Naturally Boost Your Anabolic Hormone LevelsThe most common goals of almost any athlete are to continually build solid muscle and strength, maintain great energy levels and optimize recovery time between workouts. Of course, maximizing all of these things means better performance and fitness -- and an overall healthier, more enjoyable life outside of the gym.
The key difference makers in achieving these goals is increasing the number of anabolic hormones in the body. You’ve probably heard the word anabolic before -- a word that, in simple form, means “to build up” (i.e. building muscle).
Most people associate”anabolic” with steroids, the exogenous kind that some competitive athletes and bodybuilders have been known to take. While you may know of people who choose the synthetic route to gain results, the human body can actually increase anabolic hormones by natural means.
Our bodies are designed to thrive without the use of illegal or questionable substances. Increasing your anabolic hormones naturally is well within reach. It all comes down to vital lifestyle changes, from what we do in the gym, outside of it, and the nutrients we put into our bodies -- both from food and natural supplement sources.
Before getting into the details on what you can do to boost your hormones, let’s take a closer look at the main anabolic hormones in the body.
Anabolic vs. Catabolic HormonesThe most important anabolic hormones that our bodies produce are testosterone, growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and insulin. To lay a basic foundation, we must remember that hormones are like the internal messengers of the body. Hormones are produced in the endocrine glands, transported in the blood to stimulate specific cells in our tissues and organs into action. Therefore, hormones control every function and behavior in our body -- hunger, mood, sexual desire, etc.
Specifically, our anabolic hormones are designed to regulate things like protein synthesis and muscle building in the body. Before going further, it is important to understand that the body also creates opposing hormones: catabolic hormones, which have an inverse relationship to anabolic hormones in the body.
While catabolic hormones do play a vital role in the body, most of us are familiar with them as being muscle-damaging and, overall, negative to our health. This is mainly because stressful lifestyles trigger our body to release more catabolic hormones than is ideal. We will discuss the effects of catabolic hormones and how to mitigate them later on, but it is important to understand this inverse effect in relationship when discussing natural hormonal regulation and productivity.
The Role of TestosteroneTestosterone is the most common and most well-known of all the hormones. It’s the one associated with sex and often labeled as a precursor for strength. While it is commonly known as a male hormone, testosterone is also found in females, produced in the ovaries, but in much smaller amounts than males.
Aside from its critical role in secondary sex characteristics, testosterone also affects bone and muscle mass, the way men store fat in the body, and even red blood cell production. Testosterone levels can also affect mood. Therefore, keeping your testosterone levels in check is vital to maintaining long-term health, in addition to achieving your strength and fitness goals.
There are many ways to naturally increase your testosterone levels. Specific anaerobic exercises and the proper balance of macro and micronutrients all play a role.
How Growth Hormone WorksIt’s a bit of a no-brainer what this hormone does, but it’s important that we break it down a bit. Growth hormone probably rings a bell because of HGH, a controversial synthetic substance that people have been known to take in hopes of increasing mass and strength.
While the synthetic kind is often associated with bulky, ripped adults, growth hormone is naturally produced by humans and is found in high levels in children to stimulate bone and tissue growth. GH stimulates the epiphyseal growth plates in the bone, which are responsible for bone elongation. But long after puberty, GH remains a key contributor to our muscle growth, bone health, and athletic performance and gains.
The pituitary gland secretes growth hormone in a manner similar to how the testes generate testosterone. However, while testosterone peaks in the early hours of the day, growth hormone is known to max out during the first hour of our sleep, with smaller increases every few hours during our sleep. This is why sleep is a critical component of boosting anabolic hormones naturally, which we will soon discuss in more detail.
When GH enters the bloodstream it affects metabolic functions, glycogen production, protein synthesis, fat metabolism and structural elements such as bone and cartilage. GH also stimulates the production of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which ultimately plays a key role in making your muscles grow.
Why Insulin Timing is ImportantWhile insulin is often associated with diabetics and generally viewed in a negative light, it plays an important anabolic role when secreted at the right time, in the right amounts. The pancreas typically secretes insulin in low levels following the consumption of calories, with the goal of moving the nutrients from the food or beverage into tissue cells.
When insulin enters the bloodstream, it transports nutrients like glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids into tissue cells, which can stimulate muscle growth if these nutrients are shuttled into muscle cells, rather than fat cells. It essentially comes down to insulin sensitivity and nutrient timing. This is why it is key to consume carbohydrates with your protein post-workout. The combination and timing help to shuttle the amino acids directly to the muscle tissue, therefore promoting growth and recovery.
Exercise Boost Anabolic LevelsThe way you workout can have a dramatic effect on the number of anabolic hormones flowing through your veins. Anaerobic, high-intensity efforts have shown to increase growth hormone, IGF-1, and testosterone.
Sprinting is a great exercise as it utilizes the anaerobic system, rather than the aerobic system in slower long distance efforts. Short bursts with minimal rests between sets is a great way to get fit, tax the respiratory system and boost your Growth Hormone (GH) , Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), and Testosterone.
Compound, multi-joint exercises like squats, lunges, pull-ups, and presses, when also done at high-intensity with minimal rest between sets has also been shown to have a similar effect on hormone secretion.
Magnesium and Your Anabolic LevelsMagnesium is one of the most critical nutrients we can consume. It is loaded with benefits, from promoting recovery to supporting quality sleep. Magnesium helps the body prevent the natural breakdown of muscle tissue that occurs during exercise, everyday stress and even aging.
Studies show that magnesium is the most important major mineral needed for bone and muscle strength, heart health, central nervous system function, correct assimilation of calcium and potassium and efficient enzymatic function.
Magnesium is a mineral found in the earth, sea, plants, animals, and humans. About 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in bone, while the rest is in muscles, soft tissues, and fluids, including blood. In fact, every cell in your body contains it and needs it to function.
One of magnesium's main roles is acting as a helper in the biochemical reactions continuously performed by enzymes. In fact, it’s involved in more than 600 reactions in your body, including energy creation, protein formation, gene maintenance, and nervous system regulation.
Despite this clear importance, many people get less magnesium than they need. Here’s the good news though -- You can get magnesium from both food and supplement sources. The following foods are good to excellent sources of magnesium:
● Pumpkin seeds: 46% of the RDI in a quarter cup
● Spinach boiled: 39% of the RDI in a cup
● Swiss chard boiled: 38% of the RDI in a cup
● Dark chocolate (70–85% cocoa): 33% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces
● Quinoa, cooked: 33% of the RDI in a cup
● Halibut: 27% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces
● Almonds: 25% of the RDI in a quarter cup
● Cashews: 25% of the RDI in a quarter cup
● Avocado: 15% of the RDI in one medium avocado
Zinc Boost Anabolic ProductionWe’ve all heard of this nutrient before, but most people don’t know much about it. Zinc is an essential mineral that our bodies cannot naturally synthesize. As it is referred to as essential, this means that our bodies still need it, and as we cannot naturally synthesize it, we need it from dietary sources instead.
Zinc plays a number of crucial roles within the human body and helps promotes an anabolic environment in the body. It is known to boost immunity, help facilitate enzymatic activity, promotes healing, assists with protein synthesis and helps to boost testosterone levels.
Experts have found that zinc can actually provide a substantial increase in a person’s athletic performance. This is mainly due to the fact that zinc promotes the release of hormones such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), growth hormone, and, as mentioned, testosterone.
Scientists have found that zinc plays a role in that as well. When the pancreas secretes insulin, zinc binds to insulin to make sure adequate amounts are secreted by the pancreas.
Zinc also enhances the health of the cells which make up components of enzymes which are required for using glucose as fuel. This essential mineral also helps to reduce inflammation in cells within the body, which means that they become healthier and more sensitive to insulin.
Finally, if all of the aforementioned benefits of zinc weren’t enough, the mineral has also been proven to increase energy levels, boost cognitive function and positively affect our sleep, which deserves an entire section of its own.
Just like magnesium, you can consume this essential mineral in both food and supplement form. Here are just a few food sources of zinc:
● Hemp seeds: up to 43% of RDI in 3 tablespoons
● Cashews: 14% of RDI in one ounce
● Oysters: up to 50% RDI per oyster
● Red meat: up to 43% of RDI in 3.5 ounces of beef
Importance of Getting Good SleepSleep may be the least sexy of topics on this short list, but it is by far the most important. In fact, many health experts are starting to tout good sleep as being more important than food and exercise combined.
Let’s first take a look at what sleep is. Yes, we know you are quite familiar with the general idea of sleep, but we must really break it down into its parts to reveal that it is much more than just drifting off into dreamland.
Your sleeping patterns are regulated by your biological clock in accordance with the daylight cycle. You probably have heard the term circadian rhythm. In the morning hours when the sun comes up, your body increases the output of chemicals such as adrenaline and dopamine while simultaneously decreasing sleep-inducing chemicals. This causes you to wake up.
When light levels decrease at night, your body increases the output of chemicals like serotonin, melatonin and Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain chemical that rises prior to sleeping.
GABA is important because it not only facilitates sleep onset, but it also stimulates growth hormone secretions while decreasing alert-inducing chemicals. This allows you to relax and get set for sleep.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is important in the regulation of the circadian rhythms of several biological functions. Without getting too detailed, it’s important to note that all of these play a role in sending your body into a state of ideal rest, for that is when we’re experiencing the best performance and recovery benefits.
When we work against the natural circadian rhythm of our bodies, which can happen quite easily in a world of high-stress jobs and late-night lifestyles, we throw all of these chemicals out of whack. Sleep deprivation is the main perpetrator when it comes to things that rob us of optimal sleep.
We mentioned earlier how growth hormone IGF-1 have a direct correlation to sleep since GH is known to peak while sleeping. However, our testosterone levels can also be negatively affected by a lack of sleep.
This happens when we bring catabolic hormones back into the mix. One of the biggest stress-based hormones is cortisol. When we deprive ourselves of a good night’s sleep, our cortisol levels increase significantly. Due to the inverse relationship of catabolic and anabolic hormones, our anabolic hormones like testosterone are sent to low levels when cortisol levels are high.
Healthy Lifestyle and Hormone LevelsStudies show morning exercise helps reset cortisol levels and kickstart our metabolic processes. Even a quick 5-10 minutes worth of high-intensity workouts is enough to do the job.
Our busy, technology-laden lifestyles also need a bit of altering. While smartphones and social media aren’t going anywhere soon, we can still control our relationship with the screens to help promote better sleep.
When we stay awake scrolling the Instagram feed before bed, or binge on one last Netflix series episode at night, we’re exposing ourselves to highly stimulating blue light, which throws our bodies circadian rhythm out of whack.
This, of course, elevates our cortisol levels. And, as we covered earlier, elevated levels of catabolic hormones will inhibit the anabolic hormones to flow through our bloodstream. This is especially not good when sleep is supposed to be the time that growth hormone and IGF-1 are at their highest.
Furthermore, Harvard researchers have found that every hour of nighttime use of screens lead to 30 hours of suppressed melatonin, a vital sleep-inducing hormone that we mentioned earlier.
That means that even when passed out from the exhaustion of late-night screen time, your body is unlikely to be reaching the optimal deep sleep need for quality rest. Of course, this also means you won’t be boosting your anabolic hormones through the night.
Limited screen time, using blue light filters (either through apps on our smartphones/computers or using blue-light-blocking glasses) or simply giving yourself a technology curfew before bed can help promote better sleep.
Lastly, quality nutrients that help increase our testosterone and manage our recovery efforts, like magnesium and zinc, are also incredible for supporting a deep sleep. This is why magnesium, zinc and GABA are the main key ingredients in our Natural Deep Sleep Formula which we designed to optimize your hormone production while you sleep.
SummaryOur bodies are incredible specimens that are able to generate their own natural steroids by way of the naturally occurring anabolic hormones. When it comes to boosting testosterone, growth hormone, IGF-1 and managing insulin, it is up to you and the lifestyle choices you make.
Prioritizing high-quality deep sleep is the most critical component and our Natural Deep Sleep Formula will ensure you have enough zinc, magnesium and GABA in your system for proper anabolic hormone production.