Anabolic steroid use appears to be on the rise. With the great increase in modern recombinant DNA technology, steroids such as growth hormone, growth factors and testosterone-based analogs have become increasingly more available and affordable. Despite their renewed popularity however, anabolic steroids are illegal and have negative effects on health, reproductive status and even personality. In response, this article aims to provide some basic information on anabolic steroids and how to boost the body's own production levels naturally, using exercise.
What is an anabolic hormone?
The definition of anabolic is "to build up"- therefore anabolic steroids are hormones that cause increases body and muscle size. Actually, not all "anabolic steroids" are steroids but they are all hormones. An example of an anabolic steroid hormone is testosterone and its analogs. An example of an anabolic polypeptide/non-steroid hormone is growth hormone. Basically, hormones are chemical messengers released from certain tissues into the blood in response to a stimulus. Their role is essentially to help the human body adapt and remain in a state of balance or "homeostasis". While the body is quite efficient at regulating its anabolic state on its own ? the temptation exists to use large quantities of anabolic hormones to magnify the results. As recently as 15-20 years ago, growth hormone had to be extracted form the pituitary glands of cadavers. Now however, modern science is able to manipulate the DNA of bacteria to produce large quantities of the hormone. Steroid use has always been rife in bodybuilding arena, but with peer pressure and ever-increasing expectations of sport performance, anabolic steroid use has become commonplace in sports too - even among high school age athletes.
How do I boost my levels of testosterone and growth hormone?
It is possible to increase anabolic hormone production naturally however - the simplest method of doing this is by regulating the intensity of the weightlifting session. This is achieved by manipulating volume (sets and reps), load (%1RM*) and rest periods. Evidence indicates that exercises that recruit large muscle groups (legs and back) in exercises such as squats and deadlifts and that are performed with high intensity and moderate volume boost serum testosterone concentrations. Therefore the exerciser should use heavy loads (85-95% 1 RM) and multiple sets/exercises separated by short rest periods (30 ?60s). Testosterone, the male sex hormone is responsible for the increased muscle mass and strength observed in men. This steroid hormone operates both on a gene level to increase muscle protein production (increased gene transcription). It is also suspected to work on the central nervous system, allowing greater muscle activation by motor neurons, resulting in greater force production. (It is unlikely that herbal testosterone "precursors" such as tribulus terestris have a large impact on production - the exerciser should save his time and money and devote more effort into sensible eating and exercising according to these guidelines.)
Human growth hormone (HGH) is a polypeptide (non steroid) hormone released form the pituitary gland at the base of the brain, and its release similar to testosterone, is dependent on the level of "stress" experienced by the body. Its main functions are to increase the transport of amino acids over cell membranes and to increase the synthesis of muscle protein, connective tissue (e.g. collagen) bone and cartilage thus directly causing "growth". It also is responsible for increasing the level of glucose and fatty acids in the blood, and therefore has a direct body-fat reducing quality. Studies involving the release of growth hormone during exercise indicate that a typical bodybuilding program of multiple sets (higher volumes) of moderate intensity (e.g. 10RM) separated by short (1 min.) rest periods produce the largest increases. Many of the actions of growth hormone are actually mediated by another hormone called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) released by the liver and other organs in response to HGH. The release of this powerful stimulator of muscle growth has been shown to increase in response to the consumption of a carbohydrate and protein supplement before and immediately after a weightlifting workout.
In conclusion, it is hoped that this article has demonstrated that there are alternatives to using illegal and health threatening anabolic steroids. The human body is a marvel at adapting to stresses such as exercise and weightlifting without the need for external hormone administration. This article has highlighted that is in fact possible to manipulate the body's own natural production of the same substances simply by regulating the intensity of the weightlifting session.
*1RM = the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted with good form for a single repetition.
David Petersen is a Personal Trainer/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and the owner and founder of B.O.S.S. Fitness Inc. based in Oldsmar, Florida. More articles and information can be found at http://www.bossfitness.com
NOTE: You're free to republish this article on your website, in your newsletter, in your e-book or in other publications provided the article is reproduced in its entirety, including this note, author information and all LIVE website links as above.