By Phil Provenzano Owner and Founder of Team Provo LLC
I think we all know and understand that, yes, testosterone usage will make us bigger, stronger, leaner and in many cases better athletes. I am not here to debate or examine that topic today. I am here to discuss the health benefits and possible consequences of testosterone treatment/usage. Between the professional sports scandals ( e.g. Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Bill Romanowski, Marion Jones etc), anti-testosterone propaganda, new “LOW T” commercials and all the other conflicting media out there, how are we as consumers and patients supposed to know what the truth is? I say a good start for us would be to first examine the facts. Before we get started I would like to make it clear that however well laid out my points may be, none of them should take the place of advice from your licensed health care practitioner.
In the past before finding doctors who were actually knowledgeable with hormones I was told that testosterone would ruin my cholesterol/lipid profile, exacerbate high blood pressure, cause diabetes, and a whole host of other things. While not entirely false, it is not anywhere near completely accurate either.
My take here was initially formed off of anecdotal evidence from my own blood work results. Now I think it’s only fair that I acknowledge that I have never had a particularly bad lipid profile. Even when I was younger and living a less healthy lifestyle filled with a good deal of junk food my cholesterol (total cholesterol, high density lipoproteins(also known as good cholesterol) and my low density lipoproteins) also known as bad cholesterol) were never unfavorable. However back in 2011, I got some concerning blood work back from my physicians office. I found out I was diagnosed with low testosterone and this was also the first time my ldl was 107. Although not bad by any means, in the past it always hung out in the 60-80 range which the American Heart Association calls “optimal” ( they consider anything under 100 as optimal). After one month of beginning hormone replacement therapy with a mild dosage of testosterone my testosterone levels rose to a healthy level, my ldl dropped to 80, I was performing better at work, my abdominals were leaner and my physique was looking bigger and getting stronger. After doing further research I discovered that I am no anomaly for having experienced this effect, in fact the opposite was true. In a PubMed study of 536 men it was concluded that the men whose testosterone levels were treated overwhelmingly experienced increased hdl and decreased triglycerides. (“National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2006. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.) Taking a direct quote from a study done by “Science Daily,” “They found that men treated with testosterone therapy experienced a gradual reduction of their total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL/bad cholesterol), triglycerides and increased high density lipoprotein (HDL/(good cholesterol). Testosterone Therapy May Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.
Unlike my good genetics for cholesterol, my blood pressure genetics have not been so kind. I need to be very on top of my cardio, supplements, diet and medication to keep my blood pressure on the low end of the healthy range. With this the physicians are not all wrong. Those who abuse (key word abuse) greatly increase their risk of exacerbating or developing high blood pressure. However if testosterone levels are low the blood vessels can become more rigid over time. An article by Harvard Health published this month indicates that by treating testosterone levels properly one can actually make their blood vessels more flexible (“Get in Your Best Shape Ever in 2014!” Not Enough Test in Testosterone. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.). When ones blood vessels are more flexible blood flows more freely and thus it becomes easier to have normal blood pressure. Dr. Jonathan Wright also speaks about how testosterone has helped his patients reduce bodyweight and reduce blood pressure (Wright, Jonathan B., DR. “Testosterone Helps Men Lose Weight, Reduce Blood Pressure.”Testosterone Helps Men Lose Weight, Reduce Blood Pressure. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.). A science news study on cardiovascular risk on men being treated with testosterone revealed that “In addition to improving their cholesterol levels, we found that the testosterone treatment resulted in marked reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well, suggesting amelioration of hypertension,” explained lead author Abdulmaged M. Traish, MBA, PhD, professor of biochemistry and urology as well as Research Director of the Institute of Sexual Medicine at BUSM” (“Testosterone Therapy May Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.) On any even scarier front a different Science Daily study shows a link between those with low testosterone levels and premature death (“Low Testosterone Linked to Heightened Risk of Early Death.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 Oct. 2010. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.) However as we know when testosterone is ABUSED we convert a lot of it to estrogen and the result is that the ABUSER becomes water retained. The more water one retains the higher there likelihood of developing high blood pressure is.
A Sciency News Study has also discovered a possible alarming correlation between those with low testosterone and those who develop Alzheimer’s (“Low Testosterone Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 05 Oct. 2010. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.)
The Mayo clinic defines metabolic syndromes as “Having metabolic syndrome means you have three or more disorders related to your metabolism at the same time, including: obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar”. As discussed already if used properly testosterone can decrease bodyweight( so it attacks obesity), can lower blood pressure, and testosterone has also been proven to increase insulin sensitivity therefore helping to prevent diabetes! Author Barry Wheeler suggest that hormone replacement therapy with testosterone can reverse the symptoms of metabolic syndrome (Wheeler, Barry. “Testosterone and High Blood Pressure.” Innovative Mens Clinic RSS. N.p., 23 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.).
Where does this all tie into bodybuilding and physique development?
- If you are a natural bodybuilder with healthy testosterone levels there is no reason to consider testosterone therapy and you should be more than able to progress in your physique related goals considering all other variables are in order ( healthy thyroid function, normal estradiol levels, proper nutritional program, proper training program etc)
- If you are experience a large accumulation of body fat on your lower abdominals there is a fairly good chance that this is due to lower testosterone levels. Before discovering I had low levels I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I kept adding abdominal fat. After receiving my labwork back it certainly helped shed some light. After treating my testosterone levels 6 months later I was able to get the best conditioning of my life. My bodyfat was measured on a 9 fold test at below 5 percent.
- Having trouble recovering in between sets, in between workouts, sore all the time? Check your testosterone levels
- Feeling particularly moody and having trouble sleeping? Check your testosterone levels
- Experiencing a decreased sex drive? Check your testosterone levels
- Not getting pumps and strength gains in the gym like you used to? If all other variables are ideal then check those testosterone levels.
- Low on ambition and energy? Yes this may also be due to low testosterone
Testosterone plays many key and vital roles in regulating the body’s health. It also plays a huge role in our ability to perform athletically and sexually. It plays a huge role in how much muscle we can build and how lean we can get. If experiencing symptoms of low testosterone it would be wise to get a blood test and discuss the results with your physician.