This particular blog does NOT pertain to middle-aged men or older who may require testosterone supplementation due to low blood levels of the hormone. It is well known that natural testosterone levels decrease with age. Rather, I want to focus on the worrisome trend of young men in their twenties and thirties opting for testosterone supplementation. Why should this be of concern? Because in most cases these young men do NOT need testosterone supplementation.
The real issue is the supplement industry marketing test supplement products as anabolic boosters (remnants of "energy" supps come to mind for those who feel they need an energy boost) as the means to build muscle mass. My question is why take any supplemental testosterone when there's no clinical evidence that you're deficient in this hormone. Have you taken a blood test to verify that your testosterone level is low? If not, then why would you consider taking a supplement that has unwanted side effects? It makes no sense to me.
More concerning is the possibility that your natural test levels will be compromised from taking the supps and as a result, testicular shrinkage may occur (your testicles produce most of the testosterone in your body). You might as well inject yourself with steroids while you're at it. Do you see my point? Taking artificial hormones is not something to be trifled with as the side effects can be very undesirable. In other words, the risks will undoubtedly outweigh the benefits. Let me count the ways: infertility due to low sperm count, liver problems, male breast growth, increased male pattern baldness, possible harm to prostate health, increased risk of blood clots, congestive heart failure, and worsening of urinary symptoms (JAMA Internal Medicine, 2013).
There are legitimate reasons for low T. Lifestyle is primarily the reason why many men are low in test. Regular exercise is known to boost test along with having enough saturated fat (i.e., lean red meat, egg yolks, etc.) and certain micronutrients (e.g., zinc, magnesium, etc.) within the diet. Endurance training (e.g., marathon running) can compromise test levels as well as overtraining (i.e., high intensity level, lack of recovery time, etc.). Lack of sleep, daily stress, medication usage, as well as overindulgence in alcohol may also lower testosterone levels.
BOTTOM LINE: Testosterone supplements are being oversold to consumers who, for the most part, should NOT be taking them. Simply exercising will boost your natural testosterone level. So instead of relying on potentially dangerous supplements, you should get adequate exercise, eat healthier foods, reduce medication usage if possible, and lose bodyweight (there is a correlation between obesity and lower testosterone levels in men).
Exercise can indeed enhance your testosterone levels but in order for the effects to have significance, you must workout regularly. This is because the release of testosterone is directly related to the effects of exercise stimulation on the body. In other words, the release of testosterone occurs immediately after a bout of exercise and levels elevate but only for a relatively brief period (i.e., about 15 minutes to an hour post-exercise). So for those who have low testosterone levels, exercise can help to raise your levels.
Factors other than exercise can affect your testosterone levels including age, bodyweight, your fitness level, and when you workout. Because advanced age causes a lessening of testosterone release , older adults need to exercise regularly to ameliorate the leveling off of this hormone. Remember, testosterone is intimately associated with the amount of muscle mass and bone strength in your body. Bodyweight affects testosterone levels because increased body fat causes a decrease in testosterone. Again, exercise can improve your testosterone levels by helping to decrease your body fat. The more fit you are, the more testosterone you have, although those who are less fit and exercise will experience a more significant release of testosterone. Your testosterone levels (like any other hormone) fluctuates throughout the day. Levels are typically highest early in the day and are lowest in the afternoons. Thus, for those who have low testosterone levels, it may be wise to workout in the afternoons to boost the release of this hormone. Any type
of exercise will boost your testosterone level but weight training seems to have the most impact. To get the most boost of testosterone release, here are some tips for your next workout session:
- Perform full-body exercises (e.g., squat, deadlift)
- Lift heavy weights
- Take short rest periods
Just be sure not
to push the intensity too far to avoid the risk of overtraining. Some symptoms of overtraining include excessive soreness, decreased energy level, trouble sleeping, and decreased performance and strength.
The answer is most likely due to a lack of recovery or inadequate rest after an intense exercise session. This is why you should "listen" to your body as it always "tells" you what you need to know. In this case, your body is telling you, "cease and desist with the hard training and please let me rest!" What many people fail to do is actually listen to the body and abide to what it says. You may have reached the stage referred to as "over-reaching" (short-term fatigue) and are in danger of getting to the stage called "over-training" (long-term fatigue) if you're not careful. If you've just experienced a feeling of sluggishness recently, all that's needed is to allow your body and mind to rest at least one but maybe two days. Failure to take time off from training will cause your body to regress into a state of longer-term fatigue which could require at least a week of rest! In addition, your immune system may be compromised, causing you be become sick more easily. As your exercise intensity and/or volume increases, the risk of compromising your immune system function increases. This means that your risk of contracting an infection increases. To maintain your immune system function while engaging in intense weight training, be sure to get adequate micronutrients. Vitamins A, B6, B12, thiamin, C, D, and E and the minerals iron, zinc, selenium, copper, and magnesium are associated with immune function.
