How does testosterone affect athletic performance?

Testosterone, genes and athletic performance

Written by: Jonine Möller, M.Sc. in Sport Science

Genes play a crucial role in determining an individual's testosterone levels, which can significantly impact athletic performance. Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone but also plays a vital role in muscle development, bone density, and red blood cell production. In athletes, testosterone levels can be a predictor of their physical performance.

For your muscles to adapt to resistance training by becoming larger and stronger, testosterone is crucial in both men and women. When low levels of this hormone are present, muscle mass cannot grow significantly.

Testosterone is beneficial for all-around physical performance. Testosterone, for example, is why men, on average, have higher hemoglobin levels than women. Endurance thus also benefits from testosterone.

Due to differing levels of testosterone in men and women, for men, it is the primary anabolic hormone, whereas, for women, it is one of the hormones responsible for anabolic effects but not the primary role-player.  Nonetheless, women's increased testosterone levels improve aerobic running performance and increase lean muscle mass.

Several genes regulate testosterone production, including the SRY gene and the LHCGR gene. The SRY gene is responsible for determining an individual's male or female sex, while the LHCGR gene is involved in regulating the production of luteinizing hormone, which stimulates the production of testosterone.

Research has shown that genetic variations in the SRY and LHCGR genes (amongst others) can influence an individual's testosterone levels, which in turn can impact their athletic performance. 

For example, individuals with genetic variations in the SRY gene that result in lower testosterone levels may have a harder time building muscle mass and developing strength, leading to a decline in athletic performance. Similarly, genetic variations in the LHCGR gene that result in lower testosterone levels can also impact athletic performance. Lower testosterone levels may lead to a decline in muscle mass and strength, making it difficult for athletes to perform at their best.

Doing heavy resistance exercise naturally boosts testosterone. Supplementing your diet with zinc and vitamin D can also aid testosterone production if there is a deficiency. 

In conclusion, genes play a significant role in determining testosterone levels, which can impact athletic performance. Understanding the genetic basis of testosterone production can help athletes optimize their training and nutrition regimes to enhance their athletic performance. However, it is essential to remember that testosterone levels are just one factor that can impact athletic performance, and other factors, such as training, nutrition, and mental preparedness, are also important.


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