Muscle Building The Natural Way


    I've been reading this Q&A section with fascination and find that I fall under the classification that others have asked you about earlier in regard to testosterone. I'm 30 years old, have been lifting weights for almost a year now, and have made very few gains. Several of my lifting partners are doing some anabolics and are looking great. They recommend testosterone and growth hormone, but I don't plant to take any, and besides, my doctor won't prescribe them for me. What natural supplements will help my body grow to look like my friends? It's getting rough-- they're stronger than me and lift heavier weights, and their recovery time is faster, plus they have more energy. To make matters worse, one of my partners is in his 40s and another is in his mid-50s. What can I do, the natural way?


    Yours is not an uncommon problem. Yet, it is not often recognized as to what can be done naturally to raise your body's testosterone levels from your own naturally produced testosterone that appears to go nowhere in your body.

    The first thing to do is to see if you are producing enough natural testosterone in the form of Total Testosterone. This necessitates running a blood test to ascertain
  • Serum testosterone (Total Testosterone),
  • Free Testosterone (direct), as well as
  • Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) and
  • Estradiol, one of the major, and the most active, estrogens occurring naturally in your body.

    The reason for these tests is that many men are producing plenty of natural testosterone, but much of the total amount is bound up with albumin (lightly bound) and tightly bound with SHBG, so that it is unavailable to the body.

    What you need to build your body is Free Testosterone. Your Total Testosterone may be anywhere from 500 to 1000 ng/dL, plenty of Total Testosterone, but your Free Testosterone may be so little as to show nothing in---
  • Muscle mass,
  • Bone mass,
  • Get-up-and- go,
  • Feel-good and,
  • Energized.

    And as you age--I see young men with this too!--

  • The Madness Creeps Upon You. More about this in another issue.

    Also, as you get older, your protein, which binds testosterone, rises. As you age, your Estradiol rises too, because the aromatase enzyme, which is found in fat, skin, bone and brain cells, rises also. If you are overweight to begin with, you have already started out with a lot more aromatase enzyme than you probably should have. The aromatase enzyme takes testosterone and converts it to estrogen, so your ratio of estrogen to testosterone rises. This causes water retention and increased fat production, as well as danger to your cardiovascular system. Excess estrogen also increases fibrosis, tissue abnormalities and inflammation.

    To make matters worse, the estrogen will occupy certain receptors in the hypothalamus of the brain that testosterone should occupy but can't, because estrogen is already there from the rising tide of estrogen, and this tells the biofeedback mechanism of the hypothalamus-pituitary-testes axis that enough testosterone is being produced, so shut down production, or reduce testosterone production greatly.

    So, you must first find out if you're producing enough Total Testosterone, which will probably be given in pg/mL. You can multiply by 10 and get ng/dL. If you're somewhere between 500ng/dL to 1000 ng/dL, you have plenty of Total Testosterone, so let's take advantage of all this testosterone your body is producing that we are not getting the use of. (Free Testosterone has an optimum range of 16 pg/mL to 22 pg/mL, or 160 - 220 ng/dL. Values vary according to the laboratory.)

Your Buddies

Let's consider the case of your buddies, who may be taking, for instance, testosterone cypionate at 200 mg/mL per week. This injection will jack up the Total Testosterone to 1000 ng/dL. With testosterone levels of 1000 ng/dL, you should be able to build muscle, outrun speeding bullets, leap tall buildings, etc. However, in many local gyms, you will find bodybuilders taking many times that dose, and there is often the difficulty. Something else is happening to all that testosterone.

    Taking over 600 mg/mL injections per week can possibly get you into trouble biochemically, but you see these people doing this, and they are barely making any type of muscular gains whatsoever. The reason for this is that the more testosterone they are injecting, the more is being bound up, and what is loose is probably being converted into estrogen. Or, the opposite can be happening: Too much aromatization of most of that testosterone into estrogen. In short, they are getting very little Free Testosterone.

    So let's talk about how to reduce this bound testosterone, if your tests show that you have high Total Testosterone levels, and make more of it available to the cells of your body for:
  • Muscle building,
  • Increasing bone density,
  • Feeling good,
  • Helping fight depression and in general,
  • Good health.

