Q: What’s the deal with testosterone? I just got the results of some recent blood work and all my testosterone levels (total, free, and bioavailable) are low. Do you think I’m experiencing pregnenolone steal that everyone’s talking about these days? Should I push the doc for medication? I don’t want this to affect my training!

A: Don’t sweat it, literally! Recent evidence from West & Phillips demonstrates that exercise-induced increases in testosterone (T) availability is not necessary for and does not enhance strength and hypertrophy adaptations. And I recall clearly from a lecture given by Dr. Duncan MacDougall that hypertrophy is not hormonally dependent (it still occurs in castrated rats for instance), so does it really matter?

When it comes to T, blood work is not the holy grail anyway. You can have a fat, out of shape guy who has never stepped in a gym with the same T levels as a muscular guy who trains religiously multiple times a week for years. It’s not how much T you’ve got flowing through you, it’s what you can do with it.

Here’s an analogy. The fat guy owns 2 minivans, and the muscular guy owns 5 sports cars. They both have 5 sets of keys each (think of that as their T levels). The fat guy can only start 2 cars (think of them as his T receptors) and they are not powerful cars by any means. The muscular guy can start all 5 of his cars (he has more T receptors) and when those beasts get on the road, they fly!

Bottom line: the more strength training you do over the years, the more receptors you will have for T to do its job.

Now, how can you increase T instantly? In three letters: SEX

How do you decrease T pretty quickly? In four letters: KIDS

Someone asked me the other day how it felt experiencing the birth of my kids. This was my response: "You go into the delivery room with the testosterone of 10 wolves. You come out knitting a quilt!" It is well documented that a father's T levels drop as their child is born. It's nature's way of keeping them home to protect the family rather than going out to 'procreate' some more!

If your goal is to raise T and not necessarily kids, then go through the act of procreating but stay out of the delivery room!

The point I’m trying to make is that hormone levels vary constantly. One snapshot at one time is not necessarily indicative of your true status. And there are many ways to manipulate these tests, but that’s another article in itself.

By the way, pregnenolone steal does not rob much T contrary to popular belief. Perhaps in females it does, but in sexually-mature males, only small amounts are secreted by the adrenal glands that it is probably of little physiological significance. The largest amounts of testosterone (above 95%) are produced by the testes in men.

Now, it is true that elevated stress will increase cortisol, which in turn suppresses pituitary function, which in turn decreases luteinizing hormone production, which ultimately can decrease T production. And yes it is true that total T is lower and free T is bound up in cases of adrenal fatigue. My supplement company has formulated an extremely potent Adrenal Formula to help modulate the stress response, but the adrenals are only one factor to consider. There are many more.

Perhaps you have a dietary deficiency of zinc. Low stomach acid will decrease the absorption of zinc, and low zinc decreases T production. If that is the case, take a multi everyday like our Micronutrient Formula that has digestive support in the form of hydrochloric acid and broad-spectrum enzymes and voila, you’re cured! Did you have your red blood cell (RBC) zinc levels checked during your blood work?

An excellent book on the topic is The Testosterone Factor by Dr. Shafiq Qaadri. Read it first before you pull out all your hair (if it hasn’t already fallen out) trying to find a cause.

Now while I’m on the subject, let me reveal another startling fact about our favorite hormone: low T results in mood swings, irritable behavior, and aggression. Yes, aggression! I know there are a million studies that show a correlation between aggression and high T levels. Something I learned years ago from Dr. Datis Kharrazian is that when you look at hormone overload versus hormone deficiency, the symptoms are exactly the same! When T levels are low, males resort to aggressive behavior in an attempt to assert themselves. In fact, it is possible that roid rage is due to low T not high T levels, or more specifically, low endogenous T levels as a result of the high exogenous T levels from steroids. The aggressive behavior is signaled when your own production of T is shut down. The body is just trying to restore its alpha male status!

As far as going on a T gel, I cannot give you medical advice, but I will say that both Androgel (here in Canada) and Testim (in the States) work well. I’ve seen some pretty impressive transformations in a short period of time in conjunction with a sound diet and training plan. However, I would exhaust natural means first before resorting to drugs.