Using steroids eventually trains your body to realize that it doesn’t have to produce as much testosterone to reach its equilibrium, so to reach the same highs you’ll need to take more steroids, and when you stop taking them, your body will need to readjust — you’ll be living with low testosterone for a while (and you’ll need to see a doctor if your body doesn’t readjust on its own). Forcing your body to stay above your natural testosterone, even if you’re naturally low, can create this kind of dependency which ultimately decreases the amount of testosterone your body will produce on its own.
For men with low blood testosterone levels, the benefits of hormone replacement therapy usually outweigh potential risks. However, for most other men it's a shared decision with your doctor. It offers men who feel lousy a chance to feel better, but that quick fix could distract attention from unknown long-term hazards. "I can't tell you for certain that this raises your personal risk of heart problems and prostate cancer, or that it doesn't," Dr. Pallais says.
Trials of testosterone treatment in men with type 2 diabetes have also taken place. A recent randomized controlled crossover trial assessed the effects of intramuscular testosterone replacement to achieve levels within the physiological range, compared with placebo injections in 24 men with diabetes, hypogonadism and a mean age of 64 years (Kapoor et al 2006). Ten of these men were insulin treated. Testosterone treatment led to a significant reduction in glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) and fasting glucose compared to placebo. Testosterone also produced a significant reduction in insulin resistance, measured by the homeostatic model assessment (HOMA), in the fourteen non-insulin treated patients. It is not possible to measure insulin resistance in patients treated with insulin but five out of ten of these patients had a reduction of insulin dose during the study. Other significant changes during testosterone treatment in this trial were reduced total cholesterol, waist circumference and waist-hip ratio. Similarly, a placebo-controlled but non-blinded trial in 24 men with visceral obesity, diabetes, hypogonadism and mean age 57 years found that three months of oral testosterone treatment led to significant reductions in HbA1C, fasting glucose, post-prandial glucose, weight, fat mass and waist-hip ratio (Boyanov et al 2003). In contrast, an uncontrolled study of 150 mg intramuscular testosterone given to 10 patients, average age 64 years, with diabetes and hypogonadism found no significant change in diabetes control, fasting glucose or insulin levels (Corrales et al 2004). Another uncontrolled study showed no beneficial effect of testosterone treatment on insulin resistance, measured by HOMA and ‘minimal model’ of area under acute insulin response curves, in 11 patients with type 2 diabetes aged between 33 and 73 years (Lee et al 2005). Body mass index was within the normal range in this population and there was no change in waist-hip ratio or weight during testosterone treatment. Baseline testosterone levels were in the low-normal range and patients received a relatively small dose of 100 mg intramuscular testosterone every three weeks. A good increase in testosterone levels during the trial is described but it is not stated at which time during the three week cycle the testosterone levels were tested, so the lack of response could reflect an insufficient overall testosterone dose in the trial period.
Millions of American men use a prescription testosterone gel or injection to restore normal levels of the manly hormone. The ongoing pharmaceutical marketing blitz promises that treating "low T" this way can make men feel more alert, energetic, mentally sharp, and sexually functional. However, legitimate safety concerns linger. For example, some older men on testosterone could face higher cardiac risks.
Topical testosterone, specifically gels, creams and liquids, may transfer to others. Women and children are most at risk of harmful effects from contact with them. You should take care to cover the area and wash your hands well after putting on the medication. Be careful not to let the site with the topical TT touch others because that could transfer the drug.
Many clinical studies have looked at the effect of testosterone treatment on body composition in hypogonadal men or men with borderline low testosterone levels. Some of these studies specifically examine these changes in older men (Tenover 1992; Morley et al 1993; Urban et al 1995; Sih et al 1997; Snyder et al 1999; Kenny et al 2001; Ferrando et al 2002; Steidle et al 2003; Page et al 2005). The data from studies, on patients from all age groups, are consistent in showing an increase in fat free mass and decrease in fat mass or visceral adiposity with testosterone treatment. A recent meta-analysis of 16 randomized controlled trials of testosterone treatment effects on body composition confirms this pattern (Isidori et al 2005). There have been less consistent results with regard to the effects of testosterone treatment of muscle strength. Some studies have shown an increase in muscle strength (Ferrando et al 2002; Page et al 2005) with testosterone whilst others have not (Snyder et al 1999). Within the same trial some muscle group strengths may improve whilst others do not (Ly et al 2001). It is likely that the differences are partly due to the methodological variations in assessing strength, but it also possible that testosterone has different effects on the various muscle groups. The meta-analysis found trends toward significant improvements in dominant knee and hand grip strength only (Isidori et al 2005).
Workouts lasting longer than about an hour may begin to spike cortisol levels and subsequently decrease testosterone. Additionally, research has demonstrated that a shorter rest period between sets (1 minute versus 3 minutes) elicited higher acute hormonal responses following a bout of resistance training.11 To maximize your testosterone response, keep your rest periods short and total workout time to 60 minutes or fewer.
Testosterone is a hormone that regulates the sex organs, metabolism, bone density, and other bodily functions. Though it affects primarily men, both sexes can experience low testosterone (Low T). Fortunately, lifestyle choices play the biggest part in testosterone levels, so you may be able to increase your testosterone. However, it’s best to see a doctor if your symptoms are new or you aren’t feeling better after making changes.
"A lot of the symptoms are mirrored by other medical problems," Hedges says. "And for a long time, we were not attributing them to low testosterone, but to diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. But awareness and appreciation of low testosterone has risen. We recognize now that low testosterone may be at the root of problems."