You may have come across bodybuilding coaches who promote training styles to adjust one's hormones and propagate the concept that you have to train in a certain way to increase certain hormones. According to these coaches, if you increase these hormones, you will become the natural Ronnie Coleman or Phil Heath of the fitness industry.
The most popular hormones discussed in this context are:
2. Human Growth Hormone
Testosterone and Human Growth Hormone are desirable as they are anabolic aka they build your body, whereas Cortisol is bad and is something you should stay from as much as possible from. This belief has led to coaches developing shitty training plans and draw pathetic conclusions from it.
To promote Human Growth Hormone, coaches or trainers tell their clients that they need to workout using heavy loads in a state of steady fasting. To increase testosterone, you need to work out in a particular rep range and you need to take very little rest between sets.Why is this idea stupid?
From what you have yourself read, you may be wondering that if Testosterone and Human Growth Hormone are good, why not train for them? But the main point you need to understand is that there is a physiological range of hormones and then there is a supraphysiological or the enhanced range of hormones.
The physiological range is the one you have naturally.
When you train for certain hormones, two things will happen:
1. The hormone spike occurs for a short duration of time.
2. The hormone spike is in the physiological range.
Whether the hormone levels are on the lower end or the upper end, as long as they are in the physiological or natural range, it won't make much difference. Talking about Human Growth Hormone, misinformed coaches suggest you should train in a state of fasting.The downsides of training while fasting are:
1. Increased muscle protein breakdown.
2. Poor strength levels.
3. Poor recovery.
4. Poor quality training sessions.
You will lift lesser weights and suffer from fatigue. For Testosterone, rest very little between sets.
© UnsplashThe downsides of that are:
1. Poor recovery.
2. A lighter load lifted.
3. Reduced work capacity.
4. Increased risk of injury.
Now let's discuss Cortisol or the stress hormone.
Cortisol is the stress hormone and catabolic. Anabolic = good and Catabolic = bad. Here is where the knowledge of most of these coaches or trainers is limited. When you exercise, you are causing wear and tear in your muscle. That is catabolic too. And the funny part is, you are doing it consciously.Training is catabolic.
So yeah, catabolic does not mean bad. Surprisingly, in a study done on athletes and cortisol levels with long-term training, the athletes who had more cortisol elevations over time were muscular and stronger than those who did not. Athletes with higher cortisol levels had a higher work capacity. That means, more volume and more loads lifted over time.
To conclude, if you are planning your training to influence certain hormones, you are just wasting time. Instead, you should dedicate this time to build muscle productively.
Pratik Thakkar is the co-founder and director of GetSetGo Fitness, an online fitness company and the founder of Mars Nutrition, a nutrition supplement company. Both his companies are geared towards providing you with the right information and products without any false or fake claims. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Instagram.