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The word anabolic immediately instigates thoughts of muscle growth. After all, the anabolic hormones your body produces — mainly testosterone, growth hormone and insulin — work in conjunction to incite muscle growth. When it comes to building the muscle mass and strength you seek, keeping your anabolic hormones high should be rule number one. Use this guide to make sure that you are maximizing yours.

1: EAT ENOUGH CALORIES

THE STUDIES  Scientists from the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center (Charlottesville) had male subjects fast for five days. Another study had men perform extreme aerobic exercise while taking in minimal calories over seven days.

THE RESULTS  The Virginia researchers reported that the subjects experienced a drop in testosterone levels of up to 50%. The men doing the extreme exercise also experienced a severe drop in testosterone levels. It appears that when your calories are inadequate, less gonadotropin-releasing hormone is produced in the brain. Since GnRH increases luteinizing hormone release from the pituitary gland, which signals the testicles to produce testosterone, the end result of less GnRH is lower test levels.

THE PRESCRIPTION  Be sure you’re not in a calorie deficit because of your training. Take in a minimum of 18 calories per pound of bodyweight per day. For a 200-pound guy, that equates to at least 3,600 calories per day.

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2: EAT ENOUGH FAT

THE STUDIES  A recent study examined the effects of a high-fat, lowfiber diet versus a low-fat, high-fiber diet on 39 middle-aged, healthy men. Subjects were placed on the diets — both of which consisted of the same total calories — for eight weeks. Total caloric intake and activity levels did not change during either of these periods. The concentrations of testosterone were also studied in 30 healthy, middle-aged men during a dietary intervention program. These subjects were basically switched to a low-fat, high-fiber diet.

THE RESULTS  Subjects on the higher-fat diet in the first study decreased their bodyweight by 2.2 pounds. After following the lower-fat, higher-fiber diet, their testosterone levels dropped by about 15%. So, reducing dietary fat intake with an increase in fiber leads to a drastic drop in testosterone levels. Similar results were reported in the second study.

THE PRESCRIPTION  Eat at least 30% of your total daily calories from fat — 10% saturated fat, 10% monounsaturated fat and 10% polyunsaturated fat — with the majority being omega-3 fats. Eat fruits and veggies for their polyphenols and fiber, but don’t skimp on fat, because it is essential for making steroid hormones — and testosterone is one of the key anabolic steroid hormones. Saturated fat is particularly important, so don’t skimp on beef, either. In fact, a study from Penn State (University Park) found that weight-trained males eating low amounts of saturated fat had significantly lower levels of testosterone than those eating higher amounts of saturated fat.

BEST SOURCES OF HEALTHY FATS

SALMON

  • What: This fatty fish is rich in essential omega-3 fats, which can enhance fat loss, muscle growth, joint recovery and overall health.
  • When: Salmon makes a great protein for dinner or lunch.
  • Why: It’s a good protein source, plus the high fat content slows down the digestion of the protein, so you have a long-lasting source of amino acids.
  • How much: Go with about 8-9 ounces three times per week.

NUTS

  • What: Nuts — such as almonds, Brazil nuts and macadamias — provide monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to be readily burned during exercise. That means they don’t get stored in the body as bodyfat like most other fats.
  • When: Mixed nuts make a great snack food late at night to go with a protein shake.
  • Why: Healthy fats will help to slow down the digestion of the protein. How much: Go with about 1 ounce (about a palm full).

RED MEAT

  • What: Beef is not only a great source of protein and saturated fat, but also a good source of iron, B vitamins and zinc. Zinc is a critical mineral for maintaining high testosterone levels.
  • When: Beef makes a great lunch, dinner or late-day snack.
  • Why: It is a slow-digesting protein source, so it provides a steady supply of amino acids to your muscles.
  • How much: Shoot for about 8 ounces of leaner cuts of beef, such as top sirloin or flank steak. Don’t be too concerned about fat, since the major type of saturated fat in beef has been found not to raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

 

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3: EAT ENOUGH CARBS

THE STUDY  Penn State (University Park) researchers analyzed the diets of 20 weight-trained males to find possible connections between certain macronutrients (carbs, protein and fat) and their testosterone levels.

THE RESULTS  The researchers reported in the Journal of Applied Physiology that subjects consuming the least amount of carbs in their diet had the lowest testosterone levels. This may be due to ketone bodies that form as a result of eating very low-carb diets. One study found that men on a very low-carb diet (a ketogenic diet consuming almost no carbohydrate foods) for two weeks experienced a 20% drop in testosterone levels. The researchers concluded that the ketone bodies produced from the diet caused more LH to be removed by the kidneys, meaning that less was available to signal the testicles to produce ample testosterone.

