Testosterone: To T or Not To T?

I’ve scheduled one for the nearest future (first I suspected my thyroid is off, as I had some troubles with it in the past; but blood test showed it’s ok, so low T is now even more probable), but I want to sufficiently recover before it, to see the maximum current number in it (as currently I’m in the overtrained phase again, it took me 10 days to get there this time, from a perfectly rested state…)

So I just went ahead and tried to study what my perspectives are if test will confirm it - that’s how I found that thread.

One week off, especially when in an overtrained state, is not completely rested.

Go see a Dr, and get a blood test, that will be the best way of confirming things. I suspect that (depending where you are in the World and if you’ve gone to a Dr that sells T) your normal Dr would say that you’re overtrained and need a longer period of rest and recovery. Even if your Testosterone is low, you should give your body the appropriate amount of recovery and time to correct it. Rather than pharmaceutical intervention so soon.

You may consider your training load low. It’s not compared to many athletes on the forum and all around the world. I think your expectations are too high and that perhaps you could build up to that amount of training over a longer period of time if you give your body the chance to adequately heal itself first.

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One week off, especially when in an overtrained state, is not completely rested

How much should it be, in your opinion? When I say “fully rested” it means I see my ability to sleep restored, I feel an energy surge, my mood is increasingly better - and when I train I do very good job on the first day of that week. It really feels like I’m back to my optimal form. But at the end of that week I already feel kind of shitty - and I’m not able to recover enough till the first training session of the next week. If I try to force it anyway, that usually ends in disaster in a few days.

That’s how it been for the last couple of months after I added some strength training to my routine (before I never did this, and hit the gym in off season, in winter only, when I wasn’t cycling that much). So that additional load exacerbated the issue. But it was present before as well, just wasn’t that obvious. I had regular issues with overtraining once in a few weeks back then. I didn’t understand what happened back then, and waved it off as some accidents, didn’t see it as a pattern. But now I see it was there already, even when my load was so little as 2 training sessions per week 1-1.5hrs long plus 100kms casual ride at weekends.

It doesn’t seem right or normal, to me.

I would say, as a wild ass guess, a minimum of a month. Depending how deep the hole is it could be several months. I’m no Dr, I imagine it takes some time for the endocrine system to rebound if it has been suppressed - again I still think a legitimate Dr would want you to give your body a chance to restore Testosterone levels on it’s own before prescribing something. That’s all assuming it is Testosterone.

Perhaps you do have an underlying condition that makes recovering more difficult, that still doesn’t mean Testosterone replacement is the answer. As above, you really need to recover, and then find the level of training that you can maintain without driving things down.

Make an appointment with your Dr and have an open conversation with them. Don’t be surprised if they say you need to rest for a longer period :man_shrugging:.

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It sounds like your just doing a bunch of random riding and workouts that aren’t progressive or cyclic in programming. I feel like what your experiencing is a side effect of that: you’re working your ass off, but in a random way without a grand plan. And so you’re exhausted and spinning your wheels. I’d change that approach first, it sounds like you’re really focussed on T as the solution without any real concrete evidence.

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Do you do anything load bearing? Running, lifting, etc. Breaking your sternum from a short fall reminds me a bit of Nibali breaking his pelvis from a low speed crash (iirc, he ran into a spectator near the summit of a climb).

The latter would help some with testosterone levels as well (n=1, mine went up ~40% (~500 → 700) when I started lifting).

it is progressive, what I describe is my current training program. I started to deliberately train about 3 years ago, from FTP at 180W. Back then it were 3-5 1 hour sessions per week plus an obligatory casual social ride at the weekends.

I gradually increased my training intensity during the week (I have a smart trainer at home), and my weekend riding volumes were increasing as well, as I was riding longer and longer distances. At the end of the second year in training I rode my first couple of brevets, 200kms ones. Before that I’ve already had rode 150kms distances a few times as well.

That was also about time I hit the gym for the first time in my life, during the winter of 2021. I took a leave from my cycling activities for first few mothns in the gym. Then after adapting to this new load, I gradually started to add cycling back, with lower intensity, after each gym session (which were twice a week).

Due to the time spent in gym, and COVID taking me out for a month (and another month spent on recovery from it), I reached the start of 2022 cycling season at FTP that wasn’t that much different from the one I was at in autumn 2021 (about 240-245W). I spent may be one more month on interval training to get whatever fitness increase I could - and then rashed into breveting will all I got (well, that could attribute to overtraining a lot, I guess). There was a month I rode 200kms each weekend, and hardly was able to recover before each of them. Then 300kms followed, 400km, 600kms… The later two felt brutally hard for me. There were a lot of other hard weekend rides in between. I also tried to train at VO2max and FTP wattage levels in between when I felt like I had some strength left. I also increased my usual training session from 1 hour to 2 hours (but simply by adding 40-50mins of zone 2 spinning after the heavy interval work).

Then, in August, after all that brevet madness subsided, I thought I should now add some basic strength training to my routine, to get prepared to the next visit to gym this winter. That was another hour on top of the two hour of spinning, still 2 days per week. Plus the obligatory weekend long ride, as it became the main ride of the week for me and my friends.

That’s the full history of it. Worth noting that I dealt with some signs of overtraining all this time. First year I made a rookie mistake by training almost every day. But it quickly become obvious it won’t work, so to my second year in training I finally resorted to that routine of 3 rides per week, 2 “hard” training session and a weekend long ride in a free tempo (usually mild, sometimes hard as well). I tried to get enough rest between the sessions, like at least one full day of rest, 2 if it didn’t feel enough. Perhaps, it still wasn’t enough, as I was experiencing most of the signature symptoms of overtraining throughout that year (as I now understand). Back then, it wasn’t that harsh, so I waved them off. Occasional rest for a week seemed enough to recover.

May be I really overdid it this year…

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No. I literally have been sitting at home at my PC for years (working from home for 10 years already), before I started cycling 4 years ago. Cycling was my only reason to leave my apartment at least a few times a week. Never was doing any sports before that as well, just some basic morning exercises.

I had a road accident (was hit by a car when cycling), but it was a year before the gym, and wasn’t that serious, got home that very day with some shoulder blunt trauma (no fractures). It hurt for 2 months then healed completely.

It seems like all of your rides are too hard plus you do weigh training. You do two structured ftp/vo2 workouts plus you do your 4-5-10 hour big weekend rides. It sounds like zero, pure low intensity easy riding. It could take several days to recover from those bike multi-hour rides but you are hitting the intervals a day or two later and then again. You are never recovered.

My thoughts would be:

  1. consider taking a month off

  2. do labs with your doc. T, vitamin D, iron. Did you get a bone density scan after your sternum broke? You’d want to know if you have osteopenia.

  3. is your nutrition solid - adequate protein and enough carbs and calories to fuel the riding. Research is finding that it’s maybe not cycling that causes osteopenia but rather the chronic calorie shortages that endurance athletes often endure.

  4. when you get back to cycling, do a lot more low intensity riding, take a rest from intervals every 3rd or 4th week, and don’t do the exceptionally long rides more than once a month. And maybe skip the intervals the week after the 5-10 hour ride.

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Yes, but you are not them. You have to accept your limitations. You might just be doing too much given your life circumstances, which include your own physiology. How much an athlete can and cannot train is a crucial factor in how far they can progress. Some people are able to deal with much, much more training than the average person. And you are still doing a lot.

Honest question: did you diagnose that yourself or did your doctor? Please don’t diagnose yourself (even if you are a doctor), because not least because it makes you prone to motivated reasoning.

This is common when men reach middle age. Add to that that you are up training instead of cuddling in bed in the morning, the exhaustion, etc.

Is that periodized in any way? Do you have a rest week ever 4th week? Or do you just take rests when you feel like you need it? Do you ramp up the training at all? If not, the lack of periodization is a surefire way to stunt your growth as an athlete and prevent your body from recovering in any way.

That’s a surefire sign you have overextended yourself for a long period, and that you are deeply fatigued. Training is no longer useful in this state, and I think you should take time off the bike and take a break from the gym. I’d at least take a month off, but depending on how deep the fatigue is, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d have to rest 2 months or more.

PS I just read @liam_mail’s response and he is 100 % on the money.

I see no periodization here. That alone is a surefire way to run yourself into the ground. You also wrote that you were aware of symptoms of overtraining and did not act on them. You don’t need testosterone, you need rest and then a proper training plan. Start with less volume and intensity than you think you know you can handle. Probably a lot less. No more regular 300+ km rides on the weekends.

Endurance training is mostly about fatigue management. You cannot push through fatigue with willpower. This may work for individual workouts, but the bill will always come due. Endurance training means you have to learn when you should push through a hard workout and when you should call it quits. You should react to signs of training too much immediately (I don’t want to write overtraining, because that is more serious).

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I hate to say it (and probably an unpopular opinion) but I feel there’s a lot of fishing for approval to PEDs. Whoever goes on Testosterone, is a personal medical decision. If you do… Just don’t race.

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Truth.

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Yes, it is a personal decision. But if people come here asking for advice on the matter, I see nothing wrong with us giving them our 2 ¥/2 (Euro) cents.

That sounds pretty odd. Go the doc, have them run blood test (not just for low T) and also look at your bone density. Then see what the diagnosis is, and decide with your doc if you should take medication.

