodybuilder himself (Now – you should see his shocking ‘before’ picture the transformation under his regime is AMAZING) – actually – just look:
So, this guide is called “The Adonis Golden Ratio” and it is well worth checking out the presentation on their site. You will not regret it if you are looking for a massive transformation as it will teach you not just how to achieve the right hormonal levels, but everything else inbetween.