Steroids Might Make You Stupid (Here’s What To Do Instead)

It’s the elixir of the Gods.

It’s the mojo of manhood.

It’s the golden ticket to gains.

Photo courtesy

Testosterone: the holy grail of the hormonal system.

Low testosterone in men leads to reduced quality of life, well-being, libido, and overall health.

Besides sobbing uncontrollably watching The Notebook (OK, it’s a tear jerker), low testosterone corresponds to obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It can create symptoms of brain fog, depression, and lethargy.

Low testosterone levels are linked with cognitive decline and neurological degeneration, while cardiovascular disease and heart attacks are higher in men with low testosterone.

“OK, should I blast the juice and shoot my testosterone levels through the roof then?”

Not exactly. There’s a healthy amount of research showing supraphysiological doses of testosterone (i.e. steroids) can be just as harmful (or more so) than naturally low testosterone.

The cardiovascular risks notwithstanding (which have been well documented), you may know a steroid user that appears perfectly normal. He or she may not experience any of the scare tactics used in the media – acne, “Roid Rage”, ED and so on.

So you might be willing to take your chances in the name of gains, right?

Well, new research suggests neural and cognitive risks with recreational steroid use as well.

One new study found a link between steroid use and smaller brain volume and brain thickness in users, while an older study linked the specific steroid, trenbolone, with neurodegeneration.  It should be noted that former users who came off saw some return to pre-steroid brain volume and thickness, so if you come off now all may be OK.

This large-scale systematic investigation shows negative correlations between steroid use and negative effects on brain volume and cortical thickness. This does not conclusively say steroid use directly caused the degeneration (google the difference between correlation and causation) but it raises concerns about the long-term consequences of steroids on structural features of the brain.

The question is: Are you willing to risk it? Do you care more about your bulging biceps than your brain?


“OK, so what’s the alternative, Mitch?”

You could optimize your testosterone levels naturally first – or discuss Testosterone Replacement Therapy with your doctor.

But Why Boost Testosterone Naturally In The First Place?

study conducted by researchers at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science tested the effects of testosterone on participants’ ability to lose fat and gain muscle.

What they found is that while testosterone does aid in adding lean mass, the results were not statistically significant until testosterone levels exceeded the normal range —i.e. only what could be achieved by high doses of steroids or the genes of Andre The Giant.

So it appears that increasing your testosterone levels within the normal range won’t significantly help you build muscle.

But they did find a link between high testosterone levels and low body fat percentage: The more testosterone, the less body fat.

So if fat loss is your priority (and it is for most), getting your testosterone levels as high as possible – naturally – should be on your task list.

Plus, there are a number of other benefits that go beyond trimming your waistline…

Benefits of Healthy Testosterone Levels

  • Promotes leadership and aggressive risk-taking, plus feelings of confidence and assertiveness.
  • Strengthens the immune system. Low testosterone correlated with increased sick days, higher levels of stress hormone, and diminished working performance according to a study referenced by Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes
  • Promotes energy levels, more resistance to fatigue, and greater physical stamina

Let me ask you this: Surely experiencing the benefits above will help your efforts in the gym, but also in your career and day-to-day life?

<<<Good segue, Mitch>>>

Here’s Some Ways To Boost T Naturally (Since T is Key)

Get To Bed


Bad news for all you night owls: testosterone is directly related to the amount of sleep you get each night. The more quality, restful sleep, the more you increase your testosterone. Sleep also boosts Growth Hormone and rebuilds your brain. Want an easy way to increase your testosterone? Turn off the TV and computer and go to bed. A number of studies suggest that blue light in the evening disrupts the brain’s natural sleep-wake cycles, so disconnect and read a book or something, buddy.

Lift Weights


Good news for you, as you know this site is all about weight training. Pumping iron pumps up your baseline testosterone by about 15% according to one study referenced in Lee Myers Natural vs. Testosterone Therapy. Though other studies have suggested the opposite (the hunch is that happens only when nutrition does not allow for proper recovery, i.e. spiking cortisol levels training fasted as high testosterone can’t live in unison with high cortisol).

Eat Your Bread, Man


In one study, researchers concluded that men who exercise and consume a diet low in carbs experience a rapid increase in the stress hormone, cortisol.

Cortisol can inhibit testosterone production if chronically elevated.

Training is a perceived threat (stress) to the body, which means it elevates cortisol in the bloodstream. Some stress and cortisol is necessary to build muscle, but consuming carbohydrates post workout helps lower cortisol and bring the body back to an anabolic state where you can recover and grow.

To maximize your training potential and minimize cortisol elevations, keep all three macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats) in your diet.

Your best bet is to hire a coach to determine your caloric needs in direct relation to your goals.

Slow Your Roll, Bro


Your outlook on life controls just about everything, and that applies to your testosterone as well. It’s not just your moose knuckle that pumps out an increase in testosterone, it’s that head of yours between your ears that’s the master switch.

A bit of stress can help you reach your goals in and out of the gym, but it’s all in the dose.  What we don’t realize is that not all our hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, go up with stress. Some hormones, your beloved testosterone, in particular, heads south very quickly under those conditions.

In fact, what science has found is that if your cortisol, the primary stress hormone, is high enough, it is the culprit in shutting down testosterone directly.

Be A Competitor


Play a sport? Beer league football? Same deal. Even the anticipation of competition can significantly boost testosterone in men. Having a little healthy competition in your life is a good thing. Will this natural spike in testosterone have a measurable impact on your muscle gains? Maybe not directly – but when you’ve got your game face on you work harder.

Steer Clear Of The Candy Aisle


According to another study in Lee Myer’s work, blood sugar spikes lead to decreased testosterone. The study showed persistent blood sugar elevation can whack testosterone by as much as 25% from baseline.

