Elevated Liver Enzymes? Muscle Damage May Play a Role
The liver is a crucial organ that controls metabolism, digestion, and detoxification. You could say it’s the primary chemical factory of the body. One of its primary functions is to filter and detoxify blood by removing harmful substances and metabolizing drugs. The liver is essential for maintaining the body's general health and well-being.
Everything you do affects your liver in one way or another. This is why liver enzymes can be a marker for potential muscle damage and more.
Liver enzymes and liver function
Levels of enzymes the liver introduces into the bloodstream can tell you a lot about the liver function and the condition of other systems.
So, what substances are usually monitored?
- Albumin. Although it’s not an enzyme, albumin is a crucial protein that exposes dehydration or problems with protein intake — either its excessive nature or malabsorption. When albumin levels are lower than the optimal window, it’s a sign of liver damage.
- ALT. Alanine transaminase is an enzyme responsible for detoxification processes inside hepatocytes. Elevated ALT levels can be occasionally spotted throughout the day, but if they persist, it’s a sign of hepatocyte failure. ALT can also enter the bloodstream from damaged skeletal muscles.
- AST. Aspartate transaminase also takes part in detoxification. Apart from liver and skeletal muscle tissue, AST can be found in heart muscle tissue.
In case of liver problems, both ALT and AST levels will be elevated on blood tests. However, if you work out regularly, your liver enzyme levels will also be elevated due to slight muscle damage. The longer and more intensively you train, the longer AST and ALT will persist at their peak.
Monitoring your levels for overtraining
You can use AST/ALT blood tests to monitor your muscle recovery between workouts. If their elevation takes too long to decrease, it’s a sign of a high training load. To better understand your performance, you can additionally test your blood for testosterone and cortisol levels — their ratio will tell you if you’re overtraining. Decreased levels of testosterone indicate impaired muscle repair while persisting high levels of cortisol indicate an “emergency” condition of your muscles and nervous system.
Keeping track of these enzymes and hormones will provide you with a good overlook of your muscle condition, allowing you for a more efficient and healthy workout routine.
The role of GGT
So, how do you differentiate liver damage from muscle damage if AST and ALT levels can be elevated in both cases?
Unlike these two, GGT is a liver-produced enzyme that isn’t found in muscles. It’s a liver-specific blood marker. So, if GGT is elevated alongside ALT and AST, it’s a case of liver damage. You can suspect muscle damage if GGT is in the optimal window while AST and ALT levels are elevated.
Combined with testosterone and cortisol levels in your blood, you can effectively monitor your muscle condition while excluding the possibility of liver damage if GGT levels remain normal.
Tips for keeping GGT levels within the healthy range
Being a liver-specific biomarker, GGT can help you monitor your liver function. Liver health ensures the stability of other bodily systems, so you want your GGT levels to stay inside the optimal window.
To make sure your liver is healthy and your GGT won’t peak high, simply stick to basic healthy lifestyle rules.
First, maintain a healthy diet with a moderate fiber and protein intake. Try to stay away from saturated fat and added sugar as these substances might overload the main chemical power station in your body (we’re talking about the liver, of course).
Also, watch out for alcohol. If you drink it, do so in moderation — two drinks a week won’t be an issue for the liver, but the equivalent of the same amount daily can cause irreparable damage.
Some over-the-counter medications also affect liver function. For example, paracetamol and other non-steroid painkillers put a lot of pressure on your liver — use them only if necessary.
Sticking to a moderate workout routine is a great way to support your liver health. Aerobic exercises, HIIT, or swimming are perfect to keep your liver working and successfully metabolizing glucose. Also, they are great for weight loss.
A healthy liver promotes your overall health and allows you to enjoy your favorite activities more. By supporting your liver now, you choose to have a better quality of life later.