Every man in his right mind strives for an athletic body with a well-developed musculature. Not only does an athletic body make a man desirable in the eyes of attractive women. An athletic body also projects an image of success in the business world. We picture losers as men who are either too skinny, or fat.
Building muscle by increasing testosterone levels
Muscle growth and athletic performance are primarily dependent on testosterone. But high testosterone levels not only turn a skinny man’s body into an athletic one. Testosterone saturation also forms a natural barrier against obesity.
Increasing testosterone levels is what clearly does the trick in bodybuilding.
There are, however, pitfalls.
While using synthetic testosterone (anabolic steroids) is an easy route to put on a few more pounds of muscle, even without exercise, steroids at times interfere awkwardly with male sexuality.
It’s called “penile shrinkage” but it’s not just that one’s penis and balls will retard to childhood size. Erections become difficult, and a man becomes infertile.
Another possible negative side effect of straight testosterone supplementation is the growth of breast tissue (gynomastia). This is caused by the conversion of testosterone into estradiol (the strongest form of estrogen) by the body enzyme aromatase.
Because of its negative impact on male sexual function, straight testosterone supplementation, whether of natural or synthetic testosterone, is just foolish.
The much smarter approach is to trick one’s body into increasing testosterone production itself.
Testosterone levels are determined by a series of glands, starting with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland deep inside the head. These glands receive signals, which contain information on what the actual testosterone levels are throughout the body. The sex hormones (androgens and estrogens) themselves give these signals. If levels are high, the signal is to lower them by stopping the body’s own production. This is called “negative feedback”.
If there is no negative feedback, the pituitary releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which in turn stimulates the production of gonadotropin. Gonadotropin, in men, stimulates the testicular Leydig cells to produce testosterone.
The smart approach is to intercept the negative feedback to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. This will then result into the body producing higher testosterone levels all by itself. There will be no penile and testicular shrinkage. Rather the opposite. Because the testes are in full testosterone production mode, they will increase in size.
There are three pharmaceutical components by which this interception of negative feedback can be achieved, one synthetic and two herbal ones. The synthetic one is clomiphene, which, however, can have a negative impact on liver function.
The two herbal medications that raise testosterone are the Eastern European and Indian plant tribulus terrestis, and the Southeast Asian tongkat ali (eurycoma longifolia by scientific name, pasak bumi in Indonesia).
An advantage of tongkat ali over tribulus terrestis is that tongkat ali seems to be more powerful in enhancing sexual function as well as muscle growth. There are also a larger number of other health benefits attributes to tongkat ali than there are to tribulus terrestis.
In Southeast Asia, primarily Malaysia, it is as widely used as sexual stimulant as Viagra in the US. However, while Viagra only works on abdominal enzymes, tongkat ali’s route of action is by increasing testosterone.
As it’s pro-sexual effect is stronger than the one of tribulus terrestis, it can be assumed that it is also more powerful in increasing testosterone. Therefore, tongkat ali has great potential in bodybuilding.