You’re probably already aware that testosterone helps you pack on muscle mass. But have you ever wondered how this works?
It’s important to understand how testosterone affects muscle growth. Why?
Because once you attain this knowledge, you’re going to know the multiple ways you can keep your testosterone levels high so that you can maximize your muscle gains.
In this case, knowledge is indeed power (pun intended!).
Here’s what you’re going to learn in this post:
- Relationship between testosterone and muscle growth
- Testosterone and your brain (where it starts)
- What is the main source of testosterone?
- How testosterone affects muscle growth
- Does high testosterone help you lose fat?
- Bone density and muscle mass
- More testosterone, more muscle gains (in closing)
Relationship Between Testosterone and Muscle Growth
Testosterone and muscle growth actually have an interesting relationship, one that isn’t so straight-forward. You would think that an increase in testosterone would automatically give you more muscle gains.
This isn’t 100% true. At least not in all cases, and here’s why…
The link between testosterone and muscle growth is dependent on androgen receptors.
The job of androgen receptors is to send a message to your muscle cells to ultimately increase protein synthesis, as explained in an article on tonic.vice.com (called ‘The Complicated Relationship Between Testosterone and Muscle Growth). This event is triggered when testosterone is present.
No, the kicker is that not everyone’s androgen receptors are equally responsive. So this answers the question of why some people gain more muscle than others, even if they’re testosterone levels are the same.
So the first question becomes:
‘How do you increase your androgen receptors?’
Here are the most common ways to increase androgen receptors so that testosterone can fuel muscle growth:
- Lifting heavyweight, specifically compound exercises (you can read more about that in my post 10 Exercises You Need to Raise Testosterone)
- Keep belly fat and overall weight under control
- Get plenty of zinc and vitamin D (in other words, supplement so you get extra)
- If your job is stressful, tell your boss to shove it! I’m halfway kidding, but in all reality, you need to keep your stress levels low
There’s more, and we’re going to get deeper into that below!
Testosterone and Your Brain: Where it Starts
You’re more than likely aware that testosterone is produced in your testes. But something else has to happen first.
It actually starts in your brain. You see, the pituitary gland controls the release of testosterone.
An article on yourhormones.info calls the pituitary gland the master gland. And for a good reason because it’s responsible for much more than just testosterone.
Here’s some of what the pituitary gland does…
- Controls the release of testosterone by the testes
- Releases growth hormone
- Regulates metabolism (mainly through growth hormone)
- Can impact body composition (through the increase or decrease of both testosterone and growth hormone)
- Stimulates the sex hormone through the luteinizing hormone
- Controls other important glands
You can see how your brain is directly related to muscle growth!
But now we’re stuck with the question…
How do you maintain a healthy pituitary gland?
Dr. Axe (on draxe.com) explains how the hypothalamus can impact the pituitary gland. He goes on to state that if the hypothalamus, which is also located in the brain, is not functioning as it should, it will throw off the pituitary gland. And this will have a snowball effect on everything affected by the pituitary gland.
Below, Dr. Axe provides (same source as above) suggests some practical ways for us to maintain a healthy hypothalamus, which in turn will maintain a healthy pituitary gland.
- Take a chromium supplement (or increase food intake that has chromium)
- Make sure you’re eating enough healthy fats each day
- Get quality sleep (I personally drink Sleepy Time tea or take a melatonin)
- Keep your stress levels low (I know we talked about that earlier)
All of these suggestions are will lead to more muscle growth. But there’s one more piece of knowledge to learn before we start digging more into building muscle…
What is the Main Source of Testosterone?
If you recall, we briefly talked about a specific type of cells in the testes. Leydig cells are the main source of testosterone. These cells are also in the ovaries in women (yes, women need a certain amount of testosterone).
Per a research study on PubMed, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, it was demonstrated that Leydig cells (as well as Sertoli cells) are required for testosterone production.
That’s great information, but you’re probably wondering…
‘Why do I need to know this?’
It’s extremely important because you want to ensure that you know how to protect your Leydig cells. And the great news is you can easily do this with certain foods.
A nutrition study on ntischool.com tells us that Vitamin C protects Leydig cells. This article mentions the below as the best foods high in vitamin C:
- Bell peppers
- Brussel sprouts
Throw in some protein-based foods and you have your bodybuilding meals. If you’re interested in foods that build muscle, check out my post 7 Foods That Raise Testosterone and Lower Estrogen.
