If I could go back in time, could I have achieved my current physique with only TRT dosages?
This will depend on a few factors.
It's becoming more and more common to see bodybuilders who are transitioning to a more health-conscious approach talk about how they can maintain their physique on very low dosages.
Some of them even preach that anyone using more than an HRT dosage of Testosterone is stupid, or using steroids before you turn 25 is idiotic, or that a low of a dose of androgens is all that is needed to achieve massive gains in muscle mass and every one in this day and age is using too much.
I realize that I've fallen into this trap to some extent because I frequently refer to my TRT regimen and elaborate on how I'm constantly trying to lower my dosage to achieve more optimized health markers.
I'm past the blasting phases of my life at this point.
I realize now that the way this message comes across can be a bit misguiding though, despite how transparent I am about exactly what I'm doing.
The fact is, most bodybuilders who have impressive physiques who “just use TRT” will constantly tell you about how low their dosage is and show off that they can retain such a great physique with therapeutic levels of androgens, but what they won't tell you is that it took them years of blasting supraphysiological amounts of androgens to actually build that foundation of muscle.
Genetics And Testosterone Levels
Is it possible to achieve my physique with just therapeutic TRT dosages or high-normal natural hormone production?
Short answer, yes, if you are genetically gifted.
Could I have achieved this same physique just by having a 800 ng/dL testosterone level year round since I started lifting?
My genetics are fairly average.
I have some body parts that are somewhat genetically gifted and others that are blatantly genetically lagging.
I'm also not a hyperresponder to androgens.
This is pretty typical, and puts me somewhere in the average genetic territory.
I'm not really an outlier on either side of the spectrum, I'm just pretty average.
I would assert that for another guy with average genetics, they would also not be able to build my level of a physique without exogenous hormones.
There are genetic outliers that will have a natural Testosterone level barely above mid-range and still have more muscle than me though.
This is purely the result of genetics.
In the process of building the physique that I currently have, I do think I overdid with some of the dosages I used.
Granted, what I took was nowhere near the realm of what would be considered high dosages by modern standards, but in hindsight knowing what I know now, it was more than I needed for my size.
For example, my first cycle was 500 mg of Testosterone Enanthate.
What Exactly Is “Therapeutic” TRT?
A popular topic of debate in the bodybuilding community is what really is a therapeutic dosage of Testosterone.
There are men using as much as 300 mg of Testosterone per week and claiming that it is still within the natural range, and there are men micro-dosing as low as 6 mg of Testosterone Propionate per day with an insulin pin to replicate natural endogenous secretions.
I'm sure there are some who use even less than that, and there are definitely men using more than that too, but this is the general range that I see most commonly in our community.
I've discussed this several times in the past and elaborated on the reasons why someone legitimately on accurately dosed Testosterone can administer upwards of 200 – 300 mg per week and still have Testosterone levels in range.
In almost all cases, an individual who has an in range Total Testosterone and Free Testosterone level simultaneously while using that much Testosterone is guilty of administering their Testosterone in large volumes infrequently (e.g. one shot per 7 – 10 days of 200 – 300 mg Testosterone Cypionate).
There are other less common scenarios where genetic polymorphisms can result in suboptimal sex hormone metabolism and massive amounts of aromatization or 5-alpha reduction, but the most common scenario is infrequent administration.
When these individuals get their blood drawn during a downswing of their hormones, they may get a test result showing that they're in the reference range, but the issue is that for a portion of time between their infrequent shots they actually had supraphysiological androgen levels, and unhealthy levels of aromatization.
In addition, most men who do get blood work still don't pay the extra money to get high sensitivity testing done (or aren't aware of LC/MS/MS testing to begin with), and instead go with the cheap assays that can be wildly inaccurate.
The following graph depicts Testosterone blood serum concentrations after administering a small dose of Testosterone in comparison to administering weekly TRT in one large bolus dose.
As you can see, the micro-dose group experienced a modest spike in hormone concentrations, with a more levelled off downswing as the hormone works its way out of the system, and the bolus dose group actually spikes their Testosterone and Estrogen level far above the therapeutic range for several days.
