Table of Contents
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone found in humans and vertebrates. In mammals, it is mostly secreted by the testicles of males, and the ovaries of females, with a small amount secreted by the adrenal glands. Testosterone is a male hormone that is responsible for sexual characteristics, like increased bone and muscle mass, body hair growth, well being, healthy body/immune system and immunity to diseases.
Adult males have eight times as much testosterone as females, and produce 20 times more testosterone because they need to use much more throughout the day. In regards to blood work, the normal range for a healthy adult male is 300ng/dl to 1000 ng/dl, and 15-70 ng/dl for women.
For those deficient in testosterone, or who want more of this hormone in their bodies, scientists developed exogenous testosterone. By the late 1940's, it was already touted as an anti-aging wonder drug. Today, it is used medically by those individuals with a testosterone deficiency, and by athletes who want to get an athletic performance advantage in their sport of choice; especially bodybuilding, weightlifting, and powerlifting.
Causes and symptoms of low testosterone levels
Testosterone levels change during the teenage years and peak in early adulthood. Therefore, those who choose to run exogenous hormones during this time run the risk of permanently impairing their body's ability to produce hormones. This is why, in my opinion, it is important not to touch anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) or any hormone until you are at least 25 years old. As a person ages, less and less testosterone is produced by the body, and many men choose to undergo testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in their 40's and 50's to compensate. Furthermore, even though low testosterone is mostly categorized in men, in recent years the medical community has warmed up to the idea that females also can suffer from low testosterone. Symptoms of low testosterone include: low sex drive/libido, lack of ability to grow muscle, lack of ability to cut body fat, poor sleep, and lack of well being.
Although testosterone levels mostly have to do with biological processes within the body, environmental factors can have a tremendous impact. There is strong evidence to believe that such environmental factors as the water we drink, the foods we eat, lifestyle choices, and our stressful jobs contribute to the body's unwillingness to produce healthy levels of testosterone. Therefore, people must understand that low testosterone is another symptom of that poor lifestyle. So it is plausible that simply changing your lifestyle can fix these issues, and cause your testosterone levels to rebound.
In regards to those who use anabolic steroids, low testosterone levels can occur once the hormones are out of the body after a steroid cycle. This is why a post cycle therapy (PCT) is important to get you through this phase, so that your body can recover its own Luteinizing hormone (LH).
Ultimately, you can find out if your have low testosterone through simple blood work. If you come in under the range, then you could be a candidate for TRT; however, remember, this is a serious decision because you will be dependent on a needle for the rest of your life.
Half Life and Esters
There are several different esters associated with testosterone. The two that we will discuss in this article are cypionate and enanthate, which are two of the most popular in TRT and bodybuilding. The half life of cypionate is 12 days, and Enanthate's half life is 10.5 days.
The half life concept might seem a hard thing to understand, but it is very simple. Let's take as an example the cypionate ester with a 12 day half life. It means that if you inject 500 milligrams (mgs) of the hormone, 12 days later half of this particular injection will be leftover in your blood system, which is 250mg; furthermore, in another 12 days half of that will be gone away, leaving just 125mg, and so on.
Doctors will typically use testosterone cypionate when prescribing TRT because of its slightly longer half life, which allows the user do injections less frequently. It is quite logical because many patients have a hard time handling injections every day or every couple of days.
Side Effects of Testosterone
Testosterone abuse can trigger various side effects. We must realize that testosterone does aromatize into estrogen; hence, such estrogen related side effects as gynecomastia (gyno/man boobs), water retention, insomnia, and heart strain can occur. It is a powerful hormone, and it can easily trigger lipid strain at just moderate doses.
Even those who have been prescribed TRT have had serious side effects at conservative doses, which is one of the reasons some doctors are not on board with prescribing this powerful hormone. If you are obese and badly out of shape, jumping on TRT is not a wise choice, and a good doctor will recommend you lose weight and change your lifestyle first. However, doctors are not dietitians or personal trainers, so, ultimately, this burden will fall on the patient.
Use as a base Steroid in cycles
Many bodybuilders like to use testosterone cypionate or enanthate as a base for their cycles, and stack additional steroids on top. An example of this is stacking 500mgs of testosterone a week with trenbolone, deca durabolin, equipoise, anavar, dianabol, etc. It is important to remember that more hormones means more side effects, and that if you stack testosterone with another aromatizing compound you will experience a greater estrogen increase. Hence, it is important to use an aromatase inhibitor (AI), like Aromasin or Arimidex, to prevent any estrogen related complications. Contrary to popular opinion, you do not always need to run testosterone as your base in a cycle.
If I use testosterone, will it 'shut me down'?
The answer is - absolutely yes, testosterone is severely suppressive. A lot of people do not understand this concept and assume that they do not have to worry about HPTA suppression if they use testosterone. However, this is one of the biggest mistakes people make. Your body is smart, and it will detect exogenous hormones, which will make your pituitary glands go dormant during this period. I've heard the myth: “you must run testosterone in your cycle to prevent being shut down.” Nonetheless, if you were to run blood work 3 weeks into a testosterone cycle, you would see your LH and FSH near 0, proving that testosterone is indeed suppressive. A quality post cycle therapy (PCT) is needed if you want to have any chance of keeping your gains.
The typical moderate testosterone dosage on a steroid cycle is 500mgs per week, with some users going up to a gram or more. Both cypionate and enanthate are usually injected every 5-6 days or so. Those on TRT will run around 150-200mgs per week because, for them, the goal is to get their testosterone levels within the normal range.
Which ester is better?
Aside from slightly different half lives, with cypionate half life being slightly longer (by 2.5days), the differences aren't that great.
There has been recent chatter claiming that raw testosterone enanthate coming out of China is underdosed, so many are choosing to go with cypionate instead. In my opinion, it is most important to focus on your source and quality of the product when choosing between the two esters.
Want to read about TRT on our forums? check out these threads: