Quick Testosterone Summary Points
- Testosterone is an essential human hormone required to help support muscle building and stimulate repair.
- Enough fat must be consumed in the diet to optimise levels of testosterone.
- Cortisol is another hormone that is considered to be an opposite hormone to testosterone and can cause muscle breakdown.
- There are a huge range of ingredients that can be used to support testosterone levels, most of which can be found in natural testosterone support supplements.
Testosterone & Bodybuilding
A primary goal of all bodybuilders is to increase testosterone levels and optimise its anabolic effects. Testosterone is a powerful anabolic hormone that is released from the testes in males, and the ovaries and adrenal glands in females. Testosterone’s release is controlled by Luteinising Hormone (LH), secreted from the pituitary found at the base of the brain. Testosterone effects can be anabolic; accelerated growth of muscle, bone and red blood cells; or androgenic, changes in sex organs and voice pitch, increased face and body hair, and psychological effects such as aggressiveness.1 Anabolic hormones stimulate rebuilding and repair reactions in the muscle. Catabolic hormones stimulate the breakdown of carbohydrate, fat, and even protein for energy.2 Testosterone stimulates muscle protein synthesis. Supplement timing increases testosterone production and enhances uptake of testosterone by muscle.3 A minimum of 20% of your calories must be consumed from fat to maintain normal testosterone synthesis, with saturated fat being the preferred form.4 However, it is almost important to remember that a high fat diet, especially one high in saturated fats puts you at risk of negative effects on your lipid and cholesterol levels as well as putting you further at risk of some cancers.
Cortisol Discourages Muscle Gains
Cortisol is a primary signal hormone for carbohydrate metabolism. When glycogen is low, proteins must be catabolised to produce energy. Cortisol converts amino acids to carbohydrates increasing the level of enzymes that break down proteins, called photolytic enzymes, and inhibiting protein synthesis. Cortisol increases with resistance training, especially when rest periods are short and the body has adapted. The testosterone to cortisol ratio has also been used to determine the body’s anabolic-catabolic status. Cortisol’s role in suppressing the immune system has a direct impact on muscle tissue recovery and remodelling.5 Supplements to prevent excessive rises in cortisol such as those containing 'Phosphatidylserine' can help with exercise performance and to increase the ratio of testosterone to cortisol levels.
Supplements for Bodybuilding
- Beta Ecdysterone (Beta-Ecdysterone; Isoinokosterone, Viticosterone, Polypodine A, Leuza extract, Ecdisten, Ecdysten, ECDY) is present in most plant species. When administered in combination with pure protein to trained subjects, it has demonstrated increased muscle mass and total work, and a decrease in body fat. Improved sexual function, sleep, antioxidant properties and immune-supporting effects have also been attributed to it.6
- Fenugreek (also known as Trigonella Foenumgraecum) is one of the oldest medicinal herbs known, dating back 2500 years. An effective blood cleanser, it increases sweat through the skin’s pores. The lymphatic system is a vital system in the body for eliminating waste, and a blocked system can lead to poor energy levels, poor circulation and fluid retention, and increased pain. Fenugreek in supplements will boost the ability of the body to absorb the other ingredients, particularly proteins and carbohydrates, and helps protect the stomach while increasing digestive function.
- Growth Hormone (Also known as GH or HGH) is secreted by the pituitary gland. When combined with resistance training, it enhances amino acid uptake and protein synthesis resulting in muscle hypertrophy.7 Technically speaking, GH supplementation is not testosterone supplementation.
- Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium, Epimediia, Yin Yang Huo) is a genus of more than 16 plant species contains 130 plant active compounds. Effectiveness varies from species plant to the next, dependent on the actives. One active, icariin increases erectile function, improve immune function, and acts as a powerful antioxidant.8
- Insulin is a very potent anabolic hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to blood glucose and amino acid concentrations in blood. It facilitates glucose and amino acid uptake in the cell. It increases protein synthesis, and is considered an anabolic hormone.9
- Longifolia (Also known as Eurycoma Longifolia, Jack, Long Jack, Tongkat Ali and Malaysian Ginseng) is from Southeast Asia with a long history as an aphrodisiac. A recent study involving men engaged in bodybuilding training supplemented with Longifolia resulted in increased lean body mass.10
- Methoxy (also known as 5-Methyl-7-Methoxy-Isoflavone, Methoxyisoflavone & Methoxyflavone) decreases cortisol levels, increases protein synthesis, and improves overall recovery from exercise. ECDY works synergistically with methoxy to increase protein synthesis, maintain a positive nitrogen balance and keeping your body in an anabolic state, hence is worth stacking with a protein powder.
- Tribulus (Also known as Gokshura, Ji Li (fruit), Yingjili, Puncture Vine, Devil’s Thorn, Cat’s head, Tribestan) has been used internationally by bodybuilders to increase endogenous testosterone, strength and muscularity. The primary active is protodioscin with the Bulgarian sourced ingredient potentially the most potent.11
- Viraloid is a blend of steroidal alkaloids called ‘diosegins’ derived from high sterol-containing plants. Viraloid used year round foundation during any training cycle may keep your natural testosterone levels elevated, unlike other testosterone boosters that rapidly decrease in effectiveness over time. Viraloid can increase the amount of testosterone produced by the body.
- ZMA (Also known as: Zinc and Magnesium) plays a role in testosterone production. The trace element zinc is involved in hundreds of metabolic actions. The body’s hormones such as insulin, estrogen, testosterone and growth hormone are dependent on zinc. Supplementing with zinc may help you optimise hormone production, especially if you are deficient.12
Testosterone Support Supplements For Bodybuilders
As indicated in this article, many supplements may assist with testosterone levels, and consequently protein synthesis. The use of any of the supplements listed in this article can boost your testosterone, with your choice being dependent on your specific requirements. Used in conjunction with a balanced diet and training programme, these supplements may help you in your goal of attaining quality muscle mass. It is important to note however that while increasing testosterone levels may be beneficial for muscle growth, long term effects of raised testosterone levels are yet to be determined. Always remember to use supplements wisely and at recommended dosages to avoid excessive consumption leading to possible negative consequences further down the track.
1 Nutrient Timing by John Ivy, Ph.D., and Robert Portman, Ph.D., p 23
2 Ibid, p21
3 Boost testosterone and muscle gains without drugs: the latest research by Paul Cribb, B.H.Sci HMS
4 Macrobiotic Nutrition – Priming Your Body TO Build Muscle and Burn Fat by Gerard Dente with Gerard Hopkins, p. 65
5 Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements, Jose Antonio, PhD, Douglas Kalman, Phd, RD, Jeffrey R. Stout, PhD, Mike Greenwood, PhD, Darryn S. Willoughby, PhD, G. Gregory Haff PhD., p. 62
6 Ibid, p.484.
7 Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements, Jose Antonio, PhD, Douglas Kalman, Phd, RD, Jeffrey R. Stout, PhD, Mike Greenwood, PhD, Darryn S. Willoughby, PhD, G. Gregory Haff PhD. p.58.
8 Ibid, p.58.
9 Ibid, p. 485
10 Ibid, p. 487
11 Ibid, p. 487
12 Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding – The Complete A-Z Book on Muscle Building, Robert Kennedy, p. 661