Hormones are chemical substances produced by glands within the body. Sex hormones are produced by the testicles, ovaries and adrenal glands to manipulate reproduction and sexual identity. Anabolic androgenic steroids are male sex hormones used in supra physiological amounts as performance enhancing drugs in sports and exercise. They increase protein synthesis and cross-bind to glucocorticoids – attracting athletes seeking further gains in muscle mass and faster recovery times. Estrogen, a female sex hormone, also becomes elevated while administering AAS due to an interaction with aromatase, an enzyme that converts androgens (derivatives of testosterone) into estrogens. Many male bodybuilders combat this with anti-aromatase medications, in addition to compounds that compete at the estrogen receptor. Anti-estrogenic drugs like Nolvadex (tamoxifen) and Arimidex (anastrozole) are frequently used to avoid fluid retention, fat gain or gynecomastia, a condition resulting in enlargement or tenderness of breasts or nipples. However, some estrogen does serve benefit in the male’s system – trying to eliminate it from the body can eradicate these desirable traits.
Estrogens are powerful female messengers carried within the blood to various tissues and organs, binding to the estrogen receptors, and subsequently influencing function, structure and behavior. In both sexes the hormone helps: promote fertility and libido; bone tissue development; cardiovascular health, cerebrovascular characteristics and memory support; proper body temperature; growth hormone efficiency and production; as well as protection against metabolic syndrome and male-specific hepatic steatosis. Estrogen is involved in the maintenance of general physiological homeostasis in both men and women.
According to MedlinePlus, plasma estradiol levels for men average between 10 to 60 pg/ml; premenopausal women average between 20 to 400 pg/ml. A woman’s estrogen peaks just before ovulation – to amounts men can easily attain while administering anabolic steroids. Coincidently, this is also a time when women are often reported to be ill-mannered, aggressive or “experiencing PMS.”
In Anabolic Steroids in Sport and Exercise, author Charles E. Yesalis noted, “although testosterone has been linked with aggression for many years, particularly in males, recent research indicates that estrogen, and not testosterone, may be partly responsible for increased aggression. Since testosterone, through the enzyme aromatase, can be converted in the brain to estrogen, higher levels of estrogen can act directly on brain cells.” Further research has stated that testosterone may be more accurately associated with feelings of self confidence and well-being, where high estrogen generates aggressive impulses. Does increased aggression benefit bodybuilders routinely training with progressive overloads? Many would say so; however, people unable to control their emotions could have detrimental effects outside the gym.
“In a study to assess the effects of sex steroids on aggressive behavior,” Yesalis further states, “Finkelstein and colleagues administered either depot-testosterone to hypogonadal boys or estrogen to girls at three physiological doses using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 3-month, crossover design. Responses to placebo were compared with responses to hormones at specific doses. At the low dose, scores for aggressive impulses and physical aggression against peers significantly increased only for girls. At mid-dose, the scores for girls significantly increased for aggressive impulses, physical aggression against peers, and physical aggression against adults. The scores for boys significantly increased for physical aggression against adults. At the high dose, physical aggression against peers significantly increased only for boys. These results suggest that sex steroids affect aggressive behavior in adolescents. Girls showed larger and earlier increases than boys, suggesting that estrogen has a significant role in changes in aggression scores during puberty and that testosterone may exert its effect via conversion to estrogen.”
Hormone research conducted at the Davis Medical Center, University of California looked at the regulation of pubertal growth. In their findings, testosterone administration increases the pituitary gland’s secretion of growth hormone. Simultaneously blocking estrogen with the drug Nolvadex, decreased endogenous GH secretion. Testosterone, but not DHT or other non-aromatizable androgens, increases GH secretion. GH is a peptide hormone that stimulates the liver to release insulin-like growth factors, and body fat to release fatty acids.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Framingham Heart Study at the National Institute of Health, Maryland reported data suggesting sex hormones influence cardiovascular disease risk factors. “In the community-based sample, a higher serum estradiol level was associated with lower risk for CVD events in older men. The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that endogenous estrogen has vasculoprotective influences in men.” Bodybuilder’s administering supra physiological amounts of exogenous androgens are known to be at an increased risk for CVD. A study by the Hospital for Children and Adolescents in Finland supported this protective effect after noticing a decrease in high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol in a pubertal body administered letrozole, an anti-estrogen. Low-density lipoprotein and blood triglycerides remained unchanged at the end of the study
It’s impossible to say what a beneficial and healthy ratio of estrogen-to-testosterone may be when administering supra physiological amounts of androgens – since it is in itself, an unnatural state. But estrogen to some extent can help promote proper blood chemistry, increase training intensity and elevate growth factors during AAS-assisted strength cycles.
Estradiol – test, MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
K. S. Korach and T. Wintermantel, Of Mice and Men: The Many Guises of Estrogens, Ernst Schering Foundation Symposium Proceedings, Prince Henry’s Institute of Medical Research, 10.1007/2789_2006_016
D.M. Styne, The Regulation of Pubertal Growth, Hormone Research, Department of Pediatrics, University of California Davis Medical Center, 2003;60 (Suppl. 1):22-26
Endogenous sex hormones and cardiovascular disease incidence in men, Ann Intern Med. 2006 Aug 1;145(3):176-84
Sanna Wickman, Aromatase inhibition in boys with delayed puberty, Academic Dissertation, October 2003, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Hospital for Children and Adolescents.
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