Our intent was to (a) characterize weekly changes in resting testosterone (T), cortisol (C), and the T:C ratio in males during an intensive endurance training program, and (b) determine if clinical androgen deficiency (AD) based upon T-level criteria developed.
An 18-week training program in which individual training volume (km/week) increased at 25% increments over baseline (BL) levels observed prior to the study beginning at 4-week intervals throughout the first 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, the volume was reduced to that of the first 4 weeks until the study end (week 18). Competitive performance running tests were assessed at BL and every 4 weeks, while blood T and C were assessed weekly.
Performance improved from BL at weeks 4–16 (p < 0.01). T was reduced (p < 0.01) from BL at weeks 3, and 5–18. The greatest reduction from BL was at week 13, subsequently T returned toward BL at week 18. C was highly variable, and no significant changes from BL were noted. The T:C ratio at weeks 5, 6, and 8–16 was significantly less than at BL (p < 0.01), the greatest reduction at week 13. The T:C ratio values also returned toward BL by week 18. Finally, ∼50% of the subjects reached T levels to be classified as AD.
Sports scientists should recognize decreases in T or T:C ratio is not always indicative of compromised competitive performance potential. Clinicians should be aware increased training loads can lead to AD in men.