Have you been hammering away in the gym, day after day, week after week, throwing the iron around, and knocking out your fasted cardio or some form of HIIT only to not make the gains you are after or obtaining the ripped conditioning you should be displaying on your physique? You’ve stuck to your eating regimen, high carb – low carb days, post-show higher calories and pre-show caloric deficits. You have done everything you were told to do, only to not achieve the results you should be getting.
If this sounds the least bit familiar, don’t be alarmed, you are normal. Normal! If you tell a bodybuilder or any elite athlete they are normal, this does not usually go over well. There are some folks, who I will call – for the purpose of this article – gifted. They have been blessed with great genes and hormones to match. They possess close to the perfect formula and climate to allow them to gain lean muscle fairly easily. Now if that’s not you, again, don’t worry, that is normal.
By taking a closer look into the world of hormones – and your levels specifically – one can begin to understand what affects your gains and losses and you can alter that course while starting to manipulate your balance to provide that Ace in your deck of cards.
It surprises me that the vast majority of physique competitors and other elite athletes have no issue spending literally thousands of dollars on nutritional supplements; some of which have absolutely no science behind them to justify their use. They will gladly dish out more dollars to the elite “guru” trainers, coaches and for gym memberships each year, but won’t spend any money on a blood test or saliva kit to see what’s really going on with their hormones and other indicators of health (e.g., cortisol, cholesterol, liver function, testosterone, etc.). For the majority of folks, having blood work done seems to be a never-ending source of confusion, or more precisely, understanding blood work results and which tests to get and why.
This is odd considering the fact that it’s those very hormones that are ultimately responsible for whether or not your hard work in the gym is a waste of time (working your tail off, for nothing at all) or productive.
I am going to tell you what I have learned and try and make this be as clear as possible: if your blood chemistry is off, meaning your hormone levels are subpar, you can take in all the supplements you want, follow any hardcore or the latest bro science routine you want, while taking in all the nutrients you can, and you will be spinning your wheels with little to no results!
Depending on how out of whack your hormones are; you will get less than optimal results from your hard work or virtually no results at all. Conversely, the person with naturally optimal levels of hormones, or the athlete that has optimized their hormone levels via external assistance is going to make the progress they expect from their training, nutrition and supplement use.
There are some major health benefits to understanding the value of regular blood work and other things for optimizing hormones that negatively or positively impact your health and ability to make those gains you are working so hard to attain in terms of adding lean body mass and minimizing body fat levels.
Most physique competitors and bodybuilders have some knowledge about the major anabolic and catabolic hormones, such as testosterone, Insulin-like growth factor-1, GH, cortisol, etc. There are however other tests that give an overall picture that should be considered (e.g., estradiol, thyroid hormones, DHEA, etc.) and not all hormones can be tested for easily by a single blood draw, such as GH, which does not last long enough in the blood and is released in a pulsatile fashion, making it difficult to test for unless you are hooked up for multiple blood draws throughout the day.
Most athletes are under the impression that blood tests are difficult to read and must be in some secret coded language that only a trained doctor can possibly understand, including myself until just recently. Nothing could be further from the truth. The trick is not in reading the results off the page but rather interpreting them. Taking the data provided from a blood test and understanding the relevance of the results, is where the doctor’s education may come in and where years of research can be spent.
I have learned from my own experience that all labs have a reference range for anything tested from a blood or saliva test such as testosterone, cholesterol, and so on. The test always has that range with the results of your test next to it, and it’s easy enough to read.
Recently, I had well over 50 different tests done on my blood, which I plan to now do at least twice per year, and I consider it money very well spent. I was surprised by many of the results that I received and after a thorough review and a few consultations with my health care practitioner I have gained a much better understanding of what is going on with my body and how a few of my hormonal imbalances have been at the center of some of my ailments.
We all want the body of a Greek god, solid aesthetics and the ability to put up the gains and strip away the fat. We want our hard work to pay off, but we first have to understand that many secrets and much information “IS IN OUR BLOOD!” Once you begin to understand this you then realize that you have a solid foundation to work from and can begin to realize you are throwing away literally thousands of dollars each year on supplements, food, etc., not to mention a great deal of wasted time, if our hormones are suboptimal.
Now, my advice to you would be to go visit a well respected, referred health care provider, extend an arm, show those veins and find out where you stand, so you may begin to give yourself an upper hand in understanding your body and the impact of your hormones!