The end result of frequent micro-doses is ultimately the avoidance of this massive hormone spike, stable blood serum concentrations, and an accurate blood test result when it comes time to see where your Testosterone, Estrogen and DHT are actually at.
With a weekly bolus dose, you could be using far too high of a dosage and not even realize it, or too low of a dosage conversely if you are getting your blood test too close to your last bolus dose administration.
With bro-science bodybuilder TRT of 250 – 300 mg per week, yeah, I probably could have achieved this physique on just “TRT”.
However, that would not be representative of what true therapeutic TRT is in my opinion.
Natural Vs Enhanced Testosterone Levels
I believe the line of therapeutic dosages is crossed when your total testosterone exceeds 1100 ng/dL, or your free testosterone exceeds 250 pg/mL at any one point of the week.
The higher you go with those numbers above the reference range, the higher risk you are for developing cardiovascular disease.
Obviously this varies from lab to lab as they have wildly different reference ranges, but typically, the majority of labs will not have a reference range exceed 1100 ng/dL total testosterone and 250 pg/mL free testosterone.
I would venture to guess that there are very few naturals out there that walk around with 1100 ng/dL Testosterone levels.
A study conducted in 2017 evaluated the Testosterone levels of 9054 healthy nonobese men to determine a harmonized normal reference range in a healthy nonobese population of European and American men between 19 – 39 years old.
By extrapolating the data, I found that of the 1669 men 39 years or younger included in the data, only 5 of them had a Total Testosterone level that exceeded 1000 ng/dL [R].
None of them exceeded 1100 ng/dL, and the highest Testosterone level was in a man with a result of 1073 ng/dL.
For healthy men without obesity aged 19 – 39 years old, the researchers reported that the 50th percentile was 531 ng/dL, the 95th percentile was 852 ng/dL and the 97.5th percentile was 916 ng/dL.
The average male produces 3 to 10 mg of Testosterone per day with no ester attached to the molecule.
That's pure 3 to 10 mg of Testosterone per day.
Obviously, if you have 200 mg per week of Testosterone Enanthate, you have to account for the ester weight and how much bioavailable hormone is leftover after cleaving off the ester, which is approximately 140 mg.
If I had maybe the top end of that 3 to 10 mg of full usable Testosterone year-round, perhaps I could have gotten my physique now, but I don't think so.
Realistic Expectations For Your Hormone Profile
If I could go back in time, I would have used more reasonable and “safe” dosages for my first cycle, and each cycle thereafter.
I probably could have achieved what I have with far less, and as a result I likely would have experienced less side effects like hair loss.
I'm also not massive by any means.
I'm sitting at maybe 215 to 220 pounds right now at 10% body fat.
I can hold on to this much muscle with a therapeutic dosage of Testosterone well within the reference range.
Could I have built it with that same dosage in the reference range though?
I don't think so.
Another guy with better genetics could have, no doubt about that, but they would be a genetic outlier.
The majority of my muscle tissue was built during all those big bulk phases I did in my earlier 20's, and I essentially just maintain and refine it now.
I've used as much as 1.5 grams of total androgens per week for a short stint at my highest level of abuse.
I probably didn't even need 1/2 that much to achieve what I have now, but the fact remains that I simply could not be sitting at 215 – 220 lean with my genetics had I not done some of those blasts in my past.
There are probably quite a few naturals who watch my channel who have better physiques than me without even touching anything, but they are the minority, and this article is meant to clarify what was realistic for my own body and my own genetics.
I want to be transparent and not have young guys haphazardly jumping on TRT when they don't need to thinking that it will get them to the next level.
Fake Naturals Vs Fake TRT'ers
I feel like I should coin a new term to label the guys who lie about their hormone replacement therapy.
Fake naturals, or fake nattys is reserved for those who use steroids but lie about it entirely.
Fake TRT'ers (perhaps I'll come up with something more catchy than that at some point) are the guys who use supraphysiological amounts of androgens, or even high-normal amounts, and imply that they didn't need more than a young man's natural ballsack production to build their physique.
As the bodybuilding community starts to migrate away from getting as massive as possible and starts to favor more relatable, aesthetic physiques reminiscent of Frank Zane, as well as focus on health more, there are a number of individuals who will preach about all the good practices they have now, but will never talk about their past drug abuse.
