Leading off with a little bit of my backstory and training history as background prior to my diagnosis with low testosterone and in hopes to hear how other people have dealt with similar problems.
I’m a 37 year old male with a 5 year race history and am currently competing in the front half of road races as a cat 2. I have picked up 24 upgrade points for my cat 1 in the past two seasons.
I started following some semblance of serious training in the fall of 2015 and this is my TrainerRoad TSS history since I started training with power
2012 - 320 hours
2013 - 428 hours
2014 - 440 hours
2015 - 453 hours - peak FTP 340
2016 - 510 hours - peak FTP 364
2017 - 471 hours - peak FTP 380
2018 - 527 hours - peak FTP 364
2019 - 96 hours - peak FTP 360
Obviously the 2019 data is partial but based on past years I’m roughly on track for the 2018 volume numbers
Over the course of this time my weight has generally trended downward. I don’t have great data pre 2018, but I was around 180 in 2012 and gradually decreased down to 165-170 in 2019. At 6’3" this makes me fairly lean. No major shifts in weight - it has been a gradual slimming down process. My diet is mostly whole foods that I prepare myself (I can post more details about this if people think it matters - but I eat a ton of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein from a variety of sources and the fat I’ve recently added to my diet was avocados, olive oil, and eggs)
From fall of 2016 onwards I have followed high volume TrainerRoad plans with a fairly high degree of adherence to the plan. I succeed in most of the plans - both in adherence to the schedule and completion of the intervals. I might fail at 5-7 total workouts in build and specialty in a typical season. I typically follow plans and structure from October-April and then racing and outdoor riding swings up and I spend less time indoors but maintain roughly the same volume and schedule
As you can see from the FTP data above - I had a strong response to the training and was able to focus on the icing of my fitness such that I could maintain a high FTP while focusing on limiters in certain races such as my 60 second repeatable power.
In the fall of 2018 I went in for a (long overdue) regular check-up with my GP. In the course of the normal blood work everything looked fantastic except for some of my hormone levels, most notably my testosterone level which was below the lower limit. At the time of the blood test I was in week 8 of SSB High Volume - so coming off a fairly high block of training.
My FTP and sensations on the bike were fairly typical for me at this point, so despite a serious conversation with my doctor we decided not to change anything about my prep for my A race and I started General Build High Volume the following week. I slightly modified my diet at this point by adding in some more fat calories but still staying at a relatively low fat diet
I went back in for a follow-up blood draw at the start of week 5 of General Build which confirmed my testosterone levels from five weeks prior. I went back in for a third blood draw after a full rest week (after my A race, which was derailed for completely separate reasons) and after a week off the bike my number was significantly better, but still below the lower range. Throughout both build and specialty I was able to complete high volume with a few workout failures, but mostly as expected (Spanish Needle +2, Striped +1, South Twin +6) based on my strengths and weaknesses on the bike.
I am now starting another build, feeling fine on the bike and able to complete challenging workouts but unable to push my FTP to the heights it was at two years ago. Granted - I’m on the wrong end of the age curve, so I expect decreases, but being 20 watts lower than two years ago is frustrating.
Unfortunately, I’m not the best at getting into my doctor so my last prior blood draw is from 2013 when I was in the upper half of the testosterone range - as expected for someone with my lifestyle, age, etc.
Based on my overall health, diet, and activity level my doctor’s theory is that my hormones are out of whack due to training volume. If his theory is correct, I suspect that I actually started down this road sometime during the second half of the 2017 season and then have been digging this hole for myself over the end of 2017 until now.
My doctor proposes I cut down on my training such that instead of following a typical high volume training schedule (hard three days a week, easy three days a week) I take the easy days all the way off and cut to only four days on the bike (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday being the standards, with adjustments based on my race schedule). I started following this plan two weeks ago when I started training again and will be getting monthly blood tests to monitor how my hormones respond to this.
I’m open to his plan as I have a fairly strong base and think that cutting these easy rides should have a relatively low impact on my fitness for this season. I’m not sure how sustainable it will be over time as eventually I’ll struggle to maintain the fitness for the longer races that I usually perform best at.
I will be monitoring my hormone levels and my fitness based on the above workout schedule to see if things improve (theoretically if my testosterone levels come up my fitness will improve even with the lower volume).
Request one of what I’m hoping for is experiences others have had with this problem, potential causes that I’m missing, as well as suggestions for how to maintain my fitness with a lower training volume. In case it isn’t clear, I’m racing sanctioned events and am not interested in any solutions that don’t fit within the doping regulations and really anything approaching gray areas is not of interest to me either.
Request two of what I’m hoping for is how to best train while maintaining a schedule like I’ve laid out above as well as potential modifications to that schedule/plan that may have a bigger impact on returning my hormone levels to a more normal range. Decreasing to three days? Dropping weekly TSS further?
Here is a sample of what I’ve built out for training for a few weeks moving forward
Essentially I’m cherry picking workouts from General Build mid and high volume and dropping the Wednesday/Friday workouts. I’ll end up doing an increasing amount of these workouts outdoors as the weather improves
Also as a final thought - throughout the six-ish months since the original diagnosis I’ve felt no different on the bike other than the inability to push my FTP to past heights and have not had anything happen that would’ve made me go seek medical treatment for something like this.