In my own personal case, I start on "Androgel" tomorrow in ADDITION to continuing weight training and trying to eat right. I am 64 and a type 2 diabetic and my concerns deal more with possible memory loss, loss of sharpness, and the effects of testosterone levels UNDER 350 and the link to early death in type 2 diabetics. I do NOT LOOK at Androgel or any other testosterone therapy as the fountain of youth nor do I have illusions of becoming 25 years of age again. I want to maintain quality of life as long as I can and do not want to end up with diabetic neuropathy, or amputation etc. from extended very high glucose levels. Testosterone therapy has a track record of showing hope to combat insulin resistance.
Exercise: It’s about mass and intensity
Lou Schuler’s book, “The Testosterone Advantage Plan” (Simon and Schuster, 2003), makes a strong case for strength training over cardiovascular endurance training, such as marathon running, if a guy wants to promote healthy levels of testosterone. Aside from the obvious physical differences between bodybuilders and Olympic marathoners, individuals in these sports have different health and hormonal profiles. Short story: the weight lifters have higher levels of testosterone, and largely enjoy the benefits that come from it.
As a strength trainer and veteran triathlete, I think it’s not necessary to choose one over the other. I may not be a world class triathlete – carrying around muscle weight in fact slows me down ¬– but my bones and muscles can withstand a lot more of life because I’m also strong (and at the age of 50, thus far have no knee problems despite all that running). I really don’t care all that much about my race times; just the fact that I train appropriately for races and get through them with relative vigor is good enough for me. My philosophy is that health is the goal, not some numbers on a clock.
Research on exercise and testosterone indicates that it’s more than going through the motions of weight lifting. What seems to optimally affect testosterone levels is to use the greatest volume of existing muscles to your maximum level of intensity within each exercise. That means using multiple muscle groups within each exercise to the point where your muscles fail – i.e., you cannot complete another repetition with acceptable form.
In a formula: Muscle mass x exercise intensity = maximum testosterone increase
This is about total muscle mass being involved. Since leg and back muscles are the largest muscles, that then suggests (actually, it’s proven; follow the links below) that exercising these areas will increase testosterone levels. Better, engage the core muscles and even the upper body along with the legs and back within a single exercise and your bloodstream with just be coursing with testosterone immediately following each set (yes, the increase is that immediate).
Here are a couple of key indicators of intense exercise: Did you experience absolute failure on your last rep (i.e., you could not lift the weights with proper form one more time), and are you panting for air? Because the mass of muscles being worked need oxygen, you need to breathe heavily in the moment.
Following are four example exercises. Note that anyone engaging in exercise for the first time should first consult a doctor, and would additionally benefit from working with a personal trainer so as to achieve good form. A trainer or training buddy would provide an additional safety factor, spotting you as you drive toward maximum intensity.
Free weight squats and lunges. Dipping low then pressing up with the legs while carrying a load of weight engages several major leg muscles but also those in the torso. For proper form, see the YouTube link for “Proper Squat Form.”
Note that squat can cause significant injury to the back if performed incorrectly. For the beginner, try squatting with just your body weight, or a barbell with no weights to start. Work up your strength and confidence before attempting very heavy weights.
Cable or elastic band squat-presses.
A variation on the squat is to grasp cables or elastic bands in your hands which you press upward at the top (standing segment) of the squat. This engages the shoulder muscles along with those in the legs and core. Choose a level of resistance that has you fatiguing to failure after ten repetitions.
Row-flyes from a staggered standing position.
Stand with the legs staggered, i.e., one foot about 2-3 feet behind the other, toes on both feet pointed forward, with torso pitched forward (forming a straight line from your back ankle through your hips and to the shoulders). Hold dumbbells at your side, then raise the dumbbells to shoulder level. Pause the weights at the top, then slowly drop them down. To add a lot more to the exercise, hinge both legs down as you lower the weights, then hinge back up as your arms and shoulders raise the dumbbells. Repeat to failure.
Sprinting runs or high-resistance bike spins.
A note on achieving “failure:” As mentioned, this is the state where you cannot lift another rep. If you are at rep 7 or 8 and aren’t near that, slow your pace dramatically to a ten second lift and ten second drop. This is also a sign you should increase the weight level on the next set.
An added benefit of high intensity training is that it can be accomplished in less time than other types of workouts. In fact, you advised to limit rest in between sets, perhaps packing your high intensity workout into as little as 30 or 45 minutes. For more on this, see the Hub page by this writer titled “Increase exercise intensity: add muscle, reduce body fat and improve overall health with no pills and no steroids.”
For ten additional exercises designed specifically for testosterone-building intensity, see Hub article, "Super-slow, high-intensity exercises to build strength, increase muscle size and raise testosterone levels" by this writer.
Nutrition – your testosterone is affected by what you eat
This might sound familiar. Eating a balanced diet of quality proteins, whole grains and lots of fruits and vegetables enables good health in general. But some specific parts of this optimal diet also contribute to muscle growth. Here’s the skinny:
Go for zinc: Zinc is the mineral that aids in the natural production of testosterone. Foods that contain a lot it: oysters, red meat (beef, pork, lamb), chicken, turkey and other fowl (wild game is particularly good, but unless you live on a ranch in Wyoming that might be hard to finesse on a regular basis). Also, beans and dairy products contain zinc
Onions and garlic contain Allicin, which also contributes to increased testosterone. It is generally believed that Allicin does not convert well in supplements, another case where the real food is a better idea.
Hale to cruciferous vegetables. Here’s the kicker: Cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, bok choi, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, radishes, kohlrabi and rutabagas), long heralded for anti-cancer and other healthful properties, are testosterone boosters as well. The link on “Zinc-testosterone foods” below lists generic and commercially prepared foods in their relative levels of zinc content. Cabbage nets in with roughly six times the zinc content per calories consumed compared to a shank of beef.
You read that right. Real men eat cole slaw.
So smart and specific exercises and healthy foods prove again to be the best path to fitness – even, that elusive fountain of youth mankind has long searched for.
Bottom line: Go heavy at the gym, then go home and eat some cabbage.
Endnote: A few people have contacted me about the absolute and immediate benefits of pharmaceutical testosterone supplementation, how exercise and diet cannot possibly mimic the degree of results that come with hormone replacement therapy. I respond that of course it is not the same thing. Some people worry about pharmaceutical interventions and unintended adverse consequences (myself included). Other people do not. It all depends on the individual.
Russ Klettke is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified fitness trainer and also the author of “A Guy’s Gotta Eat, the regular guy’s guide to eating smart” (Marlowe & Co., 2004, with Deanna Conte, MS RD LD), available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and more than 70 public library systems in the U.S., Canada and Europe. For more information on Russ Klettke, see www.RussKlettke.com, or his blog on the convergence of exercise and energy conservation at www.HumanCurrent.com.
(MY INPUT) I believe that all of us collectively and individually have to take greater responsibility for our own health and well being. We need to do our own research, read more, and get off the couch and start exercising. Especially during the Christmas season, lay off the rich deserts and sugary drinks and don't get out of the habit of exercising.
God bless and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Matthew 17:20 KJV