I’ve always enjoyed stats and figures. I remember years back now, investing in a home blood glucose testing kit while I was brainwashing myself all about nutrition and insulin response/diabetes risk.
I used to test it after different meals and at different times, and I loved mulling over the data variation and spotting patterns from different food types. Proper nerdy shit, I know.
Your own body is one of the finest testing vehicles you’ll ever have access to. Sure, you can become a PubMed addict and scour data, trying to extrapolate this and that but none of this will ever carry the same weight as your own personal experiences and findings, as far as I’m concerned.
You see, initially I was testing my blood glucose to try and decipher how ‘carb tolerant’ I was. And I found I was pretty carb tolerant indeed (you can read more on that here: Carbs & Fat Gain: What 2 Years Of Experimentation Taught me). This info allowed me to eat in a way that suits me and even when I wanted to shed a little extra fat, I would do so with carbs pretty high – high enough to to make Robert Atkins turn in his grave.
The more I was exposed to athleticism, strength, health and personal development, the more I learned about testosterone, cortisol, vitamins and minerals, inflammation, recovery markers and a whole host of other bio markers that tell you where you really are (or aren’t) as a healthy human.
Like you probably have, I read about the low testosterone pandemic and how low testosterone can be a muscle building and physical performance murderer. I read everything on the links between mineral deficiencies and lowered hormone levels. Then there was the overtraining/overreaching impact on hormones – namely cortisol – to factor in too.
As I write this, I’ve got a 7/8 year training history. And that’s hard training. Training to beat the logbook. Training to learn new moves. Training to move better. Training to endure anything. And training to exorcise demons, just like you……..
Throughout this long and winding journey I’ve ALWAYS wondered where my own hormone levels were and what my training style/approach to health and nutrition was having on me as a whole.
I get asked all the time what I eat, what supplements I take, what I think of this/that and what advice I can give others to become better physically. What weight would my words have if my own body was in a shit state?! I feel pretty good and perform pretty good too but without hard, clinical proof I’m only guessing really.
Finally though, as of November 2020, I got a full blood panel done. I didn’t cheap out on this one bit. I could have just got my testosterone tested or just my red/white blood cell count, or even just my liver health………
But I went all in. I went for the full monty. I’d never done anything like this before so why play around? Knowledge is power and I was knowledge hungry.
Before I share the results, I will preface this by saying the four markers I was most interested in were testosterone, cortisol, muscle inflammation and blood sugar regulation aka diabetes/insulin resistance markers.
In terms of what I was expecting, I didn’t know what to expect for testosterone. I have always known I’ve had a decent hormonal profile; I started puberty early, can grow a full beard very easily, have very thick chest hair, don’t struggle too much to build/hold muscle mass and have a pretty solid sex drive. But, with the amount of training I do combined with less than ideal sleep I wondered whether it may show up low(er) than it should.
Also, I expected to see a fair bit of muscle inflammation as again, the training volume and serious lack of proper downtime over the years. And lastly I wondered whether mu blood sugar/insulin health had gotten worse now I was 6 or so years older and not as shredded as I once was………
This was a big surprise as I expected to be somewhere in the 600-800ng/dl (20.8nmol/l-27.7nmol/l). When in reality I was 36.50 nmol/l, which is 1053 ng/dl! As you can see above, the laboratory’s range caps out at 29 nmol/l. Upon further research I’ve seen some ranges go up to 32 nmol/l and the odd one closer to 40 nmol/l.
Funnily enough in the introductory breakdown the doctor suggests lowering the testosterone slightly and even makes a reference to me using artificial substances in order to have the levels where they are. Obviously I must clarify: I have never taken anabolic steroids or any steroid compound in my entire life. I’ve never even taken designated testosterone boosters, either.
However, I have read extensively on the subject of maximising testosterone naturally and have continuously applied everything I’ve learnt for the last 6-8 years. My hormonal profile has always been above average all my life, irrespective of all the correct lifestyle habits.
The reason this surprises me is how beaten up physically I’ve felt over the last few months. Being as candid as I can here, there were many times this year where thoughts of having peaked last year have crossed my mind. I’m approaching 30 and if the media is anything to go by, I may as well take out health insurance and limit myself from intense activity as I’m not a ‘young man’ anymore……..
Obviously that’s all BS but these thoughts easily creep in without any clinical data to tell you otherwise. Factor in training injuries and natural dips in motivation associated with a year like 2020 and you can be feeling far from tip top.
