Can you boost testosterone through exercise?

Before we get into the can or can’t part of this post, let’s talk about testosterone (T) levels first.

T is not just for men. Women produce low levels of T as well. It is part of the family of hormones called the sex hormones. T belongs in the androgen family and there is also estrogen. Men and women produce both. In men, T levels are dominant while in women estrogen levels are dominant. But both are needed in men and women for repairing tissues, especially reproductive ones as well as maintaining bone mass.

Imbalances in these two hormones, depending on whether you are a man or a woman can produce different results. Too much T, or lack of estrogen, is what causes facial hair in women. Too much estrogen, or lack of T, is what causes breast like features in a man’s chest.

So what’s with the latest T therapy craze?

T therapy for men is starting to become a huge business. Ads use to cater to men in their 50s and above. In order to attract a larger audience, ads soon starting talking about men in their 40’s needing T therapy and most recently, I have heard ads indicating that men in their 30’s may need T therapy!

The reason they can get away with these ads is because the levels of T in a man can have a great variance. While I have no doubt here may be men in their 30s that may need it, these ads seem to indicate that you will probably need it and because of this wide variance of what is considered acceptable T levels, it is easy to reach a conclusion that you need to get on it when you may not need to at all.

So what are normal levels?

The chart below shows the T levels of both men and women from the time one is born measured as nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL).

In men, their natural level is reached at the age of 20 and remains about the same until they reach their 30’s then starts to decrease on average, 1% per year.

When you look at the extreme range of what is considered normal levels, one can see how whether you need T therapy can be interpreted in different ways. A man whose average level was 600 (about the midpoint of normal), starts losing 1% per year, by the time they are 60, their level would be about 420. Still within the normal range however much less than what they used to be. So should one go on T therapy for this? It almost becomes just a personal decision if other factors of decreasing T doesn’t come into play.

Male Female
Age: T Level (ng/dL): Age: T Level (ng/dL):
0-5 months 75-400 0-5 months 20-80
6 mos.-9 yrs. <7-20 6 mos.-9 yrs. <7-20
10-11 yrs. <7-130 10-11 yrs. <7-44
12-13 yrs. <7-800 12-16 yrs. <7-75
14 yrs. <7-1,200 17-18 yrs. 20-75
15-16 yrs. 100-1,200 19+ yrs. 8-60
17-18 yrs. 300-1,200
19+ yrs. 240-950
Avg. Adult Male 270-1,070 Avg. Adult Female 15-70
30+ yrs. -1% per year  

So if I am still within range, what other factors should I be looking out for?

Given the example above of a 30 year old who has now turned 60 and is still within range, what other factors should they be looking at to determine if they need T therapy? A medical professional can help you with this decision but some of the things looked at are:

  1. Declined physical energy and strength
  2. Lower libido
  3. Aches and pain more often than they should be occurring
  4. Lack of mental alertness
  5. Chest developing into a more female like appearance

So can exercise help?

Yes it can. T levels fluctuate throughout the day. Studies have shown that short bursts of hard exertion can help T levels rise. Resistance training, in particular, heavy resistance training is better than doing something very passive such as walking, hiking, running or biking for long periods of time.

The more muscles involved in the resistance training, the higher the T levels produced. Time of day also makes a difference. Heavy training in the late afternoon is better than in the early morning because that is when T levels peak out.

What kind of exercise?

I mentioned short burst exercises and resistance training with the more muscles being trained, the better.

For short bursts, studies found that fast six second sprints, jacks up your T levels. Doing multiple intervals of them produces a prolonged and increased T level output in your body.

For resistance training, working out any large muscle gives the same effect. Squats and deadlifts being prime examples. I am not talking about trying to break all time personal records for one rep, when I say heavy I mean 80-85% of maximum which should be sufficient enough to get 3-5 reps out of and not hurt yourself.

To incorporate even more muscles, things like power cleans, clean and press, snatch, and clean & jerks can be performed. In other words, you get a lot more T level production doing any of the above than you would performing an ordinary barbell curl, one of the smallest muscles in your body.

Rest interval between sets or sprints has also been found to make a difference. Two minute rests seem to be optimum to produce another good quality 6 second sprint or another heavy set.

So no matter the age, one should always incorporate a little bit of this type of training in order to keep your body effectively producing and maintaining good T levels. I am not saying that this is a replacement for T therapy, but it should be considered a supplement when and if you need to do it.

Take care of your T in order to stay….Fit Forlife!

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