Testosterone and Bodybuilding: What I Wish I Would Have Known About Testosterone Before I Started Bodybuilding
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When I was 19 years old, doctors found a brain tumor in my pituitary gland.
It was almost completely blocking my testosterone production. Results showed that my testosterone was 11ng/dL which is almost nothing. While all of my college buddies were out lifting weights and seeing results, I gained and lost weight sporadically and was nowhere near my dream body.
Fast forward 7 years later and I am a completely different man. My physique is right where I want it to be and I only go to the gym a few times a week.
How did I do this?
I did diligent research on natural testosterone production and brought my T levels up to 1200 ng/dL. Way above the male average. I now have no trouble bodybuilding. I must disclose when I talk about bodybuilding I am talking about it in the sense of building the body you desire. Whether that be a toned lean fighting machine or a World’s Strongest Man behemoth, testosterone levels are vital to obtaining your desired physique.
I am writing this article for one simple reason…
It took me 7 years to reach the point I am at today, and there is always work for me to do on my body. I don’t want it to take that long for you. You don’t have to learn the hard way because I did that for you.
Let’s dive right in.
Bodybuilding with Low Testosterone
Any sort of bodybuilding does not mix well with low testosterone. Testosterone is the hormone required to maintain muscular homeostasis in men. When there is a lack of testosterone, estrogen takes over the fat storage. This is where you begin to see physical signs of low testosterone. (1)
You may have low testosterone if your fat is being stored in your chest and middle section. You also may experience loss in muscle mass, even when you are working out. With low testosterone, your bodybuilding goals will be increasingly harder to achieve, if they are even achievable at all.
In addition to this, low testosterone will create a cloud of symptoms that will make bodybuilding extremely difficult. Low testosterone can cause lethargy, low libido, symptoms of depression, lack of muscle mass and irregular fat storage. Imagine trying to build the body of your dreams with that set of nasty symptoms. (1)
Training with Low Testosterone
The best way to train with low testosterone is simply training to raise your testosterone. This can be done through strength training with weights. In a study published by the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, ten men were tested in a recreational weight lifting setting. The men were required to do two resistance training workouts each seven days apart. Their testosterone levels were tested both before and after the workouts. Results showed that testosterone was increased through the weight training workout. (2)
Let’s move onto running. The effect of running on testosterone is a hot topic on a lot of testosterone-related forums. This is what research tells us. Long distance running will cause a slight increase in testosterone up to a certain point. That point will differ from person to person and revolves around mileage run. Once a male reaches the point of “High mileage” running, there is a decrease in testosterone levels. Where is this threshold? According to a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, that threshold is around 40 miles a week for the average distance runner. (3)
Many people that are trying to build their optimal physiques will stay away from running at high mileage. It becomes extremely difficult to gain muscles mass while doing sustained long distance running.
There is a better way to run if you want to increase your testosterone levels and build your dream body. High intensity interval training is the way to go. Go hard for 90 seconds, rest for 90 seconds and repeat. This is also backed by research. In a study conducted in 2012, men were asked to partake in interval training of 90 seconds on 90 seconds off for 42-47 minutes. On a separate day, they were asked to partake in sustained distance running for 45 minutes. Both acts were performed on a treadmill. Testosterone levels were tested both before and after trials. Researchers found that both the interval training and the sustained training caused an increase in testosterone. However, results showed that the interval training produced much more of a pronounced turnover of testosterone. (4)
Personally, I was a runner in high school and college. At one point, I was around 165 pounds and 6 foot 3, far from the body of my dreams. Since my testosterone enlightening, I have stopped running all together. I train in the gym 3-4 times a week and walk as much as I can. I have found this extremely effective in raising my testosterone levels and keeping them high.
That being said, if you are an avid long distance runner and love the sport, but are experiencing the symptoms of low testosterone, I strongly encourage a switch over to interval training.
Over-training with Low Testosterone
This may be the most important thing you read today. If you have low testosterone, then you are a target for the fitness community. If you have low testosterone, you aren’t getting the body you want or think you deserve based on the amount of work you are putting into it. That’s when the fitness industry targets you with Hollywood workout plans telling you to work out 7 days a week and eat an insane amount of calories. They show you pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne Johnson and tell you if you want to look like that you’re going to have to put the work in to do it. This is true, but not if the work you have to put in is something like “work out twice a day 7 days a week.” No. That is going to destroy your endocrine system and your testosterone levels. The only people that can maintain that kind of training are taking artificial testosterone and steroids. Don’t listen to that area of the fitness industry. Over-training does exist, and it can do major damage to your testosterone levels.
I know you may be tempted to train every day because you want to get your testosterone levels up as quickly as possible. But over-training will do nothing but stop you in your tracks. I have done my research on this, and I have seen research showing that there is no direct link between over-training and loss of testosterone. I have also seen studies that show the opposite. One such study is this one, which showed a significant drop in testosterone levels accompanied by a rise in cortisol as a result of over-training. (5)
What many of the studies that deny a “direct link” between over-training and testosterone are overlooking is that there does not have to be a direct link to lower your testosterone levels. Over-training has been shown to cause an increase in cortisol levels and disruption of sleep patterns. Cortisol is the enemy of testosterone. Sleep is a necessity for raising and maintaining testosterone. (5)
Don’t rely on the feel of your muscles to tell whether or not you are over-training. Your muscles will adapt to your workout quickly. The problem will be in your endocrine system.
Here are two great ways to tell if you are over-training as told by Ali Kuoppala at anabolicmen.com:
- Good Morning Wood
If you are training and you wake up without morning wood, then something is wrong. You are probably over-training. Take some time off until the wood returns. (5)
- The Weight Test
When you are well-rested and are sure you have not over trained, put weight on a bar and lift up to your pelvis. Hold the bar there until you cannot anymore and the bar slips. Time how long that takes. If you suspect you may be over-training, repeat the test. If you can’t hold it for the same time, you are most likely overtraining your body. (5)
Eating with Low Testosterone
Diet is extremely important when trying to increase testosterone. Avoid a high glycemic-carb diet. This will raise insulin levels. Insulin is an enemy to testosterone and will also increase fat. Stay off the sugar. Here are some foods that will raise your testosterone and are also good for bodybuilding:
- Vitamin D
- Low Fat Milk
- Red Meat
- Egg Yolks
- Beans (White, Kidney, Black)
These all are good for raising your testosterone and most also provide a significant source of protein to help you gain muscle mass. (6)
I spent years doing the wrong things while training and expecting the body of my dreams. I know a lot of people are falling into the same trap. The key to bodybuilding is keeping your testosterone at a natural and stable level by training smart and eating healthy. Also, try to keep your stress levels down in your daily life. When I was experiencing a lot of testosterone problems, I was in a high stress college environment and did not know how to handle it. Find what helps keep your cortisol down and you will see an immediate rise in testosterone. I wish I would have known more about testosterone and all of the things that can affect it earlier in my life. Hopefully you have learned something that will prove useful in getting that sweet bod you are looking for. Of course, I have only scratched the surface of testosterone here. For more complete information, look into the TestShock Program, a research-backed program on how to naturally increase your testosterone through diet, training, and lifestyle changes.
- Steponaitis, Glenn. “Low Testosterone and Bodybuilding.” Testosterone Centers of Texas. N.p., 19 Jan. 2015. Web. 23 June 2015.
- Greenwood, Beth. “Excessive Body Building & Low Testosterone Levels.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 03 Jan. 2012. Web. 23 June 2015.
- Dinisen Rogers, Chris. “High Mileage Running & Testosterone.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 14 Oct. 2013. Web. 23 June 2015.
- Hackney, AC. “Testosterone Responses to Intensive Interval versus Steady-state Endurance Exercise.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2012. Web. 23 June 2015.
- Kuoppala, Ali. “Overtraining Does Exist and It Whacks Your Testosterone Levels.” Anabolic Men. N.p., 24 May 2014. Web. 23 June 2015.
- Krucik, George, MD. “Diet Right: 8 Testosterone Boosting Foods.” 8 Testosterone Boosting Foods. N.p., 8 Apr. 2014. Web. 23 June 2015.
The TestShock Blog is your #1 resource for men’s health advice.