Guest Writing – Athlete Daily: Is Low Testosterone Keeping You From Losing Fat, Gaining Muscle, & Hitting New PRs?

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There is a worldwide crisis right now regarding testosterone levels in men. And that’s still probably understating things. Testosterone deficiencies are not being diagnosed —most of you reading this have probably never had yours checked— or acknowledged in the mainstream despite the fact that levels are rapidly declining worldwide.

A 2007 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, revealed a “substantial” drop in U.S. men’s testosterone levels since the 1980s, with average levels declining by about 1% per year. That adds up to a double-digit decline, giving the “average” male today testosterone levels that would have been considered alarmingly low just a few decades ago.

When they first started testing male testosterone in the 1940s, the average numbers were between 1400-1500. As of 2013 when they tested a 5000 person sample throughout America it was at 387.

Why is this such a major issue? Because men are walking around weaker, with less energy, more stress and a lot less focus. That doesn’t bode well for any lifestyle, but for those training intensely, low testosterone levels can wreak havoc on performance and body composition goals.

But how do you know if you’re in danger? And, most important, how do you fix yourself? 

THE IMPORTANCE OF TESTOSTERONE

As most of us know, testosterone plays a critical role in the physical development of men. It helps grow hair on your face, builds muscles, causes your voice to deepen and is a key sex organ. Low testosterone has been linked to everything from low energy and weight gain to osteoporosis and depression.

THINGS THAT ARE NOT NORMAL:

–To have low (or no) sex drive

–To feel exhausted and drained all the time

–To require copious amounts of coffee to get through your day

–To struggle to make strength gains or have good muscle tone

-To struggle with weight and not be able to lose fat

–To not wake up with ‘morning wood’ or have interest in sex

Yet somehow this describes 95% of people we know. It’s pretty odd if we think about it: We spend so many years behind a desk learning from academic institutions, yet few people learn how to properly fuel the body and carry good lifestyle habits to optimize our hormonal health.

Testosterone is important for a variety of reasons: A healthy sex drive, sperm production, bone density, fat distribution, and formation of muscle mass are just a few. While testosterone levels do naturally decline with age, we are currently seeing low testosterone more prevalent than ever in society due to our present-day model of processed food, over-caffeination, too much stress, not enough sleep, etc.

POTENTIAL SYMPTOMS OF LOW TESTOSTERONE:

–Gynecomastia (‘Man Boobs’)

Poor sleep and low energy

–Difficulty losing fat or holding weight in the lower abdomen region

Difficulty building strength, lack of muscle tone, lack of PR’s in the gym

–Lack of motivation or ‘second gear’ in gym

–Changes in mood (depression, sadness, or irritability)

–Decreased sex drive, difficulty during sexual encounters, or lack of morning wood

–Difficulty concentrating or recalling information

–Hair loss and balding

–Infertility

If the above list hits a little too close to home, consider working with a doctor and getting lab work. We included a few things below to have checked outside of testosterone, as deficiencies in any of the following items could mimic symptoms or contribute to low testosterone.

BLOODWORK CONSIDERATIONS:

-Free & Total Testosterone

-Dutch Complete (tests all hormones and metabolites)

-Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Iron, Liver Enzymes (ALT & AST)

Total testosterone levels of 300 ng/dL are typically when a practitioner will diagnose “low testosterone” and may suggest hormone replacement therapy. The issue with hormone therapy is that it does NOT address the root cause of WHY we’re having issues in the first place.

To use a real life example: Let’s say you were craving ice cream, so you asked your spouse to pick up ice cream. But instead of ice cream, they walks in with froyo. It “sort of” gets the job done, but you’re probably still bummed because your really wanted ice cream.

This is a pretty accurate depiction of synthetic hormonal drugs. It “gets the job done” in the body, but is absolutely the start and end to so many side effects and symptoms that may come with replacement treatment. The bigger issue is that it also doesn’t fix the underlying nutrition or lifestyle habits causing symptoms in the first place. So TRT or HRT may not provide a resolution to our symptoms and may actually even make things worse.

HOW TO NATURALLY BALANCE HORMONE LEVELS:

-Minimize caffeine (excessive caffeine may strain the adrenals)

-Minimize alcohol consumption (alcohol raises estrogen levels)

-Get 8-9 hours of sleep every night

Manage and address stress

-Take down training volume and intensity. Take more rest days in the gym & consider switching modalities to something like bodybuilding/lifting (vs. high-intensity modalities like CrossFit, Orange Theory, etc)

-Optimize gut health via quality probiotics, fermented foods, bone broth, and collagen

Consider supplementing B Complex, Magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, & Zinc

-Reduce plastic exposure (tupperware, meal prep containers, water bottles, etc)

-Buy natural body care products, skin care products, deodorants, and household cleaners

-Buy high quality meats & organic produce as much as possible

-Keep blood sugar balanced by eating at regular intervals during the day & get in a protein, carbohydrate, fat, & vegetable at every meal

-Consume plenty of cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels)

-Consume 30-40g fiber daily and drink ample water and fluids

-Consider researching & incorporating products like DIM and Calcium D-Glucarate to naturally balance hormone levels

CLOSING THOUGHTS:

We recommend making changes to diet and lifestyle first, and then looking deeper into supplementation and bloodwork if problems persist. Keep in mind that we do not live in a vacuum, so hormone issues are rarely due to one isolated “thing” and more an accumulation of numerous little lifestyle habits or dietary issues adding up. Exhaust natural solutions (like nutrition and lifestyle) prior to considering hormonal replacement therapy.

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