Hormonal Benefits of Strength Training: Building Muscle for Better Health
Strength training, also known as resistance training, has become increasingly popular in recent years as more people recognize the wide-ranging health benefits of building muscle. Not only does a resistance training program help sculpt a lean, toned physique, but it also provides remarkable improvements internally by optimizing key hormones in the body. Read on to learn how pumping iron leads to better health.
Increases Testosterone and Growth Hormone
Two of the main hormones affected by strength training are testosterone and growth hormone. Known as the prominent male sex hormone, testosterone plays a crucial role in building muscle mass, bone health, libido, and physical and cognitive energy levels. Growth hormones are critical for cell regeneration, tissue repair, bone strength, muscle gain, fat loss, injury recovery, immunity, and youthfulness. Strength training challenges the muscles with progressive overload, which signals the body to ramp up the production of these vital anabolic hormones.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stressful situations. Elevated cortisol over long periods leads to negative impacts like suppressed immune function, weight gain centered on the abdomen, poor sleep quality, low testosterone, thinning skin, and reduced bone density. The good news is that consistent strength training has been shown to decrease circulating cortisol levels, preventing these undesirable outcomes.
Regulates Insulin Sensitivity
Proper insulin function is essential for shuttling glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells for energy usage. Resistance exercise improves insulin sensitivity, which helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and reduce diabetes risk. Building muscle also supports insulin regulation because skeletal muscle tissue is a primary site of glucose uptake mediated by insulin.
Increases Estrogen Metabolism
The hormone estrogen plays a major role in the female reproductive system and develops some secondary sex characteristics like breasts and wider hips. Too much estrogen without sufficient metabolism can lead to problems like hyperestrinism, menstrual disorders, and increased fat storage. Strength training boosts the metabolism of estrogen so it can be properly excreted by the body. This leads to positive impacts on body composition and menstrual regularity in women.
Endorphins are hormones produced in the central nervous system that act as natural pain reducers while elevating mood. Also known as the “feel good” hormones, endorphins are released during exercise, especially with higher-intensity resistance training. Endorphins may also play a part in regulating appetite and food intake. Strength training gives an endorphin rush, leading to post-workout euphoria.
BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is a protein that acts on neurons in the brain to support cognition, learning, memory, and mood regulation. Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that exercise substantially increases BDNF levels. This effect seems most pronounced with higher-intensity strength training. Boosting BDNF via resistance exercise can sharpen your thinking skills while helping fend off neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.
Supplements to Enhance Effects
Certain supplements can amplify the hormonal impact of strength training when combined with a proper diet and a well-designed workout program:
- Creatine monohydrate – Boosts ATP energy to increase performance
- Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) - Prevents muscle breakdown during training
- Vitamin D - Bolsters testosterone and supports muscle function
- Ashwagandha - Adaptogen herb to lower cortisol
- Omega-3 fish oils - Reduces inflammation for better recovery
- Estrogen blockers - These are popular with bodybuilders
Following a complete resistance training plan not only builds muscular size and strength, but it also triggers highly favorable biochemical responses through hormone optimization, taking your health to the next level.
Strength training is a powerful strategy for enhancing hormone function in the body to achieve physique improvements along with a broad range of health benefits. Challenging your muscles prompts them to adapt and grow while regulating key hormones related to body composition, cell growth, energy levels, cognitive function, mood, sexual health, sleep quality, bone density, blood sugar control, and inflammation. Combine smart strength training with proper nutrition and select supplements for the best results.