If you see a fake TRT'er walking around at 240+ pounds lean who has transitioned from bodybuilding to a health conscious and longevity focused lifestyle, they will ramble on and on about how you need to be careful with your health, get such and such health markers checked, not take high dosages of hormones because they aren't necessary to build muscle, and so on.
What he's not going to tell you about is the 1000 – 3000 mg per week of gear he blasted in his past.
It's almost like a toned down version of guys being fake nattys and selling supplements to unknowing teenagers.
It's deluding people into having a skewed perception of what is realistic and what isn't.
I'm trying to put it out there in this article and just be as transparent as I can with you guys.
You probably know by now I'm more health-focused than I used to be, and it shows in my content.
I have become progressively more longevity focused, and far less focused on just building lots of muscle.
I often preach using the lowest dosage you can possibly get away with that yields results, not only because the body has counteracting mechanisms in place, but also for health reasons.
If you can gain 10 pounds of muscle using 300 mg of Testosterone per week and have acceptable blood work still, or you can gain 13 pounds of muscle using 600 mg of Testosterone per week and have horrible blood work, you can venture to guess which option I would choose now.
What I want to make abundantly clear though is that TRT is not supposed to be something that will enhance your current physique unless you are hypogonadal, or literally naturally deficient.
There are so many bodybuilders out there now preaching low dosages, preaching about how little they use while simultaneously walking around at 250+ pounds lean, preaching how they sustain what they have with just therapeutic TRT (me included), that I need to make clear that haphazardly going on TRT when you don't need it will not improve your physique, because replicating what your balls already produce naturally will not elevate your physique to an enhanced environment more conducive to building muscle.
Supraphysiological levels of muscle are built when the physique has a supraphysiological amount of hormones present.
Simply replicating a 800 ng/dL testosterone level with exogenous TRT will change nothing in your physique though if you already produce it naturally.
Regardless if your favorite fitness icon claims they only use _ dosage of Testosterone and they can hold all the muscle they built over their bodybuilding career, I assure you that they didn't get to 250 pounds shredded by using 70 mg of Testosterone Propionate per week.
Yes, they can probably just manage to hold onto it, but they sure as sh*t didn't build 100 pounds of muscle on their frame by synthetically replicating what a set of genetically gifted testicles is capable of naturally producing.
The point of therapeutic TRT is literally to maintain what you should be producing naturally as a young man, not to be on a mini-cycle year round intermittently week to week between infrequent administrations, and legitimate therapeutic levels shouldn't be misconstrued as something that will pack on supraphysiological blast-like amounts of muscle.
The Performance-Enhancing Advantage Of TRT
A lot of guys look at TRT like some enhancement practice to get to the next level.
If you're actually doing it the way it's intended to, it should just be replacing what has down-regulated over the years.
Obviously, when you're in a cutting phase, you're in a state of deprived energy, you will inevitably have a performance-enhancing advantage regardless if your levels are in the reference range simply due to the fact that your body being in a state of deprived energy does not impact blood serum concentrations achieved with exogenous injections of synthetic hormones, but that's besides the point.
In general (not in a cutting context), you shouldn't get a performance-enhancing advantage if you are a natural with high free testosterone and then you start pinning TRT just to achieve the same thing.
At that point, it doesn't make logical sense, and there's a lot of young guys with perfectly fine Testosterone production perceiving TRT like it's a full blown performance enhancement practice to gain lots of muscle.
To be clear, I'm not advocating blasting supraphysiological dosages of androgens, but I want to be clear about what is realistic and not to delude people when I talk about my TRT protocol.
I see comments all the time baffled that I use as little as I do and can sustain my physique.
The fact is, I didn't achieve my physique with baby amounts.
If you would like to explore this topic further, I strongly advise you check out the article I wrote regarding how much muscle mass different increments of Testosterone doses has shown to build.
This comparison took place in a clinical setting with controlled parameters, and compared 5 different increments of weekly Testosterone dosages against each other to determine exactly how much fat-free mass each dosage increment builds in young healthy men.
It is the best study to date that I am aware of that illustrates the dose-response relationship Testosterone has on the accrual of fat-free mass.