Does Constant Hard Training Reduce Your Testosterone?


Low testosterone levels due to overtraining – is it possible?

It definitely is!

You know that saying, “everything in moderation?” 

Well, the same thing applies to your workouts.

By training too hard and too often, you might actually do yourself more harm than good.

That’s correct – too much exercise with short recovery times can actually backfire, resulting in overtraining. And let me tell you straight away, overtraining is no myth.

Studies show that intense training without proper rest leads to a major decrease in testosterone levels. [1] Overtraining also leads to:

  • A drop in performance
  • Insomnia (Inability to fall asleep, or stay asleep)
  • Feeling fatigued in your workouts
  • Irritability

In this article, I’ll explain why overtraining happens. Along with showing you proven methods to boost your performance without having to go nuts in the gym.

Testosterone and Physical Performance

Let’s get back to the basics: what is testosterone?

It’s a steroid hormone that both men and women have. However, men naturally have much higher T levels. This is why guys are able to build slabs of muscle while girls have a much harder time doing so.

Why is testosterone the key to optimal physical performance?

First and foremost, testosterone is essential for both growing and maintaining your strength and muscle mass. [10]

Not only that, but you need optimal levels of the male hormone to keep your bones dense and strong.

Research shows that low T levels lead to weak and fragile bones which can easily fracture. [8, 9]

Testosterone is also important for keeping you in an anabolic state (where you’re building muscle), as opposed to a catabolic one (where your muscle tissue breaks down).

Optimal levels of the male hormone are also crucial for keeping your memory and learning abilities sharp – which is key if you’re an athlete.

Last but not least, your testosterone also affects your mood. In other words, if your T levels are down, you’ll feel ‘down’ as well.

Overall, one thing is clear – you need to ensure your T levels stay high if you want to perform at your best. Whether you’re a professional athlete, a bike riding enthusiast, or a regular gym goer.

Is Stress the Culprit For Low Testosterone?

In an average male, his testosterone peaks at around the age of 19. It stays there until the age of 30 or so. After this, it begins to decrease by 1-2% per year. [3, 4]

However, in today’s world, it’s not uncommon for T levels to drop much earlier than the age of 30 – due to stress. [2]

We all know that stress negatively affects our health. But what exactly happens in your body when you’re overly stressed?

One of the first things that happens is that your body starts producing extra cortisol. This is one of your fight-or-flight hormones. Along with adrenaline, norepinephrine, and others.

Your T-levels are directly correlated with your cortisol levels. When cortisol gets high, testosterone drops down – and vice versa. [11]

So when you’re chronically stressed out, you’ll experience weak erections, low testosterone, and muscle loss. Stress also causes your performance to suffer. [5, 6, 7]

You might be asking: what does all of this have to do with overtraining? Well, my friend, when you’re training too much – you’re putting your body in a stressed state. Resulting in even more cortisol being produced by the body.

You’re rubbing salt into the wound, so to speak. When you add all of the daily stresses on top of over-training, you’re creating a recipe for disasterweak muscles, poor recovery time, a drop in performance, and plummeting testosterone levels.

Key point: Testosterone is the key to achieving optimal physical performance. However, the male hormone is negatively affected by stress, aka, cortisol. Overtraining causes stress, and consequently, low T.

Signs of Low T Levels

If you’re suspecting you have low T levels, there are a few signs to look out for. Here are the most common ones:

Loss of Sex Drive

If your male hormone doesn’t work properly, you’ll feel a loss of interest in women.

Studies have shown a direct link between low testosterone and erectile dysfunction, plummeting sex drive, and other health issues. [12, 13, 14]

Flat Muscles

As I mentioned above, testosterone is key to keeping your muscles strong.

One of the obvious signs that something’s not right with your male hormone is a decrease in muscle mass. [15]

If you’re training hard, and your muscles aren’t growing, that’s a clear indication of low testosterone.

Poor Recovery

Another obvious sign of low testosterone is poor recovery and low energy levels. [15]

If you’ve ever felt sluggish even after a good 8 hours (or more) of sleep, that’s a dead giveaway of crashing T levels.

