It seems like a very simple equation. Look at a man. Look at a woman. Who has more muscle mass? The reason for the answer you obtained is largely due to a unique and powerful hormone-testosterone. Ensuring that your body has adequate levels of this androgen is critical to meeting your goals.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone produced by Leydig cells in the testes in men and in the ovaries in women. There is also a small amount produced in the adrenal cells of both sexes. While this hormone is produced by both men and women, men have 15-20 times as much in their blood. This increased amount, starting at puberty, is largely responsible for the development of the male physique. While it has many effects we are aware of, for our purposes, there are a few that make a difference to those of us interested in getting our bodies looking like we want.
Research shows a direct correlation between testosterone and muscle mass. A study performed by Dr. Shalender Bhasin, et al, stated the following, as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine:
Testosterone, especially when combined with strength training, increase fat-free mass and muscle size and strength in normal men.
Testosterone does this by increasing the rate of muscle protein synthesis. As an example, those on the above study had an increase in in fat-free mass of 6.1 kg (13.4 lbs). They also had an increase in in bench press strength of 22 kg (48 lbs), as well as an increase in squatting-exercise capacity of 38kg (84 lbs). Clearly, ensuring our bodies have sufficient amounts of this hormone is important to getting the physique we want.
Increase in Red Blood Cells
Healthline.com tells us one effect of testosterone that we may not always think about:
The hormone plays a key role in erythropoiesis, which is the production of red blood cells. If you have low testosterone, your body won’t produce as many red blood cells. This decreased cell production may cause a significant drop in energy.
Certainly, low energy and a healthy training program don’t mix. The message is again clear: If you want to have the body you want, ensure you have adequate testosterone.
Testosterone plays an important part in keeping good mental health. When a person has low testosterone, he won’t just be saddened by the poor results in the gym. Testosterone has a direct bearing on our sense of well-being. A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism tested the effect of testosterone replacement therapy on men with hypogonadism. After the therapy, they showed decreased anger, irritability, sadness, tiredness, and nervousness. They also reported improvement in energy level, friendliness and sense of well-being.
Of course, we have heard of the possible negative side effects of testosterone. As bodybuilding.com humorously noted, chances were slim that you’d get a positive response if you asked a doctor 10 years ago about increasing testosterone levels to get a great body. He probably would have responded,
Testosterone is bad for you. It will shrink your grapes to raisins, give you liver disease and make you backhand your Grandma!
While the above study didn’t address raisins or livers, it shows that your Grandma can rest easy. Even with the high doses of testosterone given this study group, no significant changes in mood were reported by the men taking part in the study. Of course, these results might be questioned, so the researchers went one step further: They asked their significant others and parents the same question. Interestingly, they reported the same thing, no significant changes of mood were noticed.