|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
- Free Testosterone (direct), as well as
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,
- Feel-good and,
And as you age--I see young men with this too!--
- The 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.)
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,
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
- 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Not generally known is the fact that:
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.
- Protein, such as a high
quality whey protein powder, combats SHBG and helps build optimal
- Physical exercise, intense, also increases testosterone
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.
- Hodgson, Earnest, Editor, Dictionary of Toxicology, 2nd.
- 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.