I never imagined I would have low testosterone but then I doubt any man expects to have low testosterone. However, statistically, 1 in 5 men will. That’s 20% of men who will find themselves living with the symptoms of low testosterone. Age, illness, or whatever else causes low-T and often it goes unchecked for years.
My symptoms of low testosterone.
One of the most common symptoms of low T is low energy. People who know me well would never label me as low energy. However, comparing my energy levels now to what they were when I was younger and I can tell they are a small fraction of what they used to be. Because my low energy is still more energetic than the average man’s it is just harder to detect. Perhaps it’s all the coffee…
One of the effects of low testosterone is that the body’s ability to burn fat is impaired. I am very athletic and staying in good shape is important to me. When I was eating a normal caloric intake for my age, height, and activity level, my body was putting on fat. Since I take martial arts and compete in weight divisions, having a low body fat percentage is critical. So in an effort to lose the fat, I started restricting more and more calories, until I realized that I was consuming fewer calories than my wife, and still could not completely eliminate my love handles. This was one of the big red flags for me that something was wrong. I should be able to eat at least 2000-2500 calories without putting on weight but my body seemed to have the metabolism of an old man.
In the pictures, you can see the difference from when I had normal T levels to now. In order to achieve even a similar cut look, I had to practically starve myself. You can see the effects of that on my face but if you look closely you can see my belly is still clinging to fat. As much as I work out now, I should look the same as the left picture. However, when you have low T, the right is about the best you can hope for. The only way I was able to achieve that was through extremely low-calorie clean eating and lots of exercising.
On the subject of clean eating, I have a natural inclination towards healthy food. As a result, I almost always eat healthy nutritious food. The common result of clean healthy eating is a great cholesterol profile. My latest cholesterol screening, while still within normal ranges, showed my LDL and triglycerides at the higher end of that range. As it turns out low testosterone can affect your body’s cholesterol levels.
A symptom that shocked me was a loss of height. Testosterone affects bone density and low T can put you at risk for osteoporosis. One side effect of low bone density is a loss of height. When I was 18 and joined the Navy, they measured my height as 6’1″. My most current height measurement? 5’11.5″, a full inch and a half of lost height.
Low libido and sexual dysfunction is another common symptom of low testosterone. Like my energy levels though, this was an area that I started off very high in so my low is close to normal and easy to write off. However, when I consider how high my libido used to be and the fact that I’ve been married to my wife for less than a year, I can see that things aren’t where I would expect them to be.
The one symptom that I have which is more pronounced than any other is insomnia. I have had insomnia for about 9 years. Making things worse is that having insomnia and low testosterone is kind of a chicken and egg debate. That is because a lack of deep sleep can actually lower your testosterone and low testosterone can impact your ability to achieve deep restful sleep. I am hoping that fixing the low testosterone will fix my insomnia. We won’t know for months since Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) is not an overnight fix. Unfortunately, it takes time, monitoring, adjustments, and patience. I will be sure to post updates as to how the treatment goes for treating my insomnia.
What is the treatment for low testosterone?
The treatment for me is weekly injections by a physician until everything is stabilized, in a normal range and then a long-term approach can be considered. The advantage of the injections over long-term treatments such as injectable pellets is the ability to make many adjustments to my dosage. Injections allow my doctor to fine-tune my dosage, weekly, for the first few months to find the amount that my body responds best to.
Once we figure out what works best for me there are longer-term options to consider. There’s creams, gels, and patches that can be applied topically. There are also pellets that are injected into the soft tissue of the buttocks and can release testosterone into the body for up to six months.
Do I really need TRT?
Truthfully, I could probably blow off the treatments for a while. I’ve been managing my insomnia for years, I am still relatively fit, and due to being a high energy guy I still have acceptable energy levels.
Not getting the treatments thought, means shorting myself, my wife and kids, and my work by presenting the lesser version of me. The me that is lower energy, that needs a little more sleep, and coffee and maybe isn’t as fun. I want to be the best me though.
