What is the link between cholesterol and muscle growth?
Today, we will explore whether increasing dietary cholesterol can promote muscle growth and strength gains. In several studies, higher cholesterol intake has been linked to increased lean mass and strength, potentially by improving muscle cell integrity and boosting repair signaling pathways. We know that dietary cholesterol does not negatively impact blood cholesterol or heart disease risk, though stay tuned for one thing in your diet that might. Today is all about the muscle-building side of cholesterol.
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Today you’ll learn all about:
[2:37] Myth on the effects of dietary cholesterol
[5:12] Dietary cholesterol and muscle gain
[13:40] The effect of higher cholesterol intake
[15:01] The effects of statins
[16:01] Lower cholesterol intake of vegetarians
[17:45] Sources of cholesterol
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In several studies, higher cholesterol intake has been linked to increased lean mass and strength, potentially by improving muscle cell integrity and boosting repair signaling pathways. Welcome to the Wits & Weights podcast. I'm your host Philip Pape. In this twice a week podcast is dedicated to helping you achieve physical self mastery by getting stronger. Optimizing your nutrition and upgrading your body composition will uncover science backed strategies for movement, metabolism, muscle and mindset with a skeptical eye on the fitness industry so you can look and feel your absolute best. Let's dive right in Wits & Weights community Welcome to another solo episode of the Wits & Weights podcast in our last episode 121 excellence consistency and getting ripped through nutrition and training with Eric Helms. I talked with Dr. Holmes about his recent exploits in the bodybuilding world, fresh off his WWF procard. And then we dived into some of the nuances of nutrition and training. From levels of tracking and flexible dieting, to the value of very high protein to mini cuts. We discussed training, volume autoregulation, and many other topics. Today for episode 122 cholesterol for building muscle eggs and gains. We're going to explore whether increasing dietary cholesterol that is eating more eggs, especially holy eggs can promote muscle growth and strength gains. In several studies, higher cholesterol intake has been linked to increased lean mass and strength, potentially by improving muscle cell integrity and boosting repair signaling pathways. Now we know that dietary cholesterol does not negatively impact blood cholesterol or heart disease risk. And we'll get into that. Stay tuned for one thing in your diet that might but today is really all about the muscle building side of cholesterol. Before we get into the episode, did you know that I have an email list where I share tons of free content related to nutrition and training, Fat Loss and Muscle Building physique enhancement and mindset. If you want to get those hot off the press plus early access to master classes podcast episodes, promotions and other free goodies. Just go to wits & weights.com/email to join the list that's wits & weights.com/email or click the link in my show notes. So let's get to today's episode cholesterol for building muscle, eggs, and games. Now before we get into the muscle side of things, I want to dispel the myth that dietary cholesterol impacts serum or blood cholesterol your lipids your HDL LDL cholesterol numbers that you get through blood work, which are correlated with heart disease risk with cardiovascular disease. The body is really good at regulating blood cholesterol levels, regardless of dietary intake. It uses absorption and synthesis to do this. In something like 20% of people are what we call hyper responders who absorb or produce excess cholesterol in response to high dietary intake. And in the hyper responders, HDL and LDL usually increase proportionally. So the ratio stays the same. That's the quote unquote good to bad cholesterol. Now, epidemiological data does not support a link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease. There have been studies and in fact, there are even recommendations that say you can consume multiple eggs a day as part of a healthy diet without any increase in your heart disease risk. Even if you have diabetes, even if you have such current conditions. There is one thing though, that I work with my clients on that does have a correlation and an influence on serum cholesterol levels, and that is saturated fat. And the general guidance there is to limit your saturated fat to about 10% of your calories, or about 1/3 of your overall fat intake. And with some small, simple, flexible adjustments to your diet. That's pretty easy to do. Today's episode isn't really about that. But I did want to make that clarification that saturated fat can influence your cholesterol. And with my clients who have a