Wednesday, February 17, 2010


The link of anabolic steroid usage with bodybuilding is so
firmly entrenched in the public mind that if you play a word
association game with most people, providing the word
"bodybuilder" will likely lead to a response of "steroids." While
the use of anabolic steroids and other anabolic drugs does often
play a role in bodybuilding physique enhancement, it's also true
that a remarkable level of muscular size and definition can be
acquired without drugs. In fact, the acquisition of a superb,
drug-free body is the major focus of this publication.

When some people, however, look at the photographs of
natural bodybuilders shown within these pages, they find it hard
to believe that such athletes are truly drug-free. Surely, they
must be taking something to develop such fantastic bodies. Do
such people have some sort of genetic or hormonal advantage? For
example, does having a naturally higher testosterone level at the
beginning of training confer any advantages in building muscular
size and strength?

One reason why men develop more muscle than women is the
male's higher testosterone levels. Studies show that young men
have about 18-times higher levels of testosterone compared to
similarly aged women. Since testosterone is a major promotor of
muscle protein synthesis, it isn't difficult to understand why
men appear to build muscle faster than women. This sexual
advantage for men relates only to muscle size, since on a weight-for-weight basis, women are capable of similar strength gains,
minus the same degree of muscle hypertrophy shown by men.
This hormonal testosterone advantage of men first shows up
at puberty. A year-long study of boys showed a 3-fold rise in
testosterone between ages 12« and 13«. A 1992 study involving
women showed a strong correlation between the level of thigh
muscle growth and free testosterone levels. In other words, women
with higher testosterone levels make faster muscle size gains
than women with average levels of the hormone.

A more recent study, published in Journal of Human Movement
Studies 1997;32:253-265, examined whether having a high natural
testosterone level predisposed men to faster gains in muscular
size and strength. The study involved 19 untrained men who
participated in a 7-week weight-training program that involved
upper arm training. Before starting the training program,
baseline measures of total testosterone and free androgen index
were obtained from the men.

Free androgen index is simply a measure of testosterone not
bound to blood proteins. This is significant because such "free"
testosterone is the biologically active form of the hormone. The
men were also tested for strength via one-rep maximum barbell
curl, and muscle size increase via CT scans of their upper arms.
The study results confirmed that men with naturally higher
testosterone levels do build muscle faster. The study authors
suggest that beginning weight-trainers who are labeled "hard
gainers" are likely to show lower starting levels of testosterone
when compared to their more rapidly gaining peers. The total
testosterone level, comprising both bound and free forms, had no
bearing on muscle gains--only the free or active form of the
hormone made a difference.

While having a higher natural testosterone level boosts
muscle size gains, it didn't affect strength gains. This may be
attributable to the fact that in beginners, most strength gains
are based more on changes in neuromuscular adaptability than
hormone levels. However, many drug-using bodybuilders show levels
of muscular size not in proportion to their strength levels.
Thus, at least in some cases, using anabolic steroids may produce
high levels of muscle size without a proportional strength

Does ephedrine and caffeine equal speed?

The combination of ephedrine and caffeine is a popular fat-loss aid.
Occasionally, aspirin, or a natural form, such as white
willow bark extract, is added to ephedrine/caffeine to prolong
the activity of the combination. Ephedrine, which is an extract
of the herb, ma huang, works by promoting the release of
norepinephrine, upregulating thyroid output, and through a few
other mechanisms to produce a thermogenic effect.
Thermogenesis involves the conversion of fat calories into
heat, also known as a "futile energy cycle" because it does not
involve any work-induced usage of calories. Caffeine promotes
epinephrine secretion, which fosters bodyfat release. Caffeine
may also contribute to the effect by inhibiting other substances
thought to blunt fat mobilization.

