Best Foods for Muscle Growth
by: Robbie Durand
Cholesterol is bad for you, right? “High cholesterol causes heart disease” has been pounded into our brains for decades, but there is much debate as to whether cholesterol is the main cause of heart disease. If you’re really interested in the topic, you should check out the article on CBN Health titled, “Cholesterol Myth: What Really Causes Heart Disease?” One thing that all guys should know is that cholesterol is a pre-cursor for testosterone. It’s not uncommon for cholesterol levels to increase with aging. Total and LDL cholesterol levels tend to increase with age in young or middle-aged adults studied cross-sectionally in several studies. Several clinical and epidemiological studies have reported that serum testosterone levels are inversely correlated with total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. This means that cholesterol and testosterone are like a see-saw, when one goes down, the other goes up. Moreover, animal studies have also demonstrated markedly increased serum cholesterol levels in testosterone-deficient male mice. This may be that the body tries to compensate for reduced testosterone by increasing cholesterol levels. It’s not uncommon for men to have high cholesterol as they age, is this the body trying to naturally increase testosterone by increasing endogenous cholesterol production? The latest study in the Journal of Lipids reports that cholesterol is a very important hormone for testosterone production.
Sexually mature male miniature pigs (6–7 months old) were randomly divided into 3 groups as follows:
- male pigs fed a high fat diet
- castrated male pigs (i.e. low testosterone) fed a high fat diet
- castrated male pigs (i.e. low testosterone) with testosterone replacement fed a high fat diet.
At the end of the study, serum testosterone levels were significantly decreased in castrated male pigs fed a high fat diet, and testosterone replacement attenuated castration-induced testosterone deficiency. Castration-induced testosterone deficiency caused severe hypercholesterolemia (i.e. high cholesterol production) in pigs fed a high fat diet; furthermore, these effects could be reversed by testosterone replacement therapy. These results deepen the understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms that mediate the effects of testosterone deficiency on cholesterol metabolism. This study is the first to demonstrate that testosterone deficiency induced by castration increases diet-induced hypercholesterolemia. This may be the body’s way of trying to increase the natural pre-cursor cholesterol for testosterone production.
These findings indicate that testosterone serves an important role in regulating serum cholesterol metabolism. Many of the bodybuilders of the 60’s, to put on mass, were on the Vince Gironda’s diet of steak, eggs, protein powder mixed with whole cream, etc. The diet also recommended 36 whole eggs per day and 1-2 pounds of red meat per day. It was a high fat, high protein, low carb diet with plenty of green veggies. It was also packed with a lot of cholesterol, which may have been the most important component of the diet for testosterone production.
A previous study in Endocrinology sheds some interesting new evidence to support how cholesterol is needed for testosterone production. Researchers reported that an increase in leutinizing hormone (a hormone that signals testosterone production) resulted in an increase in the synthesis of cholesterol synthesis and uptake in the testis. So if you are on a low cholesterol diet, it may have a negative impact on muscle building due to impaired androgen production. In fact, patients on statin drugs, which lower cholesterol, tend to have lower testosterone production. This may be because the natural pre-cursor cholesterol is being lowered.
A previous study put the cholesterol muscle building theory to the test. They took 25 men and 30 women who filled out food diaries of what they ate and followed them over 12 weeks in conjunction with a resistance-training program. The researchers compared the relationship between dietary cholesterol and gains in muscle mass. At the end of the study, the average dietary cholesterol consumption was strongly associated with the change in lean mass. Interestingly, although dietary protein was correlated with dietary cholesterol, protein by itself was not significantly correlated with change in lean mass. This means the researchers found that cholesterol, but not protein, was associated with changes in lean muscle mass. This means that all those cholesterol free egg-beaters that bodybuilders have been eating for years are not so great for building muscle!
The researchers noted that the study participants with higher cholesterol levels were more likely to have higher levels of inflammatory chemicals and cardiovascular disease risk factors. The scientists noted that cholesterol increases the body’s inflammatory response to the muscle damage from exercise, and that this inflammation response stimulates the body’s muscle-building “anabolic” processes. (While chronic inflammation in arteries or other tissues is unhealthful, short-lived inflammation is an integral part of the muscle-building process).
A previous research study suggests that LDL cholesterol in particular is needed for increasing muscle mass. Researchers in the Journals of Gerontology examined 52 adults from ages to 60 to 69 who were in generally good health, but not physically active, and none of them were participating in a training program. The study showed that after fairly vigorous workouts, participants who had gained the most muscle mass also had the highest levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Cholesterol is found in all humans and is a type of fat around the body. A person’s total cholesterol level is comprised of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. It could be assumed that since LDL transports cholesterol to the cells, that higher LDL would deliver an abundance of cholesterol to muscle tissue. Just remember that cholesterol is necessary for testosterone production and that if you’re not getting adequate amounts of fats in your diet, you’re probably missing out on some major muscle building gains.
Here is a list of top testosterone foods:
- Bacon: Including bacon in your diet can be an effective way to increase testosterone. Saturated animal fats and cholesterol are necessary to raise testosterone. That said, be sure to avoid low quality cuts from the store as these may contain preservatives and other ingredients that may be detrimental to your health.
- Beef (Grass-fed): This is a type of beef that provides significantly more nutrients and health benefits than grain-fed beef. There is some evidence to believe that grain-fed cattle may lack sufficient testosterone and may have more estrogen than those consuming grass. Consuming grain-fed beef may elicit estrogenic effects.
- Eggs: Consider eating more eggs as a way to boost testosterone – and don’t throw away the yolk. The cholesterol within the yolk is a precursor to testosterone. Eggs contain: fat, calcium, vitamin D, saturated fat, and cholesterol- all of which have been suggested to increase levels of testosterone. If you’re eating eggs, be sure to eat the entire thing – not just the “whites.”
- Oysters: Many bodybuilders and gym-rats have used oysters as a natural testosterone boosting food. The creamy flesh of oysters has been suggested to increase testosterone and may even have anticancer properties. Oysters are packed with micronutrients like zinc, calcium, iodine, potassium, and selenium – all of which aid in the process.
- Pork: Rich in cholesterol, for 3 oz. of pork provides 68 mg of cholesterol, which is roughly 22% of your daily value.
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