From Charles Poliquin
Start a meditation practice in order to enhance your anabolic hormone levels, recover faster from training, and sleep better. Research suggests that mediation is one of the most powerful habits you can adopt for a healthier life that will also significantly enhance your training results.
Did you know that people who engage in regular transcendental meditation have naturally higher growth hormone, DHEA, and testosterone levels, as well as lower baseline cortisol? It’s true, and research suggests that meditation has a profound “anabolic” effect on the body by regulating the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis for reduced stress. The effects are better cognition, improved mood, less chronic inflammation, and a better metabolism for optimal body composition.
For example, in one study of young men, aged 18 to 32, researchers compared the effect of a 4-month meditation program to a university stress reduction class on hormone levels. Results showed that in the meditation group, average cortisol levels were much lower at the end of the study, whereas the cortisol response to stress was elevated. This is considered to be favorable because it indicates the subjects are dealing with day-to-day stressors better, thereby producing lower stress hormones, and they have an adaptive higher response to a challenge test that poses a threat.
In fact the stress hormone response is supposed to be large, but passing, in that we should only experience it when we are in acute, extreme danger—not all the time, as is happening in modern life. In addition, this study showed higher testosterone, for a more favorable testosterone to cortisol ratio. Growth hormone was also significantly higher in the meditation group, and put together, this hormonal profile is much preferred for health, body composition, and muscle building.
Other studies support this, showing better overall regulation of the stress system for better sleep. For example, meditation can enhance levels of another hormone, melatonin, which is involved in helping you sleep. Not only does it manage your sleep rhythm, melatonin acts as an antioxidant and anti-aging agent. Studies suggest meditation either increases melatonin by enhancing its production from the pineal gland where it is made, or by slowing its metabolism by the liver.
The benefits for sleep have been seen with two studies that show people who meditate experience more REM sleep, and deeper overall sleep. REM sleep can be enhanced by 10 to 17 percent depending on age, and meditation appears to be particularly important for older people who experience less time spent in REM sleep. Researchers suggest a meditation practice could delay aging in the brain.
For guidance in starting a meditation practice, join a meditation group, or take a class. Two online resources that may be helpful include the following:
• How to Meditate for Beginners.
• What Meditation Really Is from Sogyal Rinpoche.
Nagendra, R., et al. Mediation and Its Regulatory Role on Sleep. Frontiers in Neurology. 2012. 3(54).
Maclean, C., et al. Effect of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Adaptive Mechanisms: Changes in hormone Levels and Responses to stress After Four Months of Practice. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1997. 22(4), 277-295.