Low T and Me
I have been back and forth as to whether I would ever publish this one, as admitting to low testosterone is not what any man would ever like to do or discuss in public, especially as a long-term condition unrelated to aging. But as I mentioned in my very first post, facing the facts, which took a while to be honest, helps explain some things that have dogged me all my life, motivates me to keep going and drives some of my fitness decisions. And so here it is before I chicken out (again).
What’s Low T?
So what are the symptoms of low testosterone? This is a pretty good run down. Not everyone suffers from all of them and thankfully I don’t suffer from too many of them, especially the bedroom related ones (or the hot flash one – not sure how I would cope with that):
- low energy – definitely to some degree, but I can tie most of my worst periods to stressful times at work and/or periods of poor sleep driven by stress, kid or just plain poor decision making.
- abdominal fat – check. some places will also say low metabolism.
- muscle atrophy – possibly
- depression – i’m not depressed, but I am a confirmed cynic and pessimist.
- gynecomastia – man-boobs (or moobs as I call them) – check and check
- osteoporosis – reminds me to ask the doctor how my tests were, my WW scale says my density is too high tho which I find odd.
- irritability – yea sometimes.
- lack or loss of hair – thankfully I’m not balding, but I am prematurely graying (another symptom, first white hair at 20) and not especially hairy for a guy.
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes – something I was already worried about from being fat but still don’t have yet thankfully (and another reminder to schedule this year’s physical).
In my life, becoming a new dad (life disruption plus massive sleep deprivation), getting this diagnosis, some trial and error treatment (more on this) and living through being laid off mid-2008 and then my former employer going bankrupt, put me through a mental ringer over the course of few years. My self-confidence and sense of self-worth took some pretty big hits for a while. In many ways, I liken it to the stages of grieving. I like how that article describe it more as a roller coaster rather than a straight and steady path.
It also didn’t help that it took a few years for the doctor to get me to the right levels and I was unaware of it. My initial treatment was Testim gel, which you apply to the shoulders and sides each morning. We started with a tube a day, then went to two, then down to 1 1/2 etc. Throughout that time, I thought I was being brought up to normal levels, but in fact it turns out that during the entire period I was never getting enough juice out of the gel (some people have less absorbant skin) and/or my body was reacting by producing even less (which happens frequently when external sources of testosterone are introduced).
Which means I was at risk of the symptoms for longer than I realized. Last year, we switched to sub-dermal implants (Testopel) every 3-4 months and for the first time I immediately felt the difference in energy and mood he had kept asking me about all that time.
That said, there are side effects (again thankfully not much for me so far), and some are a little counter intuitive such as low t causes moobs but so does treatment (?&@?), acne (definitely a little worse), fluid retention (possibly) and being sore at the implant site for about a week each time.
Owning My Disease, Owning My Obesity
Which brings us full circle to my fitness program.
Once I got past everything (which took a while), I was glad to know. It explained my pattern of lifetime weight issues from a young age. Low T didn’t cause my obesity – I definitely ate too much and was too inactive – but it certainly helped kick it up from severe to morbid. It explained why even during periods where I ate very carefully to what were considered normal calorie ranges I could still gain weight without exercise. It explained the moobs even when I was relatively fit. Why I grow a scraggly looking beard and mustache.
It also made me realize that this is a lifetime thing. I can never completely relax about the food or the exercise. I need both even at target weight, thanks to lower metabolism. It also led me to change to a more body building approach from the get-go even though it is a little counteractive to a pure weight loss program. I want more muscle because it will help kick up the metabolism (even if it only turns out to be small% gain – I need every % I can get). Weight training also helps fight osteoporosis. Plus the endorphins from exercise help mood and energy. So does looking ripped.
And dangit, if I’m going to be on ‘roids, I’m gonna take advantage (though technically they are just pumping me up to regular levels but I’m not letting the head tell the body this).