The Delusions & Reality of Hormone Cycling

Are you delusional or realistic about your physique goals?

If I were to ask you point blank what your body fat is what would you tell me face to face?

If I were to show you a picture of someone else's body that is very similar to yours, would you acknowledge it or be in denial?

If you and your significant other see a man walk by twice the musculature that you are and much leaner would you credit him or tell yourself that if you took the same stuff (drugs) he took, you would appear the same?

These are all questions and scenario's that I have witnessed, and reminds me that some people cannot grasp reality. 

Let's start from the beginning…

When you first begin weight training, you are usually clueless and unaware of proper nutrition,rest, training and all the key variables involved in getting results. For the fresh beginner, results will manifest regardless, simply due to the "foreign" stress that is happening to your fresh muscle tissue. Muscle growth, increase in metabolic rate and a better sense of well-being will inevitably happen…..AT FIRST. Once this grace period comes to a plateau (usually a few months) you will need to further educate yourself about proper nutrition and more sound training routines to keep the results soaring.  

Let's investigate a typical hypothetical scenario –

Although everybody gets results in the very early stages of weight training, some people respond ABNORMALLY well to lifting weights and will leave their training partners in the dust! So if both trainees started weight training at the same time, but one surpassed the other by a huge margin, it is very apparent that genetics are crucial in muscle hypertrophy and favorable body composition. The training partners will both accrue more knowledge in regards to nutrition, supplementation, and different training techniques but the genetic superior will always stay way ahead.  As time passes the thought of hormonal assistance is becoming extremely tempting to the genetic inferior.  In fact, he begins his first cycle in hopes to surpass his training partner. He begins to put some weight on (water–>via–>glycogen retention), his strength begins to increase, muscles appear fuller (more 3-dimensional looking) but he still does not look like his training partner?

I mean, he has put on 15-20 lbs. in 4 weeks, and has gotten stronger, but he still is not as impressive as his damn training partner! 

This scenario is so harsh and disheartening for most people to accept that it literally drives them insane. If they don't accept the fact that some peoples genetic makeup responds better to muscle stimuli, food, drugs and all other pertinent aspects of muscle growth- they begin to make assumptions for their short-comings. Perhaps thinking their superior partners are taking some special product behind their backs, taking huge amounts of hormones or all of the above. Let's say that the genetic superior decided to dabble in hormonal assistance, most likely due to other experienced people noticing his potential, telling him how well he'd do in Bodybuilding and what not. 

This is when the genetic elite trainee EXPLODES! His already lean and muscular physique gets even more profound with big & round muscles and low body fat. 

As you can see from this common scenario, it will be obvious right from the beginning who is predisposition to be a lean & muscular elitist among people with mediocre genetics. 

So what can you do about this painful, yet rude awakening fact of life?

Well, first off get your training and nutrition down as best as you can before even CONSIDERING hormonal assistance. How many times have you seen younger "newbies" choose a harsh methylated, designer hormone before considering a high quality protein powder, let alone even looking as if they lift weights to begin with? People want to take short-cuts and assume that hormones are the missing link to them looking like a Greek God. 

Once you stress all variables at your disposal then you may need to turn to hormones for breaking through new grounds. Once you commit to going to the "dark side" of hormonal cycling understand that you will get results, but DO NOT get irate when you don't turn into Mr.Olympia afterwards, 

It is truly sad when someone who fails to grasp reality will cycle steroids and gain a respectable amount of muscle (8-14 lbs.), gains some strength, loses some body fat, yet are pissed off that they did not achieve more? 

For the newbie hormone user or experienced user, you must still continue on with your diligent eating and training regimen that you SHOULD HAVE been doing in the first place. To truly maximize your supra-physiological hormone levels, you must feed the muscle high quality protein, essential fats, and complex carbs every day. Just because you have an athletic friend from Nigeria who can eat candy, potato chips and fast food all day and go to the gym for a half -ass workout and look better than you does NOT mean that you shouldn't do everything in your power to make the most of what you got.

Let's now make a "Pre-Cycle Checklist" for variables that MUST be addressed before committing to a hormone cycle

The Pre-Cycle Checklist – 

1.) I have stressed all avenues of nutrition and found out what suits my body best.

2.) I have stressed all facets of training and found out what suits my body best.

3.) I have been training diligently for more than 6 months while eating and training consistently.

4.) I understand that genetics play an integral role in nutrition response, training response and hormone response.

5.) I understand that you CANNOT continue gaining 10-15 lbs. each and every cycle.

6.) I understand that there is a "diminishing returns" effect when using higher dosages of hormones and side   effects become prominent.

7.) I understand that to improve upon each cycle I must increase a variable to continue gaining – increase calories or increase weight on lifts or increase dosage of hormone or all of the above.

8.) I understand that SAYING I eat 5000 calories a day is much different than LITERALLY EATING 5000 calories a day.

9.) I understand that SAYING I am 8-9% body fat is much different than LITERALLY being 8-9% body fat with ALL abs fully visible and have very thin skin all over.

10.) I understand and acknowledge all of the above.

If you can understand & oblige to this list, then you are realistic enough and mature enough to engage into hormonal assistance. You must segregate yourself from false perceptions and accept reality. Please do not become discouraged from the information given and use it to your benefit and seek out your underlying potential, just be a realist about it.

I personally have witnessed several competitive Bodybuilders' with average genetics annihilate genetically gifted or "elite" athletes due to impeccable work ethic, adherence to perfect nutrition, and giving everything they had to achieve the end result they sought after. I have noticed a lot of the time, the genetic elite athletes understand that they can do the bare minimum and look better than 95% of everyone else. This awareness makes them LAZY. Can you imagine if that genetically gifted person had the drive, will power, and persistence as the average athlete that is a work horse? It would be a sight to behold. 

I hope everything discussed in this article will "sink in" and let each and every one of you acknowledge the importance of all variables involved in this muscle-building equation. Leave no stone un-turned, and give it everything you got, because for most humans……..building high-quality muscle isn't easy.

Inflammation for Muscle Growth

If you have been weight lifting for a year or more and read magazines and the internet for information, you probably have come across the topic of Inflammation. You have certain people in the industry promoting anti-inflammation for fat loss and muscle growth and other industry experts advocating inflammation for protein synthesis and fat loss as well. When I mention inflammation I am referring to inflammation derived from nutrients in food such as fatty acids. High dose fish oil has been touted as a major player in regulating inflammation from a nutritional stand point, and arachidonic acid has been hyped up as a pro inflammatory muscle builder by supplement companies. How can two polar opposite fatty acids elicit the same results for building muscle and decreasing body fat? The simple answer is: they don't. I have experimented first hand with high dose fish oil and olive oil and also high doses of arachidonic acid from red meat, egg yolks and various cheeses. I will share with you the effects that I got from both ends of the fatty acid spectrum when dieting for extreme fat loss.

Pro-Inflammatory                                               Anti-Inflammatory


After reading several articles from a popular trainer and author on a famous website that is revolved around testosterone and selling their own products, I took notice of his advice regarding extremely high dose fish oil. He was not just recommending 4-6 softgels a day, but up to 40 softgels a day of your standard 1000 mg product! After devising a plan of action about what products I was going to use and how I was going to orchestrate my diet, I would give this method a go. I planned on utilizing a low carbohydrate diet with carbohydrates only coming from green vegetables which bare minimal impact on blood sugar. I also chose liquid fish oil and olive oil for my only fat sources. The two oils were dosed at 4 tablespoons a day. Saturated fat from egg yolks and red meat were not present as I really wanted my omega 3 and omega 9 levels sky high.

 

4 tbs of carlson's fish oil
=
19,200 mgs EPA = 6,000 mgs DHA

 

4 tbs of olive oil
= 44 grams of monounsaturated fat

 

I was ready to dive right in and become joint pain free and absolutely shredded from oxidizing fat from increased uncoupling proteins. I was already in very respectable condition prior to starting this cutting phase. I had my abs displaying with a pretty thin skin fold measurement and of course arms were lean and vascular, I would say I was 9-11% maximum in body fat. My mass gaining diet prior to starting was still low carbs, but high in red meat from burgers, bacon, cheese, and peanut butter.

So the experiment began…

I was adamant about not ingesting nuts or nut butters as I really felt I would achieve optimal results from suffering with just oils and keeping trace carbs to a minimum. After the first week I began to notice some cosmetic changes. I felt like my muscle bellies were flat and deflating slightly, I also noticed my pronounced vascularity was less prevalent. My joints felt nice, but I really felt softer and smaller. I just assumed this was an awkward period from transitioning into a dieting phase from a mass gaining phase, and after 3-4 weeks, things will swing my way.

