Learning about and understanding hormones, and the vital role they play in your bodies functioning and health, is the cornerstone to achieving any of your goals. As you are well aware, hormones can make you well or make you ill. They do strange and wonderful things to your mind and your body.
They create your physique and they have the power to destroy your physique. Hormones can turn you into a testosterone driven focused, ambitious and strong success, or reduce you to a frightened quivering wreck. Hormones are the key to virtually every process in the human body and determine your success in achieving the body you desire. This being said you should have a firm understanding of the importance of this section alone.
So just what are hormones?
Well hormones are chemical messengers that coordinate the activities of different cells in multicellular organisms. The term hormone (derived from the Greek – ‘to spur on’) was first used in 1904 by William Bayliss and Ernest Starling to describe the action of secretin, a molecule secreted by the duodenum that stimulates the flow of pancreatic juice. Several very fruitful concepts emerged from their work. 1) Hormones are molecules synthesized by specific tissues (glands). 2) They are secreted directly into the blood, which carries them to their sites of action. 3)They specifically alter the activities of responsive tissues (target organs or target cells.)
Basically, hormones are messengers that tell the cells in your body to do things. They send messages that may tell the body to build up protein and hence build up muscle tissue. Or counter to that, they may tell the body to break down proteins, breakdown muscle. This is just one example of the many functions of the many hormones. As you will see, your hormones are generaly split into different groupings, and those groupings generally fall into two main categories – anabolic and catabolic. Anabolic hormones are involved in the creation and repair of cells, catabolic – the reverse, the breakdown.
Optimising Hormone Production
You will often hear that your body is in a ‘catabolic’ or ‘anabolic’ state, meaning it is either being broken down or being built up. The truth is more complicated, in that your body is in both states constantly, its both breaking down and building up, all at the same time, and at every second of the day. Learn to shift the balance in your favour.
Further Information Hormone Actions You Need to Take
Maximising Growth Hormone
1. Take an Arginine and Ornithine supplement before sleeping.
2. Try to take a one hour sleep after training.
3. Try to split training so that you train twice a day, rather than one long session.
4. Take a high level of vitamin C.
Constant, Optimum Insulin Levels
1. Eat six or more small meals a day, each a balanced meal with protein, carbs and fats according to information presented in both the glycaemic index and insulin index.
2. Take a post exercise drink of carbohydrates (glucose, fructose and a little complex carbs) with a small level of whey protein.
Optimum Thyroid Levels
1. Adequate levels of Iodine in the diet
2. Get protein from high class, well balanced sources, such as whey protein.
1. Take a ZMA supplement and maybe a little Boron to provide the building materials required by the leydig cells of the testes to produce testosterone.
2. Use a supplement containing Tribulus to stimulate luteinising hormone, the trigger mechanism for creating androgenic hormones from progesterolne.
3. Keep training sessions to 45-60 minutes long.
4. High levels of growth hormone will stimulate high levels of testosterone.
Minimise catecholamine hormones
1. High levels of vitamin C reduce ACTH’s conversion effects on cholesterol.
2. Consume simple carbs from glucose polymers, fruit sugars (fructose) and a little complex carbs immediately after a workout.
3. Consume about 30% of total protein and carbohydrate intake within 2-3 hours of training in 2 spaced meals.
Growth Hormone is produced by the pituitary gland and is a very powerful anabolic stimulus. In order to promote anabolism you have to increase the amount of Growth Hormone released from the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland releases Growth Hormone when it is stimulated by Somatocretin, another hormone. In order to increase the levels of Somatocretin in the brain, and hence the levels of Growth Hormone released by the pituitary gland, levels of brain neurotransmitters must first be increased.
Neurotransmitter levels are influenced by amino acids which get into the brain by crossing what is known as the blood-brain barrier, a mechanism designed to protect the brain from external influences. In order to get across the blood-brain barrier, amino acids have to be carried by specific transport molecules. There are four types of transport molecule and each will only carry a specific class of amino acid, each transport molecule has a limited transport capacity and once full no more amino acids can be transported for some time. The following table details which amino acids are carried by each type of transporter. In order to optimise release of Growth Hormone you should use this chart to ensure that you are not ingesting two amino acids from the same class at the same time, as, due to the limited transport capacity of each transporter molecule, amino acids from the same class will compete with each other and consequently fewer of each will be able to cross the blood-brain barrier at any one time.
TRANSPORTER TYPE AMINO ACID CARRIED
Acidic Glutamic Acid
Once stimulated, the pituitary gland releases Growth Hormone into the bloodstream in bursts. Only a small proportion of the Growth Hormone released in each burst travels to the muscle tissue to promote growth, mostly it is carried to the liver where it is destroyed. In order to promote muscle growth it is therefore vital that the size and frequency of these bursts are optimised, a greater amount of GH released regularly will stimulate greater muscle growth. This is not as simple as it sounds. You cant increase the level and frequency of GH bursts with amino acids alone as the bursts only occur under particular circumstances.
It is known that the human body produces the greatest amount of GH 30-60 minutes after falling asleep and during intense exercise. Regular sleep and exercise coupled with the appropriate use of amino acids is therefore the key to optimising the release of GH and consequently muscle growth.
It has also been shown that the production of Somatocretin, the GH releasing hormone, only occurs in the presence of the enzyme Alpha-Amidating Monooxygebase which requires vitamin C to act as a co-factor. The amount of Somatocretin, and hence the amount of GH, that can be produced, is therefore limited by the availability of vitamin C in the body.
