Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Human Skeletal Muscle Possesses an Epigenetic Memory of Hypertrophy (2018) (nature.com)
61 points by havella 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments



Does this mean, that the use of anabolic steroids to build muscle at one point in time can lead to better performance years after usage? For example, a young athlete uses it in his late teens/early twenties to gain muscle and then lays off the drug for a while. Then he returns to competitive sports, reaping the benefits of the formerly enhanced hypertrophy without any means to test against it?


Or if the athlete was once male...


[flagged]


Not particularly educational and extremely one sided. The main source of information is by a gender identity doctor.

One particular excerpt:

> The connection between naturally occurring testosterone and athletic performance appears to be overstated. When researchers measured the T levels of elite athletes from 15 Olympic sports, more than 25 per cent of the men were below 10 nmol/L

Yeah because training reduces testosterone.


why was my comment flagged but your bigotry ins't?

I did not even down vote your comment, yet mine has quite a few votes. So I’m guessing the hivemind disagrees with you.

I've always wanted to try that, seeing as short term use of steroids seems to not have many harmful side effects - I'd probably have done it already if it weren't for my complete lack of knowledge about how to do it safely (where to buy, how to keep my health controlled, etc).


It sounds tempting, but then again, what would you tell your children? That if they want to become like you they have to take steroids too? Or hope for some epigenetic effect?


Who knows, if steroids are indeed a net positive for the body they might even have legal choices available by the time they're adults - the trend of reviewing currently banned substances seems to be taking pace with new attempts to use Psychedelic drugs to treat depression and weed for pain management.


There is a difference though: steroids are produced by the human body, whereas most psychedelic drugs and weed are not.

If steroids would be a net positive for the body in general, then evolution would just follow the gradient and produce more of it.

> if steroids are indeed a net positive for the body they might even have legal choices available by the time they're adults

That's a huge "if ... might" there. Again, what are you telling your children? That gambling with your health is ok?


I don't think that's really a given: The product of our past evolution doesn't necessarily represent our current needs and interests. More muscle mass is costly to maintain, which could have been unwanted in food scarce environments; living long lives might be evolutionary irrelevant past reproduction age...

Think about teeth for an obvious example: The body is able to grow them, and some animals do it constantly - yet losing our adult teeth (due to aging, accidents or whatever else) does not cause us to grow new ones. It would be hard to dispute that growing a replacement tooth would be beneficial to a person in our current context and lifestyle, but evolution has not reached that conclusion.

Edit: Replying also to your second phrase (the message I'd be giving to my potential children) - I don't really see why, if current research points to minimal to no dangers for short term use (about as harmful as light alcohol consumption), I should be treating it as such a big deal. If anything, I think it would be a positive lesson that they should make adult choices for themselves by taking appropriate steps to be informed about the pros and cons of it.


Ok, fair points. But then again, by going the steroid route you and your kids would be excluded from participating in any sports matches (except perhaps bodybuilding contests). How would you feel about that, and about how others would view you in this regard?


The body does indeed produce various psycedelics, albeait in very small quantity. The presence of thc and opoid receptors is no happy accident.


> Does this mean, that the use of anabolic steroids to build muscle at one point in time can lead to better performance years after usage?

Yes, and it's very well known too. You don't need to take steroids for very long to increase your muscle mass, then you go off them and stay off them for a few months and maintain it. You can then repeat multiple times if you need/want to. I've been told that it's fairly safe when done this way, with appropriate monitoring, etc.


You are correct, but there is more to it than that. At one time I was a serious lifter-- and I did half a dozen cycles. Even though I haven't worked out seriously in 3 or 4 years (illness, childcare, divorce) my body shape is permanently altered, as are my overall strength levels.

So, when I was entertaining trying to be a bodybuilder, I had two problem areas. Chest and arms. Also, I should mention that my trainer at the time was an IFBB judge, and has his pro card. I really, really dived into this.

My chest got big from gear and stayed that way, and I kept most of my strength, even when I don't work out.

The reason I can't be a bodybuilder is-- I can't get my biceps to grow, even on the most aggressive steroids they grow mildly and shrink back to crap the moment I'm not killing myself.

My point is, bodies are weird. They're an indignity frankly. Anecdotally, I have evidence your supposition is correct and incorrect. It's mostly down to genetics.


You just described steroid cycling.

> cycling steroids involves alternating the active and in active use of steroids. This means that there would be times where a person would be using the drug as well as times where they would refrain from using them.

https://www.whatsteroids.com/steroids/what-is-a-steroid-cycl...


