Conventional wisdom holds that higher levels of naturally occurring testosterone increase a person’s ability to build muscle. For this reason, many bodybuilders and weightlifters go to great lengths to maximize testosterone levels by abstaining from alcohol, eating certain foods and – in some instances – even avoiding ejaculation. (By the way, avoiding ejaculation doesn’t lead to increased testosterone.)
We certainly know that unnaturally high levels of testosterone (i.e., those obtained through steroid abuse) do result in muscle growth. And, from other research, we also know that higher levels of testosterone have been shown to limit muscle loss due to aging.
But a two new studies by scientists at McMaster University have revealed that exercise-related testosterone and growth hormone aren’t influencing factor in building muscle after lifting weights. These findings fly in the face of long-held conventional wisdom – and speak to the complicated role that hormones play in our dynamic human bodies.
The scientists came to this conclusion through two separate studies.
In the first study, men and women performed an intense leg exercise. Despite a 45-fold difference in testosterone levels, men and women were able to make new muscle protein at the same rate.
In the second study, researchers followed 56 young men through 12 weeks of exercise. The men trained 5 times a week and experienced muscle gains of nothing up to a maximum of 12 pounds. Researchers found no relationship between muscle or strength gains and levels of testosterone or growth hormone.
According to the lead author of the two studies:
While testosterone is definitely anabolic and promotes muscle growth in men and women at high doses, such as those used during steroid abuse, our findings show that naturally occurring levels of testosterone do not influence the rate of muscle protein synthesis.
Much research is still needed – and there’s a lot that’s not understood about the complex role hormones play. But for everyday strength trainers and non-senior populations, the takeaway is that pretty clear: When putting together a workout program, maximizing testosterone or growth hormone levels need not be a priority.
And feel free to ejaculate as often as your heart desires.