How Testosterone Affects Muscle Growth
Testosterone is an anabolic steroid hormone. Now, I’m not talking about taking actual steroids. So, what does this mean?
Anabolic refers to the growth of muscle tissue, per the article ‘How to Stimulate Hormones for Bodybuilding’ on verywellfit.com.
This means testosterone has a direct impact on gaining more muscle. It also means that without testosterone, then, well, sadly no muscle gains will happen (that would totally suck!).
While you need testosterone to build muscle, doing the things that build muscle can actually increase your testosterone. In fact, lifting heavy weights is one of the best natural ways to boost your hormone levels.
On that note, I have a full 12-week workout plan (this is free) on this post: 12 Week Testosterone Boosting Workout Plan. I encourage you to read this post if you need an action plan.
Does Testosterone Help You Cut Body Fat and Get Lean?
Boosting testosterone and gaining muscle is often associated with the look of a bulky bodybuilder or powerlifter.
Where there’s good reason for that, many don’t realize that testosterone can also help you cut body fat and get lean. How?
Earlier, we learned that testosterone not only helps you pack on muscle but it also has a positive impact on your metabolism. This helps you lose unwanted weight, especially belly fat. Of course, this is given that you’re working out (preferably lifting weights) and eating the right types of foods.
In contrast, everydayhealth.com presents evidence that men with low testosterone levels have a much higher percentage of fat than men with boosted (or normal) testosterone levels.
**If you think you may have low testosterone, answer the questions in my post How To Tell If You Have Low Testosterone.
Bone Density and Muscle Mass
Another crucial factor in the relationship between testosterone and muscle growth is bone density.
How does bone density affect muscle mass?
After reading a few research articles on bone density and muscle growth, I came across medical and scientific terminology that’s quite intense. So let me break it down to you in layman’s terms…
Think of bone density to muscle growth as the foundation for building a house. If you’re planning to build a large home, then you need a strong, secure foundation.
The amount of muscle you can build is partly determined by the support that can be provided with strong bone density.
Likewise, you need strong muscles to support your bones. As sciencedaily.com points out, weak muscles can lead to more broken bones from accidents, especially in the elderly.
You already know how to build muscle mass by lifting weights, eating the right types of foods, and making sure you get the nutrients your body needs. That part is simple. But now you’re probably wondering…
What’s the Best Way to Strengthen Your Bones?
Have you ever seen commercials advertising milk? (If you’re my age, I’m quite sure you remember several…by the way, I was born in 1975).
There’s a reason why milk and dairy advertisements are enticing. Because the vitamins and nutrients in dairy strengthen your bones, specifically vitamin D.
What’s even better for us is that we know vitamin D also promotes healthy testosterone levels. So a diet rich in vitamin D will boost testosterone and strength your bones. It’s a 2-for-1 special and the perfect formula for muscle growth.
Here are some ways to strengthen your bones…
- Consume plenty of vegetables – This will ensure you get an array of vitamins and minerals, naturally, that support healthy bones and muscle growth.
- Supplement with vitamin D – You should certainly get this vitamin through foods but it’s not a bad idea to take extra vitamin D through supplementation, whether it’s vitamin D alone or included with another supplement like multivitamins, amino acids, or ZMA.
- Go to the gym – That’s right, go lift some heavyweights! Remember, this is one of the best natural ways to boost both testosterone and support healthy bone density.
More Testosterone, More Muscle Gains
As we’ve learned, there’s much more to the relationship between testosterone and muscle growth. There are many factors in between.
But I think it’s important to be aware of all of this. It doesn’t mean you need a Ph.D., but knowing a little about all of the elements will help you get better results.
Because you now know the actions to take in order to enhance every aspect of boosting testosterone, from your brain to your bones, from weight training to what you put in your body. You can also see how all of these things work together, and more importantly, how you will benefit from them.
What’s even more awesome is that putting the focus on boosting testosterone and muscle growth also helps you stay in overall good health! If you read over this post again, every action item that boosts your testosterone are things that are good for you, in general.
I now want to give you 2 additional resources on this site to read and study next that will further help you boost testosterone and muscle growth:
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