Any bodybuilder or athlete worth his salt knows that testosterone is an all-important anabolic hormone for gaining strength and building muscle mass. Scientists believe that one way testosterone exerts its effects is via its ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Bodybuilders across the globe spend millions of dollars every year on worthless products that claim to enhance testosterone production and function. However, the fact is that very few non-pharmaceutical compounds are able to do this.
The irony is that recent studies have identified one very simple strategy that can dramatically enhance the effectiveness of testosterone production to help you build more muscle, faster. In this article I’ll outline this strategy and explain precisely why it’s sure to promote better muscle and strength gains.
Firstly, many athletes assume that circulating testosterone levels increase after an intense workout. However, new research now shows that this isn’t the case. In fact the opposite is true, particularly when nutrients are factored into the equation.
Early studies that reported increases in testosterone in response to weight training didn’t take into account the effects of nutrition close to training. New studies show consistent decreases in circulating testosterone levels in response to supplement-timing; the strategic intake of a protein-carbohydrate supplement before and after resistance exercise. It’s one of very few strategies shown consistently in research to affect circulating testosterone levels.
Supplement-timing dramatically lowers circulating testosterone levels after a workout.
However, don’t panic, this is a key aspect of physiology that actually enhances muscle gains from training. It’s a rather exciting and relatively new discovery so don’t worry if you’re confused. I’ll clarify it all for you.
Studies that have assessed the effects of supplement-timing during resistance training on acute hormone responses have consistently observed the same phenomenon. In response to supplement-timing, a short increase followed by a sharp decrease in circulating testosterone has been observed. In fact, circulating levels of this hormone drop lower than measurements taken before the workout.1,2,3 This response has been consistently observed in a number of studies.
Even research that has examined responses to consecutive days of training.3 In stark contrast to what most bodybuilders and fitness professionals believe, there is a remarkable decline in blood testosterone levels in response to supplementation after resistance exercise. However, this does not mean that testosterone production is impaired or diminished. The data from these studies indicate that the decline in circulating testosterone is due to an increased metabolic clearance of this hormone. That is, a higher uptake by muscle. For example, Chandler et al.2 showed that a decline in circulating testosterone in response to supplement-timing was not linked to a decrease in Lutenizing Hormone (LH) production. LH is a key trigger of testosterone production.
Most strength athletes have heard about the studies that have shown a dramatic increase in muscle protein synthesis from the strategic consumption of protein and carbohydrates after training. However, the data on circulating testosterone suggests that the sudden drop in this hormone (in response to supplementation after a workout) could be due to increased uptake by muscle to facilitate this process. In males, testosterone is produced via activation of the pituitary-gonadal axis but the influence of testosterone on skeletal muscle protein synthesis is mediated by the androgen receptor located on the cell membrane.
Testosterone enters the blood stream and binds to androgen receptors on muscle (and other cells) where it delivers its powerful anabolic message to the nucleus. Many aspects of muscle metabolism and growth are controlled by this classic steroid-hormone binding mechanism. Once attached to a cell membrane-receptor, the hormone activates a receptor complex that allows it to enter the nucleus and bind specific response elements on DNA to act directly at the genetic level. This is how most hormones (such GH, testosterone, IGF-1 and cortisol) alter the production (transcription and subsequent translation) of specific proteins in muscles and other cells. Ultimately, this is what influences muscle growth and other adaptations from training. We know the importance of androgen receptors for gaining muscle because studies that have blocked androgen-receptor binding show that this essentially blocks muscle growth.4
A few years ago, preliminary work reported that supplement-timing decreased circulating testosterone and this decline corresponded with an increase in muscle androgen receptor content. A more recent study by the same scientists utilized resistance-trained participants and reported that the intake of protein and carbs right after training resulted in a sharp decline in circulating testosterone. This response was observed right alongside increased activity of LH and an increase in androgen receptor content in muscle.5
Exactly what does all this mean to you?
All this data on supplement-timing, androgen receptors, testosterone and the auxiliary hormones suggest that the pituitary-gonadal axis works in a negative feedback loop. That is, androgen receptor expression governs changes in circulating testosterone. If there is no increase in androgen receptor expression, there is no reason to increase testosterone production.
Conversely, the research suggests that supplement-timing increases androgen receptor content in muscle which actually drives changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis responsible for an increase in testosterone production. The end result of supplement-timing is not only an increase in testosterone production but also an enhanced uptake of testosterone by muscle.
Supplement-timing increases androgen receptor content in muscle. This drives changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis which are responsible for triggering an increase in testosterone production. The end result obtained from supplement-timing is not only an increase in testosterone production but also an enhanced uptake of testosterone by muscle.
I published the only study so far that has examined the effect of supplement-timing using experienced bodybuilders and supervised training. Results showed that supplement-timing with VP2 Whey Isolate and Micronized Creatine resulted in a gain in muscle mass that was almost double that of the control group.6
Most importantly, this hypertrophy response was evident at three levels of physiology. This is, supplement-timing with VP2 Whey Isolate and Micronized Creatine resulted in a greater gain in lean body mass, increase in the size of the type-2 muscle fibers and greater synthesis of contractile protein.6 The research I discussed previously has identified that supplement-timing increases the androgen receptor content in muscle which actually drives an increase in testosterone production and uptake by muscle.
This new information may explain why supplement-timing with VP2 Whey Isolate and Micronized Creatine can provide such awesome muscle mass. The take-home message is that if you want the best results possible from all those sweat-soaked, teeth grinding sessions in the gym, make supplement-timing number-one priority.
1. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 10:415-424, 2000.
2. J Appl Physiol 76:839Y845, 1994.
3. J Appl Physiol 85:1544-1555, 1998.
4. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 69:88-91, 1994.
5. Med Sci Sports Exerc 38: 1288-1296, 2006.
6. Med Sci Sports Exerc 38: 1918-25, 2006.