Hard-bodied women followed us as we exited each successive club in an eternal quest for the next hot spot. At every stop our muscular physiques attracted greater numbers of interesting and aroused females. We were armed with etched abs and the energy of the young, it was after midnight, and the party had just begun. The blur of youth was upon us'and then we blinked.
When 21 turns 40-something, it seems as if time and life have passed in a blur. The etched abs of a moment ago are a bit rounder and smoother, while the crowd of female followers now consists of our daughters.
Yep, middle age can be a downer, but only for those who opt to accept it as is. Mediocrity sucks, whatever your age.
Today's 40-something athletes are fortunate to have many medical and supplemental therapies available to stave off the effects of age. In fact, when protocols are properly structured, many experience a sort of Dorian Gray effect: While time rolls on for their sagging, not-in-the-know counterparts, they appear to be getting younger.
Using the correct hormone, diet and training protocols is the key to health and longevity, so let's talk about hormone profiles.
Androgens, Muscle and Things That Once Went Bump in the Night
The androgen testosterone is one of the three primary hormones produced in the body that control body composition and libido of both men and women. In fact, testosterone and related androgen levels facilitate the development and maintenance of pretty much all the defining male secondary sex characteristics. These include:
' Growth of auxiliary, chest and pubic hair ' Voice changes
' Testicular and penile growth and enlargement
' Increased muscle and bone mass
When men reach the 21-to-25 age range, their testosterone levels begin to decline at an average rate of 1.25 percent per year. That leads to increased fat deposits, sexual-organ shrinkage, heart disease and loss of memory, muscle mass and libido. When a man's testosterone level is too low, his brain and muscles use it up, and nothing is left for his prostate and penis.
By 40 most men produce at least 20 percent less testosterone than they did at 25. Unfortunately, many suffer total hypogonadism, which is a reduced or absent secretion of hormones from the sex glands that leads to some undesirable, feminizing effects. How can that be if the drop in production is only about 20 percent?
Any measurement of a person's testosterone level reflects total and free testosterone. As a rule, 98 to 99 percent of circulatory androgens are bound by the proteins sex-hormone-binding globulin and albumin. The problem is, only unbound, or free, testosterone is active.
The normal range for the total testosterone in men is 260 to 950 ng/dl (nanograms per deciliter) and free testosterone is 50 to 210 ng/dl. Testosterone measurements in most normal and healthy 21-to-25-year-old men reflect midrange or lower total-testosterone levels with an average of 500 to 600 ng/dl. Therefore, 550 ' 20% = 440 ng/dl by age 40. Usually, a man must have a total-testosterone level of 500 ng/dl or higher to maintain normal sexual and orgasm functions. In short, seldom does anything go bump in the night below 500 ng/dl.
Total-testosterone levels for 40-something men are quite commonly in the 350-ng/dl-or-lower range. That means progressive loss of muscle and bone as well as fat gain. In short, the bad things grow, the good things shrink, and others don't happen at all. ALL So the benefits of restoring proper testosterone levels include:
' Increased lean muscle ' Improved sexual performance and enhanced sex drive
' Increased energy
' Improved mood and memory
' Lower cholesterol
' Protection against heart disease
' Decreased fat stores
With an increase in testosterone comes an increase in lean muscle mass and a drop in fat. The loss of excess fatty tissue lowers the potential for insulin resistance and the threat of diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. What's more, there's a corresponding improvement in the ratio between good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL), which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease and cardio and pulmonary concerns.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) is now common practice in the United States and many other countries, with doctors prescribing testosterone, growth hormone, DHEA and even thyroid-hormone replacements for patients who qualify. Testosterone deficiency impacts every cell in the body. It's powerfully linked to nearly every major degenerative disease and age-related illness, which is the reason that using HRT as a treatment for declining testosterone levels is growing in popularity rather quickly. There are several delivery methods.
Injection. Intramuscular testosterone injections are safe and effective. Patients get injections approximately every one to two weeks and can experience fluctuations in symptom relief between doses. You or a family member can learn to administer the injections. If you're uncomfortable doing it, you can have a nurse or doctor do it.
Scrotal patch (Testoderm). The skin of the scrotum is much more permeable to testosterone absorption than other skin sites. In fact, some references suggest that androgens are absorbed as much as 40 times better by scrotal tissue. You should apply the patch in the morning and remove it before bathing or having sexual intercourse. Itching and skin irritation can occur, but it's usually very mild and diminishes with continued use.
Nonscrotal patch (Androderm). You apply the patch to your back, abdomen, upper arm or thigh each night, although you should switch to a different application site every seven days. As much as 50 percent of men experience some skin reaction to this product, with approximately 7 percent having severe reactions.
Nonscrotal patch (Testoderm TTS). This patch usually goes on the arm, back or buttocks. Preliminary studies indicate that about 12 percent of men experience skin irritation with it.
Gel (AndroGel). You rub testosterone gel into your skin on the lower abdomen, upper arm or shoulder. The gel dries quickly, and the testosterone is absorbed into your skin. You want to avoid showering or bathing for several hours after an application to ensure adequate absorption.