Related: Learn How Testosterone Production Works

Erectile Problems

Testosterone signals your brain to produce extra nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is responsible for dilating your blood vessels, improving blood flow.

And you know where this leads… literally.

If your T levels are low, so will be your nitric oxide levels in the blood. Resulting in flat erections. [15]

Mood Swings

Not having high enough levels of the male hormone can have a huge impact on how you feel. [15]

If you’re constantly experiencing mood swings or feeling irritable, low testosterone could be the cause.

Belly Fat

When your T levels are low, your muscle tissue undergoes a process of catabolism (breakdown).

The less muscle you have, the fewer calories you’ll burn. Resulting in weight gain.

So if you notice some extra fat hanging around your waist, it might just be low testosterone that’s causing the issue. [15]

The most common signs of low testosterone are weak libido, flat muscles, poor recovery, belly fat, mood swings, and erectile dysfunction.

How Overtraining Affects Your Testosterone

Cortisol Eats Away Your Muscle Tissue

There are two main types of stress: physical and emotional.

We all know what the emotional stress is, when your neighbors don’t let you sleep at 2 A.M. at night.

On the other hand, physical stress comes from excessive physical strain. This is usually a result of training too much or too often. Or both.

You see, no matter which type of stress you go through, your body will start producing cortisol during this state.

This is bad news for your muscle, because stress and cortisol are catabolic (eating away your muscle mass). [16, 17]

A scientific study from the Netherlands showed that men with higher levels of cortisol had less strength. Quoting the study;

“A relationship was found between both morning and evening salivary cortisol, and loss of grip strength: participants in the highest quartile of cortisol concentration had a twofold higher risk of loss of grip strength than participants in the lowest quartile (P < 0.05).” – PubMed NCBI

The weaker you are, the harder it is to gain muscle.

On top of that, your testosterone suffers too, since cortisol is damaging to your male hormone. It’s a downward spiral no one wants to get in.

Cortisol Creates Harmful Fat Around Organs

Cortisol activates the production of a hormone called Adamts1.

The main purpose of this hormone is to create fat under your skin and organs. Both adipose tissue fat (under the skin) and visceral fat (one that accumulates around your organs and skin). [18]

Whenever you have too much cortisol (read: stress) flowing in your body, Adamts1 is produced in huge quantities by your fat cells, leading to even more fat production. And so the vicious circle goes on and on…

It doesn’t take a doctor to tell you this is bad for your testosterone – as well as your health. No one wants to look fat. Let alone have toxic, visceral fatty tissue around their organs.

Quick reminder: Both cortisol and testosterone are steroid hormones. Testosterone is anabolic to muscle growth, while cortisol is anabolic to fat cell growth. The type of cells you’ll grow depend on which hormone is dominant in your body.

Overtraining Causes Muscle Wasteage (And Wrecks Your T)

Let’s get one thing clear… when you’re training hard, you’re wasting muscle, not building it.

During training, your muscle fibers get torn down, but when you go to sleep, they repair and grow stronger.

However, if you’re over-training, that’s when your muscles can’t catch up with your pace anymore. [19]

Your muscle cells are trying to repair themselves while you cause more and more damage. Over time, this results in muscle loss.

It’s clear that over-training leads to catabolism. But what happens with your testosterone? Well, it gets pushed out of the picture as well.

Since you’re in a catabolic state, your body gets flooded with cortisol, leading to a depletion in testosterone reserves.

Key point: Training too hard and too often results in excess cortisol production. This causes you to enter a catabolic state, where your muscles can’t catch up with the repairs. On top of this, your testosterone levels start crashing down due to high cortisol levels.

How to Get Your Performance Back on Track

Want to improve your performance and testosterone levels? Here’s the magic formula:

Stress less.

It’s that simple.

I know, easier said than done, but let me remind you of what stress, aka cortisol, does to your body. Perhaps that will motivate you to take care of your stress levels.