Week 3 arrived and a moment of reality hit me like a ton of bricks when a friend came into my work to talk to me. The very first thing he said when he saw me was "What happened to you? You look like crap?" "You looked bigger and leaner before you started your diet, what the hell is going on?" I immediately took offense and asked him what his problem was and he doesn't know what he's talking about, but after 5 minutes I knew he was absolutely right. I explained to him that I was experimenting with high dosages of essential fatty acids, namely omega-3 and omega-9 and that it is supposed to do all of these awesome things for fat-loss amongst other benefits. He quickly told me to ditch this protocol and do what I have always done because this obviously wasn't meshing well with my body type. Like I mentioned earlier, I already felt the signs of this diet going south from the first week and knew I had to switch gears and get myself back on track.


"What happened to you? You look like crap?"

I know that I am ectomorphic in nature and have always had a blazing metabolism. This made it very difficult building muscle and gaining weight. I knew from my past offseason that I respond extremely well to saturated fats. My new diet now consisted of lean red meat, whole eggs, whey isolate shakes with added egg yolks, light mozzarella cheese, and natural peanut butter. I would perform a carbohydrate refeed twice a week, on Thursday and Sunday for a 4 hour period.

Previous diet menu:           New diet menu:

-Olive oil                                             -Steak

-Fish oil                                              -Whole eggs (added yolks)

-Chicken breast                               -Cheese

-Whey isolate                                   -Peanut butter

After 1 week of switching from high dosages of fish oil and olive oil to an arachidonic acid rich diet, the changes to my physique were dramatic. My muscles began to swell and fill out, my vein protrusion was magnified, and my physique tightened up considerably. As the weeks flew by I got into better condition while maintaining muscular fullness even without the presence of carbohydrates. This solidified my thoughts regarding saturated fats being beneficial for ectomorphic hard gainers, and high fish oil being favorable for the huskier, endomorph body types.

 

Naturally lean ectomorphs
= High arachidonic based diet

 

Naturally husky endomorphs
= High fish oil based diet

 

From current literature it is widely accepted that ectomorphs have sufficient insulin sensitivity and higher metabolic rates. Endomorphs typically display insulin resistance issues and do very poorly with processing glucose, and also struggle with dropping body fat. Studies have demonstrated that saturated fat can increase insulin resistance by suppressing GLUT-4 production which reduces glucose transport significantly. However, for the ectomorph body type this shouldn't pose any threat. Saturated fatty acids have also been shown to increase testosterone production and increase prostaglandin formation from a class of substances called eicosanoids. Saturated fat found in red meat, animal organs, and egg yolks contain high amounts of arachidonic acid, which ultimately gets converted into the prostaglandin PGF2a. Once converted to PGF2a, it can begin doing it's magic.

Pgf2a has been shown to inhibit adipogenesis through mitigating the activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase. Arachidonic acid is also speculated to increase protein synthesis by the muscle being stretched from training and releasing prostaglandins PGF2a and PGE2. PGE2 is paramount in its role to induce satellite cell proliferation and fusion. This chain of events will increase the amount of nuclei in the cell which correlates to rapid muscle growth from mRNA production. These are just some of the attributes associated with consuming high amounts of inflammatory inducing fatty acids.

As you can clearly see from my personal experience and the facts listed, that for the hard gainer, following a pro inflammatory based diet is optimal for muscle growth and lean mass retention. For the individuals who have naturally higher body fat levels and struggle to shed fat, I would say having higher dosages of omega-3 is advisable. Not excessive amounts like the article I read from that website, but at least 8-12 softgels a day. I personally believe all body types should keep carbohydrate intake low to moderate, but especially endomorphs need to be very meticulous with their carbohydrate consumption if they value a favorable body composition.

Schematic summary of the biosynthetic pathway for eicosanoids derived from arachidonic acid.


Please understand that I experimented with such a diet while keeping my insulin levels extremely low, due to being on a ketogenic type of diet. If consuming copious amounts of carbohydrates I would definitely not implement excessive amounts of saturated fats due to health implications that could arise. In retrospect, I realized that this type of nutrition plan worked great for me, but I now firmly believe in nutritional balance. I advise people to consume both types of fats in equal ratios combined with low carbohydrate allotment.

References:

1.)Juan J. Moreno*, T. Carbonell, T. Sánchez*, S. Miret and Maria T. MitjavilaOlive Oil Decreases both Oxidative Stress and the Production of Arachidonic Acid Metabolites by the Prostaglandin G/H Synthase Pathway in Rat Macrophages 3J. Nutr. August 1, 2001vol. 131 no. 8 2145-2149.

2.)Courtney E. Leik PhD, Scott W. Walsh, PhD. Linoleic Acid, but not Oleic Acid, Upregulates Production of Interleukin-8 by Human Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells via Arachidonic Acid Metabolites Under Conditions of Oxidative Stress.doi: 10.1016/j.jsgi.2005.09.004Reproductive Sciences December 2005 vol. 12 no. 8 593-598

3.)Andersson, A., A. Sjodin, A. Hedman, RM. Olsson, and B. Vessby. Fatty acid profile of skeletal muscle phospholipids in trained and untrained young men. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 279:E744-751, 2000.d profile

4.)Shephard, R. J. and P.N. Shek. Immune responses to inflammation and trauma: a physical training model. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 76: 469-472, 1998.

5.)Rajaram S, Connell KMSabaté J. Effect of almond-enriched high-monounsaturated fat diet on selected markers of inflammation: a randomised, controlled, crossover study. Br J Nutr. 2010 Mar;103(6):907-12. Epub 2009 Oct 29.

6.)Teruo Kawada,* Shun Kayahashi, Yoshifumi Hida,Ken-ji Koga, Yoshitaka Nadachi, and Tohru Fushik, Fish (Bonito) Oil Supplementation Enhances the Expression of Uncoupling Protein in Brown Adipose Tissue of Rat. J. Agric. Food Chem., 1998, 46 (4), pp 1225–1227

7.)DJ Maron, JM Fair and WL Haskell, Saturated fat intake and insulin resistance in men with coronary artery disease. The Stanford Coronary Risk Intervention Project Investigators and Staff. Circulation, Vol 84, 2020-2027, Copyright © 1991 by American Heart Association.

8.)Dorgan JFJudd JTLongcope CBrown CSchatzkin AClevidence BACampbell WSNair PPFranz CKahle LTaylor PR, Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1996 Dec;64(6):850-5.

9.)Zalin RJ The role of hormones and prostanoids in the in vitro proliferation and differentiation of human myoblasts. Exp Cell Res. 1987 Oct;172(2):265-81.

10.)Palmer RM. Prostaglandins and the control of muscle protein synthesis and degradation. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent FattyAcids. 1990 Feb; 39(2):95-104

Post Contest Rebound

How to use this anabolic phenomenon to work with you and not against you

 So you decided to commit to entering your first Bodybuilding competition. You planned out your 16 week diet protocol, which will get you as lean as you have ever been. You structured your training program methodically, which coincides with your nutrition and cardio outline perfectly. As the contest date approaches closer and closer, and hunger gets more intense, you begin fantasizing about pizza, milk shakes, cheese burgers and junk food you never initially craved for.  You can’t wait to reward yourself with all of the forbidden junk food you yearn for and also give yourself a much needed break from training and cardio. I mean, hey, you deserve it right? You just beat yourself down for 4 months and should be able to reward yourself for the hard work you put in. Not so fast champ, I will explain the more logical and proactive approach to coming off a pre-contest training and diet regimen.

After months of strict, rigorous dieting to achieve extremely low body fat levels for a bodybuilding contest, you are essentially priming yourself for what could be a muscle building dream, or a fat hoarding nightmare.  As body fat levels dip into the lower single digits, the hormone leptin, is significantly lowered thus triggering intense hunger followed by an increase in ghrelin production.  When attaining truly shredded conditioning, the constant hunger is unavoidable.

 Typically a competitor will begin plotting their "post contest binge" a few weeks before the contest, making a list of all empty calorie, fat storing foods, which are also non-conducive to muscle growth.  Instead, the smart competitor should be planning out their off season protocol a few weeks before the show and plan on making the most of their post contest rebound.  Having a good quality protein powder on hand like Primordial Performance’s Maximum Absorbed Protein can help with those cravings.

After the contest is over, your body is primed to store all nutrients you ingest. Since body fat is extremely low, your insulin sensitivity is very high.  This means less insulin is needed from your pancreas to shuttle nutrients to their destination. Greater insulin sensitivity translates into nutrients being absorbed towards muscle cells and not adipose tissue.  Since leptin is low and ghrelin is high, your appetite for muscle building foods will be ravenous. The foods you should be focusing on are typically what you would have consumed during your pre-contest phase, but in copious amounts. 

