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    Is High Testosterone a Necessary Prerequisite for Hypertrophy?

    While the endocrinology involved in a thorough and accurate answer to this is beyond the pale of my layman's knowledge, in basic terms I'm curious just how positively correlated testosterone levels are to hypertrophy. I'm curious for a few reasons:

    If it is true that high levels of free testosterone are a necessary prerequisite for any kind of significant hypertrophy, then it's hard to make sense of the phenomenon of natural female bodybuilders. While obviously I can't know for certain that they're all natural, many women in the gym seem to have a healthy level of body fat and a sizable amount of musculature (in many cases building up to this and not just having it by default), particularly in the lower body. As I understand it, though, women naturally have very low levels of free testosterone, relative to men. If that's true, then wouldn't it stand to reason that this is not an all-important factor, even if there undeniably is a strongly positive correlation?

    Secondly, I seem to put on decent quality mass fairly easily and quickly, although don't self-consciously exhibit many of the traits associated with especially high test levels. That could be psychological and not hormonal, however. For instance, while I do naturally feel and act masculine, have a deep voice, and in most life scenarios feel socially confident and competent to figure out what I need to do and get it done, I am personally mild mannered, introspective, and not aggressive by default. Also, since leaving my teenage years, my sexual appetites feel like they’ve leveled out and are a lot less than they were. (That’s what gets me the most, still being early on in my twenties.) Once again, not sure how much of this is psychological rather than strictly hormonal, even though those are mutually related facets of behavior. The majority of the time, if I’ve slept and eaten well, most days I feel strong and healthy, but it’s more of a calm and pleasant feeling of latent confidence, definitely not some kind of sex-crazed aggression, even though I guess it would tend toward both of those things depending on the situation.

    Out of curiosity if nothing else, I’m thinking about seeing an endocrinologist, but what would you all say from your own life experience and what you’ve seen and heard?

    Thanks!

    --

    Tl;dr, is a high level of free testosterone necessary for gaining a lot of lean mass? If so, how are women able to do this?

    Can high testosterone coexist with a calmer personality and low/moderate libido, or is this necessarily a sign of low T?
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    From my very limited understanding of testosterone, I believe it has more to do with the base level of muscle mass you start with, and to a lesser extent the rate of which you can gain. Also, it's harder from a physiological and physical standpoint in terms of creating as much stimulus for someone who suffers from low testosterone as one with normal or high testosterone due to the side effects of suffering from low testosterone.

    Hopefully, someone with a better base of knowledge on the subject can clear that up and give you a deeper understanding (as well as myself).

    I do know that overall it is harder from someone suffering from low testosterone to put on muscle mass, but I think it has more to do with the lack of motivation, sense of well-being, anxiety, rate of recovery, etc that you experience when you have low T. I also know for a fact that you can make adequate gains, despite low testosterone.
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    REMAIN INDOORS SuffolkPunch's Avatar
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    The way I understand it, not really.

    Women have very low T levels but they can hypertrophy just fine - I know it's less in absolute terms - but their muscles are smaller so it's actually quite similar amounts of growth in proportional terms.

    I'ts possible that unusually low T levels in a male could be a symptom of some other health condition which also puts the dampners on hypertrophy.

    One of the arguments against so-called natural T boosters is that there isn't really any evidence the small improvements in T levels really produce any extra growth. When you are on dat dere - the increases are massive - and that clearly does make a difference but that isn't possible without going full non-natty. So there is an association there but it's not as dramatic as some might think.

    There is a lot of nonsense talked about T levels and behaviour. What the misc fails to realise is that true alpha male behaviour doesn't always involve running around beating your chest. If you look at alpha gorillas for example, they are usually very tolerant of nonsense from other group members, especially babies who climb all over them and poke them and tease them without any response.

    A lot of aggression in society is probably more down to anxiety and feelings of isolation or social rejection rather than hormones. Young men have high T - but they also have a larger incidence of the aforementioned social issues too... That is another can of worms however.
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    Registered User Nicksosure1's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    The way I understand it, not really.

    Women have very low T levels but they can hypertrophy just fine - I know it's less in absolute terms - but their muscles are smaller so it's actually quite similar amounts of growth in proportional terms.

