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The Andropause: Symptoms and Treatment

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When you’re in the best shape of your life it seems like it’ll last forever. But will it?

As we age we find that our muscle mass decreases, as well as our strength and functional ability- it’s all part of the natural ageing process known as the Andropause.

The andropause is a condition associated with a drop in the male androgen hormone testosterone. It is often referred to as the ‘male menopause’ or ‘manopause’.

But it’s not all doom and gloom- there are loads of things that you can do to keep those T levels elevated.


In this article we’ll take a look at:

  • What is the andropause?
  • What are the symptoms of the andropause?
  • How do you combat the andropause?
  • Are Testosterone Injections (TRT) a safe choice?

What is the andropause?

Unlike the female menopause, the male equivalent- called the andropause, is a slower, more progressive decrease in circulating sex hormones. In this case it’s all to do with our androgen levels, in particular testosterone.

Testosterone levels begin to increase rapidly from the onset of puberty but begin a natural decline as we age, with T levels beginning to decrease by around 1% per year after the age of 30 onward [1]. Otherwise referred to as ‘ADAM’ (androgen deficiency in the ageing male) in the science, the process is likely to occur as you reach the age of 40-50.

Although ‘andropause’ is used often in both scientific and journalistic literature, it may actually be a misleading explanation, as testosterone release doesn’t fully stop or even pause- instead it slowly decreases. What is for certain though, is that as T levels decline, side effects start to show.andropause-sufferer

So what might happen?

As testosterone decreases, muscle mass begins to decrease – a process called sarcopenia. Such decreases in muscle mass will also decrease strength and functional ability- you’ll feel weaker in the gym. Your flexibility and mobility, as well as neuromuscular control– the ability to coordinate movements and maintain balance, may also start to effect your sessions.

Additionally, as androgen levels decrease, your fat mass starts to increase- particularly around the belly and chest as well- you’ll have to work even harder to keep those abs showing. Your pecs might also begin to change from rock hard, to soft.

So if its all about T levels, couldn’t you just get them looked at by your Doctor?

You could yes, but the problem is that there’s a lack of established normal testosterone levels for different age groups so a clinical diagnosis is difficult. Additionally, not many people tend to have their T levels looked at before they think they have an issue – so assessing any individual changes in your body is impossible.


 If it’s so difficult to diagnose, are there any additional symptoms to look out for that can help?

Other than having your testosterone levels assessed, it is difficult to diagnose. There are however a number of additional symptoms to look out for. These include:

  • Fatigue, lack of energy and general lack of enthusiasm
  • Loss of strength – something to look out for in the gym
  • Increased tiredness but difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of libido, sexual desire and sexual appetite
  • Low mood, mood swings or depression

There’s also your general attitude to look at too – are you less of a risk taker, less competitive, may suffer a lack of direction and drive, and feel irritable?

All of these possible symptoms will help you to decide if you may be one of the many people suffering with symptoms.

One potential problem though is that these additional symptoms may well be caused by other illnesses – cardiovascular or mental health issues for example and nothing to do with it. This makes diagnosis a bit of a minefield


How can you fight the symptoms of andropause?

The main tool at your disposal in the fight against symptoms is weight training – the aim here is to maintain or possibly even promote muscle mass in order to keep fat levels low and strength and bone health high.

A number of previous studies have shown the positive effects of weight training in ageing males- many have reported acute increases in T levels after weight training sessions, as well as improvements in strength [3, 4, 5], whilst others have reported not only increases in androgens and strength, but also positive changes in fat levels too [6].

Nutrition is key-

Consider reducing sugar in your diet- when sugary food and drink is consumed we get a big increase in blood sugar levels. In order to try and balance it out our body produces and releases insulin. These high insulin levels are known to directly interfere with testosterone levels, [7] and can lower your overall T-count. Not to mention it also encourages fat storage.

Learn more about Sugar and Testosterone

Get those healthy fats are a better option – getting the right types of fats in your diet is a great tool for balancing out your hormones, particularly as fat helps you stimulate steroid hormone production – like testosterone.

We’d recommend eating eggs, avocados, almonds and coconut to really boost those T levels.

There are also a number of natural nutrients that have been found to promote testosterone levels as well- these would work perfectly alongside your weight training program. Vitamin D3, D-Aspartic acid, Zinc and Magnesium have all been found to boost T levels, as well as help you to keep your energy levels high, boost your immune system and keep your heart and bones healthy


Take home message:

Most studies show weight training doesn’t have an effect on long-term T levels. The benefits are only for a short period of time. For the best results, training needs be done on a regular basis to maintain the core benefits.


