Testosterone for Bodybuilding: Good or Bad?

Testosterone for Bodybuilding: Good or Bad? Do testosterone supplements help you achieve your bodybuilding goals? Or can you develop some sculpted washboard abs and bulging biceps without having to resort to testosterone boosters?

We ask because a friend of this blog is worried that her husband is hurting himself by injecting testosterone for bodybuilding purposes. Here’s what she wrote us:

Do bodybuilders like hubby have to take supplements like testosterone boosters? I think Paul is fit and healthy but his friends at the gym sold him to the idea that he must – MUST – use these supplements to go up the next level. I’ve argued with him that its not necessary, even mentioned that I have no reason to complain in bed, but his gym rat friends seem to have more sway. I’m worried sick that he’s actually making himself unhealthy by taking in these testosterone for bodybuilding supplements. Am I right or am I over reacting?

To help our friend with her dilemma, we decided to seek out what medical professionals are saying about whether using testosterone for bodybuilding is a good or a bad idea.

Probably the most helpful thing we found is the conclusion reached by Brodsky IG1, Balagopal P, and Nair KS who did a research on the effects of testosterone replacement on muscle mass and muscle protein synthesis in hypogonadal men. So what did they find out? Well, they concluded that “testosterone replacement in hypogonadal men enhanced skeletal muscle mass by stimulating the muscle protein synthesis rate”. [Source: PubMed]

So for men who are diagnosed with hypogonadism, testosterone supplements have been found to be helpful in bodybuilding. However, this research conclusion should not be extended to mean that such supplements are also good or necessary for otherwise normal guys who want to bulk up.

Surely Arnold Schwarzenegger needed no testosterone supplements to become Mr. Universe, no? Or did he?

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Yin, an endocrinologist at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, confirms in an interview with sfgate that “testosterone can help increase muscle mass in a much faster fashion”. However, he also warns against its negative side effects: “Testosterone use can lead to a number of undesirable effects, whether it’s used for therapeutic purposes or in situations such as this. There are certainly potential benefits, if you can call them that. But testosterone has those negative points too.”

testosterone for bodybuilding good or bad

What exactly are these undesirable side effects? We made a list in an earlier post (see: Testosterone Booster Side Effects] but the sfgate has more:

But the side effects can be brutal, especially because testosterone must be given regularly over a long period of time to be effective. Side effects include liver damage, unsafe cholesterol levels, and heart and circulatory problems. Testosterone abuse may affect the prostate and cause cancer, as well.

Men who chronically abuse testosterone may experience effects that would seem to be contrary to the hormone’s purpose, including breast development, shrunken testicles and infertility.

And the side effects may not end there. Most of the known risks associated with testosterone use come from clinical trials applying the hormone for medical treatment, or from anecdotal evidence among athletes. It would be unethical for researchers to attempt a scientific study of steroid abuse in athletes, which means the full range of side effects is unknown.

Lastly, here’s a video of Dr. Justin Saya of Defy Medical stating the differences between the use of testosterone for hormone replacement therapy and for bodybuilding.

Essentially, he notes that testosterone for HRT is meant to bring testosterone levels within normal range. On the other hand, what bodybuilders ask for are above normal range (superphysiologic) which they do not condone and which is not the goal of hormone replacement therapy.

Says Dr. Saya: “More is less in this regard. When you start getting too high, you start shutting things down. You run into side effects, you run into problems and those are things we don’t want to deal with. And it’s not good for your body or your health.”

Testosterone for Bodybuilding: Good or Bad? posted 16 February 2015. Updated 27 April 2017.