    I'ts possible that unusually low T levels in a male could be a symptom of some other health condition which also puts the dampners on hypertrophy.

    One of the arguments against so-called natural T boosters is that there isn't really any evidence the small improvements in T levels really produce any extra growth. When you are on dat dere - the increases are massive - and that clearly does make a difference but that isn't possible without going full non-natty. So there is an association there but it's not as dramatic as some might think.

    There is a lot of nonsense talked about T levels and behaviour. What the misc fails to realise is that true alpha male behaviour doesn't always involve running around beating your chest. If you look at alpha gorillas for example, they are usually very tolerant of nonsense from other group members, especially babies who climb all over them and poke them and tease them without any response.

    A lot of aggression in society is probably more down to anxiety and feelings of isolation or social rejection rather than hormones. Young men have high T - but they also have a larger incidence of the aforementioned social issues too... That is another can of worms however.
    I actually recall reading that people with low T also may exhibit aggressive behavior due to the moodiness, anxiety and irritability a lack of testosterone in men can cause. So I agree in that aggressiveness isn't really something someone should use as a gauge when trying to guess their own levels without a blood test.

    And really, there are a number of illnesses and disorders that can mimic or cause the same side effects of low T. And as mentioned before, said number of illnesses can drive down testosterone on its own. So it's really really hard to know if symptoms are a cause of low T, the effect of low T, or the effect of an illness, which causes your low T. All in all, when it comes down to it, to determine a problem you really NEED to see a doctor, and not assume one thing or the other. There are so many variables that come into play that effect hormones.

    Not saying you're trying to gauge it yourself OP, just throwing it out there.
    Last edited by Nicksosure1; 05-21-2020 at 10:29 AM.
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    I'm a natural female bodybuilder. I always was and I always will be a completely natural female bodybuilder/lifter. I just can't wait to get back into the damn gym and continue from where I left off- hitting some of my "best" numbers on many exercises. Hopefully soon enough...I miss that (personal) feeling of accomplishment!

    I think women need these things to develop a muscular physique: normal testosterone levels (within the normal threshold- no matter age), predominately fast-twitch muscle fibers, natural athletic ability (to an extent, due to intuition and body awareness playing a role in overall results), good muscle insertions (one example of genetics), mental fortitude/aggression (it's harder for women to build muscle mass), a positive mindset and knowledge of their own individual strengths, weaknesses and limitations (leads to self-efficacy...). Obviously, consistency over time is key, but there are certain women who can build a "muscular" V-taper and sculpt shapely hard/firm muscle naturally, in approximately a year or two, with hard strength training...and that's where fast-twitch muscle fibers, muscle insertions, and explosiveness come into play and make the difference, imho. Definition, even when starting out lean overall, is usually the last thing to come in.

    That's it. Did I mention I need to get back in the gym? It's been months...
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    Registered User Xpiro's Avatar
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    First of all, your preconceptions about what constitutes masculinity is largely socially conditioned as a means to perpetuate violent behavior which is allowed to flourish on the breeding grounds of insecurity related to not being "enough of a man." Which is sad, because this integral piece of Patriarchy is largely missed in favor of men simply assuming that a war against it is about women trying to dominate us or make us feel small or whatever (because I'm sure there are some guys who'll see the 'P' word and scoff), but if you take a deeper look, the cultural stereotype of masculinity is kind of like a prison, and you get thrown in pretty early in life. You start to worry about stuff like this, you think that your perfectly normal healthy human personality traits are somehow... wrong, somehow negatively related to your progress in lifting or just life.

