Muscle Building 101
Muscle building is one of the most desired goals in the fitness realm. There are so many different opinions and ideas on how to achieve this. In this article, I am going to look deeper than simply training hard and increasing your caloric intake. Hormones and the role in which they play in muscle mass increments, sleep and recuperation and supplements will be the three major influences I will be covering here.
You must look at the key hormones in muscle gain, which is primarily our anabolic hormone, testosterone.
“Testosterone is the most well-known androgen that mediates androgenic processes such as muscle building, fat loss and some aspects of cognition. Testosterone is important in puberty and is sought after for its muscle building potential in men”.
To naturally increase levels of testosterone there are specific supplements that can have a great effect. A dietary Zinc deficiency can hinder testosterone production, and thus in order to get high testosterone levels, it would be prudent to avoid dietary reductions. A good zinc status can be achieved through either supplementation (such as a ZMA formulation) or through high meat and shellfish consumption.
Similar to zinc, vitamin D can also regulate testosterone levels. The RDA/DRI for vitamin D tends to be around 400-800 IU (International Units) per day, depending on country of origin. This is a good level to aim for from food, but it may still be in the range of ‘subclinical deficiency’.
Year-round supplementation of 3000 IU vitamin D can increase testosterone levels by maintaining serum vitamin D above 30nmol/l and increases a bit further around 50nmol/l. This is primarily due to vitamin D being able to regulate the aromatase enzyme.
If you live far away from the equator or otherwise stay indoors most of the day, supplemental vitamin D would be needed (as dietary sources give relatively low amounts).
While further increasing your testosterone, you should not be too worried about reducing testosterone with the ongoing myths that surround the topic. For example, sexual activity does not reduce testosterone; it does, however, increase prolactin and therefore has a slight decrease in dopamine which in a short period of time will return to normal levels.
In regards to muscle building, levels of testosterone must be kept at an optimal rate to ensure anabolism is high and will, therefore, increase muscle mass. Nutritionally you are likely to find that a higher level of protein, consisting of animal and fish protein will aid production of testosterone and will also ensure muscle tissue can be repaired after training.
Another key factor in muscle mass increments is the quality of sleep that you get on a nightly basis. Our circadian rhythm is our sleeping pattern and it has been found that a disrupted circadian rhythm can cause us to increase our body fat and in some cases has been found to induce weight loss.
However, instead of losing weight from fat, we lose fat from lean mass, which then, in turn, leads to an increase in overall body fat percentage. This is in particular common with those who are on a calorie restricted diet plan with a lack of nutrients. An increase in fat will lead to a lower level of testosterone due to the body being less ‘anabolic’ and therefore proves sleep is a very important factor in muscle building.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation can also cause an increase in cortisol which in turn is a catabolic hormone and therefore will inhibit muscle gain.