Active recovery is an option if you cannot resist hitting the gym most days of the week. This simply refers to exercising at a low-intensity level (i.e., 50% loading with high repetitions) on days when you do not feel your best. In this way, you can enhance your recovery. Another option is to "periodize" your workout days--for instance, rotating your workouts with hard, medium and light intensities every other day (e.g., Monday is hard day, Wednesday is medium day, Friday is light day). "Periodization" refers to a concept wherein your training is broken down into chunks (e.g., hard, medium, light workouts) as a means to avoid overtraining and to keep your training "fresh". Training in this way is very practical and will enable you to get stronger, more powerful, and gain muscle mass while lessening the risk of injury. There are several factors which determine one's ability to recover from workouts. These factors include age, training intensity, nutrition, stress, and level of cardiovascular fitness. The most significant factor is age because younger people recover much faster from workouts than older people. Training intensity is the next significant factor because high-intensity training requires more recovery time. Nutrition should not be underestimated since a lack of nutrients will inevitably slow recovery. Of course, high stress slows the recovery process. A high level of cardiovascular fitness hastens the recovery process because the circulatory system is able to deliver more nutrients and remove metabolites more quickly.
Some of the markers of overtraining are the following:
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Decreased maximum heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated basal metabolic rate (BMR)
- Decreased appetite
- Change in menstrual cycle
- Decreased growth hormone, testosterone and estrogen levels
- Lack of desire or enthusiasm to train
- Decreased muscle mass (i.e., caused by excessive catabolism due to cumulative microtrauma to the muscle fibers)
- Decreased bodyweight
- Decreased sleep or insomnia
- Diminished sex drive and sexual performance
- Increased irritability
- Increased moodiness
- Increased chronic fatigue, aches, and pain
- Increased anxiety and/or stress
- Decreased performance
- Decreased strength
- Increased sickness or nausea
- Head cold
- Allergic reactions
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Inability to complete workouts
- Lack of motivation
- Tender joints due to tendonitis (e.g., knee, elbow, shoulder, lower back)--apply an ice pack to the sore area ASAP for up to 20 minutes to reduce inflammation and to hasten the recovery process
- Chronic soreness (i.e., over two weeks) may require an anti-inflammatory medication--gradually stretch and strengthen the sore areas several days after having experienced pain
- Sore shins (AKA shin splints) is caused by muscular inflammation due to excessive running or improper posture--avoid running until the soreness subsides and do swimming or biking instead
Do some of these markers seem familiar and apply to yourself? If so, then you need to make a change in either your lifestyle, your training routine, or both. Regarding a change in your lifestyle, consider the following:
Regarding a change in your training routine, consider the following:
- Follow a sensible nutrition plan (e.g., eating every two hours)
- Consider taking supplements (e.g., whey protein to retain muscle mass; glutamine to increase your immune response; vitamins A and C for antioxidant protection)
- Get adequate sleep each and every day (e.g., at least seven hours)
- Take a midday nap (e.g., no more than 20 minutes)
- Get periodic massages
- Avoid the movement
- Dip your body into a whirlpool or bath regularly
These are just some ideas you can do to lessen the risk of chronic fatigue and enhance the recovery process. Most importantly, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
- Take time off from training (e.g., depending on the severity of overtraining this may vary from a few days to several weeks)
- Reduce training frequency (e.g., take extra day off during week)
- Reduce training duration (e.g., 50 minutes instead of 60 minutes)
- Follow a periodization training program (e.g., hard, medium, light routine, upper-lower body split, etc.)
- Work around an overuse injured area by exercising the surrounding musculature
- Try crosstraining (e.g., exercise on stairstepper, bike, treadmill on alternate training days)
- Use good lifting technique
- Take adequate rest between sets (i.e., use your intuition for when you know you're ready to start the next set or simply use a stopwatch)
- Take a contrast shower post-workout to enhance blood flow (i.e., alternate between hot and cold water every 30s ending with cold water)
- Eat adequate carbs for energy
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Perform low-impact exercises (e.g., swimming, biking)
- Avoid the activity that may have caused the injury for at least several days