Ben Broadhead PT Articles

The link between fitness, testosterone and levels.

People don’t immediately connect physical fitness with testosterone levels, however there is a justified correlation between the two. Low testosterone can be attributed to numerous factors, including inadequate sleep, stress and environmental toxins. However, I will be only be covering the factors which link directly to my line of work as a personal trainer.

Improved male testosterone levels can enhance sperm quality and quantity, increasing libido and preventing erectile dysfunction. You can achieve this through various training methods and tailor-made diets. Exercise programs should include heavy compound lifts. These movements recruit multiple muscle groups at one time creating more micro tears in the muscle fibers than other exercises do. The micro tears are repaired by means of protein synthesis, which requires the release of testosterone. In summary, more micro tears equals more protein synthesis equals more testosterone.

Some recommended compound exercises are the bench press, deadlift, barbell row and overhead press. Non gym members can achieve similar levels of stimulus from bodyweight exercises like push-ups and pull ups if they are done in a slow and controlled manner.

Testosterone is converted into estrogen in fat tissue, which means that being overweight lowers testosterone levels. To reduce fat requires you to be in a calorie deficit, meaning your calorie input is less than your calorie output. This can be achieved by decreasing your input (eating less calories), or increasing your output (expending more calories through physical activity). I would advise doing a combination of both.

Eat less – The first method of fat loss involves downloading a calorie counting app and establishing your maintenance calories – the number of calories required to maintain your current weight. Once you have discovered this figure, knock off 10 to 20 percent and you will be in a calorie deficit. This percentage is a personal choice; I suggest avoiding losing more than two pounds a week, as this would exceed what is considered a healthy weight loss rate.

Move more – The second method of fat loss is to move more. I recommend cardio exercises as an optimal means of losing fat, as it tends to burn more calories than resistance training. Circuit training or high intensity interval training (HIIT) would be ideal, although I advise clients to find a method of exercise they enjoy, even if it’s just walking to the shop instead of driving. This ensures sustainability.

Eat Well – Exercise isn’t the only factor in increasing testosterone levels, diet is equally important. A healthy balance of carbs, fats and proteins is crucial. Consuming too little of any of these will negatively affect T levels. It is recommended that we eat wholefoods where possible instead of processed food or ready meals. This will often require cooking from scratch, which can be time consuming. If time is of the essence, I would recommend that you look into meal prep and cooking in bulk. This has helped me massively in the past. Restricting calories too much for too long or overeating both lower T levels. This may clash with physique goals particularly for bodybuilders. For these individuals I would suggest doing a lean bulk for a longer period and cutting in a similar fashion to avoid yo-yo dieting.

Here are some recommended vitamins to add to your diet. It is very hard to get all of these vitamins in adequate proportions, so it is a good idea to take a multivitamin each day to make sure you are covered.

 

                         Nutrients that increase testosterone levels and their natural sources

Vitamin A Vitamin B Vitamin C Vitamin D
Sweet Potato Milk Kiwi Fruit Mushrooms
Carrots Beef Bell Peppers Eggs
Tuna Pork Strawberries Cod-liver Oil
Butternut Squash Oats Oranges Fortified Cereal
Spinach Bananas Broccoli Mackerel
Vitamin E Zinc Boron
Sunflower Seeds Oysters Honey
Almonds Poultry Avocado
Trout Dark Chocolate Dried Fruits
Shrimp Quinoa Lentils
Olive Oil Cashews Grapes

How to adapt your workouts to fit changing circumstance.

This article is inspired by, but not exclusive to the corona virus. There are various times that require us to adapt our workout routine for example: on holiday; when we have an injury which restricts certain movements; or if we have limited time. I will describe what this means for us and how we can, not only survive, but thrive during these times.

Mindset – Some have a perfectionist attitude towards health and fitness deeming any workout or meal that doesn’t coincide with the plan a failure. As a consequence, barriers that prevent us from doing our typical routine can throw us off the mark, to the point that everything goes out the window. This can result in falling straight back down to the other side of the spectrum. I have been guilty of this. When I’ve taken a step back it has become clear that this ‘all or nothing approach’ is detrimental to my goals and mental wellbeing. Chaotic and unforeseen circumstances should not be disheartening, so let me explain how we can use these periods of to our advantage.

New stimulus – Changes in circumstance provide us with an opportunity to stimulate muscles in new ways. It is true that our progress can plateau when we repeat a routine for too long because the body adapts until it is no longer challenging. This then requires us to shock the muscle. This point is made perfectly by Arnold Schwarzenegger in his blueprint series. There are many ways to achieve this whether that’s changing rep ranges; the pace of the movement; your grip/stance; the order of exercises or simply replacing current movements with alternatives e.g. switching pull-ups with chin-ups.

Get creative – Not having gym access requires us to get creative. You might even have no equipment at hand. Enter this situation with an open mind and a willingness to improvise. There are numerous bodyweight exercises you can perform with nothing but floor space such as push-ups, squats, Russian twist and burpees. To create resistance, put water bottles in a rucksack, fill a suitcase with objects or attach weights to either side of a mop creating a make shift barbell. The point is to work with what you have.

Have fun – Unexpected obstacles can put things in perspective and encourage us to reevaluate things. You may develop an interest in a new activity like yoga, Pilates or jogging. This would be a perfect time to step outside your comfort zone and try something different. You might end up with a better workout than you expected. No matter what form of exercise you choose, as long as you are moving, your body will be saying thank you so don’t limit yourself.

Training for time – This is an effective way of creating more resistance when we only have access to small weights or bands. The name is fairly self-explanatory, you train for a set time period as opposed to number of reps. This encourages you to slow down the pace and to put more emphasis on the eccentric or negative portion of the rep thus causing greater resistance. Some even argue that this is more effective than conventional methods as the muscle undergoes more time under tension. It also works well if time is limited as it condenses volume. One set of ten will typically take around twenty seconds. So, one set of one minute could potentially provide stimulus equal to three sets of ten, which would normally take around five minutes including rest periods. Of course, it’s not as black and white as this example makes out as it depends of multiple factors, but you understand the principle. Finally, this method is ideal for home workouts as it reduces the need for a spot.

More reps – Another possibility when training outside a gym environment is to increase your rep range. This allows you to reach failure with lighter weights. Endurance training isn’t regarded as optimal for muscle gain, however it trains your slow twitch muscle fibers making you a more rounded athlete if you generally stick to lower rep ranges. It also taxes your cardiovascular system, which can elevate mood, improve heart health, increase metabolic rate, enhance recovery and burn calories.

The main point to be made here is to stay consistent with your health and fitness goals regardless of external factors, which are often out of your control. Be willing to adapt your workout to fit the situation. I will end this article with a quote, “the only bad workout is the one you didn’t do” and encourage you to keep moving because your health and fitness is in your hands. Please get in touch if you need guidance, I am always happy to support.