Crossfit masters athletes with high testosterone

Masters Athletes Testosterone. Masters Athletes keep it high.

Masters Athletes Testosterone

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Testosterone makes men . . . men. Testosterone, of course, is a hormone.   Testosterone is important for normal sexual function. But testosterone’s role in other aspects of men’s health and well-being is sometimes overlooked. Testosterone maintains muscle and bone.  It drives production of red blood cells.  It directs the distribution of body fat giving men a masculine physique.  Or at least not a feminine physique. Testosterone keeps minds sharp and energy levels high.   Testosterone levels fall with aging.  Testosterone starts to decline when a man reaches the age of about 30. From age 30 on, men can expect a 1% drop in testosterone every year.   Few enjoy the process.   Aging is frankly scary.  And its something none of us of ever imagined would actually happen to . . . us.

What is Normal Testosterone?

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Testosterone levels in men can vary quite a bit.  “Normal” levels are levels that allow a man function normally.   Men whose testosterone levels fell between 300 and 1000 ng/dl (nanogams per deciliter) are considered to be within the normal range.  On average older men have lower testosterone than younger men.   But there are many factors besides age that can lower testosterone.  Lack of sleep, stress, getting dumped, problems at work, even something as simple as losing an athletic competition can cause testosterone to fall.  Some people believe that men should take testosterone supplements to offset natural declines.  And many men report feeling stronger, sexier and more energetic when they take them.  There are a few problems with supplementing with testosterone, including some serious health risks.  There is an alternative.  Before running to the doctor or giving up you can become a Masters Athletes.  If you are already a Masters Athlete . . . keep it up.

Masters Athletes Testosterone.

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Masters Athletes do not share many of the changes in body composition, function, hormone profiles or metabolism that their sedentary peers experience.  At least not to the same degree.  This is according to a recent study of a small group (20) of Masters Athletes compared to a small group (28) of sedentary peers.  Masters were found to have:

  • Greater VO2 Max
  • Greater peak power output
  • Higher salivary testosterone
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower percent body fat

There was no difference between Masters Athletes and Sedentary Peers in

  • Cortisol
  • Fat Free Mass
  • Total Body mass
Masters Athletes testosterone is higher

Being a masters athlete preserves testosterone. Note lack of baldness and rugged masculine appearance. Ignore the slack jaw and dull eyes. This guy is smarter than he looks. This Masters Athlete wears WODMasters Stuff.

Here is an interesting question that wasn’t apparent reading the paper.  If Masters athletes have less body fat and the same amount of Fat Free Mass as sedentary peers what is the source of the Masters Athletes mass?  Probably not blood volume, since blood pressure is lower.  Body hair perhaps?  From less balding?  If anyone would like to go over the paper and let me know what I’ve missed it would be greatly appreciated.

 

Hayes LD, Grace FM, Sculthorpe N, Herbert P, Kilduff LP, & Baker JS (2013). Does chronic exercise attenuate age-related physiological decline in males? Research in sports medicine (Print), 21 (4), 343-54 PMID: 24067120

Natural Testosterone catches up with a young man

How to increase testosterone: Two simple things you can do.

1. Testosterone levels rise when people compete on teams or in events with members of the opposite sex (if you are heterosexual).

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There have been a number of studies looking at the effects of winning and losing on men’s testosterone levels. Recently, a research team has found that competing on co-ed recreational teams increased testosterone in both men AND women (androgens, more precisely). The greater the proportion of opposite sex players the greater the increase. The people studied were ultimate Frisbee players, which is very different sport than CrossFit. However CrossFit provides a competitive mixed sex environment. Another notable thing about the study was that testosterone increased whether the participants were on the winning team or not. So, even if you don’t have the best snatch you can still enjoy a little extra from the group experience (Miller et al. 2012).

2. Testosterone will rise when you workout or compete where you will get positive feedback.

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Train with people who will tell you how to get better instead of criticizing you for what you are doing wrong. Training in a positive environment will increase testosterone and future performance. Training somewhere where emphasis on mistakes and negative criticisms are the norm will lower it and lower later performance. Sometimes for days afterwards. Effects of different post-match recovery interventions on subsequent athlete hormonal state and game performance.

 

 

3. Avoid Canned Food.

 

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The linings of canned food contain a chemical called Bisphenol A among other things. You may know Bisphenol A as BPA and may know it has recently been banned for use in manufacture of baby bottles. BPA is an estrogen mimic and may lower testosterone production in men.

