Keep Your Carbs, Raise Your Testosterone.
Article On T Nation:
It is possible to boost testosterone with just macronutrients? If you've read your share of nutrition articles, you know dietary fat and cholesterol get all the attention when it comes to hormone production.
Testosterone, like many of our other hormones, is derived from a hormone called pregnenolone. Pregnenolone relies on a cholesterol precursor to serve as the raw material for our hormonal production. Consume a low-fat diet and you're leaving testosterone on the proverbial table as you deny the body adequate resources and building blocks for this biochemical process,
ADVERTISINGBut what about carbs? Is it possible that one of the most overlooked testosterone-raising strategies on the market is actually in your workout nutrition? The answer is a resounding yes.
Though fat may provide the raw materials for production through cholesterol, carbs can protect your testosterone production by opposing cortisol via the production of insulin.
Why Insulin Is a Friend of TestosteroneGo to the gym, crush a hard workout, and you're likely to begin triggering a cortisol response along with an increase in muscle protein breakdown from training. While some cortisol is good, if it's left unmanaged, we leave our body in a sympathetic state (categorized by heightened alertness and fight or flight), as well as a catabolic state.
When we perpetuate this catabolic state, our body begins to perform what's called the "pregnenolone steal." Remember all those raw materials we just talked about from fat and cholesterol consumption? The perpetuated pregnenolone steal and high circulations of cortisol create a constraint on your body's natural T-production.
This is further exacerbated by the fact that cortisol also inhibits STAR protein (Steroidogenic Acute Regulatory Protein) whose job is to regulate the transfer of cholesterol within your mitochondria. STAR does exactly what it sounds like: it activates the synthesis of steroid hormones in the Leydig cells, which is the rate limiting step in the production of your natural steroid hormones like testosterone.
In other words, less interference with that cholesterol transfer and less inhibition of testosterone production means we're even closer to our goal optimized performance.
We're less likely to continue releasing cortisol to break down energy to create energy if we have adequate carbohydrate and insulin circulating during the time around your training session. By limiting cortisol and preventing it from being chronically elevated, we can allow testosterone (an anabolic hormone) to fully function.
Here's What To DoHere are some tangible action steps that you can start doing now:
1 – Use Cyclic Dextrin and Amino AcidsThe best ways to control this cortisol response are by using carbohydrates like cyclic dextrin powder and peptides, EAA's (essential amino acids) and/or leucine to halt the overproduction of this hormone. Cortisol in excess robs the raw materials necessary for T production.
Examples in this workout product category include: Biotest Plazma™, Surge® Workout Fuel, or blending cyclic dextrin with EAA's or structured amino acid peptides in your workout drink.
Solid food is NOT sufficient for this type of strategy, but when spaced appropriately can be added pre or post-workout to enhance the effects of the recommended supplementation.
2 – Individualize Your DosingEssential amino acids and leucine can stimulate mTOR, insulin, and muscle protein synthesis during or post workout. However, there's a limit to the amount of carbohydrate that you need. For the average sized male lifter, start at 25-35 grams of a performance carbohydrate such as cyclic dextrin or isomaltulose and titrate your way up. Females start at 15 grams.
You can individualize your dosing based on bodyweight, the periodization of your programming, and as a percentage of your daily carbohydrate or macronutrient intake. When properly timed around your workout these carbs can enhance performance and hormone optimization.
More training volume means more need for carbohydrate, so be mindful of your total sets, reps, and load during your workout. For larger lifters, it's not uncommon for a 200-plus pound lifter doing a high volume, bodybuilding-style program to consume upwards of 50-75 grams of carbohydrate during this period.
3 – Add Some LeucineFor optimal results, ingest 5-10 grams of leucine in addition to a balanced array of the other essential amino acids. Even with budgetary constraints you'd want an absolute bare minimum of 3 grams.
Hydrolyzed peptides or essential amino acids are your best investment around your workout, as studied by the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Rapidly digested proteins that contain high proportions of essential amino acids (EAAs) and adequate leucine, are most effective in stimulating MPS according to the latest sports nutrition research (Jager et al 2017).
4 – Start Conservatively with CarbsToo many carbs will cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity and will eventually be mediated by T3 and malic acid, so don't ride this wave so high that you throw a wrench in other areas of hormonal health (i.e. insulin sensitivity, fasted blood glucose, etc.).
