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What Is The Role Of Different Testosterone Esters In Bodybuilding?

Testosterone is a naturally-occurring steroid hormone in the human body. The testosterone hormone is required for the physiological development of the male body and has several other functions, that have resulted in its use as an anabolic steroid by bodybuilders and athletes.

1. Testosterone And Bodybuilding History 

Testosterone is a steroid hormone in the human body and with age, the testosterone level in the body begins to decline. This decline is accompanied by several side effects, such as hair loss, loss of muscle mass, and an overall decrease in mental and physical stamina. Testosterone steroid hormone is crucial for these in the body, and that realization is exactly what led to the use of exogenous testosterone as a testosterone treatment in the first place. 

In 1899, Dr. Brown-Sequard developed an Elixir of Life for males which was made of blood, semen, and testicular fluid that had been taken from dogs and guinea pigs. This may seem weird in light of today’s medical advancements but back in 1899, this was a groundbreaking discovery. Dr. Brown-Sequard tested this concoction on himself, noting a significant improvement in his overall health and stamina. As the word of Dr. Brown-Sequard’s success with animal testosterone-based elixir spread, more and more physicians began using the elixir. Eventually, it was prescribed by over 12,000 physicians, hence, paving the way for testosterone use. 

While Dr. Brown-Sequard’s concoction was successful due to the effects of testosterone steroid hormone, actual synthetic testosterone wasn’t developed till 1935, in Germany. The main use of this synthetic testosterone was to treat depression and that is what it was used for, till the 1954 Olympics. The main motivation for the misuse isn’t known but it was at the 1954 Olympics that athletes began to abuse testosterone as an anabolic steroid, for better physical performance. 

Even though the misuse of synthetic testosterone began in 1954, it was limited to athletes till the 1980s when the use of testosterone as an anabolic steroid spread to the general population as well. At this time, and till recently, the use of testosterone was predominantly by male non-athletes for their appearance, rather than their physical performance. The general population uses testosterone or steroids to improve their muscle mass, and appear bulkier and bigger rather than to perform well in sports. 

The general population noticed a significant improvement in their physical performance with exogenous testosterone. They experienced improved lean muscle mass, with decreased muscle soreness post-workout and an overall improved recovery period. All of these benefits led to the increased use of testosterone as an anabolic steroid by athletes and bodybuilders.

The increased use of exogenous testosterone resulted in Congress publishing the Anabolic Steroid Act of 1990 which identified anabolic steroids as a drug class of their own and included them in the list of controlled substances

2. What Is Testosterone And How Is It Produced?

Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is found in both, men and women with higher levels in men, rather than women. It is a male sex hormone that is responsible for the development of male sex characteristics. Produced primarily in the testes, this steroid hormone is synthesized from cholesterol. The main source of testosterone in males and females is different as females most often depend on adrenal glands and peripheral tissue for testosterone synthesis whereas it is primarily synthesized by testes in men. 

The synthesis of testosterone, a steroid from the androstane group, depends on cholesterol and the activity of Leydig cells in the testes. Once synthesized, it is carried in the blood by sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and after it has been used, it is transported to the liver to be broken down into its inactive metabolites. 

3. What Are Healthy Testosterone Levels?

A healthy average male should have testosterone levels in the range of 264 ng/dl to 916 ng/dl. This range is only applicable to non-obese males in the age range of 19 to 39 years, and the mean testosterone levels average at 630 ng/dl. Out of this, only 25 percent is actually active testosterone and around 2 percent to 3 percent is free testosterone. 

Testosterone is measured using the modified Vermeulen method, where only the testosterone that is bound to SHBG is measured. It also measures the testosterone that is weakly bound to albumin in the bloodstream but it does not measure free testosterone.

It is important to note that this reference range of testosterone levels has been long disputed by physicians, with the main complaints being with the lower end of the range. Physicians believe that 294 ng/dl is too low and refers to hypogonadism or low testosterone levels, rather than being a normal value. Instead, they propose the use of 350 ng/dl as the lower cut-off value to make the reference range more accurate. However, this is not a widely accepted cut-off value and the official cut-off yet remains at 294 ng/dl although some private hospitals may consider 350 ng/dl as their cut-off. 

Another aspect to consider in checking the testosterone levels is that the steroid hormone undergoes fluctuations throughout the day, meaning that it is very likely that the values measured in the morning are going to be significantly different than the values measured in the evening. The values in the morning are much higher as the levels of testosterone decrease throughout the day. 

Testosterone levels are also dependent on the release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which itself is released rhythmically, on average, every couple of hours. This can be credited with the fluctuation in testosterone levels throughout the day.