A rather scary potential side effect of this gel is the possibility of passing the medication to your partner. (More women with mustaches?) You can avoid that by waiting approximately five hours after an application to have sex, covering the area or taking a shower before having sex.
Naturally, there are a few concerns about using testosterone for HRT. Testosterone is often considered a sort of pro-hormone, which means it's a parent hormone that acts as a substrate for the manufacture of other hormones necessary for hormonal homeostasis.
Testosterone and Aromatization?
Estrogen is the hormone group that stimulates the development of female secondary sex characteristics. It comes in several different forms, including progesterone, hydroxyestrones and 17b-estradiol, the latter being a particularly powerful feminizing estrogen.
Men produce estrogen as well. In fact, the dominant estrogen in men is 17b-estradiol, though they produce androgens far in excess of estrogens'or they should. Men's bodies produce estrogens mostly by way of aromatization, which occurs when susceptible androgens (such as testosterone) encounter the enzyme aromatase and are converted into estrogen. A primary location for aromatase production is fat cells. The reason for that is simple: Every cell in your body has its own series of survival mechanisms and hormones that trigger them. The hormone estrogen triggers the growth of fat cells, assuring their place in the feeding hierarchy, by producing lots of aromatase enzyme. Testosterone and other androgens are anabolic to muscle cells and catabolic to fat. Unfortunately, muscle has a very poor storage system for calories, so nature gave the fat cells the advantage to assure long-term storage of energy for times of need.
With more fat cells present, greater amounts of aromatase are produced and more androgens are converted to estrogens. Unfortunately, men can be feminized by having too much estrogen.
An increase in circulating estrogens triggers a negative feedback loop in the male androgen-production system called the hypothalamus-pituitary-testes-axis (HPTA). A negative feedback loop is a chemically transmitted message that tells an organ or gland to decrease or shut down production of another chemical. In this case estrogen tells the hypothalamus and pituitary to shut down the production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone, leutenizing hormone and folicle-stimulating hormone, which leads to a drop in androgen production and less testosterone to combat the effects of estrogen, with estrogen becoming the dominant hormone.
Another enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase can reduce testosterone molecules to DHT, an androgen that's about five to seven times more anabolic and androgenic than testosterone itself. DHT is also the androgen responsible for most secondary male sex characteristics.
DHT is often cited as the androgen that triggers hair loss and prostate problems, such as benign prostate hyperplasia, or noncancerous prostate growth, and prostate cancer; however, recent research suggests that it's the combined effects of elevated estrogen and DHT in the absence of adequate testosterone that triggers those negative effects.
There Are Always Other Options
Currently, supplement makers in the United States are allowed to market some very effective over-the-counter androgens that many have opted to use as a substitute for HRT. They're sold as pro-hormones or pro-steroids, though many are very active in their unconverted forms.
Due to their unique chemical structures, the two over-the-counter androgens best suited for HRT are the pro-steroids 4-hydroxytestosterone (testosterone-OH) and 4-hydroxynortestosterone (nandrolone-OH). They're both very closely related to their parent androgens. The beauty is that they provide all the benefits of the parent androgens, but they've been altered to eliminate the potential negative side effects.
Testosterone-OH. Most hardcore bodybuilders consider testosterone to be the king of all steroids. It's superpotent, anabolic and androgenic. You feel young when you're on it, as it increases sex drive, and you get better muscle pumps and more strength gains. It's also the perfect stand-alone androgenic for HRT.
Still, anything that powerful usually comes with its share of not-so-desirable side effects. In this case they include a high rate of conversion to estrogen and DHT, which can lead to gynecomastia, or bitch tits, as well as bloat, water retention, male-pattern baldness, female-pattern fat distribution and testicle shutdown and shrinkage.
To combat those problems, chemists have basically used 21st-century research and technology to tweak this grandfather of all steroids to create testosterone-OH. By adding a hydroxyl group, they've virtually removed all of testosterone's negative side effects while retaining and even enhancing its positive effects. That means more muscle, less fat and much less side-effect potential'and testosterone-OH enhances recovery of the HPTA axis. Plus, users can save money because they don't have to buy drugs to counter the side effects.
Here are the benefits of testosterone-OH:
' Beneficial effects very similar to testosterone but without the negative side effects.
' Zero conversion to estrogen; it even acts as a potent aromatase inhibitor.
' Zero conversion to DHT; it even acts as a potent 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor.
' Increased HPTA activity, which makes it a perfect postcycle or stand-alone product.
' No gyno, bloat or high blood pressure.
Nandrolone-OH. Nandrolone, which is the generic name of Deca-Durabolin, is one of the most popular HRT steroids for men and even women. It's more anabolic than testosterone yet less androgenic'so you get fewer side effects, such as excess body hair, male-pattern baldness, deepening of the voice and so on.