 

Miller SL, Maner JK, McNulty JK. 2012. Adaptive attunement to the sex of individuals at a competition: the ratio of opposite- to same-sex individuals correlates with changes in competitors’ testosterone levels. Evolution and Human Behavior. 33(1): 57-63.

 

Lee HJ, Chattopadhyay S, Gong EY, Ahn RS, & Lee K (2003). Antiandrogenic effects of bisphenol A and on the function of androgen receptor. Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology, 75 (1), 40-6 PMID: 12805653

 

Crewther BT, & Cook CJ (2012). Effects of different post-match recovery interventions on subsequent athlete hormonal state and game performance. Physiology & behavior, 106 (4), 471-5 PMID: 22465311

Timing of protein intake matters.

CrossFit Nutrition: Should men increase selenium intake to increase testosterone?

What is Selenium and Will Increasing Selenium intake increase Testosterone?

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What is selenium?  Selenium is an essential nutrient that is needed create essential enzymes.  That includes enzymes needed for testosterone and thyroid hormone.  It is also plays an important role an anti-oxidant production.  There seems to be a lot out in the popular press or online material that increasing selenium will increase a healthy man’s testosterone.  However, there is little, if anything, in the scientific literature to support the idea.

There has also been recent emphasis on consumption of Brazil nuts as a natural source of selenium that will boost testosterone and increase virility. You may have heard advocates of the paleo diet talking about this. (if you want to know more about the paleo diet here is a link.  It tells you what is the paleo diet and includes criticisms and controversies rather than telling you the paleo diet is the answer to all life’s problems).

Increasing selenium to increase testosterone is also promoted for athletes hoping to improve CrossFit training.  Or sports performance in general.  So far there is no evidence that increasing selenium will increase testosterone levels in healthy men.

Are there any problems with taking selenium to increase testosterone?

Yes.  There are a lot of good things about selenium, but as with a lot of other things, you can damage yourself by overdoing it.  Selenium is protective against prostate cancer, and some other cancers and is important for testicular development (during the fetal period) and possibly protective against other oxidative-stress-induced ailments, testicular or not. On the other hand, selenium, at high concentrations can cause DNA damage, and thus increase risk of cancer. The problem with supplementing, either through tablets, or through consumption of a natural product high in selenium, is that we do not know where the lines of good and evil cross. No one knows yet how much is ideal or at what point intake becomes more of a liability than a help.

Are Brazil Nuts good for testosterone?

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The upper limit for selenium intake for a healthy adult is 400 mcg. You can easily get twice this much from a handful of Brazil nuts. Selenium concentrations in any plant should be dependent on the concentration of selenium in the soil in which it grows, therefore, the concentration of selenium in Brazil nuts will vary. Nuts grown in Manaus-Belem region of Brazil have more than ten times higher selenium content than those grown in the Acre-Rondia region. I’m guessing packaging doesn’t tell you where the nuts you might buy are grown.

Bottom Line:  If you eat a lot of Brazil nuts and take selenium supplements you might want to lay off or do one or the other. Don’t assume that more is better.  References are listed below.  For a better way to increase testosterone see this earlier post.

 

 

Chang, J. (1995). Selenium content of Brazil nuts from two geographic locations in Brazil Chemosphere, 30 (4), 801-802 DOI: 10.1016/0045-6535(94)00409-N

ATIF, F., YOUSUF, S., & AGRAWAL, S. (2008). Restraint stress-induced oxidative damage and its amelioration with selenium. European Journal of Pharmacology, 600 (1-3), 59-63 DOI: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2008.09.029

Brozmanová J, Mániková D, Vlčková V, & Chovanec M (2010). Selenium: a double-edged sword for defense and offence in cancer. Archives of toxicology, 84 (12), 919-38 PMID: 20871980 

Henderson, B. (2000). Hormonal carcinogenesis Carcinogenesis, 21 (3), 427-433 DOI: 10.1093/carcin/21.3.427

Shafiei Neek L, Gaeini AA, & Choobineh S (2011). Effect of zinc and selenium supplementation on serum testosterone and plasma lactate in cyclist after an exhaustive exercise bout. Biological trace element research, 144 (1-3), 454-62 PMID: 21744023

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Selenium and Brazil Nuts and Testosterone

Can brazil nuts and selenium increase testosterone?

There seems to be a lot out in the popular press or online material that incresing selenium intake will increase a healthy man’s testosterone production (example and example II from Forbes Magazine: what were they thinking?), but little, if anything, in the scientific literature to support that idea. (I like the scientificky approach used by that website, especially the graph that shows no effect, and no indication of variability in the data points). There has also been recent emphasis on consumption of brazil nuts as a natural source of selenium that will boost testosterone and increase virility.