Correct, it does. Bodybuilders have known this for years.


Same in fighting.


And rugby.


This is exactly how some guys in gyms used to consume anabolic steroids, I'm talking about the practice around the 90s, for them this was just a dark pattern in sports (heavy weight lifting). Some used to train several months a year consuming, then stopping, and after a while (could be months to a year or more), they'd be returning to competition.

the street theory, quite supported by old consumers and ex-competitors, was that, ok the "super-size" could be gone after some months, but the strenght increase would not. So you've got - and you'd be able - to train really hard in those months, consuming steroids, supplements, controlling diet, etc.


Definitely.


I have found this with myself - in uni ~7 years ago I was pretty into powerlifting (around 120kg squat, 120kg bench, 170kg deadlift at 184cm/81kg). Now as I go through on and off periods of training due to life etc. I find that it is relatively quick and easy for me to get back into decent shape. Like 2 weeks of training after even months of eating poorly and drinking too much is enough to get good muscle definition back and my strength goes back to probably 80% of my youthful peak. Obviously this is anecdata, YMMV.


that's not soley because of the epigenetic muscle memory:

1. you also already have the basics of lifting technique down - it takes some time to learn to squat properly.

2. you are comfortable with going to the gym and getting into the lifts straight away instead of spending the first few months on the treadmill.

3. you're probably knowledgeable about programs and the need for progression.

this is all in addition to the epigenetic muscle memory.


These are valid points. I should also say that I rarely go to the gym anymore, as I far prefer swimming and running at the moment. I don't even have a current gym membership (first time in over ten years!).


I remember one bodybuilder/trainer said it's easy to lose weight. He dieted poorly, became fat, then was able to quickly reagin his good shape in a month, so he "proved" it's easy. This looks like he just proved that it's easy if you were already in good shape.



Yeah, my anecdata matches yours. I didn't start lifting until I read all the nerdy rave reviews of Starting Strength on this very website (circa 2012 maybe), and bought the book and tried it.

I was already in my late 30s, but in about a year, I doubled my strength on barbell squat, bench press, and deadlift. (Almost any beginner/novice can do this, BTW!)

But, it was a slog. I failed a lot, often repeatedly, before I could complete all my sets and advance to a higher weight. So the progression was slow.

Then we had a second kid and that was that — no time for lifting for a while! Like almost 2 years. And I did revert to a weaker version of myself (still 50% stronger than I was originally, though). But when I finally got back to it, I got back to 90% of my peak in maybe 6-8 weeks.

That same story repeated after we had a third kid.


Well, n=2 (at least, HN?)


...and the opposite curse applies to people who had fully couch-potato sedentary lifestyles in youth and want to work themselves into shape in their 30s ...it sucks :| Realizing that you might need to put 12+ months of continuous boring excruciating exercise to get what others can get with 1-2 moths of training only.

Wish there was a pill to solve this for us (phisically-)lazy ones...


Nope, it’s not like you think.

You can start weight lifting, following a “Russian strength” program (just three exercises, heavier weight, small sets of 3-5 reps), and the experience noticeable changes within 4 weeks. And I’m not talking about a lot of time at the gym... perhaps 2-3 hours total of exercise per week.

Not only will you get strong, you will start burning more calories when you’re not even moving. Plus, you’ll feel more energy and more drive/discipline to eat better and go back to the gym. In fact, a common problem is wanting to go to the gym too often. (The older you get, the more recovery time needed between workouts... more workouts can actually be detrimental.).


> And I’m not talking about a lot of time at the gym... perhaps 2-3 hours total of exercise per week.

And if you only have time to go to the gym once a week you can make visible progress in that much time. Three sets of five reps of squat, bench and deadlift is doable in 50 minutes and if you do it consistently once a week you’ll see steady progress for most of a year.


i started lifting at the age of 30. starting age is not that much of a factor (i.e. now, at 37, my lifting numbers partially exceed those of OP at 10kg less bodyweight). it does limit the performance ceiling you'll be able to reach, but this is probably a lot further than you'll be willing to go anyway. which isn't even completely true; there are winners in the olympic weightlifting masters division who didn't start lifting until late in life.

the biggest difference is, most likely, the amount of time you'll be able to spend in the gym and it might take you a little longer to get started properly as you'll probably have limiting deficiencies in mobility at first. but this is still negligible; one or two months really don't matter much if you plan to lift for the rest of your life. only being able to lift twice a week will still do wonders for your health, looks and wellbeing.

i can get in shape quickly now, but at first it took me 12+ months to get the technique down and it would have taken me 12+ months if i had started at 18 (which is not entirely accurate - there is not specific point where you'll finally "got it").