THE PRESCRIPTION  To keep your testosterone levels maxed, you should be eating at least 1 gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day. This equates to about 200 g for a 200-pound bodybuilder. This will prevent ketosis and provide ample carbs to keep testosterone levels up. In a mass-gain phase, get in a minimum of 2 g of carbs per pound of bodyweight. When trying to really drop bodyfat by minimizing carbs, keep your carb intake to no less than 0.5 g per pound of bodyweight. This will give you just enough carbs to prevent the excretion of LH and the drop in test that accompanies it.

4: BONE UP ON CALCIUM

THE STUDY  The effects of four weeks of calcium supplementation on free and total testosterone levels were determined in active and sedentary adult males at rest and exhaustion. The testosterone levels were determined before and after supplementation, at rest and following a hard training routine.

THE RESULTS  Testosterone levels increased at exhaustion before and after supplementation relative to resting values; this was also true when active subjects were compared to inactive subjects. But researchers also found that training resulted in increased testosterone levels in athletes, and that the increase is greater if accompanied by calcium supplementation. Not only is calcium good for bones and for fat loss, it’s good for increasing testosterone. 

THE PRESCRIPTION  Take 500-600 milligrams of calcium twice per day with a meal, such as at breakfast and dinner.

5: DON’T EAT TOO MUCH FIBER

THE STUDIES  The studies discussed in number 2 “Eat Enough Fat” were combination investigations that looked at low-fat, high-fiber diets versus higher-fat, low-fiber diets. They showed that fiber intake is also related to testosterone levels.

THE RESULTS  The high-fiber diets were linked to significant drops in testosterone. The fiber may cause more testosterone to be excreted in feces.

THE PRESCRIPTION  Keep fiber to about 35 g daily. You need adequate fiber for health and fat loss, but going overboard on fiber can increase the amount of testosterone your body excretes.

 

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6: GET AMPLE AMINOS

THE STUDY  Researchers randomly assigned seventeen resistance-trained men to either an amino acid (AA) or a placebo (P) group. The participants then underwent four weeks of total-body resistance training designed to induce a state of overtraining. Subjects assigned to the AA group ingested 0.4 g per kilogram per day, three times daily, of essential and conditionally essential amino acids.

THE RESULTS  The placebo group showed significant reductions in total testosterone, and total testosterone values were higher in the AA group than the P group. This proves that essential/conditionally essential amino acid supplementation effectively decreases muscle-strength loss during training, possibly because it reduces muscle damage by maintaining an anabolic environment. Another study found that consuming 1,500 mg of arginine and 1,500 mg of lysine under rest conditions increased growth hormone secretion.

THE PRESCRIPTION  Take 1,500 mg of arginine and 1,500 mg of lysine before going to bed to mitigate the decline in testosterone and to elevate GH levels.

7: COMBINE CARBS AND PROTEIN (AMINOS) AFTER WORKOUTS

THE STUDY  What is perhaps the anabolic hormone? Insulin. Also, the potential role of cortisol in inhibiting training-induced muscle growth is of particular interest, as is whether exercise-induced cortisol release can decrease by nutritional or supplemental interventions. Researchers had 32 subjects perform a single bout of resistance exercise after a four-hour fast. During the exercise bout, the subjects consumed a 6% carbohydrate solution (referred to as CHO), a 6-g essential amino acid mixture (referred to as EAA), a combination of the two solutions (referred to as CHO + EAA), or a placebo beverage.

THE RESULTS  The placebo group showed no significant change in glucose or insulin. The CHO and CHO + EAA solutions significantly increased glucose and insulin concentrations above baseline, whereas the EAA alone resulted in a significant post-exercise increase in insulin only. The subjects on the placebo exhibited a significant increase in cortisol. However, the treatment groups showed no significant change in cortisol during the exercise bout, with CHO and CHO + EAA finishing 27% and 23%, respectively, below baseline. So, both CHO and/or EAA ingestion during a single resistance training exercise suppresses the exercise-induced cortisol response, as well as stimulates insulin release. But in a follow-up study, the researchers found that the CHO + EAA combo was best for producing gains in muscle size. Additionally, researchers from the University of Connecticut (Storrs) reported that fast-digesting proteins, such as whey, and fast-digesting carbs taken after workouts increase the amount of protein taken up by the muscle cells and increase the number of testosterone receptors in muscle cells. This means that more testosterone can be put to work to stimulate muscle growth. 

THE PRESCRIPTION  Post-exercise, go for a combination of 40 g of whey and 40-80 g of fast carbs to get in ample EAAs and carbs; this will blunt cortisol and spike insulin for maximizing muscle growth. – FLEX