For most of us, when we hear the word Cholesterol we often think of it as a bad word. Clogged-up arteries and high blood pressure are just some of the scary health issues that we associate Cholesterol with. In this short article that is backed by studies, we will check out if cholesterol is really that bad for us.
Studies and Research in Cholesterol
A 2007 study which included 49 elderly individuals who completed a 12-week strength training program with nutritional guidelines found that cholesterol may benefit your gains.
The results showed a linear dose-response relationship between dietary cholesterol intake and lean body mass increases. The MORE cholesterol they consumed, the MORE muscle they gained. This relationship held up when protein and fat intake were controlled for.
However, a 2008 study replicated the 2007 study and found a dose-response relationship between cholesterol intake and strength development.
But NOT lean body mass. It’s unclear if protein intake was controlled for.
Another 2009 study replicated the previous 2007 & 2008 studies and found NO relationship between cholesterol intake and muscle growth or strength development.
The researchers also did NOT find any effect of 0.9 vs. 1.2 g/kg/d of protein, which suggests their study was statistically underpowered to research this topic.
A 2011 study compared a high (~800 mg/d) and a low (< 200 mg/d) cholesterol diet in young, healthy adults.
The high cholesterol group had a nearly 3 times higher myofibrillar protein synthesis rate (a measure of muscle growth) 22 hours after intense resistance exercise than the low cholesterol group.
A study on eggs
A 2017 study found that whole eggs stimulate more myofibrillar protein synthesis than the same amount of protein from egg whites.
The yolk is very rich in cholesterol, so knowing that cholesterol stimulates myofibrillar protein synthesis. Thus, the cholesterol in whole eggs makes them great anabolic foods.
How Does Cholesterol Help On Muscle Growth
Cholesterol has several potential mechanisms of action to increase muscle growth.
- It increases membrane viscosity, which may influence membrane stability.
- Play a role in the muscle repair process by controlling inflammation.
- Essential for lipid raft formation. Lipid rafts assemble the components for signalling pathways and enhance signalling between pathways that play an essential role in muscle hypertrophy, such as the growth factors IGF-I and mTOR.
In short, cholesterol can help your muscle cells resist damage and improve their ability to repair themselves after workouts, which is crucial for muscle growth. Thus, Cholesterol can also improve your gains indirectly.
Cholesterol is the precursor for anabolic hormones (e.g. testosterone) and is crucial for their production. BUT, increasing dietary cholesterol does NOT necessarily lead to increased testosterone or more lean body mass gain by itself.
Isn’t Cholesterol Bad?
A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition confirmed that how much cholesterol you consume in your diet does NOT even influence how much cholesterol is in your blood.
A high cholesterol diet does NOT generally negatively influence their cholesterol profile. If total blood cholesterol increases due to a high-cholesterol diet, both ‘good’ HDL and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol generally increase in the same proportion.
- According to the studies, high cholesterol diet may be advantageous for muscle growth and strength development by increasing muscle cell integrity and signalling for muscle growth.
- The beneficial cholesterol intake seems to be at least 7.2 mg dietary cholesterol per kg of lean body mass and more than 400 mg in men. (Example: 80 kg male = 576 mg of cholesterol)
- Since your body autoregulates your blood cholesterol level, a high cholesterol intake generally does NOT increase your serum cholesterol level.
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