    ANYWAY. I think that I can offer an interesting perspective: I'm a trans guy, and I've been on T for about a year and a half. I started gaining mass like a noob when I started, despite having been lifting for 4 years, and despite all other factors being identical: program, diet (though my TDEE increased over time), sleep. Gains slowed down after about 7 months. Keep in mind that the goal of hormone therapy is to get T levels up into a cisgender male range, not above and beyond (this is grape juice as opposed to wine). I have no doubt that going through male puberty in my late twenties made a huge chunk of my gains possible, but while my total T levels are on the high end of what's normal, no value for free T is listed on my bloodwork charts so that piece is still something I'm really curious about. Does the fact that my body doesn't produce (much) testosterone naturally mean that I have less potential in the long run similar to that of a past self? Seems unlikely; transitioning certainly made a difference, but most of that happened early on, so I wonder if it was the sudden influx of the hormone that spearheaded it and the rest is less dependent on hormones than it is on other behavioral factors. But I know that guys who don't lift who stop taking T for whatever reason lose muscle mass in the de-transitioning process. Interesting stuff...
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    Originally Posted by Xpiro View Post
    First of all, your preconceptions about what constitutes masculinity is largely socially conditioned as a means to perpetuate violent behavior which is allowed to flourish on the breeding grounds of insecurity related to not being "enough of a man." Which is sad, because this integral piece of Patriarchy is largely missed in favor of men simply assuming that a war against it is about women trying to dominate us or make us feel small or whatever (because I'm sure there are some guys who'll see the 'P' word and scoff), but if you take a deeper look, the cultural stereotype of masculinity is kind of like a prison, and you get thrown in pretty early in life. You start to worry about stuff like this, you think that your perfectly normal healthy human personality traits are somehow... wrong, somehow negatively related to your progress in lifting or just life.

    ANYWAY. I think that I can offer an interesting perspective: I'm a trans guy, and I've been on T for about a year and a half. I started gaining mass like a noob when I started, despite having been lifting for 4 years, and despite all other factors being identical: program, diet (though my TDEE increased over time), sleep. Gains slowed down after about 7 months. Keep in mind that the goal of hormone therapy is to get T levels up into a cisgender male range, not above and beyond (this is grape juice as opposed to wine). I have no doubt that going through male puberty in my late twenties made a huge chunk of my gains possible, but while my total T levels are on the high end of what's normal, no value for free T is listed on my bloodwork charts so that piece is still something I'm really curious about. Does the fact that my body doesn't produce (much) testosterone naturally mean that I have less potential in the long run? Seems unlikely, but transitioning certainly made a difference. Most of that happened early on, so I wonder if it was the sudden influx of the hormone that spearheaded it rather than the end result. Although, I know that guys who don't lift who stop taking T for whatever reason lose muscle mass in the de-transitioning process. Interesting stuff...
    So you're a woman who became a man who has answered a question regarding testosterone to push a feminist agenda while feeling you have the knowledge to speak about masculinity ? Lol
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    Reminder: this is not the Misc.

    I will lock this up if it descends into Ad Hominems
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    Originally Posted by safcpaul View Post
    So you're a woman who became a man who has answered a question regarding testosterone to push a feminist agenda while feeling you have the knowledge to speak about masculinity ? Lol
    Cute.
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    Originally Posted by Xpiro View Post
    First of all, your preconceptions about what constitutes masculinity is largely socially conditioned as a means to perpetuate violent behavior which is allowed to flourish on the breeding grounds of insecurity related to not being "enough of a man." Which is sad, because this integral piece of Patriarchy is largely missed in favor of men simply assuming that a war against it is about women trying to dominate us or make us feel small or whatever (because I'm sure there are some guys who'll see the 'P' word and scoff), but if you take a deeper look, the cultural stereotype of masculinity is kind of like a prison, and you get thrown in pretty early in life. You start to worry about stuff like this, you think that your perfectly normal healthy human personality traits are somehow... wrong, somehow negatively related to your progress in lifting or just life.

