How does Testosterone Affect Muscle Growth and Increase Strength?

In this article, we will tell you in detail about the factors that influence the main male hormone testosterone, which affects the muscle building, strength training of men, endurance and the ability to maintain muscle mass.

How testosterone can increase strength workout performance?

First of all, we emphasize that testosterone itself is not directly involved in the provision of the effects stated in the title of the article. It is only the initial “raw material” for the synthesis of dihydrotestosterone (thanks to the enzyme 5-alpha reductase). Dihydrotestosterone has a more active ability to bind to androgen receptors, so it plays a major role in ensuring the declared effects.

Dihydrotestosterone and testosterone together significantly improve strength, speed, endurance, and other muscle characteristics. All this is due to the combined effect of various factors:

1) Increased skeletal muscle cells (muscle hypertrophy)

testosterone muscle hypertrophy

Hypertrophy of symplasts is a standard adaptive process of muscle tissue rearrangement, which is activated after strength training. (Symplast – the type of muscle tissue structure, its structural element). This process is fully evident in beginner athletes.

At low testosterone levels, only partial hypertrophy is observed, which does not affect the entire active muscles. Thanks to dihydrotestosterone, hypertrophy is fully activated, so that almost every muscle cell increases in size. Muscle tightening takes place.

All this leads to an increase in contractile cells. And the more active muscle cells are, the more power potential the athlete has. That is, testosterone simplifies the muscle building, contributing to the growth of additional symplasts.

2) Improved neuromuscular innervation

neuromuscular innervation

Testosterone, unlike many other hormones, can easily penetrate into the brain, activating the Central Nervous System (CNS). This hormone strengthens its structure and establishes links with organs and muscles.

High levels of male hormone in the blood lead to good neuromuscular innervation, which contributes significantly to the contraction power of muscles. In addition to innervation, testosterone allows muscles to work in full. The fact is that the lion’s share of muscle potential depends not so much on the volume of muscles as on the ability of the CNS to generate sufficiently powerful high-frequency pulses that activate motoneurons and symplasts, respectively.

In most cases, a bodybuilder (especially a beginner) cannot make muscles to work in full, because the body deliberately blocks strong signals with the help of the Golgi tendon complex, a receptor that helps to regulate muscle tension and thus insures the joint against injuries.

Testosterone can improve the performance of the central nervous system, making it relatively easy for the athlete to overcome the lower limit of Golgi’s organs. As a result, muscles work much better, which leads to increased strength and endurance.

It is worth noting that excessive testosterone levels, caused, for example, by injections of anabolic androgenic steroids, can cause injuries. The reason for this is that the threshold of Golgie complex artificially increases, even though the joints are not ready for increased workloads.

3) Accumulation of water and symplasts nutrition

High levels of male androgen lead to increased levels of female hormones, which are responsible for the accumulation of water. Upper levels of testosterone often contribute to moderate retention of fluid in the male body.

It is noteworthy that water accumulates not in the form of swelling on the legs or stomach, as it happens in women, but to a greater extent in the muscles. The glycolytic muscle fibers are responsible for strength endurance work with glycogen, the muscle fuel. So, every gram of glycogen requires 3-4 grams of water for storage. And the more water in muscles, the more glycogen muscles are able to accumulate.

In this case, testosterone indirectly increases the glycogen depot, which allows muscles to work for a long time in anaerobic mode. In addition, the inflow of water improves the blood and lymphatic systems directly in the skeletal muscles. As a result, the symplasts get more nutrients and oxygen, which of course has a positive effect on strength and stamina.

4) Improved synthesis of CP and ATP

It is known that ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the main source of energy in anaerobic oxidation (heavy muscular work). ATP “gives” the phosphate group (becomes adenosine diphosphate, ADP). At the same time, a “quantum” of energy is emitted (actually, this is the phosphate group given away by ATP).

However, the ATP reserves are sufficient only for about 8 seconds of the workout. In order to ensure further muscle performance, the body uses the reserves of creatine phosphate (to restore ADP to ATP). Thus, testosterone has a positive effect on the accumulation of creatine and ATP during recovery.

It is worth noting that this property is shown only in athletes with regular strength workouts. Roughly speaking, this hormone improves super-compensation (recovery) of the most important muscle energy resources during recovery periods.

The influence of testosterone on the preservation of muscle mass

Testosterone also plays a crucial role in the preservation of muscle mass. The fact is that skeletal muscles are proteins. And any protein has its own period of decomposition. Muscle proteins live without hormonal effects for an average of 120 days, and their full renewal takes 180 days.

Every day the nucleus of muscle cells should receive a signal from the hormonal system, the transmitter of which is testosterone. Testosterone satisfies the demand for cells, so they continue to live and renew thanks to the protein coming from the food.

The lower the testosterone level, the fewer cells it gives the attention it deserves. Without a testosterone signal, the nuclei simply stop living. Thus, when testosterone levels are low, a person loses muscle mass and the symplasts die out. This process is most noticeable in overtraining and in terribly stressful conditions, which dramatically reduce the level of male sex hormones.

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