  • There is an herb known as Urtica dioica, stinging nettle. Its leaves, in the form of nettle leaf extract, are good for arthritis, but its roots are good to reduce SHBG.
    • Nettle root displaces testosterone from SHBG binding sites and increases Free Testosterone for muscle and bone building. ---Life Extension, July, 1998, Page 12; Life Extension, February, 1999, Page 14.
    • Testosterone that binds to SHBG is inhibited by Nettle Root Extract from binding to the prostate gland. This binding could cause the same effects on the prostate gland as DHT binding to an androgen site there, which could spell prostate trouble.--- (Life Extension, February, 1999, Page 14.
    • When testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, DHT attaches to the prostate gland membrane. This can activate growth factors and stimulate prostate cell growth as in benign prostatic hyperplasia and/or malignant cell growth. Nettle root (in the form of the methanolic extract) inhibits the attachment of DHT to the prostate membrane.
    • Nettle root extract (the methanolic form) inhibits SHBG from binding to the prostate cell membrane.

    • It inhibits the aromatase enzyme.---Life Extension, February, 1999, Pp. 13-14.
    • It decreases the conversion of androgens into estrogens.---Life Extension, February, 1999, Page 14. Nettle root extract and pygeum (another herb) synergize in inhibiting aromatase, also.

  • Remember that SHBG increases with age. Another herb that has been shown to possibly reduce SHBG is Avena sativa, wild oats.
  • The problem is that once you get testosterone free by keeping it from binding with SHBG, as you are getting older, much will be aromatized into estrogen. So you're still not ahead of the hound if you don't take an aromatase inhibitor, such as nettle root extract, which tends to do both things, if tests show your Estradiol level is high.

Morning Erections

One of the best indicators of what your Free Testosterone level is, without testing, is to observe the following: Do you have: Morning erections on going to the bathroom to relieve your bladder upon awakening? This is one of the best Free Testosterone indicators, because the frequency of morning erections involves no psychological factors or stimulating factors, but is strictly governed by a biochemical stretch reflex and other biological factors determined by one's health.

As a young man, you should have morning erections daily. When you get into your 40s, this often is not the case, and it's so subtle, men don't realize they're on a downward course when it comes to muscle and bone building, mood, libido, heart health and aggressiveness (in terms of problem-solving capabilities), because some of these things are still chugging along. But regardless of what your age group is, 20s, 30s, 40s on up through 70s, if you wake up in the morning without an erection two days in a row, or the erection is very weak and goes limp within a few seconds of being awake, your Free Testosterone is declining, and so will your ability to build muscle.

Avena sativa, as stated earlier, may reduce the SHBG.

  • Another herb to consider is Muira Puama. This has been shown to reduce SHBG also, and to release bound testosterone from SHBG.

We touched on aromatase, the enzyme that converts Free Testosterone into estrogen. A lot of men have done the above and still get no results, and their doctors are giving the patients testosterone injections. This is why many doctors feel that testosterone does nothing for a man other than temporarily, then he resorts back to his former self. But what the doctor failed to do and realize is that the aromatase enzyme is the culprit here, in addition to SHBG. He will never figure it out unless he runs an Estradiol or estrogen blood test, as well as a SHBG test too.

Most doctors don't do this, but if they did, they'd find the patient's estrogen before he started testosterone might be, for instance, 20 ng/dL, and after a month on testosterone therapy, the Estradiol level might be something like 60 ng/dL, a tripling! It's no wonder the patient failed to improve in his libido, his muscle building, or his get-up-and-go, other than for the first two weeks.

Run BaseLine Bood Test

In fact, this is why you want to run blood tests before you start any therapy, and after, so that you can compare the ratio of Estradiol to Total Testosterone and the ratio of Estradiol to Free Testosterone, both at the beginning of therapy, and thereafter, every 6 months.