So again, stress causes you to:

  • Lose muscle, strength, and energy
  • Gain fat around skin and organs
  • Have your testosterone levels fall like rain

That said, here are the most effective ways of reducing stress and boosting your performance:

Train Less Often

Yes, I know how good training feels. What I’m saying here is not to reduce the intensity of your workouts, but instead, the frequency.

Here’s the thing… you can train as hard as you want, that’s no problem – as long as you let your body recover from your workouts.

However, if you’re training too hard and too often, that’s a recipe for poor performance.

Again, reducing the frequency of your training sessions is how you’ll get your performance back on track.

If you’re feeling really tired and run down, take a week off from training. This will let your body catch up.

By allowing your body to recover, you’ll start feeling better and stronger in no time.

Consume Less Caffeine

Anything that contains caffeine wears your adrenals out. This includes coffee, pre-workouts, and caffeinated teas.

Caffeine also stimulates your body to produce more cortisol, and by now, you know what cortisol does to your testosterone. [20]

I’m not saying you should completely remove caffeine from your life. Just make sure not to overdo it.

Take A Walk in Nature

Staying indoors will deprive you of healthy movement, fresh air, and sunshine.

These things help you achieve relaxation and harmony in your body. Especially sunshine which promotes vitamin D production.

(Quick tip: If you’re looking to increase your T levels, ensure you get plenty of vitamin D.)

Going out for a bike ride, or just spending some time in the sun allows you to absorb your natural surroundings, which is shown to calm the mind, reducing stress. [21]

Cut Back on Sugars

A diet packed with sugars and low in fiber is shown to drastically reduce testosterone. [22]

A study published by the Reproductive Endocrine Unit of the Department of Medicine in Boston said;

“Glucose ingestion induces a significant reduction in total and free T levels in men, which is similar across the spectrum of glucose tolerance.”

This means: Eating sugars will directly cause your male hormone to crash, leading to feelings of weakness, lethargy, and low energy.

Sugar also affects your overall health by creating inflammation and wreaking havoc on your organs and hormones.

But perhaps the biggest victim of a high-sugar diet is the gut. A place where billions of bacteria are stored.

There are two types of bacteria in your gut – good (healthy) bacteria, and bad ones. Which type of bacteria sleeps within your gut depends on the types of foods you eat.

If you’re eating tons of sugars, your intestines will be colonized by billions of harmful bacteria that cause inflammation and disease. [23, 24]

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

Having a good sleep hygiene is probably the most effective way of improving your testosterone, performance, and energy levels.

If you find yourself binging on your favorite TV show late at night, you might want to rethink your habits.

A chronic lack of sleep is linked to illnesses, poor performance, and long recovery times. Testosterone is another victim of sleep deprivation, too. [25]

Avoid Negative People and Situations

Feeling stressed at work? Is your boss annoying you with constant complaints? Is your partner constantly negative about things, dragging you down into pointless and often heated arguments?

Many of us find ourselves in such situations far too often – more than we’d like to admit. But, if you’re looking to improve your testosterone & performance, then it might be time for a change.

Stay away from toxic people, and surround yourself with positive situations and individuals. This will create balance in your life and will lead to less stress. [26]

Take Ashwagandha

Taking natural herbs that are shown to reduce stress can greatly improve your performance.

One of these herbs is ashwagandha, an adaptogen shown to reduce cortisol levels in chronically stressed people. [27]

Ashwagandha also boosts immunity, improves testosterone, raises energy levels, and even increases lifespan. [28, 29, 30]

The list of benefits of this amazing herb just keeps going on and on… No wonder it’s been used in traditional Indian medicine for thousands of years.

Want to know more about ashwagandha? See my full review here; Ashwagandha: A Natural Testosterone Booster?

Doing these things will improve your performance and reduce stress: Train less often (not less intense), drink less caffeine, take a walk in nature, cut back on sugars, sleep well, avoid negative people, and take an ashwagandha supplement.


Let’s wrap this up, and recap quickly;

Low testosterone levels could very well be due to overtraining.

