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Bulletin #15 – Muscularity and Mass: Optimize Your Hormonal Response

If you’ve been reading my articlesconsistently over the last couple of years,by now you have a better understandingof biochemistry and sports nutrition.  I’vecovered the metabolism of proteins, car-bohydrates, fat and medium chain trig-lycerides in detail, explaining how to useeach for maximum results.  At Parrillo Per-formance, we never lose sight of the factthat results are the bottom line.  What setsus apart is not just the superior quality ofour products but also that we teach youhow to get the best results.  People whofollow the Parrillo Program invariably getbetter results than they ever thought pos-sible.In this series, we’re going to look alittle deeper into how all the nutrients thatwe’ve discussed come together in thebody to produce results.  You know thatgetting ultimate results requires an intensetraining program and consistently perfectnutrition.

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But why does it work and howdoes it work?  Obviously, all the energyused by your body and all the matter thatmakes up your body ultimately comesfrom food.  For our purposes, it is con-venient to consider the body as being di-vided into fat compartment and lean com-partment.  What determines whether thefood you eat goes to the fat compartment,the lean compartment, or simply getsburned for energy?  How can you controlthis?  This is the subject of this series ofarticles.The branch of science that explainshow the body works and how it is con-trolled is called “physiology.”  This sci-ence merges beautifully with biochemis-try to explain how you can control nutri-ent partitioning into the fat compartmentor the lean compartment.  So, let’s talk alittle bit about physiology.The two master control systems ofthe body are the nervous system and theendocrine system (1,2).  The nervoussystem consists of the brain, the spinalcord (the central nervous system) and thenerves that transmit information to andfrom the all parts of the body (the periph-eral nervous system).  

The nervous sys-tem works by transmitting information inthe form of electrical signals (nerve im-pulses).The endocrine system consists ofseveral organs in the body, including thepituitary gland, the thyroid gland, the par-athyroid glands, the pancreas, the adrenalglands, the testes or ovaries and the kid-neys.  The endocrine system transmitsinformation in the form of chemical mes-sages. (When parts of your body talk toeach other using the nervous system, it’slike making a phone call, and when theyuse the endocrine system, it’s more likesending letters.)  The chemical messagessent by the endocrine system are called“hormones.”  Testosterone, growth hor-mone and insulin are examples of hor-mones everyone knows about.  Thesehormones have a profound effect onwhether the food you eat ends up asmuscle or fat.  Your diet and exercise hab-its, in turn, have a profound effect on thesehormones.  (Are you starting interestedin physiology now?)Hormones can be classified in sev-eral ways (1,2).  One way is by their modeof release.  the classical hormones, forexample, are released into the bloodstreamand are carried throughout the body.These are called “endocrine” or “telecrine”hormones.  Other hormones are not re-leased into the blood but rather into thespace between tissues (the interstitialspace) and thus exert their effect only onnearby tissues.  

These are called“paracrine” hormones.  Finally, some hor-mones exert their effect only on the cellsthat produce them and are called“autocrine” hormones.  Hormones canalso be classified according to their chemi-cal structure.  Examples include the ste-roid hormones (which are made of fatmolecules resembling cholesterol), proteinhormones, peptide hormones and aminoacid derivatives.  Testosterone is a ste-roid hormone while insulin and growthhormone are protein hormones.The nervous system acts to controlactions that require a fast response time:movement, perception of the world aroundyou, rapid adjustment of heart rate andbreathing rate in response to exercise andbehavior in general.  The endocrine sys-tem controls processes that occur over alonger period of time, such as fuel me-tabolism and growth (Making a phone callis faster than writing a letter.)  Notably,the nervous system and the endocrinesystem do not function separately.  Theyare tied together by a part of the braincalled the hypothalamus.  

This is the mainway the two systems communicate toeach other to ensure coordinated controlof the body.  The hypothalamus is locatedon the bottom surface of the brain roughlyin the middle, and the pituitary gland isconnected to it.  Together, the hypothala-mus and the pituitary are considered tobe the master endocrine gland of the body,controlling the function of all other endo-crine glands.The endocrine system is chiefly re-sponsible for nutrient partitioning into thefat or lean compartments (1,2).  This system deals with fuel metabolism, energyproduction, energy storage and growth.And this means control of growth of bothmuscle stores and fat stores.  Therefore,the endocrine system will be the focus ofour attention for the next few bulletins.Remember, the endocrine system isthe control system of metabolism andgrowth, and it issues its orders in the formof hormones.  

