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.
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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
Click "NEXT PAGE" to continue >>