• Is Cortisol The Most Anabolic Hormone???


      By Greg Merritt & Jim Stoppani, Ph.D Flex

      Every bodybuilder has heard that you must keep training sessions to less than 45 minutes because after that, cortisol levels kick in. Based 
on the newest study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, the rise in cortisol might not be such a bad thing! Researchers examined 56 healthy (but untrained) young men who took part in a 12-week resistance-training program. The researchers measured testosterone, growth hormone (GH), IGF-1, and cortisol concentrations at the end of the program. If increases in testosterone and GH was the sole variable for increased muscle growth, then those with the highest levels should have made the most improvements in muscle mass, but they didn’t. The biggest winners appeared to be GH and cortisol.

      The lifters with the biggest post-workout spikes in cortisol were associated with gains in type-II muscle size but it was also the only hormone associated with greater gains in lean body mass. So if keeping training programs to less than 45 minutes to minimize cortisol was the key to muscle growth, the group with the largest increases in testosterone should have been the clear winner, but surprisingly the group with the largest post-exercise increases in cortisol made bigger improvements in muscle hypertrophy. According to Daniel West, the lead author of the study, “The idea that you can or should base entire exercise training programs on trying to manipulate testosterone or growth hormone levels is false. There is simply no evidence to support this concept.”

      REFERENCE: West, D.W.D., Jof Appl Physiol., 112 (11): 1805, 2012.
      Comments 23 Comments
      1. MANotaur's Avatar
        MANotaur -
        “The idea that you can or should base entire exercise training programs on trying to manipulate testosterone or growth hormone levels is false. There is simply no evidence to support this concept.”

        ???
        Im so confused? so the millions of millions of people who inject testosterone as an anabolic and have gained massive amounts of muscle and hyperphertrated exsisting muscle because of the influx exogenous androgen is false?? its a lie?? well damn....

        guys i guess cortisol is the next best thing! lets start pinning that to make huge gains!

        ...jackass
      1. ricroc's Avatar
        ricroc -
        Yeah, that quote doesn't make any sense whatsoever. And, that there is "no evidence to support" that is even more bogus.
      1. Wocheezy's Avatar
        Wocheezy -
        The article says not to manipulate TRAINING in order to influence testosterone or GH. There is no doubt that exogenous testosterone will increase hypertrophy.
      1. MANotaur's Avatar
        MANotaur -
        Originally Posted by Wocheezy View Post
        The article says not to manipulate TRAINING in order to influence testosterone or GH. There is no doubt that exogenous testosterone will increase hypertrophy.
        if you can manipulate training to increase these hormones..wouldnt that be a positive thing? its still said nothing that led me to beleive that cortisol had anything to due with the observed anabolism of the test subjects. Correlation is not causation.

        whos to say that the increase in cortisol was not cause by an increase in bout testosterone? when both DHEA and testosterone are present and bound, cortisol has nowhere to bind and be catabolic. which is why people supplement with DHEA to help combat the effects of cortisol...so again...

        the study is bogus.
      1. Hardedge's Avatar
        Hardedge -
        i believe what they are saying is that cortisol is responsible for the greatest stimulus for muscle growth, meaning high cortisol primes the muscle tissue for growth. After that, testosterone works to repair the muscle and strengthen it.
      1. MANotaur's Avatar
        MANotaur -
        Originally Posted by Hardedge View Post
        i believe what they are saying is that cortisol is responsible for the greatest stimulus for muscle growth, meaning high cortisol primes the muscle tissue for growth. After that, testosterone works to repair the muscle and strengthen it.
        where on earth did you draw that from??
      1. ericool007's Avatar
        ericool007 -
        Originally Posted by MANotaur View Post
        “The idea that you can or should base entire exercise training programs on trying to manipulate testosterone or growth hormone levels is false. There is simply no evidence to support this concept.”

        ???
        Im so confused? so the millions of millions of people who inject testosterone as an anabolic and have gained massive amounts of muscle and hyperphertrated exsisting muscle because of the influx exogenous androgen is false?? its a lie?? well damn....

        guys i guess cortisol is the next best thing! lets start pinning that to make huge gains!

        ...jackass
        lol Ive been doing it all wrong if i didnt spend all that money on trying to blunt cortisol i could be huge right now.
        stupid article.
      1. Wocheezy's Avatar
        Wocheezy -
        Originally Posted by MANotaur View Post
        if you can manipulate training to increase these hormones..wouldnt that be a positive thing? its still said nothing that led me to beleive that cortisol had anything to due with the observed anabolism of the test subjects. Correlation is not causation.

        whos to say that the increase in cortisol was not cause by an increase in bout testosterone? when both DHEA and testosterone are present and bound, cortisol has nowhere to bind and be catabolic. which is why people supplement with DHEA to help combat the effects of cortisol...so again...

        the study is bogus.
        I wasn't commenting on the study itself, I was clarifying what you said vs what the article said. It never said testosterone does't play a part in muscle growth, it states that the hormonal response to exercise was not significant enough to make hormonal manipulation via training practical. I agree that there are many flaws in the study.
      1. v4lu3s's Avatar
        v4lu3s -
        I am not sure how you guys are drawing the conclusions you are. all I read is that this study debunks the old bro science myth that a large Cortisol spike post workout is bad. I would be curious to see the hormone response in the following 24 hours after that workout, for example what if that large cortisol spike precipitates a larger growth hormone and testosterone response.
      1. EasyEJL's Avatar
        EasyEJL -
        Originally Posted by MANotaur View Post
        whos to say that the increase in cortisol was not cause by an increase in bout testosterone? when both DHEA and testosterone are present and bound, cortisol has nowhere to bind and be catabolic. which is why people supplement with DHEA to help combat the effects of cortisol...so again...

        the study is bogus.
        the study is to say that it wasn't caused by testosterone, because there was no relationship between testosterone levels and muscle gains.
      1. mTmatthews51's Avatar
        mTmatthews51 -
        Just my opinion and what I believe to be true after 2yrs of serious bodybuilding and, at an accredited university, in the human health and performance major with a concentration in exercise science.
        Changing training to affect only these hormones gives such an insignificant gain in these hormones that's its not beneficial. Injecting on the other hand can give your 2-3x your normal test n GH levels...which is outrageously significant. Cortisol breaks down proteins to aminos to convert to glucose for energy, when you have a spike of cortisol (not chronic levels) at the end of your workout and refeed correctly you give your body the quick carbs to stop the catabolism of blood aminos and protein, as well as having that cortisol in the blood to speed up protein absorption even quicker by converting it to aminos and peptides to be taken up by the muscles.
        Again to each their own, but that's the correlation I see.
      1. ricroc's Avatar
        ricroc -
        Originally Posted by mTmatthews51 View Post
        Just my opinion and what I believe to be true after 2yrs of serious bodybuilding and, at an accredited university, in the human health and performance major with a concentration in exercise science.
        Changing training to affect only these hormones gives such an insignificant gain in these hormones that's its not beneficial. Injecting on the other hand can give your 2-3x your normal test n GH levels...which is outrageously significant. Cortisol breaks down proteins to aminos to convert to glucose for energy, when you have a spike of cortisol (not chronic levels) at the end of your workout and refeed correctly you give your body the quick carbs to stop the catabolism of blood aminos and protein, as well as having that cortisol in the blood to speed up protein absorption even quicker by converting it to aminos and peptides to be taken up by the muscles.
        Again to each their own, but that's the correlation I see.
        What you wrote in this paragraph reads better than the article itself.
      1. MANotaur's Avatar
        MANotaur -
        Originally Posted by mTmatthews51 View Post
        Just my opinion and what I believe to be true after 2yrs of serious bodybuilding and, at an accredited university, in the human health and performance major with a concentration in exercise science.
        Changing training to affect only these hormones gives such an insignificant gain in these hormones that's its not beneficial. Injecting on the other hand can give your 2-3x your normal test n GH levels...which is outrageously significant. Cortisol breaks down proteins to aminos to convert to glucose for energy, when you have a spike of cortisol (not chronic levels) at the end of your workout and refeed correctly you give your body the quick carbs to stop the catabolism of blood aminos and protein, as well as having that cortisol in the blood to speed up protein absorption even quicker by converting it to aminos and peptides to be taken up by the muscles.
        Again to each their own, but that's the correlation I see.
        that makes sense, and your right, but the nature of cortisol is catabolic...its supposed to be. So to say its anabolic is well...wrong. Im sorry. It doesnt mean that you cant control it, and use it to your advantage, but its a catabolic hormone.

        Originally Posted by ricroc View Post
        What you wrote in this paragraph reads better than the article itself.
        absolutely right! he did a great job of explaining his theory.


        but what the study fails to provide is a pathway and mechanism which connects the greater increase in cortisol to the greater increase in LMM. I need to go back and look but there isnt even a link to the original paper if i remember right. But what was given and what i read, it claims that the increase in cortisol was the cause for the increase in mass, and there was no basis to the claim. there was also numerous holes and flaws that were in the study. too many uncontrolable variables, too many inconsistencies. It was just a bogus study. thats from what was given. Maybe in the original documents there is more to be read and clarified. but until i read it, i have to disagree with the premis...sorry
      1. joesgainshc's Avatar
        joesgainshc -
        I would like to read the original documents of the study. I agree that the information provided here is presented terribly. But in other research I've done, it sort of makes sense. Any weight training, or cardio, or anything really is all catabolic. You are breaking down your muscles, you are burning energy, using stored carbs, fats, proteins, exc. It's the things that you do after or in between these work outs that are anabolic. Eating, sleeping, resting, and of course if you do any type of steroid well that is usually very anabolic. But look at it this way; wouldn't it make sense that the more you break your muscles down, the bigger and better they grow? That's the whole idea of having an intense workout. You want to breakdown the muscle fibers, so that they can grow back bigger than they were. Now if cortisol is catabolic, wouldn't a cortisol spike during a workout be directly related to the whole concept of weight training? Yes there are directly related. So you're done your workout and then you eat after. Wether it's right after, or you wait an hour, or whatever, but that is when you actually become anabolic. If you look at the big picture it really doesn't matter THAT much either way. But if you are in the gym for like 1:30-2:00 hours than obviously you will have a cortisol spike, but I personally don't think that will effect you negatively in anyway.