history of high cholesterol, we look at that and we bring it down and it generally causes a reduction in their blood work. I've seen this with my own experience as well when I reduce my saturated fat intake because I used to love those bulletproof coffees I used to use I used to not use filters my coffee, for example. And a lot of saturated fat was getting in my diet when I reduced it. Lo and behold my cholesterol numbers went down now whether you want to argue how impactful that is when you're already living in otherwise healthy life, that's a whole different topic for the majority of the population. However, dietary cholesterol the cholesterol you consume does not negatively affect blood lipid profile. or CBD cardiovascular disease risk based on the current evidence. So any concerns are overblown. And you can go ahead and eat your cholesterol rich foods. So what I want to talk about now is the research on dietary cholesterol and muscle gains. Now, a lot of these were covered, these have been covered on other episodes. And there's a particular article that I referenced by mineral hunt gentleman's that I will include in the show notes, in fact, I'll give you the title now it's called is cholesterol, the forgotten, anabolic, and I think I heard him talking about it on a podcast. I also heard back in 2020, Greg knuckles talking about this on a segment of stronger by science. And some of what I'm going to say either repeats that, or, you know, shares the same kind of, it's not really skepticism, it's more of, hey, this might be a relationship you want to look at. And go ahead and try it for yourself. Like that is my position on most things. If there isn't a super clear link, but there might be a link. Try it for yourself. If there's no downside, try it for yourself. But we are going to look at three studies. Now, just real briefly, if you wanted to look them up that have shown some sort of lick. Now, Greg made the point on his podcast that oftentimes with science, if a study comes out if the first study in an area comes out, and has an extremely clear relationship, even if it's later found to be overblown, it often then leads to more studies in that area. And there's this bias towards studies that show a positive result versus ones that reject the null hypothesis and just don't show the link at all. And so always take this with a grain of salt. But here we go three studies. The first one is in chronological order. The first one was 2007, showing a linear dose response relationship. This study was led by reichmann at all, and it showed that when you increased dietary cholesterol, there was an increase in lean body mass. This was done among 49 elderly individuals using a 12 week strength training program. So that's one study the second one and again, I'm not diving into these in great detail. I think again, the stronger by science episode did that back in 2020, if you want to check it out, the second one was on the myofibrillar protein synthesis rate. So this is muscle protein synthesis. Lee at all in 2011, compared high and low cholesterol diets in young, healthy adults. And they found a nearly three times higher myofibrillar protein synthesis rate in the high cholesterol group 22 hours post intense resistance exercise. And then the third study is whole versus a whole eggs versus egg whites. VanVleet at all. 2017. So this is six years ago, I discovered that whole eggs stimulated more myofibrillar protein synthesis, compared to the same amount of protein from egg whites, hinting at the muscle building benefits of the cholesterol present in a yolks and we know that egg yolks are one of the best ways to get a lot of a lot more cholesterol pretty easily. And I'm going to share later in the episode, how different foods compare in terms of their cholesterol levels. Some of the comments I've heard and others analyzing these studies are that either the protein was not equated like the egg whites versus holy eggs. I'm not sure which one to be honest. But protein wasn't equated meaning once they added in the cholesterol, they also increase the protein. So now you got two variables going on. Right? That was one or there were questions on methodology and things like that. But there's some link. And it's not to be discounted, right, there's a possibility. There's also plenty of anecdotes over the years of people who eat more eggs, and they just feel better in the gym, they feel like they can perform better. In fact, Craig said that himself, I feel like I perform better when I have eggs, I'm actually in the middle of experimenting with it right now. Increasing, I'm trying to eat like four or five eggs every day, we have chickens, so we have like an unlimited supply anyway. And my concern in the past was trying to balance the calories because there's a lot of fat in a in eggs. So I just make sure that the the fat in the eggs is a decent portion of my fat for the day. So I just kind