Designing an exercise program

It’s important that if you are unsure or unfamiliar with how to construct weight training sessions that you seek professional advice or follow a pre-designed program.exercise-andropause-treatment

For a good place to start, you’ll find plenty of inspiration over in the Workout Guides section on the blog.

If you are a beginner it is important that you hit the weights 2-3 times per week to begin with, aiming for whole-body sessions. You’ll want to cover the following muscles each session in about 8-10 different exercises:

  • Chest
  • Back
  • Legs
  • Shoulders
  • Arms

Practically all of the studies mentioned previously used quite high loads – around 80% 1RM. This means you’ll have to choose weights that are challenging to complete 6-8 reps. If it’s not challenging then it won’t stimulate the body to fight the andropause and start to lay down some solid muscle.

Aiming for a low volume of training 2-3 sets per exercise, as long as it’s challenging will be fine for less experienced.


PRO TIP: More advanced lifters may want to read one of our TestoFuel exercise guides, specifically designed to increase muscle and testosterone levels.


What about Testosterone Injections/TRT?

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has often been suggested as a way of boosting T levels, and their use has increased over the last few years mainly due availability- there is now a much wider range of delivery systems (injections, topical etc.)

However, as with any medical intervention, you need to be aware of the potential side effects. Previous studies have found side effects to include reduced fertility, can increase growth of unnoticed prostate lesions, reduced size and firmness of testicles and increased risk of erythrocytosis- blood thickening issues [8].

And you will also struggle to come off them.

As this is synthetic testosterone you’re putting in your system, your body stops producing its own testosterone to try and regulate itself. It also increases the amount of estrogen in your system for the same reason.

The result is usually finishing TRT with no testosterone whatsoever, and very high estrogen levels – and most people stay on T for life to avoid this problem.

Best Advice:

Where possible it is always advised to take a natural approach to T boosting- this is where exercise and diet are key weapons in your fight against the andropause. You’d be surprised at how easily you get back on the right track with some simple lifestyle changes.


Andropause Treatment for Men Summary

To manage the this process it makes sense to look at your lifestyle as a whole – exercise, physical activity and diet all need to be to be taken into account.

The main things you’ll notice as it sets in is a loss of strength and muscle mass, an increase in body fat around your belly, and a host of motivation and enthusiasm issues such as mood swings, loss of libido and sexual drive.

But there are measures that you can put in place to fight it:

Make sure that you incorporate regular weight training into your weekly gym routine to keep those strength and muscle levels high. Optimize your diet to maximize results- reduce sugary foods and drinks in your diet and replace them with a host of healthy fat sources such as eggs and avocados. It is also important to manage your stress levels and take time out to do the things you enjoy doing.

Lastly, be aware of the side effects of T replacement therapy- what seems like an instant cure might have some long term, and in some cases, permanent effects.


References

  1. Brawer, M. Testosterone replacement in men with andropause: an overview. 2004 Rev Urol. 6 (Suppl 6)
  2. Campbell W et al. Effects of resistance training and dietary protein intake on protein metabolism in older adults. 1995. Am. J. Physiol. 268(Endocrinol. Metab. 31):E1143E1153
  3. Izquierdo, M et al. Effects of strength training on muscle power and serum hormones in middle-aged and older men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2001 Apr;90(4):1497-507
  4. Hakkinen, K., et al. 2000. Basal concentrations and acute responses of serum hormones and strength development during heavy resistance training in middle-aged and elderly men and women. J Gerontology: Biological Sciences, 55A, B95–105.
  5. Hakkinen, K et al. Effects of heavy resistance/power training on maximal strength, muscle morphology, and hormonal response patterns in 60-75-year old men and womenCan J Appl Physiol, 2002, 27(3): 213-231, 10.1139/h02-013
  6. Nicklas, B., et al. 1995. Testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-I responses to acute and chronic resistive exercise in men aged 55–70 years. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 16, 445–50.
  7. Caronia LM, Dwyer AA, Hayden D, et al. Abrupt decrease in serum testosterone levels after an oral glucose load in men: implications for screening for hypogonadism. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2013;78(2):291–296.
  8. Tan et al. Risks of testosterone replacement therapy in ageing men. 2004. Expert opinion on drug safety: 3(6)


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