Those are two questions I've thought about a lot over the past few months. For example, every time I'm about to stick a needle into my thigh, I wonder if there is another way.
First of all, how did I get here? There are all kinds of things I can think of that might have contributed to low testosterone levels.
There is some research that suggests large amounts of endurance exercise in men can reduce testosterone levels. There are some studies that are also quite inconclusive in this area. Before I first visited a doctor for my depression-like symptoms in 2004, I had run 1600 miles in six months, including a brutal 45 hour mountain 100 miler, and I'd skied 2-4 days per week for the first half of those six months. I'd done no strength training at all. Coincidence?
I've been overweight off and on since I've been about 12 years old. High body-fat levels are associated with lower testosterone levels. Yet, in 2004, I was significantly lighter than I'd been in a while (probably since 1995 when I had run my marathon PR).
Alcohol consumption is also associated with reduced testosterone levels. I am someone who enjoys a good beer or a great wine or a well made cocktail. Was this the cause?
Testosterone levels normally decrease with age. Was I just getting older and I hit a tipping point in 2004?
Cholesterol is a precursor to testosterone in the body. Does the USDA-recommended low fat, very low saturated fat diet cause problems with testosterone? Our livers typically produce plenty of cholesterol, so I honestly doubt this as a cause.
There are other rarer causes that I do not think apply to my case.
So, perhaps all I needed to do to naturally restore my testosterone levels was give up endurance exercise, do lots of strength training, lose body-fat, give up alcohol completely, and get younger. Or I could go to Google, enter "low testosterone" and buy one of each of the hundreds of supplements that guarantees me higher testosterone levels, reduced weight, a perfect body, and perhaps even a younger trophy wife. (The last one is a joke - after 26 years of marriage, I'm not in the market)
Since 2007, I have been lifting weights regularly. Since 2009, I have greatly reduced my endurance exercise. Losing fat has been really difficult for me, to be honest. It's been that way my entire life, but it's been much harder the past few years. Lower testosterone makes it difficult to lose body-fat. Higher body-fat seems to contribute to lower testosterone levels. Holy Death-Spiral Batman!
I honestly feel that I did almost everything I could, on my own, to get things to improve. And instead, earlier this year, I was feeling worse. My mood was worse, my body composition was going the wrong direction, and I was struggling in the gym. Sometimes, it was a major struggle to just get to the gym.
So, I pursued another remedy. The long term story remains untold. I hope I made the right choice. I can say that since I started the testosterone, I've wanted to go to the gym. I've seen some improvements in the gym. I'm even doing a little bit of voluntary running again - not a lot, but some. I'm sleeping better. I'm happier.
Earlier today, I was interviewed by a writer from the Associated Press about testosterone supplementation. I don't know if my interview will be part of his final article or not, but I'm curious to see the results of his research.