Muscle Growth and the Hormone Connection
by Steven Shocki, Alki trainer
X Gym's exercise protocols are specifically designed to NOT bulk you up. They were created to tone and strengthen, because that's what most people want. Even 97% of the men polled would rather look like the cover of Men's Fitness magazine instead of Flex magazine. 99.9% of the women feel that way too.
Some men however, would like to build some muscle and this is possible with X Gym protocols, to a limited degree, if the role of hormones is understood.
When building muscle is your goal, what you are really talking about is the control of hormones; specifically the hormones testosterone (T), human growth hormone (HGH), and insulin like growth factor (IGF-1). Different environmental stimuli (such as: diet, exercise and sleep habits, stress, etc.) effect how much of these hormones your body produces.
To truly get the most benefit out of these three amigos you need to structure your life in a way that gets you producing all three together, because when all three are present in the body, the benefits of the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. How exactly does this work?
First, let’s take a look at testosterone, the most well-known anabolic (tissue building) hormone. Testosterone is crucial to muscle growth, and it is naturally present in both men and women, albeit in much lower concentrations in women.
This is the reason women can't gain muscle at the X Gym. You will tone and shape at the X Gym much faster than other methods, but even with the proper hormone manipulation techniques, average Jane may gain a few pounds tops, so if that is your goal as a woman, sorry, you'll have to do traditional training at a regular gym. For men however, building 10-15 pounds of quality rock hard muscle is realistic at the X Gym with the proper strategy, so read on.
T is very good at building new tissues, but it is not its primary job. It has a whole host of other duties to fulfill, and as it turns out the biological mechanism that T uses to build muscle is not a direct one. This means that your body has to go through a few extra steps to get from T circulating in your blood stream to building muscle.
Now if we contrast that with HGH, we find that HGH leads directly to muscle growth. It too has some other beneficial effects on the body, one of which is to stimulate the production of IGF-1, but more on that later.
The other difference between T and HGH has to do with the conditions they need for them to be produced. They both love short, intense bouts of exercise, but depending on which hormone you want to get out of your workout, you need to alter the way your body is fed pre and post workout. T gets produced quite well when the body is fed and there is a healthy amount of insulin in your blood. HGH on the other hand doesn’t get along very well with insulin, and as such HGH production is highest when they body is in a fasted state. Insulin is another hormone, one that is released when you get an increase in blood sugar, which usually comes from eating carbohydrates.
So here we are with two hormones that are both very good at building muscle, but with two different ways of being produced. You might be wondering what the point is and why we don’t just have one super hormone? Well, as I said earlier, when you can get conditions right to get both of these guys working together, the result is far greater than either could do on their own. This is because one of those extra things T does is to actually speed up the effects of HGH on the body. T also changes the efficiency and makeup of your cells, giving them a further boost.
So what about IGF-1? Well this hormone is almost like HGH on steroids (forgive me – there is no better way to say it). IGF-1 increases muscle mass, decreases fat, and does all that in overdrive. The way the body produces it though, is a little interesting. It only comes about when your previously elevated levels of HGH drop to a certain point, then your body will give you a quick shot of IGF-1. So, IGF-1 (which in my opinion is the best hormone for building muscle) is produced in the presence of HGH, which works most efficiently in the presence of T. Our goal then is to get as much of those three going as possible.
Things that produce T are exercise (especially full body, high intensity workouts), higher saturated fat intake (which if you read the July 1st article The Facts About Fats you would know is a very good thing), and plenty of sleep and low levels of stress.
Things that increase HGH are full body, high intensity exercise (notice a pattern?), low insulin levels (which can be achieved through lowered carbohydrate intake and an increased intake of fats and protein) and plenty of sleep and low levels of stress. And of course IGF-1 comes as a result of the presence of HGH.
How does one apply this to everyday life? It’s simple! Here's the plan: Get two total body, high intensity resistance workouts per week and at least one sprint workout (Tabata style) per week. To emphasize HGH and IGF-1 production, plan your week so that your body is in a fasted state for one of the workouts (don’t eat anything before) and plan on fasting for an hour after a workout (you will get better results if your post-workout meals don’t have any carbohydrates in them). Eat lost of healthy fats and protein, get your 8 hours of sleep a night, and find ways to reduce stress (guided breathing is my recommendation as there are a multitude of benefits that come along with it).
For those of you worried about the infamous catabolism (tissue breakdown) that many a body builder fears if they don’t eat every three hours, don’t! It’s a myth that has somehow been supported over the years despite a lack of scientific evidence. For instance, take a look at HGH which is produced best when they body doesn’t have any food in it! This makes sense from an ancestral perspective as well, because pre-agricultural humans weren’t going to catch food every time they hunted, and when they did hunt, they had to perform a sprint workout far more intense than anything we could every do in a gym. It makes sense then that we naturally have some biological safe guards in place to protect all that precious muscle mass, which is exactly what HGH does.
So go ahead and try making a couple changes to your daily routine and see what happens!