3 Myths About Testosterone
Testosterone is Responsible for all your Gains
Everyone knows that testosterone is the ultimate muscle regulator, and if you didn’t, you do now. Except, that’s not exactly true. Yes, testosterone is important for building muscle, staying lean, and forcing you to do a handstand to piss in the morning, but there are many other important processes involved in controlling muscle growth to call it the ultimate regulator.
Things like insulin, growth hormone, insulin growth factor-1, myostatin, etc. are components that have a major influence on muscle growth. Those things, along with testosterone, likely make up a good portion of the equation as to whether you are considered someone with “good genetics” or “bad genetics” for building muscle. Also, if testosterone were responsible for all da gainz, where do women get their gainz from?
Testosterone Boosters are Effective for Everyone
“BOOST YOUR TESTOSTERONE AND BUILD SO MUCH MUSCLE YOU CAN ONLY WEAR PONCHOS”
“INCREASE YOUR TESOSTERONE SO MUCH THAT YOU WIN MEDIEVAL JOUSTING MATCHES USING ONLY YOUR PENIS”
These are essentially real advertising slogans you will find touting the effects of testosterone boosters. Let me tell you why it doesn’t work that way for most people.
Firstly, with an individual that has an inherently normal level of testosterone, it is going to be hard to take an herbal supplement that causes a noticeable increase in testosterone. A “normal” testosterone level is usually considered somewhere between 300-1000 ng/dl. However, someone hovering around that 300 value might not feel so normal, pushing them to seek options to improve their T levels.
A testosterone booster may be able to boosts T levels from low-normal to normal. For example, a change of 400 ng/dl to 600 ng/dl. But, that change is going to be negligible in about every noticeable effect. It isn’t a dramatic enough increase to conjure enhanced muscle protein synthesis, leanness, or libido.
Secondly, if we use the example of an individual (let’s call him Steve) that has lowish testosterone levels, something like 325 ng/dl; this would be considered subclinical. Unfortunately, a physician likely will not treat Steve with the real stuff. Frustrated with this decision, Steve turns to a testosterone booster. Maybe, he is able to push his levels up from 325 to 450-500 ng/dl, which isn’t spectacular, but it is something. The problem with this is your body likes to keep a uniquely standard ratio of testosterone to estrogen. In the process of increasing testosterone, your asshole of a body has an insidious mechanism called aromatization. wherein an enzyme called aromatase converts testosterone into estrogen.
So, low-T-Steve increases his testosterone, but also increases his estrogen in the process because of aromatization. Unless your goal is to have a milkshake that brings all the boys to the yard, that is not a good thing. Ultimately, Steve is left with a net gain of nothing in relation to his testosterone levels.
An Increase in Total Testosterone is Most Important
If you have been paying attention, you know from the above paragraph that this one is already false. An increase in total testosterone can also result in an increase of aromatization and thus an increase in total estrogen. There are also other factors that make an increase in total testosterone less important. Let’s look at the 3 common types of testosterone labs that are measured to find out why:
Total testosterone – the total amount of testosterone circulating throughout your body.
Free testosterone - the total amount of unbound testosterone circulating through your body. 98-99% of circulating testosterone is bound to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and albumin. This leaves only 1-2% as free testosterone that can enter cells and exert its magical testosterogenic effects; like being able to swallow swords, tame lions and take cannonballs to the abdomen. Actually, I may be thinking of circus performers. Either way, I bet they have some appreciable amounts of testosterone flowing through their veins.
Bioavailable testosterone - the combined total of free testosterone and albumin-bound testosterone. The reason for this measure is that testosterone has a strong binding affinity for SHBG, and it is generally irreversible. Once testosterone is bound to SHBG, it usually stays like that and is ultimately not available for use by cells. Contrary, testosterone has a low binding affinity for albumin. This means testosterone bound to albumin has a greater chance of breaking its bond, becoming free testosterone and allowing cells to use it if needed.
Therefore, you could have a high amount of total testosterone and still feel the need to watch Twilight, while glitter filled tears run down your cheek onto your stamp collecting book. This is all because your testosterone is bound up tighter than a powerlifter’s nutsack in a jock strap.
Hormones are complex and confusing, testosterone is no exception. Hopefully, this information can help clear up some common misconceptions about testosterone and how it relates to your situation.