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There are many different types of hormones and they all have different jobs. Hormones have specific functions that are part of an integrated signaling system within the body. There are some well known hormones such as epinephrine which is also known as adrenaline that is involved in respiration. The hormone comes into play when you are in a “flight or fight” moment. But let’s talk about hormones and how they affect building muscle mass. A lot of people forget that building lean mass mass is one of the main reasons for how people achieved that “lean” look. I am going to describe a new term that most people haven’t heard of before. It is called muscle remodeling. Muscle remodeling is involved in the disruption and damage of muscle fibers, an inflammatory response, degradation of damaged protein, normal and other signals (Essential of Strength and Conditioning).  Essentially there are many hormones involved in protein synthesis and degradation that are related to resistance exercise. 

So what kind of hormones are responsible for building tissue a.k.a building muscle? The answer, anabolic hormones. Some examples of anabolic hormones are insulin, insulins-like growth facets (IGFs), testosterone, and growth hormone. All these hormones and more play a role in building muscle mass. Aside from these hormones thyroid hormones place or roll in building muscle by allowing hormone actions to happen. What is great about anabolic hormones is they also prevent negative effects on the breakdown of protein (catabolic hormones). Catabolic hormones are ones that degrade / breakdown protein cells. Examples of catabolic hormones include cortisol and progesterone. So if someone who is stressed out all the time and has constant high levels of cortisol, they possibly could have more of a difficult time building lean muscle mass…. (hmmmmm). That is one of many reasons why self care and stress reduction is so important.

There are three main categories of hormones that play a role with muscle mass in different ways. They are steroids, polypeptide (a.k.a. simply peptide), and amine hormones. Let’s start with steroid hormones. They come from that adrenal cortex and gonads. Cortisol comes from adrenal context and testosterone comes from gonads. Testosterone is the main anabolic steroid hormone that is produced in the body. Steroid hormones are fat soluble. After many different complex interactions that steroid hormones go through with the body, eventually prompts the building of muscle mass.

hormones and toning up - Girl

Now let’s talk real quick about “designer steroids”. These are what some athletes use to promote muscle mass at fast rates, but can also reduce muscle damage after a workout. The idea is that if an athlete recovers more quickly after a workout they therefore can build muscle mass at a faster rate. Side effects of males taking steroids include but are not limited to: infertility, prominent breasts, and prostate gland enlargement. For women some side effects include but are not limited to: deep voice, baldness, and infrequent or absent periods.  

The next hormone is polypeptide hormones. These hormones are made up of chains of amino acids and are not fat soluble. One famous hormone that fits under this category is insulin. These types of hormones need to bind to receptors in order for them to work. For example, insulin needs to bind to a receptor on the outside of a cell in order for glucose to be let into the cell to be used for energy. People often think of insulin as the key and the receptor as the lock; meaning insulin goes into the receptor and unlocks the cell or opens up the door for glucose to go through. Insulin being a hormone is super important when it comes to building muscle mass and leaning out, because it helps regulate blood glucose levels. Regulating blood glucose levels has an affect on other hormones that can further affect weight loss and building muscle mass, but that is for a whole other talk. 

The last hormone is amine hormones. These hormones are synthesized through amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan. An example of amine hormones that is created from tyrosine are norepinephrine, dopamine, and epinephrine. An example of a hormone that is created from tryptophan is serotonin which is responsible for regulating your mood and also aids in digestion. 

hormones and toning up

Now the amount of hormones that are released depends on the type of workout you are doing. In this case we are talking about resistance training. Hormones are secreted before, during and after resistance training. Studies have shown that an increase in anabolic hormones occurs during heavy resistance training, especially high stress exercises. The amount of the stress the body is in regulates the amount of hormones produced (epinephrine), and what metabolic demands the exercise is requiring (insulin). When an exercise is complete secretion of certain hormones take place for remodeling of muscle tissue to be done. However if stress is too high catabolic actions over power anabolic reactions and can prevent muscle growth. This often comes from possibly over exercising, which is why resting, stretching and rolling out is so important. The amount of tissues that is stimulated, tissue remodeling, and tissue repair  during a workout depicts the release of hormones both  anabolic or catabolic. Typically with heavy resistance training lead to anabolic reactions and the recovery process is related to an increase in muscle mass.

Some things you can take away from this blog is that hormones do play a significant role in building muscle mass. Know that working out puts your body in a stressed state, but that is not a bad thing! Having your body’s level of cortisol increase wont mean that your muscles are going to break down. What is bad is when you overtrain yourself for long periods of time. Cortisol can also increase due to other factors in your daily life. So remember to take breaks (rest), stretch, roll out and think of what other things can be stressing you out.  Hormones from epinephrine to insulin play a role in how you are feeling before, during and after your workout. Eating regularly throughout the day can help regulate insulin levels and therefore can affect the performance of your workout. I know this was a lot to read and take in so if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out!