Start with a dose around 25 grams and increase your dosage depending on recovery and your total daily macronutrient intake. A caloric excess, even with optimized timing, can still potentially result in some problems. Each 25 gram scoop of added carbohydrate alone is approximately 100 calories, so be mindful of where this fits in your daily nutrient totals. It does pack a punch for the amount of calories ingested, but it's still wise to note this in your overall nutrition strategy.
We've known for years now that workout nutrition has played an important role in exercise recovery and muscle growth – from triggering muscle protein synthesis to making us less sore, the compound effect of well-timed carbohydrates and amino acids is undeniable.
The next time when loading your supplement shopping cart remember the effects of carbohydrate extend beyond simply fueling muscle recovery. Through properly timed nutrient consumption it's possible to manipulate the endocrine system as well and have an additional transformation tactic at our disposal.
THE MISSING LINK
Article on iN3 Nutrition:
Over the last several years, iN3 has created awareness around the fact that training protocols MUST be matched to INDIVIDUAL GOALS. This has led to us creating the triangle of awareness, a principle that several nutrition coaches now use as the foundation of their client protocols and prescriptions.
Recently I had the opportunity to meet Sam Miller of Oracle Fitness, and he shared with me some interesting thoughts regarding this application inside of workout programs as well. In fact, I liked the methodology so much that I asked him to write about it for everyone here at the iN3 blog.
I’m sure you will enjoy this, and as always if there are any questions please feel free to post them up 🙂
“Getting lean or increased muscularity should be as simple as a calorie deficit or surplus combined with your favorite WODS, right? Unfortunately, not.
While training periodization has existed for decades, and nutritional periodization has gained steam across the industry, there is missing link in the integrated periodization and SELECTION of both elements. This holds true for optimal performance, aesthetic and lifestyle goals. Only by prioritizing and strategizing BOTH training and nutrition periodization elements as a unified approach can we bring individualized nutrition and training to the forefront to create the ideal environment for our desired physical adaptations.
iN3 Nutrition popularized the triangle of awareness in the nutritional community. iN3 brought attention and awareness to the physical, mental, and emotional tension or stress that exists between these three divergent goals (performance, aesthetics and lifestyle). To summarize: the key premise of this philosophy is that in your pursuit of any one particular goal you may sacrifice other goals in this triangle. For example, optimal performance and aesthetics don’t always go hand in hand. Nor does maintaining 5% body fat and having a flourishing social schedule filled with happy hours.
A similar level of awareness and attention is now needed as it pertains to training program selection in the pursuit of these distinct goals. We must match the appropriate nutritional periodization with the appropriate training methodology aimed at one of the three goals above. This entails being mindful that each training type causes a unique cascade of adaptations in the body. Case in point: Performance programs are not lifestyle programs. Lifestyle programs are not bodybuilding programs.
Furthermore, all too often we have boxes and globo gyms advocating summer shred challenges failing to consider that a steep calorie deficit and heavy glycolytic CrossFit work simply do not go hand in hand. For the purposes of this article we will consider two main initiatives: performance vs. body composition (fat loss/muscle building).
When creating an integrated, mutually periodized program where nutrition and training are happily married the following items are top of mind to create optimal adaptations: Hormonal Adaptations to Training & The Energetic Demands of Each Session, The Training Adaptations, and The Imposition of Stress vs. The Body’s Adaptation to Stress. This is compounded by some substantial safety risks that arise when athletes are placed in a deficit, thereby impairing their ability to recover.
It is July and we all want to stay beach ready through Labor Day, so let’s start with a case example of what might happen when pairing a calorie deficit with performance-based training for folks who want to have it all. If we zoom in on the Thyroid Hormones T3 and T4, these remain unchanged when the exercise duration is short; but decrease (this is a bad thing) as the duration increases even if TSH levels are increased.
Remember – training for performance is the broadest training objective as it often requires the development of a broad spectrum of the body’s capacities concurrently: strength, power, speed, agility, general endurance, specific endurance, etc. As a result several different training means and methods are used (weight lifting, gymnastics training, GPP, agility work, etc.).
A by-product of this is some long training days or multiple sessions. In the case of CrossFit or Performance training for hypertrophy in many programs you’ll see a lack adequate time under tension and training specificity. Remember the amount of muscle growth stimulated is directly proportional to the amount of training stimulus (or of the functional demand) placed on the selected muscles. This holds true so long as the aforementioned demand doesn’t exceed the body’s capacity to recover.
