Testosterone is a hormone that is naturally produced in biological males.
However, it can also be taken as supplements for those with testosterone deficiencies, undergoing masculinizing hormone therapy, or even for those simply wanting to increase their gains in the gym.
The focus of this article applies to the latter!
In this guide, we will discuss:
- The relationship between testosterone and exercise
- What happens if you take testosterone but don’t work out
- The best way to optimize testosterone levels and improve fitness levels.
Let’s get into it!
Disclaimer: This blog does not claim to provide authoritative medical advice. Please consult your doctor before seeking testosterone supplements to ensure that it is right for you.
The Relationship between Testosterone and Exercise
It is tried and tested that testosterone is directly connected with exercise. Testosterone boosts lean muscle production, triggered by regular exercise.
However, it’s not just a one-way relationship; exercise also triggers your body to produce higher levels of testosterone!
Certain types of exercise can raise testosterone levels for anywhere between 15 to 60 minutes post-exercise.
So, even without the need for supplements, weightlifting and resistance training triggers natural physiological responses that boost testosterone!
Of course, it is important to bear in mind that there are a range of factors that affect the relationship between testosterone and exercise.
One of the biggest factors is fitness level; you’ll only get those testosterone boosts with regular exercise. Other factors include age, workout times, and weight.
Testosterone can have major positive effects on muscle development and overall health. Not only does testosterone increase lean muscle production, but it can increase bone mass, muscle mass, energy levels, mood, libido, and fertility as well!
Some research has also suggested that high rates of testosterone can further “reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and increase verbal memory, cognitive processing speed, and improve spatial memory”.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably most interested in how testosterone can help you build muscle. Unfortunately, like anything in life, you’ll have to do a bit of work to properly see the gains.
There are certain exercises that have been found to be particularly effective in boosting testosterone. Here’s a list of some of them:
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
This exercise is characterized by repetitions of short bursts of high-intensity activity punctuated by short rest periods.
HIIT has been found to trigger a higher metabolic rate, burning away those calories and boosting testosterone.
As the name suggests, circuit training involves a series of different exercises performed in a sequence, followed by a brief rest and then repeated from the start.
This exercise has the added benefit of keeping things fresh and working a range of muscle groups when compared to the repetitive nature of HIIT.
Probably the most stereotypical testosterone-affiliated exercise is lifting massive weights in compound movements!
We’re talking deadlifts, weighted squats, bench presses, rowing, overhead presses, and others.
Lifting heavy leads naturally to boosts in testosterone. In fact, some research suggests that low repetitions of heavy weights are the most effective exercise at increasing testosterone. So, for all you PR junkies – you might be onto something!
What Happens If You Take Testosterone and Don’t Workout?
If you’re considering taking testosterone to increase your gains, you’ll still need to hit the gym.
If you take testosterone without working out, it is likely that you’ll experience the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve and may even face some serious health problems down the line.
Of course, testosterone can be taken safely and effectively under the guidance and supervision of trained professionals in cases of testosterone deficiencies and masculinizing hormone therapy for transgender men and nonbinary people.
The focus of this article is to look at what testosterone can do simply for those wishing to boost muscle mass and is not intended to provide advice for people seeking gender-affirming hormone therapy (nor to discredit it as a legitimate and safe option).
With that in mind, below are some of the potentially unwanted side effects of taking testosterone without regularly working out:
Increase in Body Fat
While some people can experience a reduction in body fat, it is also possible that it will lead to a rise in adipose tissue – resulting in increased body fat.
While low testosterone leads to high body fat, testosterone boosters without proper planning can ironically also have the same effect.
This is primarily because while testosterone builds muscle mass, if it is not well maintained it can turn into fat cells over time.
Indeed, Healthline maintains that “currently, no studies have shown significant weight loss with testosterone boosters, although some tend to reduce fat mass”. So, instead of burning calories – you might risk gaining them!
No Significant Muscle Gains
Some studies have indicated that “testosterone injections without training were at least as effective [in muscle strength gains] as resistance training (without injections)”.
However, this is likely a short-term effect – and as mentioned above, any initial gains will likely turn to fat if not properly maintained!
Meanwhile, in most cases, a jab of testosterone on its own has a fairly minimal effect on your muscles.
Increased Risk of Health Problems
A known side effect of taking testosterone is swelling feet and ankles. This is due to the fact that testosterone causes your body to keep excess fluid stored.
While this isn’t a big deal if you’re taking testosterone every once in a while, it can be if you’re regularly taking it!
In addition to swelling feet and ankles, your breasts might also swell. Somewhat counterintuitively, some testosterone is naturally converted into estradiol (a type of estrogen). Men with more breast tissue are the most susceptible to this side effect.
Your skin type might also change. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can lead to acne breakouts.
This is because testosterone can increase the oil production in your skin, too much of which causes breakouts.
There is some research that suggests that testosterone boosters can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. This is because testosterone thickens the blood. However, other research has suggested that the opposite is true.
One thing is clear: more research is yet to be done on the risks of taking testosterone!
In any case, it is best to consult your doctor and have regular follow-ups so that they may monitor your health and prevent any serious risks from crystallizing.
Other health risks include mood swings, decreased testicular size, decreased sperm count, and increased aggressive behaviors.
The Best Way to Optimize Testosterone Levels and Improve Fitness
Health is holistic. So if you’re looking for one thing that will boost your gains, you won’t find it!
The best way to optimize testosterone levels and improve fitness requires several factors. Here are a few things to consider:
Balanced exercise routine
As mentioned before, a balanced and regular exercise routine is essential to maximize your gains while not spiraling backward.
See above for some of the most effective training exercises to maximize your potential for testosterone.
Healthy lifestyle habits
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle plays an essential part in everything. This includes regular eating and sleeping times, not staying up too late, and getting a good night’s sleep of 7-9 hours.
Healthy balanced diet
Like anything health-related, a nutritious diet is essential to a healthy mind and body!
Don’t forget to keep hydrated and eat a variety of fruit, veggies, nuts, legumes, and protein.
Good well-being is critical, not least for motivation levels. Also, it’s a good idea to strive for happiness for the sake of it!
While exercise can help reduce stress, be sure to reach out for support if you need it.
A fixation on making gains and over-exercising can increase your stress levels and counteract all the hard work that you’re doing.
Remember to do the things that you enjoy and treat yourself every once in a while!
Consult your doctor
Make sure to talk to your doctor to see what approach is right for you. It is likely that you have to undergo some tests first to see where your current testosterone levels are at, and then discuss the potential benefits and risks.
Remember to seek regular follow-ups with your doctor to make sure you are tracking well and that no complications have arisen.
Keep realistic expectations
If you try taking testosterone and it works for you, then great!
However, bear in mind that it might not be so smooth, and it’s important to be prepared for that. There is still a lot for us to learn about how supplementing testosterone affects your body.