It should be noted that simply increasing levels of GH within the body is only the first step towards achieving muscle growth. Most of the Growth Hormone produced by the body travels to the liver where it is destroyed, however, before it is destroyed it stimulates the production of Insulin-like Growth Factor I (IGF-I) which mediates the effects of GH. For optimum muscle growth high levels of both GH and IGF-I are required.
GH is also known for its ability to promote fat loss as it stimulates triglyceride hydrolysis (the breakdown of fat cells) in adipose tissue. It is therefore a vital component for the building of muscle tissue and the breakdown of fats.
Insulin is a storage hormone secreted by the pancreas. Its primary purpose is to convert blood glucose into a form suitable for storage within the body. When kept at optimum levels blood glucose is used as fuel for the body and stored in muscle tissue for the synthesis of protein. Excess glucose is stored in the adipose tissue as glycerol 3-phosphate which is used for the synthesis of triglycerols (fat). It is therefore vital that optimum blood glucose levels are maintained if you want to build muscle and decrease body fat.
Blood glucose levels are controlled primarily by the liver. Following a meal high in carbohydrates blood glucose levels are dramatically increased. This stimulates the secretion of insulin by the pancreas. In response the glucose receptor sites in the liver are activated by the presence of glucose 6-phosphate which allows for the uptake of glucose into the muscle and adipose tissue where it is stored as glycogen. Once stored, blood glucose levels are decreased.
Insulin plays a directly anabolic role by facilitating the entry of amino acids from digested protein into muscle tissue. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are therefore vital for the building of muscle tissue. Insulin also stimulates the production of somatomedins by the liver which are muscle-growth factors, however, it is important to note that this involves insulin efficiency not insulin amount as the amount of insulin that can be utilised by the muscles is limited. Increasing insulin amount beyond an optimum level simply results in the storage of any excess as body fat. Chromium facilitates insulin function, therefore, in order to increase insulin efficiency sufficient chromium must be present in the body.
Insulin does not work alone in promoting muscle growth, it works in synergy with other hormones such as Growth Hormone. Most of the Growth Hormone produced by the body travels to the liver where it is destroyed, however, before it is destroyed it stimulates the production of Insulin-like Growth Factor I (IGF-I) which is used in the muscle cells to stimulate growth. Your level of IGF-I and your rate of muscle growth are therefore directly dependent on your insulin supply.
In order to maintain a steady stream of insulin without producing excess it is necessary to eat every few hours. Complex-carbohydrates are best as they take longer to be absorbed and ensure a slow trickle of glucose into the bloodstream preventing unnecessary peaks of excess which are ultimately stored as fat.
The exception to this rule is eating post-exercise. During intense training your muscle tissue loses glycogen, the stored form of glucose, rapidly. When blood glucose is decreased insulin production is also decreased and hence the anabolic effects of insulin are hindered. The amino acids necessary for protein synthesis and muscle growth can no longer be pushed into the muscle tissue and IGF-I cannot be synthesised. In this scenario the body requires a quick ingestion of simple sugar to raise blood glucose levels and stimulate the insulin drive. It is also possible to boost the body’s insulin supply by including amino acids in your post exercise meal. Arginine and its precursor Ornithine increase insulin levels and levels of Glutamine are correlated with muscle protein synthesis.
More and more research is being done into the anabolic effects of this very powerful hormone. Understanding insulin and utilising it correctly to serve you in your purpose to gain muscle and lose bodyfat is essential. Please refer to the section on the insulin index for further information.
Thyroid Hormones are released from the thyroid gland which lies at the front of your neck between your breastbone and Adams apple. The thyroid gland releases thyroid hormone when stimulated by the pituitary gland in the brain which responds to low levels of blood thyroid hormone by releasing thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
There are two essential thyroid hormones, Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). T3 and T4 denotes the number of iodine atoms in the hormone molecules. There is 50 times more T4 in the blood than T3. Only T3 is chemically active in the cells, non-active T4 is converted to T3 when it is required by the cell.
T3 directly influences insulin secretion and is therefore vital for the body’s anabolic drive. When levels of T3 are low insulin response to food is hindered and the anabolic benefits of the insulin drive are reduced. T3 also interacts with insulin to inhibit protein catabolism in the muscle, it is therefore both anabolic and anti-catabolic and as such is vital if your goal is to build muscle. Again, it is not as simple as increasing T3 to increase muscle growth as too much thyroid hormone is in itself catabolic to all tissues.
This hormone has two major roles. It is released in response to hypo-glycaemia, stress and other stimuli (the body’s fight or flight response). It also serves as a neurotransmitter (a catechlomine) being released into the central nervous system to facilitate nerve transmittion. Hypoadrenalism can contribute to poor stress handling, hypoglycaemia, anxiety and depression.
Another adrenal gland hormone, also released by the brain neurons. It is also a neurotransmitter. The thyroid gland controls the levels of noradrenaline. Deficiency of this hormones is seen by many doctors as a major cause of depression.
This major adrenal hormone that can be synthesised to cortisone is involved in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. When used as a drug it is referred to as hydrocortisone.
High levels of cortisol cause similar symptoms to those caused by taking excessive cortisone as a drug. These include general nervousness, insomnia and depression.
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