New studies say hormones don’t promote muscle growth. But are they right?

The claim that what we’ve all thought is gospel for nearly 20 years—that high-intensity training elicit a hormone response that makes you stronger—is bunk, is being met with skepticism from experts.

By Roy M. Wallack for

Fitness news can be confusing. New studies seem to come out every day—often contradicting previous research and information accepted for years as common knowledge.

Case in point: The headline in the June 14 online edition of Science Daily, picked up by other digital and print media, which read “Bodybuilding Myth Debunked: Growth-Promoting Hormones Don’t Stimulate Strength.”

The article refers to recent published scientific journal studies by a team from Canada’s McMaster University which found that spurts of human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone, which we have long known are stimulated naturally in the body by doing sprints and hard, fast weightlifting, supposedly don’t build much, if any, muscle.

According to graduate student Daniel West, the study’s lead author, you can’t produce enough of the hormones naturally to make a real difference; only bigger amounts, like that supplied by the injection of artificial testosterone and HGH, will have an effect. The conclusion, then, was that “basing entire exercise training programs on trying to manipulate testosterone or growth hormone levels is false,” said study member Stuart Phillips, a McMaster kinesiology professor. “There is simply no evidence to support this concept.”

Those are fighting words to most scientists. Keep reading to find out why many experts think the research is wrong…

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