I was a professional runner for Nike and New York Athletic Club based out of Los Gatos California; since that is NOT in any way a lucrative job, I was also a Personal Trainer at Los Gatos Athletic Club and Courtside Club. Luckily, while I was there a doctor at a sister club was doing blood research on the Endocrine system to figure out how to maximize Human Growth Hormone and Testosterone/Estrogen (HGH & Tst/Est: Anabolic Hormones) while reducing Cortisol (Catabolic Hormone) levels. What we found out is that intensity and duration are both key to maximizing production of HGH: the Fountain of Youth.
Studies have shown that low intensity workouts will show a small uptick in HGH and other anabolic hormones initially, but fad quickly as the body does not have to adapt that much. This is why the people you see next to you in the gym never really look any different; they keep doing the same thing they did the first month of working out because it “worked” for them then. Studies have shown (and common sense) that if you bring your muscular system near or to failure, you will force your body to produce high levels of HGH and Tst/Est to adapt to the high level of stress produced on your body. This is why “Gym Rats” typically have high levels of these anabolic hormones, even if they are not doping with them. They have become masochists and can bring themselves to that pain threshold every time to produce those hormones naturally. This is also the most dangerous type of workout for beginners and novices, hiring someone who knows the correct form for exercises and how to stack the workouts for optimal gains is the best investment you can make for yourself. (I know, I used to be a Financial Advisor, and you’re not getting anything better out there!)
So, what does duration have to do with the price of tea in China? Not a lot, but it does have a lot to do with your hormone levels. In our studies of hormone release in the body, we found that levels of the aforementioned Anabolic Hormones in the blood drastically went up for about 30 minutes, on average, and then started to go down rather quickly. We also found that there was a direct inverse correlation with Cortisol, a catabolic hormone that will cause tissue break down and Cushing’s syndrome if produced too much. Cortisol is a stress hormone and will inhibit all anabolic effects unless you know how to work with it. This is why Marathon runners look very frail and typically get bone and joint injuries. They have stressed the body for so long at low to moderate intensities that they are cortisol producing machines. The “Fat Burning Zone” has ruined a lot of good intentions in the cardio world. You will be burning sugar and producing cortisol with long duration low to moderate intensity aerobic activity if you are using that as a “workout” and not as just something fun to do like kayaking with friends. The sugar you burn will be replenished with your next meal and you will be in a catabolic state. If you enjoy long duration activities like long runs, bike rides, or kayaking trips, then do it, but don’t start a workout routine with it!!!
This also has a lot to do with your energy systems, research has shown that when you deplete you glycogen stores in your muscles, you will produce Cortisol. Your muscles use ATP and Creatine foe about the first 20 – 30 seconds of activity, and then it uses sugar in glycolysis after that. If you happen to deplete all of your glycogen stores in your muscles and blood, you will be a warehouse of cortisol for a very long time. This will also directly affect your psyche as well. Tim Noakes, author of “Lore of Running” talks about something he calls a “Central Governor” that will shut your body down when it thinks permanent muscle damage can occur. And going that far into depletion will make your Central Governor shut down much earlier after the “hit the wall” the first time. What it will do is drastically lower your heart rate and lung capacity so you cannot do any more work. Many endurance athletes have run into this phenomenon and have been very puzzled that it happened, and that they could train hard right after the episode. They couldn’t relax, stress took over, and shut down of bodily function occurred far before maximal effort could be obtained.
So how do you put it all together to become an anabolic warehouse of vibrant living packed with awesomeness? First you have to decide what your fitness goals are and how you want to live. There will have to be give and take based on how you want to look. One can look fantastic by just doing a weight routine 3 to 5 times a week if done right. And you can add cardio to fit into those new pants, but too much and you will go backwards. I was a professional runner and got down below 3% body fat running less than 30 minutes a day. I also had many tests from the USADA done on me for drugs while I was a runner and they sent me a letter after a number of tests to say that they found my testosterone levels were much higher than normal, but because they were consistent, they knew I was not doping. I considered it a pat on the back to my training system I developed from studies done on weight lifters. You can read about that here: http://rp-author.com/Sherer/ Cardio is a very useful tool, but most people feel a need to equate duration and time with better results: this is very wrong.
Other factors like diet and sleep also play a vital role in the Endocrine system. If you do not sleep, you will be stressed all day. If you are stressed all day, you will be a warehouse of cortisol producing turbines. This will destroy all potential anabolic gains in the weight room. And for diet, if you do things like the adkins diet, and avoid VERY important food groups, you will be a warehouse of catabolic hormones. You need to know how food works in the body, and that will tell you the more important question of WHEN to have certain foods and WHEN not too. But if you’re working out at optimal intensities for the correct duration about 3 – 5 times a week, you should not have to avoid any food groups and calorie counting won’t be an issue for 98% of the population. The big one to avoid on your food, in your water, and in your air is chemicals. Your Endocrine system is all natural chemicals you produce, so if you’re eating pesticides genetically engineered into the food or sprayed on it, how can you think for a moment that will not have a direct impact on your endocrine system? And you should also consider what chemicals are in your tap water and what you are breathing in on a regular basis as well.
If you would like help on developing a program and life style change, I would love to be a part of your success! J I train and coach people out of my gym based in Dexter, but also train at people’s houses so they learn what to do without fancy tools. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in finding out more about what I do for my clients.