by Josh Hodnik
Natural bodybuilders are constantly searching for any natural means of increasing their bodybuilding gains. They often spend hours a day in the gym and take every supplement known to man, only to be disappointed with their gains. There are several hormones that directly affect a bodybuilder’s muscular development. There are methods that can optimize these hormones to maximize gains, while avoiding the use of bodybuilding drugs.
There have been many different approaches to training and diet that have been used over the years. While the success of each approach varies from person to person, a natural bodybuilder will not succeed following the same routine that a bodybuilder using steroids and other drugs will succeed. When bodybuilding hormones are introduced into the body tom external sources they type of training performed, diet followed, and timing of nutrients taken to influence the production of natural hormones is not considered. The use of exogenous anabolic hormones often inhibits the natural production of these hormones, so the consideration of anything that would influence their production by a non-natural bodybuilder would be point-less.
The main goal of any bodybuilder should be to increase protein synthesis. This is how muscle growth occurs. Hormones that have the ability to enhance this process include testosterone, growth hormone, insulin, and insulin like growth factor. Weight training can increase the production of all of these hormones, except insulin, which is actually suppressed during exercise. Three out of four anabolic hormones are elevated during weight training, and the type of training methods used can greatly manipulate these hormone levels to maximize muscle building potential.
If you go to any gym and take a close look at the members over the span of one year, you will generally see two types of members. One will consist of people that use anabolic steroids and other hormonal drugs to enhance their appearance. This group as a whole will make progress over time. Of course, there are some that will not progress no matter what drugs they take because their training and diet is so poor. The other group is the natural group. They may take some over-the-counter supplements, but nothing hormonal. For the most part, as far as the bodybuilders go, the natural group won’t make a huge visible progress.
**Overload Weight Training: During training, the highest release of testosterone and HGH occurs with heavy compound moves, such as squats, dead lifts, and bench presses. These multi-joint exercises involve the use of more muscle fibers, which stimulates the release of more anabolic hormones than isolation exercises do. Load volume is the most important factor in stimulating testosterone release. Research has shown that using a load of 75% IRM with two minutes between sets results in the greatest testosterone release.
**Training Session Length: Overtraining syndrome will occur more often in a bodybuilder not using anabolic steroids. For this reason, training sessions should be kept to about 60-75 minutes long. Two or three workouts can lead to overtraining, which results in an increase in catabolic hormones. When looking to make progress as a natural bodybuilder, catabolic hormones must be kept at a minimum, while anabolic hormones must be maximized. This can be accomplished by keeping training sessions short and intense.
**Sufficient Rest Periods: Muscles are stimulated through training but only grow during their rest period. When muscles are trained too frequently, catabolic hormones that cause muscle breakdown increase, and anabolic hormones make muscle repair a very difficult task to keep up with. When muscles are trained in the proper manner, they should only be trained once every 7-8 days. This time period is sufficient enough to keep catabolic hormones at a minimum and anabolic hormones at their highest level. The levels of these hormones will be the difference between making progress or not making progress for a natural bodybuilder.
**Relatively Low Repititions The body contains fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers. Slow-twitch fibers are used during endurance exercise, while fast-twitch are used during weight training and are more responsible for muscle growth. Fast-twitch fibers also help to release testosterone when stimulated. These fibers are stimulated the most, while releasing the most testosterone, from heavy reps in the range of 6-10.
While testosterone, HGH, and IGF-1 are all elevated as a direct result of weight training, insulin levels are depressed. Insulin has potent effects in terms of promoting amino acid and subsequent protein synthesis in muscle. It also rapidly lowers blood glucose. Glucose serves as an energy source during exercise, so having a hormone present that clears glucose during exercise would not be in someone’s best interest. The most practical time to benefit from insulin is after a workout.
**Post-Workout Nutrition Increasing insulin levels increases synthesis of muscle glycogen and increases entry of amino acids into the muscle, increasing protein synthesis. Protein and carbohydrates can increase insulin levels when ingested after a workout. When protein and carbohydrates are combined, insulin released is greater than if wither nutrient is taken alone.
Insulin indirectly causes an anabolic effect by stimulating the release of additional hormones. By lowering blood glucose levels, it causes an increase in growth hormone, which stimulates the liver to synthesize the anabolic hormone IGF-1. The spike in growth hormone only lasts about one hour, while the surge of IGF-1 peaks in the blood 16-28 hours later. The simple task of consuming carbohydrates and protein after a workout can create an anabolic environment that can last over 24 hours.
**Keeping High Protein Intake A diet high in protein helps to significantly increase testosterone levels. Several high-protein foods have been shown to have a positive effect on testosterone levels. These foods include beef, eggs, chicken, turkey, and cottage cheese. A minimum of one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight should be consumed daily. A 200 pound bodybuilder should take in 200-300 grams of protein per day to keep anabolic hormones elevated and catabolic hormones depressed. Using the methods suggested for training and nutrition will lead to anabolic hormones being optimized, and this will allow you to reach your full potential, naturally.