But what does that mean?
In general, hormones can be classified into two types: catabolic and anabolic. Catabolic hormones promote the breakdown of certain compounds to give the body an emergency source of energy. Anabolic hormones, on the other hand, support the synthesis of new structures and compounds—like proteins in muscle tissue. In a nutshell, anabolic hormones are "builders" and catabolic hormones are "breakers."
In this section, we will focus on the relationship between cortisol, the body's primary catabolic hormone, and testosterone, arguably the most famous anabolic hormone (especially among bodybuilders.
Cortisol is one of the body's major "stress hormones," along with epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. Its main goal is to provide the body with a short-term spike in energy and resources to help you deal with the stress. Even if that means literally breaking down part of your body.
Stress comes in many shapes and forms. It can be physical and psychological, internal and external, real and imaginary. Cortisol doesn't tell them apart. For this hormone, you facing a tiger is pretty much the same as you facing your boss enraged by a mistake in that yearly report. Either way, cortisol does its job and gives you that extra energy to deal with the situation.
Here are just a few common sources of stress in everyday life:
And many, many others.
In response to stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol.
The human body needs cortisol as a quick way to tap into some extra energy and resources when the situation demands it.
Moreover, cortisol plays several important roles in the body's adaptation to stress such as antioxidant mobilization, blood glucose control, and even pH balancing. In other words, cortisol is extremely important and absolutely necessary for survival, let alone a healthy life. The problem isn't in cortisol itself, but when there's too much of it—like during times of abnormally intense or chronic stress. That's when the side effects kick in.
These are some of the negative effects of cortisol:
Cortisol has both a positive and a negative side. Although it's essential for short-term survival in extreme circumstances, having your cortisol levels too high for a long time has severe drawbacks. Many of them stem from the fact that cortisol counteracts the action of testosterone.
Testosterone is a sexuality-stimulating hormone that's produced naturally in the human body. By counteracting testosterone, cortisol may lead to a wide range of sexual issues and even infertility.
Aside from sex drive and sperm production, testosterone plays a major role in the regulation of blood, bone, fat, and muscle. Increased cortisol levels weaken the bones and impair muscle synthesis.
The main problem is that, upon reaching the age of 30, men’s testosterone levels gradually decline, by about 1% every year. This drop in testosterone combined with the possibly increased cortisol levels due to stress eventually leads to serious health issues in most men.
The good news is that great testosterone levels can be achieved through healthy lifestyle choices and the support of natural supplements.
Here are a few scientifically confirmed approaches to reducing cortisol levels and supporting healthy testosterone production: