Testosterone plays a very important role in a human body. It supports different functions in the body such as muscle building, strength, libido (sexual drive), prevents fat accumulation and gain bone strength. It also influences the production of red blood cells, the heart rate and memory and thus, increase the quality of life.
It is often found that men experience lower levels of testosterone as they reach their 30s. It further increases the risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, low mineral density, obesity, impaired sexual function, decrease in muscle mass, reduced physical performance, etc. This is when they understand the need for testosterone and start looking for ways they can boost their testosterone levels.
Testosterone levels have a major impact on building muscle mass, it helps the body to grow, repair and thrive as well. (1) However, in order to learn how increased levels of testosterone help body building, it is important to understand what testosterone is and how it affects our body.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is a steroid found in human body, it is an androgenic hormone (male sex hormone) that is produced mainly in the male body. It is responsible for the stimulation of various male secondary sexual characteristics.
Men and women both produce testosterone, where an average male produces around 5-10mgs of testosterone per day, their female counterparts produce only one-tenth of it.
A majority (95%) of the testosterone is produced in cells present in the male testes, whereas in females, ovaries produce 50% of the testosterone in their body. Along with this, the adrenal glands present at the top of the kidney also act as a viable source of testosterone production especially for women and a minor source for men.
The DHEA or the dehydroepiandrosterone found in the tissues also helps in the production of the testosterone hormones, which is found to be very common in women.
How does Testosterone work?
Testosterone has the ability to enter cells (passively) and combine with the androgen receptors that act upon the nucleus of the cell. Androgen receptors, when activated, form androgens that help in the development of male reproductive system and secondary sexual characteristics. (4)
Moreover, it is also found that aromatase enzyme present in fat tissues also converts testosterone to estrogen, estradiol. (5) This simply means the more fat tissue one has in its body, the more estrogens is formed by the body from testosterone.
Sometimes testosterone acts in both ways; it directly impacts on the tissues and also acts as a pro-hormone and gets converted to its androgen or estrogen metabolite.
Along with this, it is also found that the testosterone levels also impact the insulin-like growth factor by increasing it. Healthy testosterone levels ensure having good health and strong immune system. Additionally, it also decreases the mortality rate, reduces body fat content and also increases metabolism or metabolic rate.
For an average adult, there are various effects that testosterone has on the body-
- It increases protein synthesis, thus increase muscle mass and strength. (6)
- Reduces the storage of fats by blocking it and increases the number of fat burning receptors. (7)
- Increases the blood flow in the heart and gives better cardiac output.
- Increases the production of red blood cells and stimulates bone growth and maintains bone density as well.
- Helps kidneys to produce erythropoietin, which helps in the production of red blood cells. (8)
How increased Testosterone affects muscle performance and help bodybuilding?
Testosterone has a lot of benefits to offer to our body and a majority of it is followed after it converts to androgen or estrogen, but it is not same for the muscles.
Testosterone is considered as an anabolic steroid and it directly impacts the muscles, stimulating muscle growth.
1. Testosterone helps to increase muscle size
Testosterone activates and increases the number of precursor cells (also referred to as unipotent cells) in the muscle fibers. As the number of precursor cells increases, they combine with the existing muscle fibers and make them bigger (process called muscle hypertrophy) or the precursor cells fuse together and form new muscle fibers on their own (process called hyperplasia).
Testosterone also increases the number of nucleuses that are present in the muscle fiber. This directly increases the androgen receptors, which the testosterone can combine with.
Moreover, with proper training that increases the sensitivity of the androgen receptors, the consumption of essential amino acids that induce protein synthesis, the effects of testosterone towards muscle building and performance can be increased.
2. Testosterone helps to get strong muscles
Testosterone levels in the body do not simply provide strength and power to the individual by increasing the muscle size, but there is a lot more to it.
Testosterone increases the amount of calcium released in the cells, which further boosts the force of muscular contraction. (9)
For an instance, studies suggest that DHT or Dehydrotestosterone have increased muscle contraction force, increasing the power and endurance of muscle fibers. (10)
3. Testosterone helps to improve endurance
As mentioned earlier, testosterone increases the EPO (erythropoietin), which increases the production of red blood cells.
Increasing number of red blood cells increase the oxygen carrying capacity in the blood, which helps during workout. Studies suggest that testosterone also increases the fat burning properties of the cell and thus, provides more energy during workouts. (11) Hence, it helps to enhance the performance of the humans by increasing the energy levels.