The foods that should be focused on are lean protein sources such as chicken breast, white fish, fatty fish, lean cuts of red meat. Fibrous complex carbohydrates such as: whole oats, long grain rice, yams, red potatoes, whole wheat pasta, and hot oat bran cereal.  Add in essential fats such as avocados, raw almonds, macadamia nuts and olive oil.  All of these foods are very beneficial to a depleted and nutrient deprived competitor.  Consuming these food choices in the proper caloric range will yield a super compensation effect of glycogen storage. The influx of calories also will elevate thyroid output, which increases your resting metabolic rate, and  will increase  testosterone production from essential fatty acids and additional saturated fats. This cascade of hormonal responses combined with heavy resistance training plus some added cardio will be your biggest growth spurt of the year if executed properly.  If you fall victim to the post contest binge festival the exact opposite will take place. This option usually entails the competitor eating excessive amounts of refined sugars, processed meats and carbohydrates plus large amounts of hydrogenated trans fatty acid rich junk food.

The enormous post contest ingestion of empty calorie foods is usually accompanied with down time from cardio and weight training which equates to muscle atrophy and fat cell hypertrophy. Not to mention high water retention, muscular cramps and mild depression once the feeding frenzy comes to a halt.  Try taking Primordial Performance’s Slumber Stack sleep formula before bed for a better sleep and improved muscular recovery.

I must admit, I fell victim to the post contest binge and learned my lesson the hard way. If you are a first time competitor or fell victim to a faulty rebound in the past, hopefully this article will motivate you to make the most of this short lived muscle building window. 

Leptin [lep•tin  lep-tin]

a hormone that is thought to suppress appetite and speed up metabolism.

Ghrelin [ghrel•in  grel-ən]

a gastrointestinal hormone produced by epithelial cells lining the fundus of the stomach; appears to be a stimulant for appetite and feeding, but is also a strong stimulant of growth hormone secretion from the anterior pituitary

-By Matt Porter

Ghrelin Hormone: An Ectomorph’s Solution to Muscular Weight Gain

The endogenous growth hormone secretagogue Ghrelin may play a paramount role in your quest for muscle growth. This gastric hormone stimulates hunger in mice and in humans by binding to the ghrelin receptors located in the hypothalamus and the hippocampus.


Reasons why people feel the urge to eat

Ghrelin is highest when blood sugar is low and being in a fasted state. Ghrelin is a potent endogenous growth hormone releaser, and is the strongest of the secretagogues. Even though it increases growth hormone release, some of its effects are quite different from growth hormone itself. Ghrelin encourages lipogenesis, whereas growth hormone supports lypolysis. Ghrelin also supports glucose oxidation, while growth hormone suppresses insulin production for inhibited glucose disposal. This equates to ghrelin being highly effective for weight gain through adipogenic pathways and growth hormone supporting weight loss through lipolytic pathways.

Ghrelin Effects:                                            Synthetic Growth Hormone Effects:

-Increases endogenous GH                                -Synthetically derived

-Encourages lipogenesis (fat gain)                     -Encourages lipolysis (fat loss)

-Increases glucose oxidation                             -May promote insulin resistance

-Great for weight gain                                       -Great for fat loss

Knowing such facts makes it very clear that ghrelin would be perfect for the ectomorphic, hard gainer body type. If you are someone who frequents the bodybuilding internet forums, then you are probably aware of the recent surge in popularity with research peptide companies. These companies sell a product called GHRP-6, which is a hexapeptide comprised of 28 amino acids that signals the pituitary to secrete growth hormone through increasing ghrelin production. Using GHRP-6 in conjunction with a regimented weight training program and a meticulously planned diet, the ectomorphic trainee could consume copious amounts of high quality nutrients to achieve muscular weight gain that once seemed impossible.

– I must  mention one must be very stringent and meticulous with whom they decide to research with, meaning make sure the company is of high quality and the peptides are USA grade ingredients. A company such as Southern Research Co. has a trusted reputation and  is held in high regard in the research peptide community. 

 

References

1.) Cordido, Fernando; Isidro, Maria L.; Nemina, Rosa; Sangiao-Alvarellos, Susana, Ghrelin and Growth Hormone Secretagogues, Physiological and Pharmacological Aspect. Volume 6, Number 1, March 2009 , pp. 34-42(9)

2.) .Cummings DE, Weigle DS, Frayo RS, Breen PA, Ma MK, Dellinger EP, Purnell JQ, Plasma ghrelin levels after diet-induced weight loss or gastric bypass surgery.
N Engl J Med. 2002 May 23;346(21):1623-30.

3.) Britt Edén Engström, Pia Burman, Camilla Holdstock and F. Anders Karlsson,
Effects of Growth Hormone (GH) on Ghrelin, Leptin, and Adiponectin in GH-Deficient Patients. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 88, No. 11 5193-5198

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