Drops in testosterone can decrease libido, lead to mood changes, decrease energy, and prolong recovery from workouts. Fortunately, some interventions may increase testosterone naturally.
It is no secret that endurance training can lead to reductions in testosterone.
Theories range as to why endurance training can reduce testosterone: loss of body mass, increased cortisol levels, changes in luteinizing hormone. The ultimate mechanism is not entirely understood.
But what is clear is that reduced “T” can have several impacts—everything from a mildly negative impact on recovery to a significant effect on, um, your quality of life. Yeah, it’s what you’re thinking—your sex life.
Low Testosterone for Athletes
Drops in testosterone can decrease libido, lead to mood changes, decrease energy, and prolong recovery from workouts.
Testosterone decreases appear correlated to the amount and intensity of training. Generally, the longer you train each week, the lower your testosterone level. That said, resistance training (such as lifting weights) increases testosterone, while endurance training decreases testosterone.
Athletic regulatory bodies of all types ban testosterone supplementation and hormone replacement therapy, even for amateurs. As a word of caution, in response to recent evidence, testing on masters and age group amateur (or as we like to say, “enthusiast”) athletes have become more common, particularly for top age group finishers.
Fortunately, some interventions may increase testosterone naturally. We’ve included below some of the most effective. But as always, everyone is going to be different. We recommend one of our blood tests to see where you are and what might work best for you.
One of the most effective ways to boost testosterone is by adding in a day or two a week of strength training (particularly in 1-2 minute, intense bursts). We realize this can be challenging during in-season training. A good off-season strategy is to lighten the endurance load and spend some time pumping iron.
Reduce Sugar Intake
Testosterone levels decrease after eating sugar. Diets high in sugar are associated with reduced testosterone levels in some studies.
More frequent sex increases testosterone levels. You’re welcome.
Fats are essential to testosterone production, which includes both healthy fats (avocados, fish oils) and saturated fats (yep, the ones we have been told are “terrible” for us, like bacon). Studies show that increased fat intake may be correlated to increased testosterone. You’re welcome again.
Egg intake is shown to increase DHEA-S, which in turn leads to more testosterone.
Eat More Protein
Endurance athletes may want to consider supplementing with whey protein during peak training. A particularly effective strategy is to increase your protein before bed (or sex).
Zinc is a bit tricky for endurance athletes. It is involved in several important pathways that tend to be “used in excess” during training, so it is often lower than expected in endurance athletes. If you supplement iron, this can cause a further reduction in zinc absorption. Zinc supplementation may increase testosterone levels and is generally recommended for endurance athletes training more than 8 hours per week.
About Dr. Garret Rock
Dr. Garret Rock serves as the Director of Sports Science for ABT. Garret is no stranger in the world of healthcare or blood monitoring for performance. Garret’s career focus is on predictive outcome profiling. He has built precision-profiling and predictive outcome profiling methodology for healthcare systems and Athlete Blood Test