In the case of CrossFit for Fat loss: Intense training in a calorie deficit can impair the body’s ability to manage cortisol, while also negatively impacting thyroid output. The battle for fat loss with impaired thyroid level and cortisol output is a recipe for disaster. Not to mention a significant strain on reproductive hormone function as well (testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone for ladies).
While the above examples showcase a mismatch CrossFit or Performance based programming with a calorie deficit, there are countless other improper pairings that we cannot fit in a single article. These are simply illustrations and examples of popular mainstream mistakes.
Prior to embarking on your next training cycle remember that we must match the appropriate nutritional periodization with the appropriate training methodology. While we know steering your nutrition and training is necessary for physique and performance changes, not all programs are complimentary. Consider the following 24-36 week training cycle;
The Decline of Male Testosterone
Article on BBP:
Testosterone is perhaps the most well known and most sought after hormone in the male body. It is commonly known as a prerequisite for strength, muscle mass, bone mass, fat distribution and virility. Yet, over the past several decades male testosterone levels have been steadily declining. Studies have shown adult men are walking around with just fractions of the levels of our preceding generations (probably somewhere between ⅓ and ½ to be precise) even just comparing the 20th century to today.
But, what gives? We lift with purpose, and we eat according to our macros, yet somehow we pale in comparison to men from just a few decades prior.
Stress and TestAnatomically speaking, we are the same human beings with the same production capacity as our ancestors, but what has changed as we live our daily lives is our environment and our nutrition. Think of it this way – we are using the same out of date machinery (biomechanics), but trying to process increasingly demanding modern day problems or applications. You wouldn’t expect a 2002 Dell PC to do the work of a 2018 Macbook pro, but that is what we ask our body to do every day in the 21st century. With the rising demands of our environment we face an increase in stress, which is matched by the release of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Prolonged chronic stress whether it be physical, emotional, chemical or dietary stress activates the sympathetic nervous system (your “fight or flight” response). When under chronic stress, the body is not focused on reproduction, but on survival. As a result, the creation of reproductive hormones like testosterone is not a priority and gets placed on a back burner until stress is mitigated and raw materials, or resources are plentiful. Therefore, if you want the edge in maximizing testosterone output, you must first manage cortisol.
If there is one thing you take away from this article, remember this: Cortisol and testosterone are inversely proportional. This means that as cortisol levels go up testosterone levels normally go down.
The mechanism primarily occurs due to the fact that cortisol indirectly inhibits production of testosterone in the testicles by inhibiting “steroidegenic acute regulatory protein”. This sciency term for a complex protein (“STAR” for short), is responsible for regulating the transfer of cholesterol within your mitochondria which is the rate limiting step in the production of your natural steroid hormones like testosterone.
In other words: control cortisol and you have less interference with that cholesterol transfer, and less inhibition of testosterone production means you’re one less step away from physical and mental badassery. The good news is we can control cholesterol and cortisol through nutrition and lifestyle protocols.
Easier said than done, right? There are three primary ways to control cortisol:
1) Through parasympathetic activities,
2) Through nutritional intervention, and
3) Through managing circadian rhythm
What are Parasymapthetic Activities?Some top strategies to disengage your sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and engage your parasympathetic nervous system are: meditation, foam rolling and mobility drills, sleep, eating properly (per your dietary protocol), yoga, music, supplementing with adaptogenic herbs, and low intensity outdoor activity (e.g., walking).
This assumes you are already moderately active and engaging in some physically strenuous exercise such as resistance training 3-5 days per week. Multiple iterations of testosterone research have consistently shown increases in serum testosterone concentration following resistance exercise.
Testosterone is affected by a combination of factors including the amount of muscle tissue mass stimulated (think compound exercise), volume of exercise performed (sets x reps x load), and intensity of exercise (both percentage of your 1RM and also the perceived intensity – think in terms of rated perceived exertion).
[This is why coaching is so imperative, balancing these nervous system drivers properly through intelligent program design is exactly how you achieve results. Apply Now for a Free Strategy Call to learn more about coaching.]
What Nutritional Interventions Help Manage Cortisol?We can also mitigate cortisol response through proper nutrition and peri-workout supplementation (European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2006). Insulin, the hormone secreted by your pancreas after a rise in blood sugar, also works in opposition of cortisol because they are called “counter regulatory hormones”.
