Strength Training And Testosterone Levels

By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

Improving your athletic performance reaches beyond the quality of your workout, into the realm of how your body responds during recovery. Your desired response should include improved muscle and cardiovascular endurance as well as increased strength. However, you need to consider your reproductive organs when thinking about recovery. The testosterone levels directly effective how your muscles respond to training.

Testosterone excretion
During and after an intense workout, you excrete high levels of testosterone, increasing the anabolic effect of your training session.  The release of testosterone also strengthens muscles cells as well as ligaments and tendons. Higher testosterone levels means greater adaptation to training and an increased performance.

Athletes strength training for more than 1 year will greatly increase testosterone output when periodically exceeding normal training levels. Studies performed at the University of Ohio and Penn State suggested that male athletes performing at a capacity double that of average performance showed an increase in testosterone excretion by nearly 36%.

Protecting testosterone
Just like some athletes have fast metabolisms, some have naturally higher testosterone levels. To gain lean mass and optimize your performance levels, you need to protect testosterone levels from falling to levels unable to sustain a quality anabolic environment.

You can implement several strategies into your recovery to help you maintain current testosterone levels, or even give them a boost.

A diet rich in fat promotes higher testosterone levels because cholesterol is a hormone precursor. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and pound down large quantities of high fat foods. Make smart food choices that include nutrient rich protein sources such as green leafy vegetables, cold water fish, and free run chicken.  Red meat contains high levels of zinc, which also supports testosterone.

Eating complex carbohydrates after your workout will cause an insulin spike, converting your metabolisms into a muscle-building state. This high-insulin environment staves off cortisol, a hormone that promotes catabolism and muscle waste. In essence, carbs suppress the testosterone destroying cortisol hormone, allowing your body to remain in an anabolic state.

Taking BCAAs and glutamine before and after training will sustain testosterone levels and moderate cortisol levels. Combine these two supplements with a slow burning carb like oats or yams and you create unstoppable anabolic fuel.

Avoid overtraining
Overtraining will unleash high levels of cortisol, decreasing the anabolic effective of your workout. To measure whether you are overtraining, take a look at your diet. If you are eating a calorie dense diet filled with high quality protein and nutrient rich foods, yet fail to grow, then you might be overtraining. Stick with a high intensity program filled with compound movements. Use heavy amounts of weight and low repetitions. Training with five strength movements per session is adequate enough to reap the muscle growing benefits of your workout.

You may need to stay away from aerobic exercise as well.  Stick to high intensity interval training (HIIT) once or twice a week. Don’t do long sessions of treadmill walking, spinning classes, or elliptical training. Try 2 sessions of 10 sprints a week and you will definitely get in your cardio.

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