    ANYWAY. I think that I can offer an interesting perspective: I'm a trans guy, and I've been on T for about a year and a half. I started gaining mass like a noob when I started, despite having been lifting for 4 years, and despite all other factors being identical: program, diet (though my TDEE increased over time), sleep. Gains slowed down after about 7 months. Keep in mind that the goal of hormone therapy is to get T levels up into a cisgender male range, not above and beyond (this is grape juice as opposed to wine). I have no doubt that going through male puberty in my late twenties made a huge chunk of my gains possible, but while my total T levels are on the high end of what's normal, no value for free T is listed on my bloodwork charts so that piece is still something I'm really curious about. Does the fact that my body doesn't produce (much) testosterone naturally mean that I have less potential in the long run similar to that of a past self? Seems unlikely; transitioning certainly made a difference, but most of that happened early on, so I wonder if it was the sudden influx of the hormone that spearheaded it and the rest is less dependent on hormones than it is on other behavioral factors. But I know that guys who don't lift who stop taking T for whatever reason lose muscle mass in the de-transitioning process. Interesting stuff...
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    @ Xpiro: I hope I'm not stepping out of line. I just want to say your perspective IS interesting and different, and it must have taken a lot courage for you to make a decision like this. I can't even imagine making a decision like this. I'm sure you know many people won't be able to relate or empathize. But if you are happy in your own skin, then that's all that matters.
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    Thanks. I realize that /I/ may have stepped out of line in the context of this thread, but ultimately (in the second half of my post) I wanted to bring to the table something that I really wish could help inspire the nonexistent studies, should more trans weight lifters come forward, that would examine the role of testosterone in strength and hypertrophy using variables beyond the binary.
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    Originally Posted by Xpiro View Post
    Thanks. I realize that /I/ may have stepped out of line in the context of this thread, but ultimately (in the second half of my post) I wanted to bring to the table something that I really wish could help inspire the nonexistent studies, should more trans weight lifters come forward, that would examine the role of testosterone in strength and hypertrophy using variables beyond the binary.
    Crazy how we already have a solid empirical grasp of how the endocrine system functions in men and women.
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    I'd still be interested to see studies examining how the endocrine systems unique to /trans/ men and women impact things like bodybuilding, but I've yet to find any.

    Edit: Thinking about it, maybe I wasn't clear... I wonder about the increase and speed of gains I experienced when my hormone levels settled into male ranges, and what that implies about the difference between non-trans bodybuilders (and between us). It's not as though we often get to see a near complete reversal of hormone profiles in the same person with training and recovery protocols remaining static. Was it the initial surge of testosterone that brought me up to a certain baseline? Upper body in particular: my bench press increased the fastest, most consistently, most drastically and for a longer stretch of time as opposed my squat for instance. I ate at maintenance the entire time so my weight mostly remained the same, but I shouldn't have been able to recomp that quickly at my body fat % and level of training experience.
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    Originally Posted by Xpiro View Post
    I'd still be interested to see studies examining how the endocrine systems unique to /trans/ men and women impact things like bodybuilding, but I've yet to find any.

    Edit: Thinking about it, maybe I wasn't clear... I wonder about the increase and speed of gains I experienced when my hormone levels settled into male ranges, and what that implies about the difference between non-trans bodybuilders (and between us). It's not as though we often get to see a near complete reversal of hormone profiles in the same person with training and recovery protocols remaining static. Was it the initial surge of testosterone that brought me up to a certain baseline? Upper body in particular: my bench press increased the fastest, most consistently, most drastically and for a longer stretch of time as opposed my squat for instance. I ate at maintenance the entire time so my weight mostly remained the same, but I shouldn't have been able to recomp that quickly at my body fat % and level of training experience.
    Have long have you been training?

    We can all understand how complicated this topic must be. I wonder how or when they would conduct scientific testing (?).

    It just makes sense that higher and/or different androgens levels would help with more rapid and larger strength gains, development and faster recovery- especially concerning upper body strength. I'm almost certain you were predominantly fast-twitch muscle fiber (to a large degree) before these hormonal changes, so that would be a factor as well. But I'm no scientific expert on this topic or on laboratory studies.
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    I've been lifting for 5 years, and a little over 3 and a half years when I started taking T. I've off-and-on run steady state for about 10 years, and "power" walked miles per day consistently for longer than that, so wouldn't I have built up a lot of slow-twitch fibers? I was built before testosterone but not... fine tuned or necessarily big relative to my frame. More but not too much body fat definitely, a lot of which I lost from my lower body within the first few months resulting in a more masculine shape (super cool recomp to see happening!)