of moderate my fat in other areas, and it all works out nicely. And then I have plenty of protein from other sources because you can't just rely on whole eggs for protein, you might have to add egg whites or you have to have other sources of protein to get enough without the fat going through the roof. And I'm by no means recommending that you down a dozen raw eggs, or even a dozen egg omelet every day. Okay, I'm talking three or four eggs. That's what we're gonna get to by the end of this discussion. Now, why this potentially could work from the cholesterol, even if it's a small impact. There seem to be two mechanisms, two potential mechanisms. And then there's another mechanism that is probably not responsible. Okay, that one just to get it out of the way is anabolic hormone production testosterone because cholesterol is a precursor for anabolic hormones. And but the problem is that The increased dietary cholesterol doesn't directly lead to that elevated testosterone, or more lean body mass in and of itself, right? This probably goes back to the same reason why dietary cholesterol doesn't increase blood serum cholesterol rate the body auto auto regulate. So let's take that one off the table. The other two mechanisms are interesting, and they're a little bit technical sciency. So I'm gonna just, I tried to summarize them as best I can. So if you are a biologist out there, who actually understands this stuff, I apologize if I get it wrong. It doesn't matter so much at the end of the day, because my recommendation for this whole podcast episode is try it for yourself, just try it for yourself. Okay, this is where science and practice meets in the middle. So the two mechanisms The first is muscle cell integrity. And we know that this happens that cholesterol, increases membrane viscosity. So the viscosity around the cell membrane viscosity, if you think of it like water is not very viscous. Oil is a little more viscous molasses is even more viscous, right? So the more viscous you get, the more thick and kind of resilient it is. And if you subscribe to the theory of muscle damage from exercise, the subsequent inflammatory response and then the repair being a key mechanism in muscle growth and hypertrophy, then you could argue that, that more viscous resilient cell membranes would then lead to, you know, more efficient repair and thus faster muscle growth. Okay, so that's one. The second one is called lipid raft formation. And this is where cholesterol facilitates the assembly of signaling pathways that are crucial in muscle hypertrophy. Like and you've heard of these, the growth factors IGF, IGF one or IGF if given how you say it, and mTOR. And the activation of mTOR aligns with the observed increase in protein synthesis. And I know that the jury's out on a lot of this stuff, right? The evidence is kind of mixed how valuable mTOR really is, and all of this, it's kind of like P E ratios used to be a big thing, and now they're not so much anymore. So again, the mechanisms do you really have to understand them? No, we just want to see if there might be a link and then try it out. Okay. So I want to summarize what this message is about cholesterol. The research suggests there may be a link between dietary cholesterol and increased muscle growth and strength gains by those two mechanisms, cell integrity, and boosting muscle repair pathways. Hey, this is Philip. And I hope you're enjoying this episode of Wits & Weights, I started Wits,& Weights to help people who want to build muscle lose fat and actually look like they lift. I've noticed that when people improve their strength and physique, they not only look and feel better, they transform other areas of their life, their health, their mental resilience and their confidence in everything they do. And since you're listening to this podcast, I assume you want the same things the same success, whether you recently started lifting, or you've been at this for a while and want to optimize and reach a new level of success. Either way, my one on one coaching focused on engineering your physique and body composition is for you. If you want expert guidance and want to get results faster, easier, and with fewer frustrations along the way to actually look like you lift, go to wits & weights.com, and click on coaching or use the link in my show notes to apply today. I'll ask you a few short questions to decide if we're a good fit. If we are, we'll get you started this week. Now factor the show. higher cholesterol intake has been linked to greater gains in lean body mass and strength in some studies. It's also been linked to higher testosterone but may not have a direct impact on that. So that may be confounded there. egg yolks, in particular seem beneficial when compared to egg whites. Now, you could just chalk that up to the fact that egg yolks have cholesterol. But others might argue that egg yolks are extremely nutritious