Over exertion in Endurance Training Can Lower Testosterone

Posted by Dr. Michael White, Updated on March 24th, 2021
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Researchers have been exploring the effects and drawbacks of overtraining for many years. While both cardiovascular and anaerobic exercise offer amazing health benefits, there are risks and downsides associated with pushing the body too hard. While this area of study began by evaluating the effects of overtraining on women, recent studies have begun to shed light on the negative impacts of overtraining on men.

For women, the most notable effects of overtraining are known as the Female Athlete Triad—The combination of menstrual irregularity, osteoporosis, and eating disorders. For men, it is believed that excessive cardio training leads to Low Testosterone.

Long Distance Running and Testosterone In Men

While Testosterone is strongly associated with muscle-building, long-distance running works out the muscles in a way that can actually inhibit Testosterone Production. While strength is important for endurance, too much strain on the muscles and body leads to a decrease in Testosterone Levels and muscle breakdown.

Testosterone is critical to the maintenance of Bone Mineral Density in men, and it also helps bolster red blood cell count. Red blood cells transport oxygen and contribute to enhanced cardiovascular capacity. It's important to note here that men's and women's bodies work very differently. Women need much less Testosterone than men, and there's no evidence that suggests that low Testosterone has a negative impact on women's athletic prowess.

Endurance Training Suppresses Testosterone

Endurance exercise naturally has a slight suppressive effect on Testosterone Levels. While this is true, this minor inconvenience does not generally lead to impaired performance or health issues when training reasonably. Overtraining, on the other hand, can contribute to Chronic Low-T. In 2018, research was presented in the Journal of Biochemistry and Physiology regarding the effects of Endurance Training on Testosterone Levels.

Based on this study, it's estimated that somewhere between 15% and 25% of males that engage in routine endurance training have suppressed resting T-Levels. While Testosterone Levels are lower than usual for these men, most do not meet a diagnosis of Clinical Low-T.

Why Does Endurance Training Lower Testosterone?

At first, it may seem counter-intuitive that running would negatively impact Testosterone. Endurance Training suppresses Testosterone because it leads to increased physiological stress. This stress leads the body to focus on preservation at the expense of sex hormone production. Stress is also associated with Cortisol production, which drains the body's natural ability to produce Testosterone.

Overtraining can also lead to very low body fat, which interferes with the body's normal hormone balance. Fay cells release Leptin, which signals for satiety. If body fat is too low, it puts the body in a constant state of alert against starvation, which further limits Testosterone Levels.

Cardiovascular Exercise Is Beneficial, But Be Careful Not to Overtrain

The risk of Testosterone Deficiency increases as you get older. The same level of training that your body could handle when you were younger may not be possible now without interfering with ideal Testosterone Balance. While it's impossible to diagnose Testosterone Deficiency without a blood test, you should be aware of the signs and symptoms of Low-T because these symptoms are a signal that you may be pushing your body too hard.

If you've experienced low libido, ongoing fatigue, sleeping issues, or decreased endurance, these are all signs that your Testosterone Production may be impaired by overtraining. Over time, this may even contribute to the risk of stress fracture due to the leeching of bone mineral density. If changing your routine does not relieve these symptoms, you may want to reach out to a Hormone Specialist for further evaluation.

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