If you’re pushing your body past its limits and not letting it recover, it will produce extra cortisol.

Cortisol is a hormone that eats away your muscle tissue, along with suppressing testosterone.

When you train, you put your body in a stressed state where it’s flooded with cortisol.

This is not a bad thing necessarily, but it does become one if you keep doing this every day without letting your body rest.

The most effective ways to boost your performance and testosterone are:

  • Train less often – let your body catch up with your intense workouts-
  • Avoid stress – take a walk in nature, do yoga, meditate
  • Drink less caffeine – caffeine wears your adrenals down and promotes cortisol production
  • Cut back on sugars – refined carbs and sugars are shown to drastically reduce testosterone levels. They also cause inflammation in the gut, killing friendly bacteria.
  • Sleep, sleep, sleep – Getting at least 8 hours of deep sleep is a must if you’re training hard, so that your cells can repair.
  • Avoid negative people and situations – Surround yourself with individuals who give you energy, instead of depriving it.
  • Take Ashwagandha – Ashwagandha is a natural herb that directly enhances testosterone production, boosts the immune system, and reduces cortisol (up to 35%!)

So there you have it, these are the best ways to improve your performance and reduce stress level.

Again, make sure to give your body enough rest so it can heal up, and you won’t need to worry about overtraining ever again!

Next up: Men’s Health Enhancers Guide

References for the article: Low Testosterone Levels Due to Overtraining?

[1] Salivary testosterone and cortisol in rugby players: correlation with psychological overtraining items. (source)

[2] Longitudinal changes in testosterone over five years in community-dwelling men. (source)

[3] Prevalence of hypogonadism in males aged at least 45 years: the HIM study. (source)

[4] Testosterone for the aging male; current evidence and recommended practice. (source)

[5] Study of the Effect of Stress on Skeletal Muscle Function in Geriatrics. (source)

[6] Salivary Testosterone Levels Under Psychological Stress and Its Relationship with Rumination and Five Personality Traits in Medical Students. (source)

[7] Relationship between stress hormones and testosterone with prolonged endurance exercise. (source)

[8] Male Hypogonadism and Osteoporosis: The Effects, Clinical Consequences, and Treatment of Testosterone Deficiency in Bone Health. (source)

[9] A concise review of testosterone and bone health. (source)

[10] Effect of testosterone on muscle mass and muscle protein synthesis. (source)

[11] Relationship Between Circulating Cortisol and Testosterone: Influence of Physical Exercise. (source)

[12] The relationship between libido and testosterone levels in aging men. (source)

[13] Review of health risks of low testosterone and testosterone administration. (source)

[14] Testosterone deficiency in the aging male. (source)

[15] Diagnosing and managing low serum testosterone. (source)

[16] The relationship between cortisol, muscle mass and muscle strength in older persons and the role of genetic variations in the glucocorticoid receptor. (source)

[17] A comparative examination of cortisol effects on muscle myostatin and HSP90 gene expression in salmonids. (source)

[18] Researchers discover the role of hormone in 'creating fat'. (source)

[19] What Is Muscle Protein Synthesis? (source)

[20] Caffeine Stimulation of Cortisol Secretion Across the Waking Hours in Relation to Caffeine Intake Levels. (source)

[21] It's official -- spending time outside is good for you. (source)

[22] Abrupt decrease in serum testosterone levels after an oral glucose load in men: implications for screening for hypogonadism. (source)

[23] Fructose: A Dietary Sugar in Crosstalk with Microbiota Contributing to the Development and Progression of Non-Alcoholic Liver Disease. (source)

[24] Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. (source)

[25] Sleep loss dramatically lowers testosterone in healthy young men. (source)

[26] Eight simple ways to boost your happiness instantly; from walking in a certain way to forcing a smile, these are the tips you need. (source)

[27] A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults. (source)

[28] Studies on the immunomodulatory effects of Ashwagandha. (source)

[29] Withania somnifera root extract extends lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans. (source)

[30] Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. (source)

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