In fact, Deca was created back in 1962 for that very reason: to reduce testosterone's side effects while enhancing its positive anabolic effects. And it worked'except that it came with one very ugly side effect, the dreaded 'Deca dick.' Due to some estrogenic activity and a lot of progestinlike activity, many Deca users experienced lowered sex drive, to the point of impotence. To counteract that, chemists have modified the original nandrolone compound with a hydroxyl group, and the result is an amazing compound that's very similar to Deca but without the negative side effects. That means more muscle, less fat, no estrogen or progesterone bloating or gynecomastia and, most important, no loss of sex drive.
Here are the benefits:
' Effects very similar to nandrolone.
' Zero conversion to estrogen; it even acts as a potent aromatase inhibitor.
' Zero conversion to DHT or DHN; it even acts as a potent 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor.
' Zero conversion to progesterone or progesterone activity, which means no chance of users suffering Deca dick or lowered sex drive.
Over the years I've consulted for many HRT clinics, urologists and endocrine specialists on structured protocols with the goal of improved safety and benefits. After all, it's quality of life and longevity that we seek, through whatever means.
As you can see, there are many reasons that aging athletes and nonathletes might want to investigate the possibility of HRT with prescription testosterone or legal over-the-counter androgens. Your first step is to ask your doctor to test for your testosterone and 17b-estradiol levels to evaluate your needs and identify possible causes. You may find a return to the youthful, leaner, more muscular and happier you.
Training for More Natural Testosterone Production
Now let's formulate a training program aimed at significantly increasing lean muscle mass while eliminating that spare tire around your waist. The two reasons so many people fail to accomplish their goals is that they either don't have a plan or they start at the wrong place and burn out before they've even really begun. There really are no magical pills that will undo years of physical neglect, but there's a simple plan that will.
First Two Weeks
Monday: Back, traps, biceps
Wide-grip pulldowns to the front 3 x 12-15
One-arm dumbbell rows 3 x 12-15
Hyperextensions 3 x 12-15
Shrugs 3 x 12-15
Wide-grip barbell curls 3 x 12-15
EZ-curl-bar preacher curls 3 x 12-15
Crunches 3 x 20-25
Wednesday: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Dumbbell bench presses 3 x 12-15
presses 3 x 12-15
Cable flyes 3 x 12-15
Behind-the-neck presses 3 x 12-15
Lateral raises 3 x 12-15
Rope pushdowns 3 x 12-15
Reverse crunches 3 x 20-25
Friday: Quads, hams, calves
Leg presses 3 x 12-15
Good mornings 3 x 12-15
Leg extensions 3 x 12-15
Leg curls 3 x 12-15
Donkey calf raises 3 x 12-15
Twisting crunches 3 x 15-20 ' Perform cardio after each workout for 20 to 30 minutes per session.
' Do one or two warmup sets using 70 to 80 percent of your work weight prior to your work sets.
' Use a poundage on each work set that brings you to positive failure in the listed rep range for each exercise.
' Stretch the target muscle between sets to increase IGF-1 production, which can enhance growth.
' Rest one minute between work sets.
Second Two Weeks
Monday: Chest, shoulders
Incline presses 3 x 8-10
Pec deck flyes 3 x 8-10
Bench presses 3 x 8-10
Seated dumbbell presses 3 x 8-10
Cable lateral raises 3 x 8-10
Bent-over lateral raises 3 x 8-10
Incline reverse crunches 3 x max
Tuesday: Back, traps
Narrow-grip pullups 3 x max
Bent-over rows 3 x 8-10
Dumbbell deadlifts 3 x 10-12
Stiff-arm pulldowns 3 x 8-10
Dumbbell shrugs 3 x 8-10
Decline situps 3 x max
Crunches 3 x max
Thursday: Biceps, triceps
extensions 3 x 8-10
V-bar pushdowns 3 x 8-10
Cable long pulls 3 x 8-10
Standing dumbbell curls 3 x 8-10
Preacher curls 3 x 8-10
Cable rope hammer curls 3 x 8-10
Kneeling cable crunches 4 x 15-20
Friday: Quads, hams, calves
Barbell squats 3 x 8-10
Leg extensions 3 x 8-10
Stiff-legged deadlifts 3 x 8-10
Seated or lying leg curls 3 x 8-10
Leg press calf raises 3 x 8-10
Seated calf raises 3 x 8-10
Reverse crunches 4 x max
' Perform cardio after each workout for 20 to 30 minutes per session. ' Do one or two warmup sets using 70 to 80 percent of your work weight prior to your work sets. ' Use a poundage on each work set that brings you to positive failure in the listed rep range for each exercise. ' Stretch the target muscle between sets to increase IGF-1 production, which can enhance growth. ' Rest one minute between work sets. ' Drink plenty of cool water while training to get the most out of your efforts. Increased hydration during training increases GH release and fat burning.
After the second two weeks repeat the four-week cycle and keep doing that. Always keep a training log to track your progress. By attempting to add a few pounds of weight or another rep on each exercise during each cycle, you increase your intensity'and your results.
Remember that less fat equals less girlieman. As the fat layer disappears, the amount of estrogen and prolactin you produce decreases and your testosterone increases, which means more muscle, less fat and greater libido. Need I say more? A few dietary changes, some supplements and intense effort in the gym are all it takes to make profound changes in a rather short period of time. IM