Androgel (transdermal testosterone) is a topical gel that is applied to the skin, in order to help men with low testosterone (under 300ng/dl) get their T levels within range. It is the basis of the majority testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) prescriptions in the USA.
Interestingly, some athletes will use androgel to boost their testosterone levels without having to use needles. However, the results are somewhat questionable for athletic performance due to low testosterone doses.
Low testosterone symptoms include:
- Loss of libido
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Loss of muscle mass and strength
- Increased body fat
- Lethargy and insomnia
- Weak immune system
Fig 1. Androgel Box
Androgel was developed by Solvay Pharmaceuticals based in Brussels, and was first brought to the market in 2000. After being bought out by Abbott Labs in 2010, it is now made and heavily marketed by Abbvie Inc (parent company Abbott Labs), in the USA. It's been heavily advertised on television, with 80 million spent advertising in 2012 alone. The target has been older men who need help with low testosterone. In 2012, Androgel generated 1 billion in sales.
How it works and Usage
Androgel is not injected or taken orally. Instead, it is a synthetic testosterone mixed into a gel that is applied to the skin daily, and is absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream. This allows for 24 hour delivery into the body. There are two strengths 1% and 1.62%. The method of deliver is via a pump flask or through single dose packets. The 1% is applied onto the upper arms/shoulders/abs, and the 1.62% gel is only applied to upper arms/shoulders. Best time to use is after morning shower, apply and let dry, then put on clothes. After application, you should avoid showering or swimming for 2-4 hours.
Fig 2. Androgel Application Sites
Older men with prescriptions have been known to resell androgel to athletes. Newer bodybuilders find the product popular due to not having to inject. Nonetheless, just like with injectable testosterone, the athlete will have their testosterone levels raised – albeit by a much smaller amount.
Increasing testosterone levels has many benefits including:
- Rise in libido/sex drive
- Increased muscle mass and strength
- Decreased body fat
- Increased mood/confidence
Some athletes find it easier to apply the gel, rather than inject testosterone or take oral steroids, which will strain the liver. Also, if the athlete has low testosterone, the idea is to get their testosterone within range, so that they can achieve their goals respectfully.
Side effects, mostly seen in older men, are blood clots, blood pressure increase/heart strain, liver issues, increased RBC, and headache are common.
Since testosterone does aromatize into estrogen, androgel has possible estrogenic side effects. If the user is sensitive to estrogenic sides, he can have issues with breast soreness (gynecomastia), water retention, and sides related to heart strain. It is recommended an aromatase inhibitor (AI), such as aromasin or arimidex, be on hand or used lightly.
Women should not use androgel, and care should be taken to avoid direct skin contact with their spouses who have applied it.
Dosage is dependent on what your doctor recommends, or how much you want to apply. Generally, men will apply 5-10g, but athletes may go higher. Once a day application is all that is needed, as it has a 24 hour delivery window.
Androgel can cost hundreds per month, but it is covered by some insurance plans. Mg for mg, it's about 3 times as expensive as injectable testosterone.
Want to read about Androgel on our forums? check out these threads:
- Long-term testosterone gel (AndroGel) treatment maintains beneficial effects on sexual function and mood, lean and fat mass, and bone mineral density in hypogonadal men
- Safety and efficacy of testosterone gel in the treatment of male hypogonadism
- Prospective study of topical testosterone gel (AndroGel) versus intramuscular testosterone in testosterone-deficient HIV-infected men
- Adjunctive use of AndroGel (testosterone gel) with sildenafil to treat erectile dysfunction in men with acquired androgen deficiency syndrome after failure using sildenafil alone
- Efficacy of changing testosterone gel preparations (Androgel or Testim) among suboptimally responsive hypogonadal men
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