The Magic of Testosterone

In 1935, a German pharmacologist isolated special crystals from the testicles of a bull. Later that same year, Dutch chemists determined the chemistry of those crystals and named the substance testosterone.

Testosterone is the principal and most potent androgen known. Androgens in humans control the development and maintenance of masculine characteristics. In males, testosterone is produced primarily by specialized cells within the testis called Leydig cells. Leydig cells number in the hundreds of millions and tend to slowly decrease in aging men. In females, testosterone is manufactured by the ovaries (40%) adrenals, skin, muscles, body fat and brain.

Secretion of testosterone by the embryonic testicular Leydig cells, along with its potent derivative dihydrotestosterone (DHT) leads to the formation of the male ductile system, external genitalia and sexual differentiation of the brain. Without the influence of testosterone release during this period, female reproductive organs and genitalia develop.

The average male produces between 4 and 10mg a day of testosterone, females average between 0.04 and 0.12mg. At the high end of each gender spectrum (10mg M / 0.25mg F) that’s a ratio difference of about 40:1 or a percentage contrast of 4000%.

Now you know why men generally respond to muscle building strategies more quickly and with greater strength and size outcomes than women and why the great majority of women do not and cannot “masculinize” in response to weight training. “The key is in the T”.

As men and women age, testosterone levels tend to decrease, while other hormones such as prolactin, estradiol, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) tend to increase. In sedentary men, testosterone levels decrease with age by up to 50% between ages 25 and 75.

As humans age many make the mistake of moving less and avoid intense, strenuous physical activity. But all departments of exercise physiology and kinesiology in universities around the world agree that weight-training is incredibly effective and safe for children and seniors. It is our modern alternative to farming, fishing, hunting and gathering.

A seven-year study completed by Dr. E.C. Tsai et al from the University of Washington School of Medicine showed that declining testosterone impairs metabolic health and promotes obesity. Men with the lowest testosterone levels gained the most fat around their waist (intra-abdominal fat), which increases risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood fats and blood clotting abnormalities.

Many variables contribute to declining levels of testosterone, such as a decline in dopamine and acetylcholine function, elevated cortisol, poor nutrition, consumption of trans-fatty acids (fried foods, cookies, crackers, margarine, etc…), use of medication, testicular degeneration, constant worry and emotional stress, sleep deprivation and excessive aerobic activity.

But a subpar serum level of testosterone is still principally caused by the absence of an anabolic flux created through weight bearing resistance training. It’s also called negative entropy and the goal is to keep your anabolic drive alive.

This form of exercise training must possess the element of intensity. In other words, you must train hard, not long, but hard. The idea is that less is more. You execute movement with weights in the gym with precision and great skill. You move dumbbells and barbells through a full range of motion and always in control.

Also, the bigger the muscle you work the greater the amount of testosterone you produce as a result. So don’t neglect your legs, back and chest, especially your legs. Hit them hard and your entire body will benefit because testosterone circulates wherever there is blood and cells.

Walking, hiking, swimming, lawn bowling, cycling, distance running, yard work, gardening and sport do not increase serum testosterone. All are excellent for other reasons, but not for elevating testosterone. In fact after a long run or playing ice hockey or soccer for an hour, testosterone will be lower in your blood than when you started. Cortisol will be higher.

Watching an exciting hockey game on TV can raise serum testosterone as can eye-candy on the beach or in the gym. This is true for both men and women.

After just 20 minutes of pumping iron correctly, testosterone climbs higher and if you do train with controlled intensity, you also get a nice clean release of growth hormone (hGH). And unless you sprint, aerobic activity does not elevate testosterone. This is why interval training is highly recommended.

Testosterone is recognized as a key factor in the health of the heart and blood vessels. Leading up to WW II, German researchers showed that treatment with testosterone could normalize faulty glucose metabolism, relieve angina and improve leg pain in men suffering from intermittent claudication.

In 1994, Gerald Phillips MD, et al, at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, discovered a clear inverse relationship between testosterone levels and the degree of coronary heart disease. The lower the testosterone, the more occlusion they found.

Phillips also found that men with below normal levels of testosterone, especially free testosterone, had higher insulin levels, abnormal glucose metabolism, lower levels of HDL, higher blood fats, increased waist-to-hip ratio (spare-tire) and increased blood clotting factors.

Today testosterone is produced synthetically through recombinant DNA technology, and is used in medicine for the treatment of testosterone deficiency and for certain gynecological conditions. Millions of athletes and gym rats also inject it for the anabolic effect.

But not this kid. I learned long ago that the best way to achieve anything worthwhile is the hardest, which is still the smartest long-term. Choosing the pathway of least resistance (literally) is a sure fire guarantee to depression, fatigue, chronic low ambition, increased body fat and loss of functional lean mass.

It’s a thousand times better for a million different reasons all related to health and wellness to bust your butt in the gym and produce testosterone naturally within the context of our natural genomic capacity. Don’t blame your age, gender or circumstances. Find relative constructive fault with your behavior and change it. All roads do not lead to optimum health.