Oxytocin is a hormone many of us hear about, but barely know what it really is. This is not a article that will go too deeply into its primary functions; however, recent studies show something that may greatly benefit those of us looking to not only build muscle but protect it from those frequent tears and injuries as well.
Generally speaking, oxytocin is the hormone that is most commonly referred to in women because it helps their uterus contract during labor, and it also helps to produce milk for the newborn. However, oxytocin is released from the pituitary gland in men, too, and is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone.” It plays a major role in helping us cement emotional bonds and ties, and now new studies point to its ability to help keep the muscles strong, heal injuries in the elderly and prevent muscle atrophy.
Muscle atrophy is what happens when you don’t use a muscle. This can happen because of a variety of factors: Aging, heredity, disease, immobility, or muscoloskeletal injury, for example. It also happens a lot when we as men ignore certain muscle groups in favor of building others. For instance, some of us may be more focused on the arms or the abs than the legs; however, this can lead to a great deal of problems, especially if we are over the age of 40.
Researchers reported in the Nature Communications Journal that oxytocin was found to stimulate muscle stem cells and help them divide in the event of an injury. This was mainly studied in mice, it should be noted. This study showed that oxytocin was significantly reduced in older mice, and imaging confirmed that the older mice had a harder time repairing damaged muscles that were the result of frailty in old age.
This is a long way off from saying oxytocin supplementation of drug therapy could help with the reversal of muscle atrophy in humans, but it is certainly an interesting avenue that is being explored.
What does that mean for us in the fitness world? It means that there may be an option for those of us suffering from muscle atrophy as a result of age and non-use. Some of us are more prone to muscle injury than others, especially as we get older, but these innovative measures with oxytocin gives us hope that we will have a better way of treating and actually reversing the effects of those injuries, effectively making our muscles stronger and more viable.
Of important note is that the physicians and researches at the Mayo Clinic, as well as the University of California Berkeley, do not yet recommend oxytocin treatment or supplementation for humans, but they do want to emphasize the importance of such a finding. There may very well come a time where this hormone that is more widely know in the feminine and maternity world becomes pillar in muscle health in men’s fitness.