Metabolic Syndrome (otherwise known as pre-diabetes) – caused by inactivity and chronically high blood sugar levels – is associated with lower levels of testosterone.

It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario – researchers have concluded that “while it is clear that metabolic syndrome can suppress circulating testosterone levels, it has also been documented that low testosterone levels induce the metabolic syndrome.”

Regardless, you knew to watch your junk food intake, but this study gives you an extra incentive: your manhood may be at stake.

Put Down That Beer Funnel


Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to zinc depletion, which in turn can lead to lower testosterone levels.

That’s heavy consumption though. A pint on a Friday or Saturday night? All good.

Small doses of alcohol can actually be beneficial to your fitness goals – a pint of beer increases testosterone by 17% and has no negative impact on muscle loss – according to one study.

But both testosterone and protein synthesis (i.e. helps muscles grow) drop when drinking more than two pints a night. Daily consumption of alcohol can have a detrimental effect on testosterone and your ability to build muscle and burn fat, even in moderate amounts. You’ll also sleep worse and feel off the next day.

Try to drink your last drop at least two hours before bedtime. And limit it to two drinks  – so it doesn’t turn into an all-night bender where you end up eating a salmonella-filled hot dog from that food vendor at 2 a.m. and wake up with an embarrassing tattoo on your face. Not cool.

Drop the Extra Weight, Fatty


There is nothing uglier than those love handles to your health: Fat converts ever increasing amounts of your precious testosterone into estrogen.

That’s not cool, man.

In one study that examined 64 severely obese men, their average testosterone was a measly 340ng/dl (for reference LabCorp’s healthy reference range is 348 – 1197 ng/dl). The same study noted that weight was associated with increased estradiol (estrogen).

So, basically, being overweight does everything negative possible to your testosterone levels.

What is interesting is that being overweight lowers SHBG levels, the protein that binds to testosterone, which should translate to higher free testosterone levels. However, multiple studies have shown that being overweight lowers free testosterone as well.

It doesn’t matter what you call it, those extra pounds around your middle have been correlated with lower testosterone.

Get The ‘D’


Turns out a few cents a day of this all-important vitamin could boost your testosterone levels.

Vitamin D is critical for fertility, muscle growth, exercise performance and hundreds of other physiological processes. Correcting a vitamin D deficiency, which is quite common, can lead to a bump in total testosterone of about 30% according to a number of studies.

Vitamin D provides improved bone development by helping you absorb calcium, but there is new evidence that vitamin K2 directs the calcium to your skeleton, while preventing it from being deposited where you don’t want it, in your arteries. A large part of arterial plaque consists of calcium deposits (atherosclerosis), hence the term “hardening of the arteries.”

Some researchers claim that it’s crucial to optimize vitamin A and vitamin K2 intake at the same time as supplementing with vitamin D3.

Vitamin K helps regulate where calcium ends up in the body, and high amounts of vitamin D may deplete the body’s stores of vitamin K (source).

Keep in mind that these are just hypotheses based on research, but it may be wise to make sure you are getting enough of these nutrients if you are going to supplement with vitamin D.

Generally, it is not recommended to exceed the upper limit of safe intake, which is 4,000 IU (100 micrograms) per day.

If you choose to get your Vitamin D from the sun (good luck to those in the U.K.), keep in mind that you need to expose a large part of your body.

Consider going without sunscreen for the first 10-30 minutes or so (depending on your sensitivity to the sun), then apply it before you start burning.

Sunshine is healthy, but sunburns can cause premature ageing of the skin and raise your risk of skin cancer (source).

Magnesium The Magnificent

What dirt cheap supplement might give you a nice boost in testosterone according to a recent study?

Magnesium is very inexpensive and was found in a study of seniors to be tightly correlated with T levels.

And it is no wonder: magnesium is used by literally hundreds of critical systems in the body. Another very interesting study noted that magnesium levels increased testosterone when combined with exercise.

Magnesium is a good pre-bed supplement to help you wind down at night.

Note: Suggest magnesium citrate (or aspartate), not magnesium oxide. The latter is more of a laxative.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)


There are a number of different testosterone replacement methods available for men with low testosterone, each with their own advantages and drawbacks. We suggest discussing options with your doctor if your test score comes back below the healthy, normal range and/or you’ve exhausted all of the natural remedies listed above.

Where To From Here? Mansformation Challenge 2.0

Overwhelmed? Need a hand putting your natural testosterone boosting plan into action?

The Challenge 2.0
This will be a group coaching program aimed at duplicating the results above. There’s something very powerful about having accountability buddies.

Each week, there will be a live online workshop with me on a topic relevant to losing fat and replacing it with muscle. Think nutrition strategies, tricks in the gym, supplements to use etc., how to eat pie without failing.

Each week, you can expect to lose a few lbs and add muscle along the way.

Each week, you’ll feel more energized and ready to take on your responsibilities at home and work.

And the best part? You’ll get to eat plenty of pie and turkey (because I sure will be too)

Spots are limited, as I want it to be a small, supportive group of action takers.

Why Open This Now? This is the WORST time of year for weight loss…

Most people undo their efforts between Thanksgiving and New Year’s…

Most people will still be fat on Jan. 1.

Most people will still lack energy and sex drive on Jan. 1…

But you aren’t ‘most people’ or you wouldn’t have read this far.

You may have failed in the past, but it doesn’t mean you’ll fail now.

Come take the shortcut to success with me… in 8 weeks.

If you are serious about:

  • Not gaining JUNK WEIGHT the rest of the year
  • Being active the last 8 weeks of 2016
  • Breaking years of horrible holiday habits
  • Having a follow along plan for success
  • Staying lean while still enjoying pie
  • Being part of a motivated community of people in the same stage of life

If you want to apply, click here

The medical and/or nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site.



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Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.