March 8, 2010
The 45-Minute Testosterone Myth
The short-term response of testosterone to strength training is well researched, with the vast majority of reports indicating an increase in testosterone during and in the immediate time following training in healthy adults (Kraemer and Ratamess, 2005). The studies typically do not report the length of the training session, but they have been performed to examine the influence of exercise selection and sequence, training volume and intensity, and rest between sets. Common sense would suggest the training time easily exceeded 45-minutes in many cases, as some of these studies contained 8-10 exercises, with 2-3 sets per exercise. As with most “exercise science” many of these studies were performed with poorly trained college-students. Studies like these always raise doubts of the applicability to athletes or serious strength-trained individuals, but studies have also been done on these folks too, and, unlike the reported Bulgarian studies, these results are easily found and have been widely published and reported (Fry et al., 1994, 2000). The results are the same, testosterone increases following a single workout, and in fact, the better trained the individual the greater the response.
Most trainers and coaches also do not realize that consuming a post-workout (PWO) shake with protein and carbohydrate may actually lead to a decreased testosterone response due to an increase in insulin (Kreider at al., 2007). No one cautions their clients or athletes to avoid proper PWO nutrition, despite the blunted testosterone response, and progress is still made consistently with the lower testosterone. Why? The short-term effects of testosterone to a single session of exercise are inconsequential to long-term performance. Long-term changes, or having testosterone elevated over a period of months and years, have been shown to lead to increased strength, power, hypertrophy, and performance. Short-term; those relationships do not exist.
Now, there are some benefits of keeping your workout short. Having a strict time limit eliminates talking and other wasted effort nonessential to improving performance. The sooner you can get in and get out, the sooner you start to recover and experience an increase in strength and power. Both very good things, but, to suggest that testosterone production will magically stop at 45-minutes is just plain silly.