Low T can be a consequence of overtraining. It could be that you never really recovered from those brevets, and have been in a hole ever since. Or it could be that you have a medical condition and treatment, but nobody here will know.

Regarding low T and endurance training:

After reaching my all time peak FTP in June, we moved across country this summer. I decided to take a break from the bike. I’ve been doing 7-12 hours per week for 5 years now. I’m not doing nothing and just sitting on the couch. I do a lot of yard work on the new house. I lift weights and do body weight and dumbbell work. And I started running. Hey I can run 2 miles now without stopping! :slight_smile:

Last year my T levels were tested to be in range but on the lowest side of the range. Having sore legs and being tired frequently while training wasn’t conducive to a high sex drive.

After taking a few weeks off, all my libido came back strong. I haven’t had my T checked again but it has obviously gone up.

My point is that we should all realize that this “low T” thing is 99.9% self inflicted if you do a lot of endurance training.

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Frankly speaking, I always had it on the lower side. Even in my teenager years, I was an odd duck with a libido of a man over 30s. When I reached the 30s, it got even lower. As you may imagine, living mostly sedentary life without going out too much doesn’t make you very popular with girls, so troubles in romantic life never was a big concern to me.

So when I really got into cycling and started to train, it didn’t actually broke my T levels, more like it was already broken, and additional load became the the final straw which made it unbearable and forced me to do something about it.

For now, I scheduled a few medical tests and will rest for a month to (hopefully) restore my T levels to what it was before I started to train heavily. Then I’ll take the blood test for T, and will act accordingly (most likely by starting on ED injections of testosterone propionate in dosage enough to keep T levels at normal levels).

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I’ve sceduled the bone density scan for next week, thanks for the tip. I didn’t think about it, but that’s right, it’s one of the prime symptoms of chronically low T levels.

I did a bunch of general blood tests recently, also for thyroid hormones - everything happened to be within the norm. Haven’t tested for T level yet.

My nutrition is more or less ok, I think. Certainly no carbs deficiency (I would say I eat them more than I should; I’m not overweight, but have a few extra pounds), not so sure about proteins, that’s why I try to compensate by consuming aminoacids (BCAA and other complexes), protein bars and protein drinks. I also consume all usually recommended vitamins and minerals (in tabs).

Thanks for your advices, that what I was thinking myself about. I’m thinking that may be I should back off from the “2 high intensity sessions with strength training + long weekend ride” to something more like this:

  1. First session: heavy interval work + heavy-to-medium leg works (strength training)
  2. Complete rest for a day or two
  3. Second session: light spinning (z2) for 1-1.5hours + heavy-to-medium strength work (but no legs involved, upper body + core)
  4. Rest for a day
  5. Weekend long social ride, ideally at low tempo; if I fail to maintain it at low tempo and will turn it into another training session (I tend to do this sometimes), the skip the hard training session next week, it will be a lower intensity week
  6. Periodize it using 3+1 pattern, each forth week is a complete rest week, with little to no training

At least until I’ll sort out my issue with T levels this hopefully will allow me to maintain some fitness and may be even increase it a bit.

Why not do a tried and true plan that doesn’t require you to take multiple days of rest after each session. Does that make sense? Training so hard that you regularly require full days off afterwards is poor programming.

M off
T 1-1.5hr easy endurance
W 1-1.5hr easy endurance with intervals
R 1-2hr easy endurance
F lift weights
S 1-1.5hr east endurance with intervals
S 2-4hr easy endurance

Periodize on the intervals increasing the minutes of ‘work’ for 3 weeks. Then take 1 week easy.

I think you will be magically better in a month or two following something like this basic training plan.

No syn-T required.

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Just a thought because if you get the test and your T is in a normal range, then you will still be wondering why you feel the way you do.

Body’s response to stress is to release cortisol. Cortisol will block your body’s response to testosterone. You may have it, but your body isn’t using it properly. If you are over-stressed, either with your current training volume and intensity or because of other things going on in your life, you may need to address the stress.

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An issue with such plans in my case is sort of psychological nature. It’s hard for me to maintain a stable routine like this over a long time when I have to do it every day. It’s much easier for me to have two training days when you have to do your best - and then 4 other days when you don’t care and spend time on something else. I also can’t sacrifice the weekend long ride to such plan - it’s sort of the main thing for me, the only way to socialize and sort of to “reset” my mind after a week of working from home. Like a big journey into the wild, with a lot of adventures on the way. I can’t substitute it with a bunch of 1 hour rides over the week, it turns it into mundane routine and steals all the joy cycling gives me.

I also noticed that if exercising daily, even if it’s non-related thing, like cycling one day and lifting the other day - then cycling again, I can’t recover properly as well. Dylan Johnson (a yt cycling coach of some reknown) is notorious for advocating a full rest days like that for the same reason as well.