Testosterone – What’s it all about?

Testosterone – whether you’re male or female you have it, and it’s present in your body as we speak. What does it do for us though, and are we able to manage the levels in our bodies in order to aid our training?

Admittedly the men out there are going to find this more relevant, and will be able to take more away from this blog than women. Most of us will have an idea of what testosterone is – but this idea is often confused.

Most men out there will be guilty of being accused of having ‘too much testosterone’ at some point in their lives. This identifies the view on testosterone – it’s what defines us as men. There is some truth in that – levels of testosterone in men is usually 8 times higher then in females, and we produce 20 times as much daily.

Why is this relevant to health and fitness though? Well besides the primary role of testosterone, one of its secondary characteristics is the hormone’s ability to increase muscle and provide improved health and well-being.

This means that testosterone is the critical hormone for muscle growth, and even more importantly, is one of the limiting factors for determining how much muscle you can build. Naturally over time athletes discovered that by increasing the levels of this hormone, they could too maximise their performance.

As a result artificially boosting testosterone in most of athletics is considered doping and is banned. But as humans we are able to naturally increase that level of testosterone, without the need for artificial supplementation.

The truth is that we rarely get tested to see our levels of testosterone, so when people, particularly young males, go to the gym and find their progress to be limited, they naturally assume this is down to low levels of testosterone. Just remember, if you’re a male in your teens or particularly your twenties you will naturally be producing more testosterone now than at any other point in your life.

Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t aid this with some good habits that can help to maximise your progress.

  • Rest

As well as being a hormone, testosterone is an anabolic steroid, and as such is secreted more during rest (you are more anabolic when you sleep). So when you sleep, if you know your body is secreting greater levels of these anabolic steroids (testosterone, growth hormones etc.), it surely makes sense to maximise time spent sleeping. No, this doesn’t mean you can sleep all day, but sticking to the rule of bed before midnight and duration of at least 8 hours won’t send you far wrong

  • Hydration

Often it’s the most basic principles that we overlook. But if you are genuinely concerned with your level of testosterone, then make sure you’re at least doing the basics right. This means drink plenty of water, there’s no point just switching over to diet drinks, and something as simple as switching to water can have drastic impacts on your body.

  • Stress levels

Another thing you might want to take a look at is your level of stress. Are you coping with pressure from work, from home or from school? Well obviously these all affect your body’s ability to be anabolic. Stress will also have an impact on your rest, as well as your attitude to fitness as well. With rest and hydration you can consciously change your behaviour, stress however can be far more difficult to cope with.

  • Compound exercises

A very easy way to help increase testosterone production is by basing your workout around compound exercises. Evidence shows that by doing this you get a greater ‘spike’ in levels of testosterone production. Essentially you may need to do a few less bicep curls, and a few more squats.

Of course there are other things you need to concentrate on, but these are the main 4 things that you can change relatively easily to help you build muscle more effectively.

Other things include using high intensity workouts (which you should be doing anyway), increasing the amount of ‘good fats’ you eat (those found in fish oils, nuts, avocados etc.) and decreasing both the quantity of alcohol you consume, and the frequency in which you consume it.

Ollie Lawrence
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