There is a reason I have refrained from birth control all these years. It was mostly due to its adverse effects I experienced. However, I never would have thought it would disrupt my progress in the gym. I am sure most of us are aware of the effects anabolic steroids can have on the body, but what about those synthetic hormones that keep us from getting pregnant? Have you ever wondered if the birth control you’re on is keeping you from reaching your fitness goals? I didn’t think so because the effects of birth control on weight training is not a frequent topic in the world of fitness.
Two years ago, I was the fittest I have ever been. I was able to lean out and lose weight quickly, but I wasn’t on any form of anti-baby maker until this past year. Over the next year, I watched my progress in the gym diminish to a 20-pound weight gain no matter what preventative measures I took. Keep in mind, I was still eating right and working out. I can’t say this for all women since we respond differently to birth control but weight gain was the main side effect I experienced. I was in denial that it could be my birth control until I switched contraceptives. As I share my personal experience, I think it’s time to shed some light on the subject altogether.
We all know that our monthly cycles vary, but mid-cycle is roughly when the ovaries release the egg for fertilization. This is when the sex hormones estradiol and testosterone peak, basically no different than the mating season in the wilderness. In other words, it gives you the urge to jump your significant other. I am sure many of you, like myself, are not ready to have children. And that’s where birth control comes in handy. Now, since birth control suppresses ovulation, it could present a REAL PROBLEM if you’re a gains-hungry gym rat.
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It presents a real problem because you’re ingesting yourself with synthetic hormones to prevent pregnancy. So, what does the suppression of ovulation mean? It means you’re not getting that bump in testosterone your body needs to help with muscle mass and building. We need an adequate amount of testosterone. Otherwise, maintaining a favorable body composition becomes that much harder.
A 10-week study was conducted at Texas A&M University on birth control pills and building muscle. In this study, various birth control brands were used, varying anywhere from low, medium to high levels of progestins (synthetic progestogens that have progesterone-like actions in the uterus). The women who took the contraceptive with low levels of progestins acquired muscles just as effectively as those women not taking the pill. However, women whose birth control pills contained high levels saw a very low percentage in gain of muscle mass over the 10 weeks.
The birth control brands were not disclosed in this study, but it does go to show what effects birth control brands, with different hormone levels, can have on our muscle building capabilities. My Advice: Talk to your doctor if you’re not getting those GAINZ! It could be your contraceptive!