You're just doing the same work then as those others put in the first time around.

Luckily only the first few weeks are boring and excruciating, then your body starts responding and it actually starts to feel good.


> Luckily

...nope, I'm one of those humans miss-programmed to secrete dopamine and endorphines when slumping in a chair coding and eating chips, and to feel depressed to death when doing physical effort. For those other 99% of humans programmed with the normal response to physical effort that you describe: you don't know how lucky you are! (Anyhow, will carry on, ugly body + diabetes + heart-attack and/or stroke at 50 still sounds a bit worse than working out a bit feels :P ...still on the look for some pharmaceutical "cheat codes" though, there's gotta be some 0-days in the human body/mind that we can hack to get to avoid that work, though maybe risk/benefit might not be worth it here)


Has an actual doctor diagnosed your condition? I think this qualifies as something worthy of one of those "a case report" publications.

Yes, I do intend to challenge your position, but I mean no offense. Maybe the problem is not slumping nor coding, but the chips. The first step to fixing health, be it physical or mental, is fixing one's diet.


In their defense, they never claimed a diagnosed condition, only subjective discomfort. And when you live to eat chips on the couch playing games, movement DOES feel crap and good food DOES feel crap and it takes a long while to retrain your body for the new endorphins instead of the old ones.

Damn, that sucks. :/ I only feel horrible for the first few weeks of regular exercise before I start getting that "workout buzz" instead of the "workout kill-me-now".


Are you diagnosed with a condition? If not, it sounds like your problem is psychological.

What sports/efforts have you tried?


I've told several people the same thing, based on my experience and the experience of some friends of mine.

I absolutely believe this is true.

One thing that influence this is that the second (third, fourth) time that you are doing it, you are better at it and know exactly what to do. So, you get into shape faster.

Also this:

"Epidemiological studies in human ageing cohorts also suggest that low birth weight and gestational malnutrition are strongly associated with reduced skeletal muscle size, strength and gait speed in older age"

More or less known among older folks.


I think general strength-training folk-wisdom is that it's easier to build muscle if at some point in the past you had built muscle, even if it had withered in the meantime.

I don't understand the science here, but I think they're saying the initial muscle-building efforts do something to the genome that allow future hypertrophy efforts to be more fruitful.


Simplified and probably somehwat inaccurate explanation: The currently believed theory about this effect it's that the number of nuclei in your muscle cells increase, along with the actuall volume of the cell. Cell volume decreases quite fast, but the number of nuclei stays more or less constant, allowing you tor egain cell volume quite fast.

Anabolic drugs push the natural upper limits of myonuclei per cell, which can remain higher than natural even years after stopping exercise/dosing.

So once you have reached a certain level of hypertrophy


our cells can have multiple nuclei?


Yes, in long muscle fibers and in the syncytiotrophoblast of the placenta. This involves repurposed viral DNA. Viruses use that DNA to spread directly from cell to cell. The placenta makes a giant multi-nucleated cell to block any gaps.


Yup, muscle cells do

Some have no nuclei, like (mature) red blood cells


Mind you, n=8 pilot study. The most interesting tidbit is related to aging, but they didn't check if old muscle responds similarly, or how the profiles are different in older individuals.

Epigenetics is fascinating and can hold another key to fixing aging...


Small n is not always a deal breaker, IF the small sample resembles the greater population (which I can't judge in this case).

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2008/11/9/656465/-


That and if the effect size is sufficiently large, though I can't imagine n=8 is enough to detect an effect size of the type we're likely looking at here reliably.


Proliferation/increasing satellite cells is kind of the holy grail of body building. Creatine helps here a little (at least if you're deficient from a vegetarian/vegan diet): https://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/10.1139/h2001-045 (aside from the "tactical" effects of creatine).


Christian Bale dropping weight for a role in Machinist, only to gain the muscle back for the role in Batman [1] seems like a classic example of this effect.

[1] https://www.menshealth.com/uk/fitness/lifestyle/a26004466/ch...


Steroids help enormously if you want to quickly put on large amounts of muscle.


Is there such a thing as inheritance of epigenetics? I have done a lot of weight-lifting off and on and often wondered if I conceived a child while maintaining a perfect diet, tons of exercise and sleep, they would come out much differently than if they were conceived while i was eating garbage and laying around.

Does this scientifically explain the phenomenon colloquially known as "dad strength?"



Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: