In competitive endurance sports such as cycling, increased levels of testosterone could offer several performance benefits. Unfortunately, the specific details of proper bike training to raise testosterone levels remains uncertain. Most studies examining changes in testosterone levels have focused on resistance training rather than aerobic or endurance training. You can still make some safe assumptions that may help you improve your cycling performance.
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Most importantly to cycling performance, the hormone testosterone promotes protein synthesis -- the rebuilding of tissues and development of muscle. In response to exercise, protein synthesis results in increased size and strength of muscle. As this occurs, more force can be applied to the pedals while riding, which generally translates into faster speeds.
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In his book, “Hormonal and Metabolic Adaptations to Exercise,” Henrik Galbo says that high-intensity aerobic exercise stimulates increased testosterone in the blood during and after exercise. In a study on resistance training by William Kraemer, testosterone levels were significantly increased as the workload increased and rest phases decreased. In application to cycling, putting in the miles at high intensity levels would increase testosterone levels during and after exercise and subsequently help improve your performance.
While cycling at high intensities and volumes may increase testosterone levels, too much can be a bad thing. During a ride, the body mostly breaks down proteins through the release of other hormones, such as cortisol. After exercise, testosterone then helps the recovery process. In a study on elite swimmers in which training volumes were doubled in 10 days, J.P. Kirwan and associates reported significant rises in cortisol and steady declines in testosterone.
Of the studies performed, few have been able to demonstrate significant increases in testosterone after exercise. Women have about 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men, so this would seem logical. Regardless of testosterone levels, women still show dramatic improvements in cycling performance with consistent, proper training.
Weight to Power Ratio
Most cyclists want more power -- which stems from larger, stronger muscles -- without adding too much body weight since carrying extra weight could slow you down. Although increased testosterone levels do occur in high-intensity endurance exercise, Kraemer suggests that muscle enlargement does not actually occur. Researchers Jack Wilmore and David Costill report that well-trained runners have decreased testosterone levels at rest.
- "Hormonal and Metabolic Adaptation to Exercise"; Henrik Galbo; 1983
- "Journal of Applied Physiology"; Compatibility of High Intensity Strength and Endurance Training on Hormonal and Skeletal Muscle Adaptations; William J. Kraemer; 1993
- "Medicine and Sports Science in Exercise"; J.P. Kirwan
- "Journal of Applied Physiology"; Hormonal and Growth Factor Responses to Heavy Resistance Exercise"; William J. Kraemer; 1990
- "Physiology of Sport and Exercise"; Jack H. Wilmore, David L. Costill; 2004