While the primary use of ephedrine and caffeine in
combination is usually to promote fat-loss, another unavoidable
effect involves a level of stimulation. Once again, this relates
to the promotion of stimulating substances in the body by the
actions of ephedrine and caffeine. Some people have keyed in on
this aspect by offering for sale "herbal speed" concoctions that
often include ephedrine, caffeine, and other substances. While
such formulas rarely lead to problems--unless overdosed--it's
also true that individual sensitivities vary in regard to the
stimulating effects of the combination.

A new rat study, reported in Pharmacology,Biochemistry and
Behavior 1998;61:169-173, examines the effects of ephedrine and
caffeine in rats previously exposed to amphetamines. The study
showed that when taken alone, neither ephedrine nor caffeine had
much of an amphetaminelike speed effect. In fact, ephedrine is
10-times less potent than amphetamine, while caffeine alone is
30-times less potent than straight speed (amphetamine). However,
when ephedrine and caffeine are combined, the speed effect of
both substances is greatly potentiated.

Most studies show that any signs of excess stimulation
produced by ephedrine/caffeine subside after about a month of
continuous usage. However, the thermogenic effects continue
indefinitely. While ephedrine alone is a minor stimulant, it is
capable of being converted into methamphetamine, which explains
why the government is so eager to remove it from the market. Or
is the fact that the ephedrine/caffeine has been established
through numerous studies to be more effective than all
prescription diet pills have something to do with this government

Growth hormone and fat loss

While human growth hormone (HGH) is recognized as an
anabolic hormone, studies show that it also appears to foster the
use of bodyfat as a fuel source, while preserving muscle. Since
the amount of lean mass, represented mainly by muscle, is the
primary determinant of resting metabolic rate, it would appear
that using HGH may provide some dieting advantages. Anecdotal
conversations with athletes who have used HGH reveal that the
majority believe that HGH is more effective at maintaining muscle
mass while dieting than in building muscular mass. Most of these
people also felt that GH promoted greater bodyfat losses.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity
1998;22:836-841, investigated the use of supplemental HGH along
with a stringent, low calorie diet in 20 obese women, average age
25. The women were divided into a placebo group, and those
receiving actual HGH injections for 4 weeks. Growth hormone
response is indicated by the level of insulinlike growth factor-1
(IGF-1), which is produced mostly in the liver under the
influence of HGH.

IGF-1 levels are acutely sensitive to both total calorie and
protein intake. Thus, starvation and ingesting low amounts of
dietary protein lead to drops in IGF-1 levels in the body.
However, despite ingesting a low-calorie diet, the women taking
HGH injections in this study showed elevated IGF-1 levels
compared to those not receiving the true hormone.
The HGH group also showed a higher resting metabolism,
thought to be due to a HGH-promoted conversion of inactive to
active thyroid hormone. Most significantly, the HGH group showed
a lower rate of loss of lean body mass. While the technique used
to measure this lean body mass isn't specific for muscle--and
thus could mistake water retention as lean mass--the fact that
the HGH group also showed higher nitrogen balance points to
greater lean mass or muscle retention.

The actual fat-loss in the HGH group was greater compared to
the placebo group, but wasn't considered significant. This result
confirms other findings, in which HGH usage also failed to
produce significant loss of fat in obese people on low-calorie
diets. However, other studies show greater visceral fat losses in
obese people taking HGH in conjunction with a higher or normal
calorie intake. Visceral fat is deep-lying fat stores, thought to
be far more hazardous to health than more superficial fat stores,
since visceral fat is often linked to insulin resistance and
associated diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and

Those in the placebo group showed a decrease in resting
insulin levels, a common association with lower calorie intakes.
This lowered insulin level, however, was not seen in those taking
the HGH injections, pointing to a defect in carbohydrate
metabolism induced by HGH. Many athletes try to offset this
effect by also injecting themselves with insulin, a practice
fraught with danger. The women using HGH also showed decreased
loss of calcium, which may offer bone protection.
This study appears to confirm the long-held view of athletes
that using growth hormone is more effective for purposes of
preserving muscle mass while on extreme diets than it is for
promoting actual bodyfat losses.

©,2013 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.

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