Can brazil nuts and selenium increase testosterone?

What do we know about selenium and Brazil nuts?

Selenium is protective against prostate cancer, and good for testicular development (fetal period . . . sorry guys) and possibly protective against other oxidative-stress-induced ailments, testicular or not. On the other hand, selenium, at high concentrations can result in DNA damage, and thus increase risk of cancer. The problem with supplementing, either through tablets, or through consumption of a natural product high in selenium, is that we do not know where the lines of good and evil cross.

As for Brazil nuts, selenium concentrations in any plant should be dependent on the concentration of selenium in the soil in which it grows, therefore, the concentration of selenium in Brazil nuts probably varies. This turns out to be the case, with nuts grown in Manaus-Belem more than ten times higher in selenium than those grown in Acre-Rondia. Someone consuming Brazil nuts may or may not be making a significant increase in selenium intake.
Chang, J. (1995). Selenium content of Brazil nuts from two geographic locations in Brazil Chemosphere, 30 (4), 801-802 DOI: 10.1016/0045-6535(94)00409-N

ATIF, F., YOUSUF, S., & AGRAWAL, S. (2008). Restraint stress-induced oxidative damage and its amelioration with selenium European Journal of Pharmacology, 600 (1-3), 59-63 DOI: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2008.09.029

Brozmanová J, Mániková D, Vlčková V, & Chovanec M (2010). Selenium: a double-edged sword for defense and offence in cancer. Archives of toxicology, 84 (12), 919-38 PMID: 20871980
Henderson, B. (2000). Hormonal carcinogenesis Carcinogenesis, 21 (3), 427-433 DOI: 10.1093/carcin/21.3.427

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Anti-bacterial soap, male fertility and endocrine disruption

Triclosan is used in many personal care products as an anti-bacterial agent. You can find it in soaps, toothpaste etc. Triclosan has estrogenic properties  or estrogen boosting properties.  This means it can behave like natural estrogen in the body.  Or, it may increase the power of natural estrogen.  Estrogen, like other hormones, is a chemical messenger.  It passes through cell membranes, attaches to estrogen receptors and “tells” genes it is time to make some product or activate some process.  Adding estrogen-like chemicals can result in increased activity.   Too much estrogenic activity can increase risk of cancer in estrogen-sensitive tissues: Breasts, for example.  In men, too much estrogen can reduce fertility.  The role estrogen plays in men is still under investigation.  Here is a recent article from the NY Times on estrogen and aging in men that will help explain things.  In rats, triclosan has been found to cause abnormal testicular development and abnormal “other” male tissue.

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Other interesting findings about triclosan are:

  • People with high triclosan levels also have higher BMI on average
  • Are more likely to suffer from allergies, including food allergies

Paul et al. (Dec 2010) have demonstrated that triclosan alters thyroid hormone levels early in lactation. Thyroid hormones are especially important during fetal and infant development because they play crucial roles in brain development. Early thyroid hormone deficiency alters neurological function in animals, and in human, reduces IQ and increases ADHD-like behavior. There are many environmental contaminants that interfere with thyroid hormones including PCBs, PBDEs, perchlorate, and nitrate. It is difficult to study the impact of exposures to these chemicals in humans because its hard to know how much people are exposed to over time, and people are probably never exposed to just one agent at a time. Its important to consider additive (or synergistic or antagonistic) effects and not consider them individually. For now, its probably best for pregnant and lactating women to limit their exposure to triclosan.  Guys, you too.

Paul KB, Hedge JM, Devito MJ, & Crofton KM (2010). Developmental triclosan exposure decreases maternal and neonatal thyroxine in rats. Environmental toxicology and chemistry / SETAC, 29 (12), 2840-4 PMID: 20954233
Lankester J, Patel C, Cullen MR, Ley C, & Parsonnet J (2013). Urinary triclosan is associated with elevated body mass index in NHANES. PloS one, 8 (11) PMID: 24278238
Stoker TE, Gibson EK, & Zorrilla LM (2010). Triclosan exposure modulates estrogen-dependent responses in the female wistar rat. Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology, 117 (1), 45-53 PMID: 20562219

Savage JH, Matsui EC, Wood RA, & Keet CA (2012). Urinary levels of triclosan and parabens are associated with aeroallergen and food sensitization. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 130 (2), 453-600000000 PMID: 22704536

Kumar V, Chakraborty A, Kural MR, & Roy P (2009). Alteration of testicular steroidogenesis and histopathology of reproductive system in male rats treated with triclosan. Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, N.Y.), 27 (2), 177-85 PMID: 19118620