The Birth Control Pill Can Impair Lean Muscle Growth And Increase Stress Levels, According To A New Study

Millions of women across the country are either on the birth control pill right now or they've been on it previously. It's one of the most popular forms of contraception that doctors prescribe quickly for a multitude of reasons.

By Gina Florio2 min read
birth control pill can't build muscle

We've been told by many doctors that the pill will fix our hormonal issues and painful periods, but as more and more information is released, we know that the pill is sometimes nothing more than a band-aid that's used far too often among young women. There's a variety of side effects that women experience, even though doctors don't inform them that these effects may take place: hormone disruption, decreased sex drive, long-term fertility issues, etc.

A recent study shared by the National Strength and Conditioning Association has found a couple of different side effects that you may not have heard of yet.

The Birth Control Pill Limits Your Ability To Gain Lean Muscle and Increases Stress

Steven E. Riechman and Chang Woock Lee were the leaders of this study, and they examined the effects of the pill on two groups of young, healthy women between the ages of 18 and 29; one group was taking the pill and the other wasn't.

These women underwent 10 weeks of resistance training for three days each week. They recorded the women's body composition (percentage of body fat vs. muscle) along the way by taking blood samples before and after and using hydrostatic weighing, which is supposed to be the most accurate way to measure body fat. You won't be surprised by the results.

Women who were on the pill struggled to develop lean muscle in their body.

The study said there were significant differences in lean mass gains between the groups, which means that the women who were on the pill struggled to develop lean muscle in their body compared to the other group of women. The women taking oral contraception showed lower levels of DHEA, a hormone produced by your adrenal glands that promotes healthy testosterone levels, and IGF-1, which increases muscle protein synthesis and functions as the major mediator of growth hormone.

You might be thinking that this isn't a big deal – why would you want all these manly hormones anyway? You don't want to be bulky, right? Growth hormones and hormones that promote muscle growth are extremely important in women, and you need to build lean muscle in order to have a healthy body composition, shed fat efficiently, and attain that toned, lean look that women desire. Besides, having a healthy amount of muscle in the body promotes longevity, less risk for injury, better mood, and overall wellness.

Additionally, the study found that the pill increased the level of cortisol in the body, which is the major stress hormone. It's no wonder so many women report feeling very anxious and moody when they're taking oral contraception. Plus, increased levels of cortisol can inhibit protein synthesis and make it harder for your body to build muscle.

The pill increased the level of cortisol in the body.

The researchers speculate that this response is due to the effect that the pill has on anabolic and catabolic hormones levels or the "androgenicity of progestin that may bind to androgen receptors and inhibit its function."

If you're on the pill, you may want to get your labs done and see if these same side effects are happening to you. Unfortunately, as popular as oral contraceptives may be, there seems to be an increasing amount of information that speaks to the negative influences they have on women's bodies.