NIFS Healthy Living Blog

The Role of Hormones in Resistance Training

GettyImages-625739874Hormones have an especially important role in dealing with resistance training. The endocrine system is a collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, sleep, and mood. Some of these hormones are anabolic, which promote tissue building, and others are catabolic, which are used to degrade/break down cell protein. Ideally for muscle building, it is important to produce anabolic hormones while limiting the production of catabolic ones.

Anabolic and Catabolic Hormones

Scientists have identified examples of anabolic hormones in the human body. These examples include insulin, IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), testosterone, and growth hormone. On the other hand, the catabolic hormones are cortisol, catecholamines, and progesterone. For our purposes, we can focus on two of these hormones: testosterone and cortisol.

Testosterone

Testosterone is the primary androgen hormone. The way to promote testosterone is short rest periods, 30 to 60 seconds, heavy resistance—85 to 95 percent 1RM (large motor units), and chronic resistance training (2+ years). Further, testosterone has a known effect on the nervous system: it increases neurotransmitters, and it acts on every tissue in the body. Men have 15 to 20 times more testosterone than women, and acute, or sudden, increases following workouts are small.

Cortisol

Cortisol, on the other hand, converts amino acids into carbs and breaks down proteins and inhibits the synthesis of proteins, which is bad if you are trying to build muscle because proteins are the building blocks for muscle. Cortisol increases during exercise with high volume/short muscle rest, causing large serum cortisol. This does more damage to the muscle and is not good for muscle recovery. Chronically high cortisol levels have adverse catabolic effects.

Knowing that your body produces both testosterone and cortisol, the difficulty lies in the ability to produce more testosterone than cortisol to see muscle growth.

Ways to Promote Lower Cortisol Levels

Here are four ways to lower your cortisol levels so that you can build muscle:

  • Utilize proper rest times during high-intensity resistance workouts.
  • Eat enough protein and carbohydrates to help you through the resistance workout.
  • Perform resistance workouts when your body’s cortisol levels are lower, typically later in the day.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep.

***

Make sure you are paying attention to your hormones during resistance exercise. If you are not careful, hormones might be affecting your gains in a negative way instead of a positive way. As you can see from this information, these are just a few areas you can target to start producing testosterone and therefore, affect the tissues within your body. Hopefully, this information gives you a better understanding of the main two types of hormones, anabolic and catabolic, how they work in your body, and ways to achieve those gains you are looking for in your resistance training.

Source: Haff, G., & Triplett, T. (2016). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (4th ed.). Human Kinetics.

New call-to-action

This blog was written by David Behrmann, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor.To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here

Topics: muscle building hormones resistance training

Melatonin and Metabolism: How Sleep Affects Your Health

GettyImages-681814096One of the most critical things we do for our health is sleep. Without sufficient sleep, we risk impairing cognitive function, developing chronic diseases and mental disorders, and even an early death.

There’s a lot about sleep that remains a mystery to science, but what is known is that it plays a major role in consolidating memories, cleaning metabolites from the brain, and allowing the nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems to repair themselves. Good sleep is essential for our bodies to thrive, but 30 percent of employed adults have reported 6 or less hours of sleep per night, when the recommended amount is between 7 and 9 hours. Hormones directly involved in the sleep cycle also play a critical role in health, so it’s important to maintain a steady sleep schedule to prevent these hormones from becoming imbalanced. One of the hormones that plays a role in sleep is melatonin, and this blog will focus on its effects on sleep as well as metabolism.

The Physiology of Melatonin

The physiology of melatonin is a complex subject, and research to discover its mechanisms and effects is ongoing. However, I will explain some of the things we know to be true about melatonin and why it may be important for you.

Melatonin is a hormone made in the pineal gland when it gets dark outside. When melatonin levels increase in the bloodstream, you begin to feel less alert and more sleepy. Although a major function of melatonin is to encourage sleep, it has a huge impact on metabolism. Some of the functions are these:

  • Regulates energy expenditure.
  • Potentiates various actions of insulin.
  • Regulates glycemia (blood glucose) and lipidemia (blood lipids).
  • Manages circadian synchronization of insulin secretion, synthesis, and action; hepatic (liver) metabolism; white adipose tissue metabolism; and skeletal muscle metabolism.
  • Regulates energy flow to and from storages.

That’s a lot of responsibility for one hormone. Whereas a lot of these functions are significant, what’s most important to understand is that melatonin balances energy expenditure by controlling the flow between energy stores. It has a direct impact on the browning of white adipose tissue, which is a way for the body to regulate body weight. This works because the function of brown adipose tissue is heat production by burning large amounts of calories. It also plays a major role in regulating glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. When melatonin levels are normal, all of these essential functions can be carried out.

Chronodisruption

Chronodisruption is what occurs when melatonin production is impaired. This can be due to illumination such as lights turned on inside when it’s nighttime, working the night shift, or aging. All of the functions listed above become disrupted and no longer work efficiently. This disorganization can lead to metabolic diseases and obesity.

The best thing to do if you think you may be experiencing chronodisruption is to talk to a doctor. They may encourage you to try melatonin-replacement therapy, because there have been some successes in various research studies, or help you find a healthier sleeping routine.

Top Takeaways About Sleep and Weight Management

Melatonin is a huge contributor to overall health and metabolism. If disrupted, your whole body can feel the consequences. It might seem like the most important thing to do for your health is healthy eating and exercise, but sleep may be at the top of the list. Without adequate sleep, our hormones lose balance, our mental capacity is reduced, and our overall health is negatively impacted.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: metabolism weight management sleep obesity blood sugar hormones