        For the past two months now I've been waiting an hour to eat after my workouts, because of the insulin/GH factor. Natural GH and insulin don't co-exist well in your body. There for I wait an hour to try and let the GH do it's thing, and then eat a huge meal. While I'm not eating that whole hour my cortisol levels are also still rising, or at least they are still as high as they were when I finished training. In the past two months I've seen greater recovery and muscle growth than I've ever seen IN MY LIFE. So the study saying you can't really manipulate certain growth hormones, well that just doesn't make any sense.
      1. pricey_001's Avatar
        pricey_001 -
        It is not saying that an increase in cortisol is directly related to growth.. All it is saying is that to have an increase in cortisol post workout means you have stressed the muscles enough to cause them to grow! Is cortisol anabolic.. NO! Short term raises in cortisol are indicative of how stressful the workout was and therefore hypertrophic outcomes! Short term increases in testosterone (workout induced) are not as crucial as once thought! Long term levels of testosterone and anabolic hormones are what count.
      1. TexasGuy's Avatar
        TexasGuy -
        I agree pricey, I thought the same thing.

        The study may have had participants technically doing the same routine, but we all know the difference between giving 100% and, say, 70% of our maximal effort.

        All the participants were untrained individuals, unfamiliar with the bodies response to lifting. I'm willing to bet the people with the highest cortisol readings put more in to it, and the others felt the burn and backed off.

        If anything, hard work isn't going to be trumped by a temporary spike in cortisol. Watching the clock certainly is a "new school" principle backed by shakey science, or a limited interpretation rather, but this certainly seems to indicate longer sessions will lead to better results, despite a temporary spike in cortisol. Limiting returns certainly aren't found in 45 minutes.
      1. atok2's Avatar
        atok2 -
        Originally Posted by MANotaur View Post
        “The idea that you can or should base entire exercise training programs on trying to manipulate testosterone or growth hormone levels is false. There is simply no evidence to support this concept.”

        ???
        Im so confused? so the millions of millions of people who inject testosterone as an anabolic and have gained massive amounts of muscle and hyperphertrated exsisting muscle because of the influx exogenous androgen is false?? its a lie?? well damn....

        guys i guess cortisol is the next best thing! lets start pinning that to make huge gains!

        ...jackass
        the amount of testosterone increase during a workout is not enough to make a difference!!
      1. mTmatthews51's Avatar
        mTmatthews51 -
        Yeah it is catabolic. But u got what I meant that its indicative of potential anabolism with proper recovery. And I appreciate the love.
      1. mTmatthews51's Avatar
        mTmatthews51 -
        Originally Posted by MANotaur View Post

        that makes sense, and your right, but the nature of cortisol is catabolic...its supposed to be. So to say its anabolic is well...wrong. Im sorry. It doesnt mean that you cant control it, and use it to your advantage, but its a catabolic hormone.

        absolutely right! he did a great job of explaining his theory.

        but what the study fails to provide is a pathway and mechanism which connects the greater increase in cortisol to the greater increase in LMM. I need to go back and look but there isnt even a link to the original paper if i remember right. But what was given and what i read, it claims that the increase in cortisol was the cause for the increase in mass, and there was no basis to the claim. there was also numerous holes and flaws that were in the study. too many uncontrolable variables, too many inconsistencies. It was just a bogus study. thats from what was given. Maybe in the original documents there is more to be read and clarified. but until i read it, i have to disagree with the premis...sorry
        Yeah it needs more work. Deff. But there is some correlation...maybe grad school haha
      1. MANotaur's Avatar
        MANotaur -
        Originally Posted by mTmatthews51 View Post
        Yeah it needs more work. Deff. But there is some correlation...maybe grad school haha
        im workin on my doctorate now, and i can tell you that this study was not put on by a student lol cause it wouldnt have made it past the advisor. My point that im trying to make is that just because there is a correlation that that is the smoking gun. Its just not true. Correlation isnt proof of cause. If that was the case, any body who ate ice cream would be screwed at the beach. (im sure your aware of the study im refering too)

        another point worth noting, is that most people who make these studies and write these papers, have the intent to publish them. They will intentionally make titles to stir controversy and get people to read them. AM included, they want people to read the articles, which is where their moneys come from. articles like this one that are posted online or in magazines need to be read with caution and taken with a grain of salt.

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