What is generally not appreciated is that when you increase the estrogen in the body, estrogen stimulates SHBG, which then binds up even more Free Testosterone. This is why testing is paramount to success with steroid treatment from your doctor, but most doctors don't test for SHBG to see if it's dropping, nor for Estradiol, to see if it's rising.

Most doctors just look for any value that is out of range, when they should be comparing your ratios of Estradiol/Total Testosterone and Estradiol/Free Testosterone before treatment begins, and in refractory cases, within 3 to 6 weeks after treatment begins, then every 6 months thereafter, especially if therapy stops working within a few weeks. This should alert an astute physician, and he should take action. Most just say, "See? This proves testosterone doesn't work for sex or for muscle building."

They are not up on the facts or the protocol.

Muira Puama helps reduce aromatization of testosterone to estrogen, which can effectively increase Free Testosterone blood levels.


Another natural protocol you can use is the mineral zinc, at least 100 mg daily, taken with meals, preferably. Zinc reduces aromatase levels, but with zinc declining, your female/male hormone ratios will be adversely affected.

Zinc is also important for normal pituitary function so that the proper hormonal signals will be sent to the testes to stimulate testosterone production.

Alcohol Use

If you use alcohol heavily, you should reduce it to moderate amounts only, or stop it completely. Alcohol can cause a dramatic rise in your estrogen levels. It inhibits the P450 enzyme system- -that system which eliminates drugs, chemicals, hormones and metabolic wastes from the body. Alcohol decreases zinc levels. If you want to build a good body, don't drink.

To further inhibit aromatase, you can try Chrysin, another herb, along with Bioperine (an extract from pepper). Chrysin is hard to absorb through the intestinal tract, but Bioperine gets it across. However, Chrysin cannot enter cells in order to block the aromatase activity in converting testosterone to estradiol.

For this, we suggest Indole-3 Carbinol (I3C). This compound causes the body to metabolize estrogen by the 2-hydroxylation pathway, and not through the "tumor-enhancing" pathway of 16- alpha-hydroxylation. The "tumor-suppressor" pathway, via 2-alpha- hydroxylation, transforms estrogen into 2-hydroxyestrone. By funnelling estrogen into this pathway, I3C speeds the rate at which the body rids itself of estrogen. Four-hundred to 800 mg of I3C daily has been found a sufficient dose.

One of the best, but very expensive, aromatase inhibitors is a prescription drug, Arimidex, by AstraZeneca. If you have a high estrogen level, this will be one of the ways to go. We recommend all these things.

Another herb to stimulate the pituitary gland to produce Luteinizing Hormone (LH) is Tribulus Terrestris. LH tells the Leydig cells in the testes to produce testosterone. But remember, you may be producing plenty of testosterone, but if you are aromatizing it into estrogen, or binding it up, it's all for naught.

Not generally known is the fact that:

  • Protein, such as a high quality whey protein powder, combats SHBG and helps build optimal testosterone levels.
  • Physical exercise, intense, also increases testosterone levels.

But again, if you're increasing your testosterone levels, only to have it become bound, then releasing it only to have it turned into estrogen, all is for naught.

There are no halfway measures without testing.


  • Baron, Penny, "A Comprehensive Guide to Preventive Blood Testing,"---Life Extension, Vol. 10, #5, May, 2004, pp. 51-69
  • Dean, Ward, M.D., "Chrysin: Is it An Effective Aromatase Inhibitor?"---Vitamin Research News, Vol. 18, #4, May, 2004, pp. 1,4-5.
  • Hodgson, Earnest, Editor, Dictionary of Toxicology, 2nd. Edition.
  • Life Extension Magazine, July, 1998.
  • Life Extension Magazine, February, 1999.
  • Montana, Nelson, "The Secret to Getting 'Free Testosterone," ---Muscle Magazine, July, 2004, Pp. 71-76.
  • Rosick, Edward R, M.D., "Should Aging Men Take Testosterone?"---Life Extension Magazine, Vol. 10, #2, February, 2004, Pp. 34-44.
  • Shippen, Eugene, M.D. and William Fryer, The Testosterone Syndrome, 1998, M. Evans & Company, Inc., NY.

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