Athletes Who Overtrain Are at Risk of Low Testosterone

Athletes Who Overtrain Are at Risk of Low Testosterone

Concerning Results From Recent Studies - Athletes Who Overtrain Are at Risk of Low Testosterone

Ryan Hall was considered the fastest American runner. 

In 2007, he broke the American record when he ran the Houston Half Marathon in just 59:43. A record that had not been broken for 22 years. Ray Flinn, a former distance runner went as far as saying Hall was “one of the greatest American marathoners in history.” Over the course of 10 years, he gathered many fans. They looked up to him, he was an inspiration for young and old. 

And then something happened. 

In 2016, Ryan Hall announced his decision to retire from running. His completely abrupt decision left fans in disbelief. Many had seen in him great potential. He was thought to soon make history.

His retreat from running felt way too sudden.

What people didn't know was that the elite marathoner was struggling with many health problems. He had fallen victim to constant fatigue, lacked physical strength, and had chronically low testosterone levels.

We all know that testosterone goes down naturally as males age. What is not very widespread is that excessive exercise could cause T-levels to go down. Before we dive deeper into the scientific link between low testosterone levels and professional athletes, let us discuss the importance of the T-hormone.

Testosterone is the main sex hormone. Contrary to popular belief though, it is not just a male hormone. Women produce testosterone too, just in smaller amounts. Nevertheless, it is males that hugely depend on it. During puberty, the T-hormone is the reason young boys develop a deeper voice, gain muscle mass, go through sexual developments, and develop facial and body hair. The “normal” levels of the hormone vary with age. Usually, they peak at 18-19 and remain stable throughout the 20s. Then, by the time a man reaches his 30s, they start dropping by 1% each year.

Many people are aware of this fact. This is why older males are encouraged to think of ways to stabilize their testosterone. These could be changing daily habits or incorporating natural testosterone-boosting supplements into their diet.

What many are unaware of is that low T-levels could be caused by something else, other than aging.

Overtraining can cause Lower Testosterone Levels. 

This has been known by researchers since the 80s but has been mostly overlooked. When athletes do too much exercise without giving their body enough time to rest, the body is under immense stress. During stressful situations, the body releases the hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol reduce testosterone production. You might wonder, why so?

The same reason animals do not mate when in danger. As per an article by the Office for Science and Society, cortisol can block testosterone production. This is because survival comes far ahead of reproduction.

Back to our topic - Athletes. 

When they put their body under daily hard exercise - stress levels go up, testosterone levels go down. This is why many athletes develop hypogonadism - a condition in which sex glands start producing little to no sex hormones.

Another cause for low T-levels is that overtraining often results in a person having too little body fat. Fat cells produce leptin often called the “satiety hormone” or “starvation hormone”. Its role is to tell your brain that you have enough food not to starve. People with little body fat produce less of this hormone. Thus, testosterone production is no longer a priority and the brain tells the body to slow it down. After all, reproduction would not matter if the body is starving.

Again, it is a matter of survival.

As in the case of Ryan Hall, his body was in survival mode. His body weight was down and his muscle mass was decreasing. His energy levels were not very promising either, meaning he was under chronic fatigue. This is called the “Overtraining syndrome.”

A study from the University of North Carolina explains the link between athletes and hypogonadism. It claims that the decline in the production of the sex hormone is associated with training overload and low energy levels. Essentially, chronic hypogonadism in athletes is termed “Exercise Hypogonadal Male Condition.”

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