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Meditate for less cortisol, more testosterone and growth hormone after training

If you are looking for a way to get your body to boost its anabolic hormone production after training, why not try meditation? According to an article written by perhaps not entirely objective researchers at the Maharishi University of Management, meditation improves the way your hormone system reacts to stress stimuli – like training.

Continuous stress leads to chronically high cortisol levels. If you are subjected to continuous stress, and are then subjected to even more stress, your cortisol level won’t rise more.

The effect of continuous stress on the testosterone and growth hormone levels is the reverse. Continuous stress lowers testosterone and growth hormone levels. If you are not normally subject to stress, but are subjected to stress for a short amount of time, then your production of testosterone and growth hormone rises.

Because cortisol is a ‘bad’ hormone, because testosterone and growth hormone are ‘good’ hormones, and because transcendental meditation is supposed to help against continuous stress, the researchers wanted to know whether learning meditation techniques would lead to positive changes in hormone levels.

To find out, the researchers carried out a study on volunteers aged between 18 and 34. Half of the group meditated for four months using the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi [TM] method, the other half did relaxation exercises [SEC]. Before and after the period of meditation the researchers subjected their test subjects to a stressful mental and physical test. Before and after the test the researchers measured the test subjects’ cortisol level. The figure below shows the average cortisol level of the test subjects.

The transcendental mediation lowered the baseline of the cortisol level. During the test, however, the cortisol level of the subjects in the TM group rose more than that of the subjects in the SEC group.

The figures below show the effect of the stressful test on the growth hormone level of the subjects in the SEC and the TM groups. Four months of meditation resulted in the TM group producing more growth hormone after the test.

And last but not least, the figure below shows the effect of four months of meditation on the production of testosterone during the test. The testosterone level of the subjects that did the relaxation exercises went down during the test. The testosterone level of the TM group remained the same however.

The researchers conclude that transcendental meditation reduces continuous stress, and as a result the body reacts better to stress stimuli of short duration.

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1997 May;22(4):277-95.

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