What really is this thing called cholesterol? I often read that it's a precursor to testosterone, but it can also
be bad for you. What's the story? We'll let's take a closer look to answer these common questions regarding
cholesterol, especially in the everyday life of bodybuilding.
Believe it or not if you're a bodybuilder, cholesterol is one of your best friends. If, however, you have too much circulating in your bloodstream, it can become dangerous for your overall health. While cholesterol has gotten a bad rap, the substance has many positive effects on the body - especially where performance is concerned - that have been overlooked by the mainstream press.
Nearly all tissues in your body use and are capable of synthesizing cholesterol. The major players in its synthesis are the liver and intestinal wall which account for over 9O° of your body's production. Cholesterol is a vital component of cell membranes and assists in the formation of very important substances that help you maintain optimal health and promote muscle growth. For example, cholesterol helps form bile acids (used in the digestion of fats): androgens; estrogens; progesterone: and adrenal cortical steroids, such as cortisol. Without cholesterol, you can't maximize your potential in the gym. Some of your body's most anabolic hormones couldn't be produced without it.
You get cholesterol from food, and, as mentioned above, your body also makes it. Cholesterol is present only in animal tissues and is found in high amounts in meats, egg yolks and dairy products such as milk and cheese. Contrary to popular belief, changing the amount of cholesterol in your diet has only small effects on blood levels in most people. How much cholesterol you have floating around in your circulatory system is due more to genetic factors than diet.
The dietary factor that seems to have the greatest effect on your cholesterol level and blood lipid profile is the intake of saturated fat (rather than cholesterol, per se). Blood cholesterol is also influenced by total calorie and carbohydrate (especially simple sugar) intake.
Sounds crazy, but the press really went overboard on the whole correlation between diet and cholesterol. While some people can respond to dietary cholesterol changes, exercise and genetic makeup appear to be the major influences here.
The typical bodybuilder's diet is very low in cholesterol. Egg whites, chicken breasts, fish and other lean protein sources are smart food choices not only for promoting muscle mass, but for keeping a healthy lipid profile. If you are concerned about your cholesterol level, get your doctor to check it out. The blood test costs about $20 and is well worth the price.