Does Too Much Rowing Lower Your Testosterone?

Does too much rowing diminish your testosterone?

That’s a real possibility!

But how much is too much?

The truth is, we’re all different, and what might be a normal rowing session for one person, it might be overtraining for another.

The general rule is: if you’re rowing more than 30 minutes every day, you’re likely putting too much stress on your body.

When you constantly train hard, you get flooded with cortisol – the stress hormone. This leads to crashing T levels, loss of muscle mass, and flat libido.

So yes, too much rowing will rob you of your male hormone. [1]

And if you don’t let your body catch up, it will lead to other issues as well.

Is Overtraining a Myth?

Let me tell you straight away, overtraining is no myth.

I’m talking from both personal experience, and years of digging into scientific studies.

So what exactly is overtraining?

It’s a state where your body can’t catch up with your physical demands anymore.

When you push past your physical limit, you’ll start producing huge amounts of cortisol.

It’s a hormone that gets secreted when your body is in a stressed state.

Cortisol is Responsible for Overtraining

The thing with cortisol is this: it’s beneficial for humans in small amounts, such as in the morning to wake you up.

But if your cortisol stays raised during the day, and night, you’ll start experiencing its dark side.

Excess cortisol is shown to eat away your muscle mass. That’s right, stress causes muscle loss. Along with reducing testosterone, libido, and the immune system. [2]

The list of cortisol’s damaging effects doesn’t end here. In excess amounts, this hormone also causes your body to store more fat. [3]

This is our body’s primal response that might have served our ancestors, but doesn’t serve us.

Food was scarce during ancient times. Our bodies adapted to this by preserving as much energy as possible when faced with a dangerous situation – thus producing cortisol which allows for fat storage.

But in today’s modern lifestyle, we’re constantly bombarded with this hormone, causing unwanted weight gain.

Coupled with too much physical stress from training, this leads to wrecked testosterone levels, poor sex drive, and fragile health. [4]


Key point: Constant hard training leads to muscle loss, low testosterone, and weak libido. This is due to cortisol which our body produces in response to physical stress.


How Much is Too Much?

The amount of rowing you’ll be able to do without overtraining depends on many factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Stamina, Endurance, and Fitness Level
  • Rest & Sleep
  • Diet
  • Supplements

You see, all of these factors play a key role in how much you’ll be able to row without overdoing it.

For example, let’s say you’re rowing 6 days per week for 45 minutes. Your train with moderate weights and intensity.

If you’re a trained athlete, and if you have a solid recovery routine, this won’t be a problem for you.

But what if you’re just a regular gym goer? And what if you don’t take proper recovery routines in between your workouts?

Well, my friend, that’s when overtraining happens.

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When you’re rowing, you’re basically causing micro-tears in your muscles. Your muscles then rebuild themselves and grow stronger during sleep.

However, if you don’t follow a high-quality recovery routine, your muscles won’t be able to catch up with your training.

Read this carefully; You need at least 8 hours of sleep, along with a recovery routine between workouts, and a diet packed with vitamins and minerals to help your body recover from constant rowing.

Also, avoid emotional stressors in your day to day life, as these cause an additional influx of cortisol in your system.


Key point: How much rowing is too much? This depends on your genetics and fitness levels. That said, 40+ minutes of rowing daily is too much for most people.


Signs That You Might Be Rowing Too Much

Whether you overdo it with rowing, or some other exercise, they all have some common symptoms of overtraining – here they are:

  • Constant fatigue – If you’re feeling fatigued even after a good 8 hours of sleep, it’s a sign that your body is chronically tired and needs adequate recovery.
  • Belly fat – Excess training leads to excess cortisol production. Cortisol signals your body to store extra fat. Ironically, the more you train, the more likely it is you’ll be in a chronically stressed state where your cortisol is high all the time.
  • Low libido – Since the stress from working out increases cortisol, and cortisol negates testosterone, you might feel a loss of sex drive due to low T levels.
  • Feeling moody – As your stress levels go up from too much exercise, you start to feel irritable and angry for no apparent reason.
  • Loss of Strength – When you train too hard too often, your muscles can’t repair properly, so they become weaker and weaker.

Effects of Too Much Rowing on Your Testosterone

Okay, so let’s say you disregard my advice from above, and decide to row hard every day.

What happens to your testosterone?

Studies show that those who train too much too often have low free and total testosterone levels in their body. [5, 6, 7]

Not only that, but those who over-do it with rowing also experience weaker muscles and loss of libido, as I explained above. Some even report having weak erections.


Key point: Research shows that too much rowing causes both free and total T levels to drop significantly.


How To Prevent Overtraining With Rowing

Here are the most effective ways to prevent a dip in your T levels from too much rowing:

Create a Recovery Routine

Getting optimal rest is possibly the biggest thing you could do to prevent overtraining from rowing.

