Category Archives: 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

CrossFit, Health and Water Bottles: Is BPA dangerous or not?

The answer to the question “Is BPA Dangerous?” has not been answered yet.  

Most people in the CrossFit community are very health aware.  But there seems to be an interesting complification (new word) with the high value placed on toughness.  For example, eating Paleo is tough.  Good.  Pushing yourself in CrossFit workouts is tough.  Good.  Concern for global warming is not tough.  (wussy topic).  Recycling is not tough (wussy topic).  Concern about endocrine disruption (unless its soy) doesn’t seem to be a tough topic. (wussy topic)  I am writing in Texas.  Maybe its just us. 

Scientific research about endocrine disruption is becoming increasingly politicized.  And  This is a shame.  Research should be rational and independent of wishes, agendas and demands.  Scientists are human, of course.  It can be difficult for people to be completely objective.  That is why scientists undergo many years of training and mentoring before they receive their degrees.  A scientist with a master’s degree and a doctorate will usually have had seven years of schooling after graduating from college. For laboratory sciences, it is standard practice for new PhD’s to undergo an additional 3-5 years of training and mentoring after they graduate.  That’s a lot of training.  And tough to get through.  While it may be impossible for any human to be free of all expectations, emotions and influences of previous experience, scientists are probably as close as you are going to get.

It is disturbing to see scientists under attack by people and organizations who do not like their results or the fact that they are investigating a particular topic or publishing articles describing their findings.  It is disturbing to watch a colleague, or anyone, be the subject of belittlement, condescension, false accusations, misrepresentation or of conspiring to undermine good things like “freedom” or “progress.”  Dr. Michael Baker of the University of California at San Diego has recently been the focus of some pretty unfriendly articles in Forbes and The National Review.   

National Review states: “University of California-San Diego researcher Michael Baker hyped the results of his BPA research in a press release – a press release that Baker himself now renounces (how convenient for him to backtrack after his specious press release generated dozens of terrifying headlines). “

This is the hype:

According to Michael E. Baker, PhD, UCSD professor of medicine, and Charlie Chandsawangbhuwana, a graduate student in the UCSD Department of Bioengineering, several research labs have reported that BPA binds weakly to the estrogen receptor, suggesting that something else is interacting with this receptor.

It is extremely unusual for a scientist to create a press release. It would be unprofessional.  It is, however, standard for University Public Relations departments to do so.  Universities are under high pressure to improve their rankings and increase status.  A major means of doing so is to publicize research done by their faculty.  Communications staff must write the press release in a short easy-to-read format that does not allow for much finesse.   Their job is to get attention for the University.  It was probably not Dr. Baker who created the press release.

Second, the press frequently over-simplifies University statements and scientific papers. Good journalists try not to let this happen.  Good journalism takes time, talent and commitment.  Unfortunately, there is less of a market for good journalism than there is for short, emotional and simple content.  Dr. Baker should not be blamed for this.  He should not limit his research because of how others might present what he does.  I do not see him as having backtracked.  He seems to have simply been honest in conversation with a Forbes commentator.  It is sad to him slammed for his openness.  And for his modeling of molecular interactions.

Its better to understand how things work.  It is better to continue working on a problem (Is BPA dangerous?) than to leave it half answered.  We know that BPA and many other plastics leachates  interact with estrogen receptors.  We know that higher BPA exposure is associated with various undesired health effects.  We don’t know for sure if BPA is the cause of health problems (increased risk of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome etc.) or if its something else.  Like eating too much junk food which tends to come packaged in plastic.  We don’t know how much someone would have to be exposed to suffer an adverse health effect.  Or even if something bad would happen at all.  Until then, let’s keep working on it.  Oh.  And until then avoid plastic packaging.  And plastic water bottles.  Although there is a company that makes certified Estrogen-Activity Free bottles.   They might be your best bet. 

Baker ME, & Chandsawangbhuwana C (2012). 3D Models of MBP, a Biologically Active Metabolite of Bisphenol A, in Human Estrogen Receptor α and Estrogen Receptor β. PloS one, 7 (10) PMID: 23056236

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Hormones, Mimics and Canned Food

Canned foods have plastic liners.  If they didn’t we’d probably need to worry about metals leaching into foods.  The liners serve a protective function.  Unfortunately they may pose risks of their own.  Bisphenol A is commonly known as BPA.    It is produced in large quantities for use in plastic products including the linings of tin cans, water bottles, and, until very recently, in baby bottles.