in multiple ways. And this takes me back to the theory of the food matrix. Not the theory. But the idea that we we think we can understand food based on its constituent parts, its macros and its nutrients. But there are other things in food we just either don't understand, don't see don't know or don't measure that can be beneficial. And this is why a diverse diet is often the most logical approach for a lot of people because you get the benefits, the hidden benefits and all these things right and some people like to call eggs a superfood. I think all foods are superfood, and the most the biggest superfood is a balanced diverse diet as a whole the entire thing. So egg yolks may be helpful for other reasons and I'm going to recommend egg yolks as the source of cholesterol if you're going to increase your cholesterol just because it's the most efficient way to get there. And it may have other benefits. Okay, Continuing. So, you've heard of statin, statins are used just probably abused even in the medical industry. At this point, everybody with the tiniest hint of high cholesterol is given a statin, I was offered a statin in my as early as my 20s When, when my total cholesterol would spike just over 200, right. And I routinely routinely get my blood work. When I've gone through a cut, or when I'm in a lower weight, my total cholesterol is like 150. When I'm a little bit heavier, it's like 220, and it always vacillates between there. I'm perfectly healthy, right? That's my range. So these absolute numbers and these population ranges are just just be skeptical. Anyway, my point is, statins, lower cholesterol, we know that they do. And they also cause muscle side effects like weakness and inflammation, we know that as well, which could hint in the reverse, you know, by reverse engineering it that cholesterol, AIDS and muscle function in some way. That's all. Take that for what you will. Now vegetarians, let's talk about them for a second. vegetarians tend to on average gain less muscle than omnivores. And some people think this could be because of the lower cholesterol intake from plant based diets because now we're talking about cholesterol from all sources. Not just eggs, but butter, cheese, dairy products, red meat, poultry, Oregon's fish, all of that is where we get cholesterol. So if you're on a plant based diet, you're pretty much not getting any. Now, you could argue that vegetarians also may not get enough protein if they're not really careful about it. And so again, we have to avoid confounding the two variables of protein versus cholesterol and I'm not sure I'm not aware of a study maybe Hey, Coach Lambie, Dustin Lambert, if he's listening can point me to a lot all this in fact, you can correct everything I'm saying this episode if you'd like and, and doing your own of your own on the working weights podcast, which would be awesome. So vegetarians, there you go. Okay. Cholesterol does help produce steroid hormones like testosterone. It also assists muscle repair and growth signaling pathways. But again, how much of this is impacted by the dose response versus like having a minimum having having a normal minimum amount in your diet? In other words, if you eat a couple 100 milligrams of cholesterol, is there much of a difference between 208 100 versus the difference between zero and 200? Right? It's always good to keep those in mind. Like sometimes you just your body just needs a certain amount of something and you're deficient. Once you address the deficiency, you're good. Beyond that there's not much of a benefit could be the case of cholesterol. Again, try it for yourself. We talked about how dietary cholesterol does not has little to no impact on blood cholesterol for most people. Again, unless you're a super responder doesn't raise your heart disease risk, and the foods that you get cholesterol from I want to list them right now just so you have a good idea of why eggs are so huge. egg yolks, one egg yolk 18 grams, the egg yolk itself has 195 grams of cholesterol, the whole egg so the egg yolk plus the egg Why is 222. So 195 Out of the 222 milligrams are from the yolk. So right there, you can see that if you just eat three eggs a day, you're over 600 milligrams of cholesterol. So that's why I say three to four eggs is like a good sweet spot. If you're trying to make sure you get a minimum amount of around seven or 800 a day because you'll probably get cholesterol from some other sources as well. Butter has 30 milligrams and a tablespoon. Cheese has about a one to one milligrams to grams. So like 100 grams of cheese has 114 milligrams of cholesterol. A whole milk has a little bit of cholesterol so like 10% by volume, so 100 mil 100 milliliters of milk will have 10 milligrams of cholesterol. Yogurt has a little bit red meat has a decent amount. Poultry has a decent amount, but the leaner it is the less you're going to have. So you want to eat the fattier