For example, exercise induces reduction in blood glucose, which is *counter-regulated* by increases in levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, and growth hormone. The rise in blood concentrations of these *counter-regulatory hormones* is dependent upon both exercise intensity and duration, and is proportional to the rate of glucose uptake by the contracting skeletal muscle.
Simply put, if you are working out intensely you will likely be burning blood glucose and having a small cortisol spike during your workout. By timing the influx of insulin (ideally around our training sessions) we can further tilt the cortisol balance in our favor by opposing it with insulin, creating a more optimal environment for testosterone production. A simple example of this would be having essential amino acids and cyclic dextrin during a workout followed by a whole food meal post workout.
Additional supplements for the management of testosterone and cortisol include, but are not limited to KSM 66 Ashwaganda, Longjack, DIM, and Fenugreek. With most herbal formulations you are working to indirectly raise your testosterone through either reducing aromatization (the conversion to estrogen), balancing cortisol, or improving free testosterone levels – meaning less of your testosterone would be bound in the blood to things like SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin).
How Does Your Circadian Rhythm Impact Testosterone?The phrase “circadian rhythm” is a complicated way of saying your biological clock or daily schedule. If a person’s sleep pattern has been disrupted for some time, then resetting this rhythm can have a profound impact on hormonal output.
Even partial sleep reduction lasting one week at 5 hours per night has been shown to decrease overall testosterone production by 15 percent in healthy young men. Another study revealed that men who slept for 4 hours per night had an average of 200-400 ng/dl testosterone levels, which was lower than men who slept 8 hours per night and had closer to 500-700 ng/dl.
In a study of chinese males, researchers calculated that an extra hour of sleep led to about 15% higher testosterone production. The main takeaway here is to shoot for 8 hours of sleep, and maintain adherence to a similar sleep/wake schedule throughout the week.
How Does Cholesterol Impact Testosterone? The importance of cholesterol cannot be understated. From a non-science perspective think of this testosterone production process as a pyramid where each level is dependent on the prior level’s foundation. Testosterone comes from pregnenolone and pregnenolone is manufactured from cholesterol.
On a molecular level, cholesterol is the precursor of the five major classes of steroid hormones, because without it we cannot manufacture pregnenolone, also known as the “mother hormone”. Cholesterol starts off in the body as a large molecule with essentially 27 units. The first stage in the synthesis of steroid hormones is the removal of 6 of those units of the cholesterol molecule to form pregnenolone (a hormonal precursor to testosterone).
After we have pregnenolone the body can make an intermediary hormone that allows us to begin creating androgens like testosterone. Without this middle link, we lack the structural foundation for our testosterone on a molecular level.
This is further evidenced by researchers who compared the dietary records and blood tests of 12 men with at least one year of weight training; the researchers found significant correlations between Testosterone levels and total and saturated fat intake, so be mindful of getting a balanced ratio of monounsaturated, saturated and polyunsaturated fats. We can obtain healthy fats and cholesterol precursors in the diet through whole eggs (preferably free range), grass fed butter, oils, and lean red meats (grass fed is best if you can get it).
Testosterone TakeawaysWhile testosterone is characterized by strength and indestructibility it is possibly one of the body’s least resilient hormones. Simple changes in sleep, nutrition, and stress levels can have a significant impact on your hormonal output and how your body prioritizes production.
Simply put, we were designed for survival, not to maintain “cover-model esque muscle” year round. Fortunately, many of these factors fall within the realm of our control. The next time you are looking to supercharge your system remember that natural cortisol control and cholesterol may just be the best testosterone boosters there are.
So remember – if you are looking to optimize your natural testosterone levels, implement these five key points in your regimen:
Over Training or Over-Life?
Article on True Transformation:
If you spend enough time around any popular fitness forum, read any fitness magazine, or watch youtube videos you are bound to stumble upon the concept of “Overtraining”. First, we will examine what coaches and science classify as overtraining and then we will uncover whether this is a concept that applies to regular hard-working gym-goers like yourself.
First let’s examine the concept of overtraining. Somewhere many Olympiads ago foreign coaches testing their athletes with brutal two a day sessions and aggressive Bulgarian squat cycles uncovered the concept that the body can only tolerate a certain degree of working out before it would eventually begin to rebel via overuse injuries, decreased performance, or other negative biofeedback & symptoms (such as changes in body temperature, sleep disturbances etc.). However, let’s remember this occurred within the framework of perfectly monitored conditions with athletes whose full time job is just to train, recover, and optimize their life solely for the sake of lifting performance. Unfortunately, this concept of “overtraining” wasn’t created in the lab of a stressful white collar desk job, a strenuous manual labor job, or the parent who can barely make it to the gym in time before the child care desk closes. So then why do symptoms of overtraining occur in a population of individuals like yourself who aren’t working out 14 times per week? The answer – LIFE STRESS.
