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The Transition To Testosterone

Working with clients as they transition on to testosterone is something that I find myself doing regularly, so I thought it would be interesting to share my experience of this, not just as a coach, but as someone who went through the same process themselves. Specifically, I want to touch on how starting testosterone will effect your training and physique based goals.

Sam Barnes Lifestyle ftm online coach personal trainer

Expectations

We all know deep down that the changes we're going to see from testosterone therapy are going to take time, especially the big changes like facial hair and body fat redistribution. However, I know it's also easy to think "well, maybe I'll be different, and wake up with a beard after 1 week." It's a nice thought, but I haven't met anyone yet where this has happened. It's going to take time and, after the initial buzz of starting testosterone wears off, this can leave you on a bit of a comedown. Enjoy the journey though because, before you know it, you'll be 5 years on testosterone and you'll wonder where the time went.


Types Of Testosterone

Over here in the UK, there's typically 3 different options of testosterone somebody will start out on. The first is a gel based testosterone, typically used for those who want to start out on a relatively low dose of testosterone. The second option is Sustanon 250, which is an injectable form of quick release testosterone, meaning you'll typically inject this anywhere between every 2-4 weeks. Finally, Nebido, which is an injectable slow release testosterone which, after the initial loading phase, only has to be injected every 10-12 weeks. The type and dose you are on is obviously going to impact the effects you feel, and also how quickly you see changes.


I find Sustanon 250 gives clients a lot of peaks of troughs when it comes to testosterone levels, which can leave them struggling with things like mood swings. This is often why doctors go on to switch people over to Nebido, where the drop in testosterone as you come towards your next injection isn't so dramatic.



The First 3-6 Months

This period of time is usually made up of some of the smaller and (I'll be honest) annoying sides to testosterone. These are being incredibly hot, sweaty, and hungry. I really didn't sweat much before starting testosterone, and often wondered what on earth people where doing in the gym to need paper towels. Flash forward to 3 months on T, and I was now the one using the paper towels myself. On top of this, I was also finding myself getting sick with hunger halfway through my workouts. This was annoying, but luckily only lasted a couple of months. To combat this I took a small cereal bar with me to the gym. Not ideal, but it meant I could actually finish a whole workout.


Another thing I began to notice during this period of time was that I was having to rest for longer between sets. This is, of course, not helped by getting hotter when working out, but it's also to do with the lower levels of estrogen.


Estrogen helps you to recover, which is one of the reasons why a lot of people find they are able to lift more weight and recover better when they are on their monthly cycle, as this is when estrogen levels are at their highest. When this lowers, your ability to recover gets slower, and this can become quite noticeable when working out.


The main positive for a lot of people during this time period of time is that the monthly cycle comes to an end. This is, quite honestly, life changing. Once this happens you feel a real sense of freedom and, specifically to training, it makes things a lot easier to manage. No more days off with cramps and days where strength lacks.


Strength

For myself, my increased strength was mostly noticeable towards the isolation side of things. All of a sudden I could bicep curl 12kg instead of 8kg, I could lateral raise 8kg instead of 4kg, and I could finally do 3 pull ups (I'd literally never even been able to do 1 before T).


I have also seen early, big strength increases in clients when it comes to bigger, compound style movements, but even then the isolation stuff seems to come first.


Muscle

Probably the part you're most interested in. The effects of testosterone on muscle are pretty instant. As soon as your testosterone levels are that of a cis males, you're going to be able to build far more muscle. However, this doesn't mean it will just appear over night. You still need to be working out consistently, and eating enough food to grow.


When I went for my 2 month check up after starting testosterone, they ran a full body scan on me. I'd gained 5kg... and literally all of it was muscle. It is possible to see some serious gains pretty quickly, but you have to put the work in as well.


Body Fat Redistribution

First off, I want to clarify what this actually means, as I think it gets misunderstood quite regularly. You're not going to lose any body fat just from starting testosterone, but the body fat you already have will simply move to more typically masculine areas.


The second thing to mention here is that it takes a really, really long time. Yes, it varies person to person, but this will not happen fast. For me, it only started to happen around the 1.5 year mark. I've seen it take quicker in others, but I've also seen it take longer. Unfortunately, it's a game of patience.


However, If you're holding too much body fat, and you want to lose some altogether, the positive here is that this is possible regardless of whether or not you're on testosterone. This is simply just about eating in a calorie deficit, and regularly working out. For help with this, get in touch with me here.


Rounding Up

Starting testosterone is such an incredible moment, and the journey you'll go on is so special, so don't wish any of it away! Yes, some of the most exciting changes take time, but the small steps you make each month all add up and, before you know it, you'll be far into your journey and wondering where all that time went.

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