cuts to get more cholesterol. Oregon meat has a lot so that's the other one besides egg yolks actually organ meat like kidney and liver has a ton of cholesterol. How many of you listen to this podcast, we're gonna go and start eating liver every day. I thought so. Back to eggs, okay, and then fish. So the more fatty the better. But fish also has a little bit less than poultry. My red meat has the most of all of these besides organ meats so but egg yolk is the clear winner. So if you're trying to build muscle, if you're in a gaining phase, if you've got the calories to work with including the fat and you want to try this out and you currently eat maybe a couple eggs a day or maybe you eat a couple eggs every now and then a protocol would be don't change anything else and just make sure you get four eggs a day for a few weeks and measure your lifting progress, how you feel in the gym, how you're performing, how you recover your energy, all of that, okay. Try to equate the macro Use otherwise, what I mean by that is if you're going to go from 0x to 4x a day, that's a decent amount of fat, or offset it with other fat, so that the overall macros are still around the targets you would normally have anyway. And if you're tracking, you would do that, because you're gonna have to meal plan it in. But just to keep the different variables from changing so much, that's what I would suggest. include other foods like you normally would. So if you normally eat dairy, meat, fish, they all have clusters anyway, that kind of get to that baseline. If you're using macro factor, go back right now and look at the history, you can actually look at the nutrients. And you can look at it for different time periods. So it's really cool. This update came out in the last few months, you can go into your day, how do you do it? Yeah, you go into your day in review. So go to the top macros, tap it, look at your day, and go down to nutrition. And then at the top, I think you can change it to like a week, a month, a year, something like that and see the average intake of something and cholesterol is on that list. So if your average intake has been, say 300 You know, you can have a new target that's decently higher than that like 900, let's say or if your average is 100, you can go up to 700 I would go buy like, you know, 600 milligrams, something like that, to have a meaningful difference and then compare it to, to your biofeedback. Vegans, if if you're vegan, you're going to want to increase your saturated fat intake to support cholesterol production. And this is totally off tangent, but I had it in my notes. So we're talking coconut oil, nuts, avocado case, you are wondering. The big message here is don't fear cholesterol, that's definitely not a concern. It's not going to impact your blood levels negatively or your heart health. Talk to your doctor. If you're using a statin and you get muscle weakness or pain as a side effect rates just good to know that get your bloodwork done before and after if you'd like or if you want to know if you're a hyper responder, and enjoy your eggs like enjoy eating more eggs I CERAM eggs are delicious. If you have your own chickens, they're especially so but honestly any you can get that are to have nice, rich orange yolks that tastes good and you can tolerate and enjoy. Go for it. I like them scrambled just quick and easy to make. I also do some hard boiled. Some of you fancy types out there my like and poached. There's of course over easy sunny side up. Medium easy. A Million Ways to have eggs. It's great. Okay, that's it for today's episode on cholesterol and gains. When in doubt, try it out. Then reach out to me to let me know whether more eggs means more gains for you. I would really love to know. And remember to join my email list at wits & weights.com/email for more content like this straight to your inbox, that's wits & weights.com/email or click the link in my show notes. In fact, you know what else you could just go to my website wits & weights.com and click Email in our next episode 123 So 123 why you're not achieving your fitness goals with Mike Milner. we unpack the DNA of success. To understand why so many of us failed hitting our health and fitness goals. We get deep into the mental game. Mike is a fellow coach with tons of experience in the psychology of goal achievement. So make sure to subscribe to Wits & Weights right now in your podcast app go ahead click follow click Subscribe so you get that episode. As always, stay strong. And I'll talk to you next time here on the Wits & Weights podcast. Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Wits & Weights if you found value in today's episode, and know someone else who's looking to level up their Wits & Weights, please take a moment to share this episode with them. And make sure to hit the Follow button in your podcast platform right now to catch the next episode. Until then stay strong