Our bodies were programmed thousands of years ago to manage acute physical stress or trauma. If there was no food around, or some beastly animal happened to find where you were camping we would face very intermittent stressful situations where we would likely either a) escape or b) die. In modern day society we face what scientists and doctors consider to be chronic stressors – too many TPS reports from our boss, kids not sleeping through the night, paying the bills on time, or telling little Timmy to stop playing video games. These are problems, stressors, and stimuli that simply didn’t exist thousands of years ago, nor did they exist within the social vacuum of an athlete’s training camp. Combine this with the fact that a challenging workout is physiologically stressful in an acute (short-lived) manner (albeit the good kind) and we have a recipe for limited recovery capacity. Whether we like it or not we are still largely biologically identical to our ancestors and this happens to backfire within the context of balancing work, life and training.
Did I lose you somewhere in the science between life stress and TPS reports? Don’t worry – here’s an easy way to break things down- Think of your total volume of stress like a bank account. While individual tolerances and savings thresholds may vary we walk into the week with a set amount of “cash flow” or, in this case “stress flow”, along with a set amount of recovery. To keep your account balanced you need to carefully monitor the outputs or stressors drawing from the account, and the inputs or personal recovery investments you are making into the account. Maintaining this fine balance it what allows some to train more than others over the course of weeks, months and years. Compound this over time and you’ve got a recipe for continued progress.
If you find yourself struggling to recover from your weekly workouts begin to ask yourself – have I balanced my account? Are my life stressors + training stressors exceeding my capacity to recover? If so, we need to implement more tools for recovery: sleep, nutrition, meditation, breathing, soft tissue work, or any other activity that primes the “rest and digest” response in your body (also known as the “parasympathetic”). Keep a close eye on your progress (weight lifted, repetitions performed, and workout time) as well as a general awareness for your current life demands outside of the gym. There’s a chance your workout routine doesn’t have you over-trained. You may just be overloaded in life.
The "Compound Effect" for Accomplishing Body and Workout Goals
Article on Tiger Fitness:
n a society of instant gratification and rapid rewards, all too often we forget the powerful impact of accumulated and compounded work over a substantial period of time.
In the gym or in the kitchen it is commonplace to look for that magic pill or panacea to expedite desired results. However, it is not always just the "what" that someone is doing that should interest us. The "how" is equally powerful.
One thing is for certain - there is no shortage of motivational videos and memes in the fitness industry. Often times what is lacking is execution.
Or perhaps your friend with bigger arms is consistent about drinking his whey protein daily before and after workouts. Your friend consistently meets his daily protein requirements, where as you are haphazard with your preparation strategies and fail to track your protein intake.
These are just two examples of how small decisions when implemented and acted upon on a daily basis create life changing results.
In training and nutrition the compound effect can be seen in:
The saying made famous by Aristotle, "We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."
This reminds us that practicing excellence and perfecting the craft day after day, month after month and year after year is what separates the average from the stellar. It creates an outlier effect of "hidden advantages" or an unexplainable edge.
You may find the perfect routine, and the perfect diet, but the repeated execution of the two programs over time is what will lead to that unexplainable edge. One might argue that superior consistency on an inferior program would generate better results than inferior consistency on a superior program.
You can implement the compound effect in your training right now. Make a choice and pick three variables related to your fitness goals where you can make quantifiable (numerical) incremental changes. This could be in regards to sleep, supplementation, nutrition or training. Perhaps you want to target a specific macronutrient goal (protein, carbs or fat grams).
Perhaps you want to get in bed thirty minutes earlier each night. Create specific, measurable goals that you can take action on and duplicate the seemingly insignificant changes day after day. After you have perfected these three goals (or choices), attempt to add two more so that you are now creating a powerful compound effect of five choices each day.
Whether you are just trying to get back in shape, or whether you are looking to be shredded on stage making these incremental changes can take you one step closer to your goals. What you see in the mirror and how you feel each day will be a result of your choices, behaviors and repeated actions.
Build yourself an unexplainable edge. Practice excellence. Achieve your goals.