These hormones are re-leased from the various endocrine glandsand are carried to all the tissues of thebody by the bloodstream.  There they bindto special molecules on cells called “hor-mone receptors” that interpret the signalbeing sent by the hormone and tell the cellwhat to do.  The transmissions sent bythe hormones are messages like “buildmuscle protein,” “store fat,” “burn fat,”“store carbohydrates,” “burn carbohy-drates,” and so on.Once these signals are received by thebody, the biochemical work of obeyingthe command sent by the endocrine sys-tem is carried out by enzymes.  Enzymesare special protein molecules that controlthe rates of chemical reactions going oninside cells.  By these reactions, the en-zymes can make or degrade proteins andfat.  This is how your body compositionis regulated.  While some hormones workby controlling enzymes, other work bydirectly activating certain genes in thenucleus.  Testosterone is an example ofsuch a hormone, whichactivates genes involved inprotein synthesis.The main hormonesinvolved in muscle growthand fat loss are insulin, glu-cagon, testosterone,growth hormone and insu-lin-like growth factor(IGF).  And guess what?We can teach you how tocontrol all of them throughdiet and exercise.  

In addi-tion to explaining the con-trol of these hormones, wewill also talk about prostag-landins, an important classof hormones involved inregulation of blood pres-sure, blood clotting, inflammation, growthhormone release and many other pro-cesses (3).  You can control your levelsof prostaglandins through diet, and this inturn can also have a big effect on growthhormone release (4,5).  We’re also goingto talk about the ways nutrients directlyeffect enzymes inside cells to influencethe rate of fat storage and fat loss.The first thing to do is to take yourParrillo Performance Nutrition Programoff the shelf and take another look at it.That diet didn’t fall together by accident.You will see that it was developed with allof this knowledge of biochemistry andphysiology in mind.  And it works.  Overmany years of working with the top body-builders we found that this approach sim-ply works the best.  As you will see in thenext bulletin, one of the most importantfactors in determining nutrient partition-ing is your ratio of insulin to glucagon (6).

The ratio of these two hormones producedby the pancreas largely determineswhether you will gain fat or lose fat.  Thisratio also starts a cascade of events whichregulates the balance of prostaglandinsyour body produces, which in turn has abig effect on growth hormone release.And growth hormone has a profound ef-fect on muscle growth and fat loss.  It allflows together.Your body’s ratio or insulin to gluca-gon is determined solely by the ratio ofprotein to carbohydrate in your diet.  Gen-erally, you want to consume about 1.5times as many calories from carbohydrateas protein (7).  When you’re trying to gainweight, you want a little more insulin soyou eat a little more carbohydrate.  Whenyou’re trying to lose fat you want to de-crease insulin levels and increase gluca-gon.  To do this you adjust your ratio ofcarbs to protein down a little.  You’ll seethis is exactly how our Nutrition Programand Pre-Contest Diets are set up.The Parrillo System was designed tohelp your body work naturally at peakefficiency to become a muscle-building,fat-burning machine.  You want results?Follow the Program.


1.  Guyton AC.  Textbook of MedicalPhysiology.  W.B. Saunders, 1991.

2.  Johnson, LR.  Essential MedicalPhysiology.  Raven Press, New York, 1992.

3.  Linder MC.  Nutritional Biochemis-try and Metabolism with Clinical Applica-tions.  Elsevier Science Publishing Com-pany, New York, 1991.

4.  Hertelendy F, Todd H, Ehrhart K,and Blute R.  Studies on growth hormonesecretion IV.  In vivo effects of prostaglan-din E1.  Prostaglandins 2: 79-91, 1972.

5.  Hertelendy F and Keay l.  Studieson growth hormone secretion VI.  Effectsof dibutyrl cyclic AMP, prostaglandin E1,and indomethacin on growth and hormonesecretion by pituitary tumor cells in culture.Prostaglandins 6: 217-225, 1974.

6.  de Castro JM, Paullin SK, andDeLugas GM.  Insulin and glucagon as de-terminants of body weight set point andmicroregulation in rats.  J. Comp. Physiol.Psychol. 92:  571-579, 1978.

7.  Westphal SA, Gannon MC, andNuttall FQ.  Metabolic response to glucoseingested with various amounts of protein.Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 52:  267-272, 1990.

2018-03-13T11:10:39-04:00 May 12th, 2009|Technical Supplement Bulletins|

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