Why I Tried Hormone Replacement Therapy?
To understand my interest in hormone replacement therapy, I must tell you a little about my background. I am 40 years old and have been involved in weightlifting and nutrition for the better part of 25 years. I have kept track of my strength and body composition (fat and muscle) numbers for the last decade. Because of that, I can immediately see bodily changes and then address them by changing my training and nutrition.
Over the past 3-4 years, I noticed a subtle downward trend in my physical and cognitive self. During this time, I had lost about 50 to 60 pounds of strength in my big compound lifts like the deadlift and squat. Also, I had lost about 5 pounds of muscle mass and gained about 5 pounds of fat. Lastly, I started to crash hard around 8:30 pm and just felt completely wiped out. This ultimately is what pushed me over the edge into exploring hormone replacement therapy clinics.
Testosterone is a sex hormone. In males, it is responsible for muscle mass and strength, fat distribution, red-blood-cell and sperm production, libido (sex drive), and erectile strength. Testosterone is typically thought of as the male sex hormone and Estrogen, the female counter-part. Men and Women have both hormones, and each plays a vital role. Men produce Testosterone in the gonads, and it gives the characteristics typically associated with maleness. Little known, however, is that testosterone is converted to Estrogen by the aromatase enzyme. This is important in men because only 20% of their estrogen production comes from the testes. The other 80% comes from the conversion of Testosterone by the aromatase enzyme. Estrogen in men helps with bone density, libido, erectile strength, fat distribution, and cardio and neuro protectiveness.
I have had my testosterone checked for the last 3 years. Each year it was lower than the last. The normal reference range in males is 264 – 916. Three years ago it was 625, last year it was 516, and this year it was 304. In the above paragraph, I talked about Estrogen. Remember, most of a male’s Estrogen comes from the conversion of Testosterone. Well, guess what, on a reference range of 7.6 – 42.6, I was less than 5. Normal Estrogen levels are just as important as normal Testosterone levels. So, in theory, if I got my Testosterone levels up, my Estrogen levels would also improve.
The(Not Affiliated) health clinic I have been working with prescribed 100mg of Testosterone to be split up and given twice weekly. This means I have to use an insulin syringe and inject it into the meat of my Deltoid muscle. It was a little intimidating at first but once done a few times; it became easy enough. For reference, a normal Testosterone replacement therapy dose is between 80mg and 150mg weekly.
I ran this protocol for eight weeks before getting follow-up bloodwork to ensure the testosterone and estrogen values improved. Also, to make sure none of the other values such as CBC, cholesterol, thyroid, liver, or kidney changed. My doctors were pleased with the follow-up bloodwork, and they told me it was the best-case scenario. My Testosterone was 1046, up from 304, and my Estrogen was 54, up from <5. All other variables either remained unchanged or improved slightly. I was amazed at some of the improvements that I had not even identified as a problem beforehand. I will outline these in the next section.
Improvements in this area were a big surprise to me. It was not something I had ever identified as a problem area. I have been married for 20 years and naturally seek out sex once a week to twice a month. I just thought this was just my natural temperament. My wife has always been a one to two times a week kind of gal. Sometimes this would cause a little friction, but I couldn’t do anything about it, right? Erectile strength is another area that I just thought was what it was. We would start fooling around; it would respond and sometimes would stay full mast, other times not so much. I literally had to create strategies around keeping the erection going. Never had I tried any ED pills. I never thought of it as a problem. It had just always been this way.
- Erectile Strength: This area has improved tremendously. I never knew that I could get erect and stay there until we were done. There was no effort, no timing things in my head, no more anxiety around performance. Now I have relaxed confidence surrounding being intimate. Such a better overall experience.
- Libido: I define libido as the unprompted desire to have sex with my wife. I went from initiating maybe one time a week if that to 2 – 3 times weekly. My wife and I seem to be more in sync in this area which we are very pleased about.
This was one of the two primary reasons I eventually pulled the trigger on trying Hormone replacement therapy. Like I said earlier, I am extremely dedicated to strength and conditioning and have been for the last 25 years. It has difficult for me to consistently put in the time and effort to training and eating right, only to see myself slowly losing ground. Not only was I not seeing improvements, but I was also going backward. My strength was declining as well as my body composition. I was losing muscle and gaining fat.
- Strength: My strength levels are coming back very slowly. Strength takes a long time to lose and gain, especially when you have been at it for 25 years. I can now do a few more reps and put a bit more weight on most of my major lifts. I was able to do a barbell deadlift at 385lbs for 5 reps the other day. This is the first time I have been able to do this in 5 years. My all-time best is when I was 30. I did a 405 for 5. I’m not quite back to being my strongest self, but it’s also only been 3 months. I have had quite a bit of progress thus far.
- Body Comp: When I started Testosterone replacement therapy, I weighed 197 at around 10 percent body fat. The other day I weighed 203 at 9.5 percent body fat. According to those numbers, I was able to put back on 5 pounds of muscle while losing 1 pound of fat. A huge improvement. My muscle memory from the past was why I was able to put it back on as fast as I did.
The other main reason I went down the Hormone replacement therapy route was that I kept crashing at the end of the night. I want to see my children and wife. They deserve the best version of me. I have always been very high energy until I went to bed, and I hated that this started to change. I felt old.
- Energy: About 6 weeks after starting, I no longer felt completely wiped when coming home. I felt like myself again. I don’t get tired until I choose to go to bed, and when I do, I fall asleep in a few minutes.
- Stable Mood: This is an area that I had no idea could improve. It actually has been the most life-changing. I generally have periods of highs and lows. Much more highs than lows and it has always been this way. The lows were never bad, but I had no control over them. Also, I generally get anxious regarding where I stand with people. I have always hated this side of myself, but it was who I was. It made me feel insecure often. This is hard to describe, but I will try. It’s been about 11 weeks now, and I’m noticing that I don’t really have those thoughts or feelings anymore. I have a more calm, confident, stable mood. The lows seem to have diminished, and I am just more sure of myself in general. It really is an amazing place to be.
Overall, I am thrilled and surprised by the physical and mental improvements thus far. It was far more than I had anticipated. I am also committed to diligently checking my bloodwork twice yearly and monitoring for negative side effects. I only want to do this if it is healthy for me to do so. If at any point, it is hindering my health in some way, then I will have to stop.
I would love to hear stories from any men or women that have taken hormone replacement therapy before. Let us know the positive or negative experiences you have had.