By letting your body recover, you’ll be able to continue training hard without worrying about exercising too much.

So how do you do that?

Here are a few practical steps towards creating a healthy recovery routine:

  1. Stretch after workouts – When you do hard and intense rows, lactic acid accumulates in your muscles. By stretching after workouts, you reduce excess lactic acid build-up. [8]
  2. Sleep at least 7-8 hours per night – Some people might get away with only 6 hours of sleep, while some need 10. Find your sweet spot and stick to it. Sleep is vital for testosterone production and muscle recovery. [9]
  3. Take rest days – This is an obvious one, but I really want to nail it home here. You absolutely need to take days off from rowing if you’re training hard. At least 1 day off per week, 2 is even better.

Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet

It doesn’t take us a medical expert to know that a balanced diet is key to not just recovery, but also overall health. [12, 13, 14]

Eat plenty of fruits, green vegetables, and good fats to keep your energy levels high. Also, throw in some complex carbs in the form of sweet potatoes, brown rice, and perhaps quinoa if you fancy it.

For proteins, a good amount of lean chicken meat, egg whites, and low-fat yogurt is the way to go. This will keep your muscles strong and popping.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, then ensure you get enough protein from plant-based sources. Along with a vegan-friendly protein powder.

Last but not least, reduce the consumption of sugars and refined carbs. These are not only damaging to your testosterone but overall health too.

Reduce Stress

Keeping your stress levels low is just as important, if not even more important than everything else on this list.

We all know the consequences of stress. Insomnia, feeling restless and anxious all the time, and having a general feeling of being unwell.

That said, here are a few practical ways you can reduce stress;

  • Drink less caffeine – That gigantic mug of coffee might make you feel good in the morning, but if you drink it too much too often, you’ll drain your adrenals, which are responsible for producing various hormones, including cortisol. A disbalance in adrenals also means disbalance in cortisol levels – and your testosterone will not be happy about it. [15]
  • Meditate 10 minutes per day – There have been countless studies showing the positive benefits of meditation. It not only reduces stress but also improves cognition, mood, and sense of well-being [10, 11]. If meditation is not your thing, consider taking long walks in nature, spend time under the sun, do yoga, etc.
  • Take herbs that reduce stress hormones – There are a number of clinically proven herbs that help reduce your stress levels, along with boosting your testosterone. Such is the case with Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb that combats stress, fatigue, and anxiety. Along with improving your T levels, libido, and even muscle strength. [16]

Conclusion

To wrap this up: Yes, too much rowing will lead to crashing testosterone levels.

The problem lies in the fact that everyone is different.

So, what might be an easy workout for you, it might be over-training for another person.

The most obvious signs of overtraining are:

  • Loss of strength and muscle mass
  • Weak sex drive
  • A lack of motivation
  • Fat around the belly
  • Feeling fatigued constantly, even after a good night’s sleep
  • Mood changes (anxiety, irritability, depression)
  • Insomnia

When you train too much, your stress levels go up. A bunch of cortisol starts flooding your body.

And since cortisol is muscle-wasting and damaging to testosterone, it will lead to the symptoms from the above. That’s why these symptoms are usually an obvious sign of low testosterone.

In order to prevent overtraining symptoms from rowing, do the following;

  • Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night
  • Create a recovery routine after workouts
  • Reduce stress (meditate, do yoga, spend time in nature, etc.)
  • Eat a healthy diet (a bunch of fruits and vegetables, avoid sugars, and reduce caffeine)
  • Take Ashwagandha, a herb that enhances testosterone and men’s health. Along with reducing cortisol by up to 35%.

There you have it guys, I’m signing off for now! Any questions, let me know in the comments.

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References for the article: Does too much rowing diminish your testosterone?

[1] Hormonal response to maximal rowing before and after a heavy increase in training volume in highly trained male rowers. (source)

[2] Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators. (source)

[3] Stress, cortisol, and obesity: a role for cortisol responsiveness in identifying individuals prone to obesity. (source)

[4] The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain–body communication. (source)

[5] Does overtraining exist? An analysis of overreaching and overtraining research. (source)

[6] Blood hormones as markers of training stress and overtraining. (source)

[7] Hormonal response to maximal rowing before and after heavy increase in training volume in highly trained male rowers. (source)

[8] Effect of Lactate Accumulation during Exercise-induced Muscle Fatigue on the Sensorimotor Cortex. (source)

[9] Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men. (source)

[10] Meditation: Process and effects. (source)

[11] Meditation induces a positive response during stress events in young Indian adults. (source)

[12] Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables. (source)

[13] Essentials of Healthy Eating: A Guide. (source)

[14] Nutrition for post-exercise recovery. (source)

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

[16] A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. (source)

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