Two young boys workout at a CrossFit for Hope fundraiser.

There are some pretty serious concerns with BPA. Structurally, it resembles estrogen, the female sex hormone. The human body reacts to it in a manner that resembles its reaction to estrogen. BPA has been tested in lab animals.   Human research has shown that what is happening to lab animals may be happening to people through every day use of canned food and other food packaging, plastic products, contaminated drinking water, and by breathing in dust.  Most people (more than 90%) are believed to be exposed regularly (Lakind & Naiman 2008).

There is also some evidence that BPA can speed growth of prostate cancer cells, interfere with testosterone production and disrupt thyroid hormone function. (Vom Saal & Hughes 2005). People with higher exposures have been found to be more likely to develop cardiovascular disease even when adjustments were made for obesity, level of activity and intake of fruit and vegetables (Melzer et al.) They are also more likely to develop diabetes (Meltzer et al. again).

There are additional concerns for children. Kids whose urine contained higher than average levels of BPA metabolites also had lower IQ scores (This research hasn’t been published yet, but the data was presented at a meeting). The effect was more noticeable in boys. These are good reasons to avoid canned and packaged foods. There are, of course, other chemicals in plastics that also end up in foods and in people. BPA is only one. Here in a nutshell is why you should eat fresh food instead of canned. Frozen foods are probably a safe bet too:

 • BPA is an estrogen mimic
 • It may lower testosterone levels
 • It may increase risk of prostate cancer
 • It may increase risk of diabetes
 • It may increase risk of cardiovascular disease
 • It may be harmful to infants and children.

If you are interested in reading more about how chemicals and the environment impact health we recommend reading Environmental Health Perspectives.  This is a very well-respected journal.  You can read all articles for free online.

Melzer D, Osborne NJ, Henley WE, Cipelli R, Young A, Money C, McCormack P, Luben R, Khaw KT, Wareham NJ, & Galloway TS (2012). Urinary bisphenol A concentration and risk of future coronary artery disease in apparently healthy men and women. Circulation, 125 (12), 1482-90 PMID: 22354940  

Lakind JS, & Naiman DQ (2011). Daily intake of bisphenol A and potential sources of exposure: 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Journal of exposure science & environmental epidemiology, 21 (3), 272-9 PMID: 20237498 

vom Saal FS, & Myers JP (2008). Bisphenol A and risk of metabolic disorders. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 300 (11), 1353-5 PMID: 18799451

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

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

Weight Loss Raises Testosterone

Losing weight and getting in shape can make you feel like Burt Reynolds circa 1978 too.

The Annual Endocrine Society Meeting of 2012 is over and some interesting reports have been made that will be sure to interest Masters CrossFit, men who are trying to lose weight and the women who love them . . . or at least might find them hot (Dwyer et al. 2012).  Being overweight or pre-diabetic can lower testosterone levels.  That is not surprising, since fat cells produce an enzyme called aromatase.  Aromatase converts testosterone to estrogen.  Insulin resistance seems to slow production of testosterone.  Diabetic, overweight men are probably getting hit from two different directions. 

The men who participated in the study were part of a diabetes prevention program that had them either taking a placebo, taking a diabetes drug called Metformin, or increasing their exercise levels to 150 minutes a week and reducing caloric intake.  All the men were pre-diabetic.  Neither Metformin nor placebos had an effect on testosterone levels.  Men on the workout and exercise program  had a significant increase in testosterone at the end of the study.  Effects were strongest in men who had the lowest testosterone at the start of the study.  Men in the workout program lost an average of 17 pounds over the course of a year.  Men who received the drug lost about 6 pounds, and men on the placebo did not lose weight.

Overweight also puts women (and men) at greater risk of breast cancer.  Being overweight increases aromatase in breast tissue.  Losing weight (if you are overweight) is important for women’s health as well.

Chen D, Zhao H, Coon JS 5th, Ono M, Pearson EK, & Bulun SE (2012). Weight gain increases human aromatase expression in mammary gland. Molecular and cellular endocrinology, 355 (1), 114-20 PMID: 22342815