    Trans men are largely invisible in society especially relative to trans women for a myriad reasons.. so I can't see the research happening any time soon, especially as it concerns only a small aubset of us. But maybe some day.
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    Higher test vs lower I’ve never noticed a difference in Hypertrophy, when my ex was running crazy amounts it was like 24/7 pms and mad muscle cramps
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    1stUncle fought Sugar Ray etet1919's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Xpiro View Post
    I've been lifting for 5 years, and a little over 3 and a half years when I started taking T. I've off-and-on run steady state for about 10 years, and "power" walked miles per day consistently for longer than that, so wouldn't I have built up a lot of slow-twitch fibers? I was built before testosterone but not... fine tuned or necessarily big relative to my frame. More but not too much body fat definitely, a lot of which I lost from my lower body within the first few months resulting in a more masculine shape (super cool recomp to see happening!)

    Trans men are largely invisible in society especially relative to trans women for a myriad reasons.. so I can't see the research happening any time soon, especially as it concerns only a small aubset of us. But maybe some day.
    HI Xpiro. I just want to make it clear I'm not a trans person- just a woman who's been training for about 15 years. I've done all sorts of training- everything from competitive gymnastics, to CrossFit (short period), natural bodybuilding, powerlifting (my own version), and different types of conditioning (i.e.;ballet/dance, steady-state cardio/middle distance running, LISS, HIIT, HIT, jump rope, etc.) I may only be qualified to give you my belief on the role steady state cardio plays, complemented with hard weight training. And I don't believe you lose fast twitch muscle fibers while doing reasonable amounts of steady state CV training. How can you if you're consistently lifting heavy weight (relative to body weight)? If you were "built" as a woman, then that means you are predominately fast-twitch muscle fiber. You need those explosive fast-twitch fibers to lift heavy weight so you can develop a more muscular build (it's harder for a natural woman).

    Long-distance CV training (marathons, triathlons, long-distance swimming and biking, lacrosse- to name a few) use mainly slow-twitch muscle fibers, so "full" muscular development is limited or not trained, in both sexes. But it sounds like you were practicing steady state CV training to develop STAMINA (which is helpful in lifting), and not "eliminating" the number of fast twitch fibers you inherited. That's my take on it, in general.

    I hope I was able to offer you some insight. You must have a million questions, but I don't know if anyone on this forum can offer you firsthand personal knowledge with this. That I don't know.


    Edit: Thank you, SP, for allowing me to try to answer some of Xpiro's questions, and to try to be of help.
    ^^ It's true, my first-generation uncle was a boxer who fought Sugar Ray Robinson! He also fought in the war, sacrificing the career he deeply loved, so people could have the right to freedom.

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    Back to the OP, the way I read that post is "I feel perfectly normal, I have no physical or social issues to speak of, and I don't feel the need to get into fights or become a sexual deviant. Does this mean I have low T?"
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    Interesting content above. Thanks for all the feedback.


    Originally Posted by ElrondHubbard View Post
    Back to the OP, the way I read that post is "I feel perfectly normal, I have no physical or social issues to speak of, and I don't feel the need to get into fights or become a sexual deviant. Does this mean I have low T?"
    That's not far off the mark, yes (omitting nuance and the other question, of course). The way that high testosterone is colloquially understood to be manifest (being annoyingly arrogant, belligerent by default, and "sexually deviant" as you say) doesn't seem to align with my own personal experience, hence my question of whether or not those behaviors are primarily psychological rather than hormonal (which is what SuffolkPunch seemed to be saying). However, many of the traits associated with low testosterone would seem to apply (or perhaps be falsely ascribed) to someone who is simply more docile or quiet, so part of my question is whether or not these are indelibly linked. I.e., if you're high T, will you necessarily not be that way?
    Last edited by EliKoehn; 05-25-2020 at 06:42 PM.
    I am actually 23

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    Originally Posted by etet1919 View Post
    HI Xpiro. I just want to make it clear I'm not a trans person- just a woman who's been training for about 15 years. I've done all sorts of training- everything from competitive gymnastics, to CrossFit (short period), natural bodybuilding, powerlifting (my own version), and different types of conditioning (i.e.;ballet/dance, steady-state cardio/middle distance running, LISS, HIIT, HIT, jump rope, etc.) I may only be qualified to give you my belief on the role steady state cardio plays, complemented with hard weight training. And I don't believe you lose fast twitch muscle fibers while doing reasonable amounts of steady state CV training. How can you if you're consistently lifting heavy weight (relative to body weight)? If you were "built" as a woman, then that means you are predominately fast-twitch muscle fiber. You need those explosive fast-twitch fibers to lift heavy weight so you can develop a more muscular build (it's harder for a natural woman).

