If you're a man over the age of 20, you've probably been bombarded with advertisements for boosting your testosterone and testosterone max. Well, testosterone does play a large part in how we perform athletically. We don't necessarily care about it as runners so much as we want to be lean, we don't want to be these huge bodybuilders, but it's still essential for us.
So, you want to figure out, is your running, actually going to lower your testosterone? Well, I'm Jesse Funk and today on this episode, Runners High, that's exactly what we're going to talk about.
So, if you're looking for the quick and easy answer, the answer is yes, it can. Just subscribe to the channel, stay tuned other videos and you can leave. If you actually want a little more information about what's going on, stick with me and stay with the video. It’s an increasingly common story, especially for competitive men, that they're having issues with low testosterone.
It affects women as well and a large amount of volume in training can affect women's hormones and do things like even make it so that they don't have a period anymore. We can cover that in another video. But today, I'm going to stick with you and talk about testosterone, which folks, you know, affects mostly men.
If you listen to my interview with Matt Bach and the Smart Athlete Podcast, he actually talks about after the time when he won Ironman Maryland in 2014, when he got his blood testing done, and realized his testosterone was abnormally low. It was at 100 nanograms per deciliter. And for reference, the healthy range is 300 to 1000.
Typically, somebody younger, like Matt and myself is going to be near the higher end of that range. So it was way under the what he would actually want to look for. The side effects and the low testosterone can involve chronic fatigue, sleeplessness, weight loss, and a host of other maladies that go along with it.
Along with Matt, he actually mentions kind of the poster boy for endurance performance for Americans, at least in the last decade, Ryan Hall. Matt mentions that, Ryan tested his testosterone as low as five, which is actually the low, will be too low for even a woman. Now I can't find any verification for that number, I'll have to take mass word for it.
But Ryan Hall’s journey in having low testosterone chronic fatigue is documented a lot of different places around the internet. He's spoken widely about it.
He was training at 140 miles a week at the peak of his fitness. And he's known for being the only American to go sub hour and a half. He goes, I think his PR is somewhere around two hours, seven minutes or so for is full. So, very high performance individual and he'd been that way since he had raced at Stanford. Well, at the height of his performance, he was only weighing around 127 pounds.
Keep in mind, he's 5’10. Just like somebody else we know 127 is ridiculously low. Pass this point, I think around the age of 33, Ryan talked about how he just couldn't maintain anymore. Chronic fatigue and, you know, illness injury was starting to catch up with him. And he dropped from 140 miles a week down to just being doing 12. And part of it was rest, part of it was just he just couldn't keep up with it anymore.
Once Ryan got the rest that he needed, he actually started lifting weights and working more on his health. And this is something that Matt talked about a lot in my interview with him and why I titled his episode, ‘Health before Fitness’ because he was more interested in his health. So, Ryan actually went from 127 pounds, which I can't even imagine being 127 pounds at 5’10. I haven't been 127 pounds since I was a freshman in high school just for a little bit of perspective, and I wasn't even a full height at that point.
He went from 127 pounds, all the way up to 165. And a lot of people don't even recognize him now because he's gained so much weight. And I will say it's healthy weight, he's actually gotten muscle he's built up I'll say a physique now, rather than being real thin. And he's definitely not fat, he's very well in shape and feeling better, I think than ever now that he's prioritizing his overall health versus just run performance.
I too have had my own issues with low testosterone. Although, I've never officially tested below the range, post college I did do a blood test and was coming in around 312 nanograms per deciliter, which is right at the bottom, 300 is the very bottom. Anything below that is labeled as low. I'd suspect sometime during my collegiate career, I was being overtrained so much that my testosterone was probably in the toilet.
I was having, you know, chronic issues with fatigue and sleep. There were often nights I would only sleep four hours a night and then eventually, I would crash after a week of doing that. And I'd sleep 12 to 14 hours the next day, it was a mess.
Now, what causes it? Often, it's overtraining. And Matt talks about this too in my interview with him. He talks about chronic calorie deficit and that overtraining kind of goes hand in hand with that calorie deficit. You don't necessarily have to have one to have the other, but they often go together.
So overtraining pushing yourself farther than you can go, you know, creates this stress in this environment where you can lower your testosterone and affect things like your sex drive, and your ability to recover.
Beyond that, one thing that Matt and I talked about was how the stress level of all that overtraining raises your cortisol levels. And it's often suggested that that's the issue, that those high cortisol levels suppress testosterone.
And Matt was quick to remind me that frankly, we just don't have enough supporting evidence yet to say absolutely, that's the crux of the problem. But there is some evidence suggesting that there is a link there, there's an issue, but we do need more research.
He was actually part of a team to set up research of a small group of elite endurance athletes, that is just now finishing up. I'm hoping to be able to do a follow up video to this one once those results are out and we can kind of see what that team found out.
One thing's for sure, whether it's overtraining or under eating, the cure for low testosterone is typically pretty easy, rest and lots of it. It can take some time for you to recuperate, get your hormone levels back in balance, after you put them in the toilet from all those probably years of overtraining and fatigue.
Have you had trouble with low testosterone? Have you had trouble with a chronic fatigue from training? I want to hear your story. I think this is more common than a lot of people talk about so I want to hear what you have to say. Leave me a comment below, tell me your story. Let me know what's going on. As always, I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runners High.