I say the lesser me because low testosterone really does kick you down a notch. From the fatigue, lack of mental clarity, muscle and fat affects, and so on. Staying fit with low T takes a serious amount of work. A 20 year old exercising like me would probably look like Mr Olympia, and yet I do not. I struggle to keep my body fat in check, successfully through careful diet and vigorous exercise, but I still struggle.
I wasn’t born with low testosterone, I developed it. What caused my low testosterone, how did I get here anyway?
Before 16, I was a slender kid with a pretty fast metabolism. I ate everything I could, entire sleeves of Oreos, protein shakes every day, tons of ice cream, jars of peanut butter, and anything else I could find to fill my caloric void. After 16, I fine-tuned my diet started eating better and focusing on fitness.
I started lifting weights at about 16. I took lifting and nutrition pretty seriously. By my senior year, I was out lifting the entire football team, and packing on very lean muscle. At the time I loved that I effortlessly attracted girls and had the strength and stamina of 3 of my friends combined. I felt invincible honestly.
After high school I joined the Navy and met people with a lot of knowledge on steroids. I thought about it but instead opted for the legal, at the time route, Androstenedione. For years in the Navy I took Androstenedione and other testosterone precursors. Around 2005 or so Congress had Androstenedione put on the controlled substances list. The Androstenedione supply dried up so I went natural.
That was probably a good thing because in hindsight, I never did it right and I probably took too much. I found myself allergic to estrogen balancing supplements like Clomid that most people used to cycle on and off Andro and had to just wean off and on. This brute cycling of testosterone products probably didn’t do me any long term favors. I don’t know if this is what caused my current predicament.
There was also the experimental recreational substances I did in the military. In my defense experimenting with illegal substances was pretty common in and around the naval base. I was doing what everyone else I knew was doing and it seemed borderline acceptable in the military. I hope that has changed. I am not sure if this played a role in my current situation either. I did manage to keep myself in top shape though while doing my experimenting and never missed a beat on the job.
After the Navy I got a little lazy during college, drinking beer and partying between work and school. I chose to forego the gym on more nights than I should have. I put on some unwanted fat for a few years. When I finally got back to it around 2007 and got serious I met a guy at a bank where I worked, who was in amazing shape, ripped and energetic. On a business trip, he offered me a supply of Winstrol. Who could resist a simple kick starter to getting back in shape.
Winstrol, or Stanzolol as it is also known, was amazing. I cycled for 6 weeks two times on it and found myself leaner, my body getting hard all over. I was happy and putting on some decent muscle too, mostly due to hours a day lifting. When I finally ran out of Winstrol I decided to just stop all supplements, the come down was a little rough, with mood swings and here was the point at which my insomnia manifested in 2008.
At the time I chalked the insomnia up to problems in my personal life and I continued to do that for years. I never thought something could have been off inside me to cause the sleep issues. Every time I thought about the insomnia, usually late into the nights, I rationalized I must be stressed about some around me. Sometimes that rationalizations were more true than other times.
Over the next 9 years my activities were less likely to cause low testosterone, other than living a more sedentary lifestyle, that doesn’t help either. I had kids and got into Dad mode. Then more life happened and I found time to get back into my fitness again in the year leading up to meeting Jen. After starting a relationship with Jen, I have found myself back to being active like I was in my 20’s. My personal life is great now, yet I still have insomnia.
My symptoms weren’t what led me to discover the low testosterone. I simply wanted to have cancer screenings early because I had noticed a rise in deaths around me. People I know are having friends and family of young ages, 30’s and 40’s, dying from undiscovered late-stage cancers. I think I got lucky finding out my low testosterone issue early. Men with low testosterone actually have an increased risk of dying from any cause, most particularly of cardiovascular disease. Risk of prostate cancer is even elevated for men with low testosterone. I didn’t find cancer, but because of my early screenings, I am going to be able to attack one of the risk factors, thereby lowering my risk of developing cancer.
Up next, the first shots of week 1….
A Web Developer by trade, future data scientist.
A motorcycle enthusiast at heart.
Most days I’d rather be in the woods anywhere.