Do you develop muscles? Check how hormones affect exercise

 Do you develop muscles? Check how hormones affect exercise

Everyone who exercises knows that physical exertion affects the hormonal balance. The concentration of individual hormones is highly variable and depends on the type of exertion.

What do you need to know to effectively build tissue and muscle mass and not spoil the effect? We will focus on the most important hormones: testosterone, cortisol and insulin.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is a hormone secreted by the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary gland. Testosterone is responsible for:


1. Androgen properties:

Formation of secondary male sexual characteristics (development of sex organs, libido, male voice, body hair)

Muscle mass growth which plays a key role in regulating protein content

2. The Anabolic Properties:

It affects weight gain

In theory, they do not have any hormonal activity


About 7 mg of testosterone per day, which reaches its highest concentration between 6-9 am, is produced daily in the adult male body. Up to 98% of testosterone binds to proteins, 55% to globulin is responsible for binding sex hormones, and 2% of the hormone is responsible for biological activity.


What are the functions of testosterone?

Testosterone is an anabolic substance, that is, it binds to proteins, which leads to muscle growth. Testosterone imperceptibly retains sodium, potassium, calcium, sulfate, phosphate and water. The hormone affects many parts of the body:

Kidney, liver, heart, striated muscle, bulbocavernosus, bone, marrow, salivary glands, bladder, skin, sebaceous glands, hair - supported by testosterone

Thymus, spleen and lymph tissue - these can affect immunity


The most important functions of testosterone are:

Building muscle tissue (more mass) - accelerating the binding of proteins and preventing their disintegration

Muscle Energy - Accelerate Post-Exercise Glycogen Recovery

An increase in the process of multiplication of red blood cells (red blood cells).


How does physical exertion affect testosterone levels?

Much depends on the type of voltage:

Short-term intense exertion leads to an increase in testosterone in the blood

Long-term exertion - a drop in testosterone, which can last for several days

Maximum effort - a short-term increase in the concentration of testosterone immediately after training


When it comes to strength exercises, they generally increase the level of testosterone in the blood.

The increase in the concentration of testosterone in the blood depends on the level of training intensity, load and muscle mass. Similar results are observed in men and women, but in women they are less pronounced. Other indications indicate that training reduces the concentration of testosterone in the blood (from 25 to 75%) at rest.

The researchers cannot explain why, physiologically, we observe an increase in the concentration of testosterone in the blood after exercise. Some explain this fact by the work of the sympathetic nervous system, which is involved in stimulating the testicles to produce testosterone. As for the level of concentration of this hormone in the blood after exercise, differences were observed in the two groups:

Athletes who train hard - decreased secretion of hormones, possibly due to many years of training, overtraining and reduced anabolic effect

People who engage in recreational activities - increase in testosterone secretion, stimulation of testosterone secretion after exercise


In order to achieve the anabolic effects and increase the mass, high doses of the preparation are required. However, it is useful to remember the side effects.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that causes the breakdown of contractile proteins in skeletal muscle. Cortisol rises between 8 and 9 a.m., and lowest at night between 2 and 4 a.m. The hormone significantly affects the regulation of the content of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the body, and the metabolism of almost all nucleated cells.

Furthermore, cortisol, along with insulin, glucagon, adrenaline, and growth hormone, is responsible for blood glucose levels through gluconeogenesis. It also participates in glycogen synthesis and affects protein metabolism.

How does cortisol work?

Since an increased concentration of cortisol results in a negative protein balance, it is normal for the hormone to appear to inhibit muscle growth. However, this is not true. Cortisol is the engine of growth. Catabolic processes cause the organism to receive a lot of nutrients, thanks to which it is able to perform a very intense training .

If we are serious about building muscle mass, what matters is how long we train and when we see a spike in cortisol:

Best results are obtained with high doses of cortisol during intense exercise, followed by reducing the dose of the hormone immediately after exercise.

If the organism receives cortisol for a long time, it will negatively affect health and figure, because the muscles will break down, the body will become resistant to insulin, it may begin to gain weight and reduce sensitivity to cortisol. Also, very high levels of cortisol in the blood will also cause immune problems


Changes in cortisol levels in the blood depend on the number and quality of training. In people who do cardio fitness, strength training, it is often possible to notice a decrease in cortisol concentration which may indicate overtraining. The concentration of cortisol after exercise also depends on the level of training, adaptation to the exercise, and the amount of total work done.


Normally, the cortisol concentration after the rest period (about 24 hours) is reduced to pre-exercise values. Small post-exercise loads do not affect cortisol secretion, and include short-term training and medium-intensity training. In conclusion: the greater the effort, the higher the level of cortisol in the blood (higher in less trained people).

What is insulin?

Insulin is a highly anabolic hormone, even more so than growth hormone. However, it is not about building muscle or fat, but rather preventing the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.


Insulin secretion is related to blood sugar levels. The main function of insulin is to maintain a normal blood sugar level of 80-100 mg/dL. When the threshold of 100 mg/dL is exceeded, insulin leaves the pancreas to absorb excess glucose from the cardiovascular system and store it safely.

Excess glucose accumulates in:

muscle glycogen


Adipose tissue - then, unfortunately, we gain weight


How does stress affect the action of insulin?

Physical exertion lowers blood insulin levels, as well as short-term, low-intensity training. So when do we see insulin drop?

  • During moderate effort
  • effort without maximum
  • Maximum workouts
  • strength training
  • Efforts gradually intensified

As a result of training, insulin synthesis is reduced. To reduce the baseline concentration of insulin in the blood and insulin secretion, it is worth doing endurance exercises.

How does insulin affect protein synthesis?

Insulin stimulates protein synthesis through the action of ribosomes that begin to produce more protein. Thanks to the “command” given by insulin, the ribosomes begin to function, without this “command” they remain inactive. This means that insulin is essential in the process of building muscle mass.

The anabolic action of insulin is just as important as the anti-catabolic properties. How it works ?

Every day the body makes and breaks down some proteins. In order to build muscle mass, the protein balance must be positive, that is, the amount of synthesized protein must be greater than the amount of hydrolyzed protein.

Plus, insulin delivers amino acids to the muscles and directly to the muscle cells, which is the simple way to build beautiful muscles.


How does insulin stimulate the building of muscle mass?

Insulin helps build muscle mass because it increases glycogen synthesis, which makes muscles look bigger. Insulin delivers glucose into muscle cells, which increases muscle performance and regeneration.


If we want to develop our muscles, we must not forget to maintain a high level of insulin throughout the day. . But the most important is the moment immediately after exercise, when the body is sensitive to insulin and glucose is not converted into fat, but into glycogen. One can then eat a large portion of carbohydrates.


Insulin is a signal to the body that tells it whether we want to build muscle mass or burn fat tissue. what does it mean ?

When the body is rich in sugar, insulin is released and glucose goes to the liver as muscle glycogen

When there is too little sugar in the body, the insulin level drops and the body receives fuel in the form of fat


If we want to build muscle mass as well as burn fat, we can set the hours when we decide the amount of sugar in the body and know the consequences. When we want to speed up muscle building, we have to take care of increasing insulin secretion. However, it is worth preparing these portions no more than twice a day - after training and in the morning, and eating lighter meals during the rest of the day. As a result, the body will switch to burning fat.

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