But all this goes to show a really high reading doesn’t bulletproof you from natural life fluctuations. I still have times I feel down, there are times I feel super tired and just want to sleep and there are many times I feel very far from my full strength!
That said, I do often feel strong urges to do more and more and more with my life that I just can’t seem to satisfy. This lends itself to some pretty irritable moods and aggressive thoughts on the wrong days. The world as we currently know it isn’t conducive to a life of action and the torsion is annoying.
Lastly, these readings would imply sex drive would be pretty insatiable. Again, this is hard to say for definite without direct comparisons to others but my drive and desire is pretty healthy. I’m as attracted to women now as I was when I was 12-16 years old.
(Side note: upon recent research and further investigation, I’ve noticed my free testosterone levels are high but not above normal range. This means how much of the hormone can your body actually use and process? You can see in the images my SHBG was high too which actually renders a fair bit of my high score bio-unavailable).
Interestingly, cortisol was elevated and on the high side despite the very high testosterone levels. Now anyone whose done some basic research on these hormones will know they work in opposition with each other. As cortisol rises, testosterone falls and vice versa.
I expected some elevation of cortisol as many of my workouts are long and arduous along with my caffeine intake being higher than it probably should be. I was professionally advised to try to lower my cortisol somewhat and my immediate plan of action to do so is to cut caffeine down to just one cup of coffee per day, BEFORE 12pm.
But this makes me wonder: If I do bring my cortisol down, surely that would encourage the testosterone to rise further?
As you can see, my creatine kinase is above the lab’s normal range. This is a marker of muscle damage and protein breakdown. When I had my blood taken I wasn’t exactly fresh and recovered so it stands to reason I’d get a result like this.
The crazy thing is I’ve had much harder training periods in my life where I almost know for a fact, I’d have scored higher here!
I did a little research into others who were highly physically active and had had blood work done, to see what scores they had here and some were notably higher than mine……….
In the video below you can see Australian gymnast and YouTuber, Lachlan Walker scoring 560 on his creatine kinase marker!
Blood sugar (and cholesterol ratios)
In the normal range and as the picture shows, you can see all cholesterol markers are in good range too. The interesting part of this is my diet is pretty meat heavy AND carb heavy. Although I do eat as high quality meat as I can get access to and my carbs come from many of the classic staples: rice (various types), potatoes (again, various types), oats, fruit and sometimes granola based cereals.
But more often than not the meat I eat ISN’T 100% grass fed and perfectly organically sourced/blessed by a Tibetan monk, yet my cholesterol markers aren’t in the gutter. Obviously well read folk will know the ‘eating fat raises your cholesterol and therefore gives you heart disease’ mantra has been torn apart in the real world over and over, but this is some more evidence to show just that.
Of course, the real secret here is my activity levels, sensible quality food choices and my reasonable levels of existing muscle mass. This gives you much more leeway when it comes to food and carb consumption. But even then you have to be sensible and not take the pee out of your body or it will show in these tests.
Many more markers were tested and you can see many of them in the photos outside of the specific markers I chose to focus on. I intend to retest in 3-6 months’ time where the climate will be different too, which will be interesting to see how much this impacts me – and on that topic my vitamin D3 levels were 170 nmol/l. I’ve been supplementing with 8000iu’s of vitamin D3 per day since the clocks went back an hour in October. So clearly it works!
Should you get your blood work done?/Closing thoughts
If you are in any way interested in improving health or performance, I highly recommend getting a blood panel done. If even just the once to see where you’re at. This will shed light on what nutrition approach suits you, what lifestyle habits are good or bad and even what supplements are affecting you negatively or positively.
Obviously a private full lab breakdown isn’t cheap. Mine cost around £200 all in and while you can get a testosterone test via the NHS here in the UK, to actually get one you need to convince your doctor you’re an old man in a younger man’s body – i.e. complain about low testosterone symptoms. I couldn’t be bothered with the acting, hence I did mine privately.
Another limitation of the free/NHS route is they will only give you bare minimum information. You’ll never get as detailed a breakdown as I had. And 2 or 3 markers only tells a fraction of the story. It’s far better to get the whole picture, at least as far as I’m concerned.
It’s up to you and your budget at the end of the day, or what country you live in and what access you have to this kind of testing. But at least now I know all the years of research and trying different approaches clearly work. I can rest peacefully in the knowledge that my theories and ideologies are now a little more than just theory; they’re practically proved.
Thanks for reading. Any questions, comments or feedback are welcome down below!
P.S. Big shoutout & thanks to Genesis aka thenutriguy.com for helping me through this process and interpreting all the data.
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.