    Long-distance CV training (marathons, triathlons, long-distance swimming and biking, lacrosse- to name a few) use mainly slow-twitch muscle fibers, so "full" muscular development is limited or not trained, in both sexes. But it sounds like you were practicing steady state CV training to develop STAMINA (which is helpful in lifting), and not "eliminating" the number of fast twitch fibers you inherited. That's my take on it, in general.

    I hope I was able to offer you some insight. You must have a million questions, but I don't know if anyone on this forum can offer you firsthand personal knowledge with this. That I don't know.


    Edit: Thank you, SP, for allowing me to try to answer some of Xpiro's questions, and to try to be of help.
    Hey, I appreciate the insight nonetheless. Said insight and experience regarding training is scarce in the tans community and medical field, so it's all about piecing together knowledge on that topic, endocrinology, and anecdotal experience to figure it all out.

    I wasn't concerned about losing fast-twitch fibers, but I didn't know that women naturally have more of those! I would think that men should have more, so that's interesting. As for slow-twitch development, I can run faster now, if only by a few minutes per mile. But this is after a 2-year long or so hiatus.

    Another common complaint among trans guys is an increased incidence of soreness and a need to stretch, and I definitely came down with a lot more (relatively minor) injuries and feel a lot more "fragile" in a way than before. I've read that something similar happens to guys who take steroids due to the sudden increase in mass within a time frame that the joints and tendons can't keep up with... it would make sense then, given my frame size.

    A double-thanks to Suffolk for letting us...hijack this thread, lol.
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    1stUncle fought Sugar Ray etet1919's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Xpiro View Post
    Hey, I appreciate the insight nonetheless. Said insight and experience regarding training is scarce in the tans community and medical field, so it's all about piecing together knowledge on that topic, endocrinology, and anecdotal experience to figure it all out.

    I wasn't concerned about losing fast-twitch fibers, but I didn't know that women naturally have more of those! I would think that men should have more, so that's interesting. As for slow-twitch development, I can run faster now, if only by a few minutes per mile. But this is after a 2-year long or so hiatus.

    Another common complaint among trans guys is an increased incidence of soreness and a need to stretch, and I definitely came down with a lot more (relatively minor) injuries and feel a lot more "fragile" in a way than before. I've read that something similar happens to guys who take steroids due to the sudden increase in mass within a time frame that the joints and tendons can't keep up with... it would make sense then, given my frame size.

    A double-thanks to Suffolk for letting us...hijack this thread, lol.
    Hi Xpiro! Of course men have more fast twitch muscle fibers than women. That's how they lift more weight. And the same applies to women that can lift heavier and build a more muscular physique: they inherited more fast twitch muscle fibers (explosiveness) to be able do so.

    Same applies to female Olympic (or track) 100m sprinters vs. marathon runners, as you already know. The difference is in the ability, and the results follow.

    There are plenty of men who are more slow twitch dominant- they usually take up triathalons, long distance running, biking, etc... They are also in the gym lifting, same as many more women nowadays. But the results will be different (smaller muscle size), as well as overall weight lifted in many cases, for both sexes (referring to natural lifters). Sorry if I sound like a KIN 201 (?) class...lol. I'm positive you already know this!



    Edit to stay on topic: Nutrition? Eat more lean red meat and complete protein. It's important for building and maintaining muscle, imo.
    Last edited by etet1919; 05-27-2020 at 03:36 AM.
    ^^ It's true, my first-generation uncle was a boxer who fought Sugar Ray Robinson! He also fought in the war, sacrificing the career he deeply loved, so people could have the right to freedom.

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    Vitruvian physique guy just did a video on different testosterone levels and overall looks. Can't post a link yet, but it is the latest video and conclusion is that testosterone doesn't affect muscle building nearly as much as it is believed (if it is within the normal range).
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