Natural bodybuilding vs. enhanced bodybuilding while cutting yield significantly different outcomes.
Even just TRT is not the equivalent of being a natural, even if your Testosterone levels are in the therapeutic “natural” range.
I saw a bodybuilder who posted his bloodwork while he was preparing for a competition, and it was super insightful into the effects intense dieting has on the body because he's a natural athlete.
His blood work showed the massive impact a steep calorie deficit and restricting yourself for months on end will actually have on your Testosterone levels.
Natural Testosterone Level
Your natural Testosterone level could be anywhere between 250 to 1000 ng/dL, depending on the reference range.
The reference range in this specific individuals' blood work was 250 to 1100 ng/dL.
His blood work was tested at Quest Diagnostics, which is a really well-known and reputable testing facility.
He went out of his way to just show everyone what his blood work was so we could see exactly what it actually takes to get shredded for a competition as a natural athlete, and the impact it has on your hormonal profile.
If you're hypogonadal, or you just take TRT for other reasons, you're probably using it to stay on the high end of the natural reference range of 250 to 1100 ng/dL.
Most guys will say being on TRT is the equivalent of being natural, and that they just have to use the TRT to achieve that because they can't endogenously produce it otherwise.
Maybe while you're bulking, this might be the case occasionally.
But when you're cutting, there's undoubtedly a massive performance enhancing advantage that is often not taken into account.
Natural Bodybuilding Vs. Enhanced Bodybuilding While Cutting Hormone Levels
Let's just say your TRT puts you at 900 ng/dL and you have a natural who happens to be genetically gifted and is also at 900 ng/dL.
Now, let's take those same two individuals and put them in a steep calorie deficit with cardio and restrict the amount of food they need to sustain their body weight.
You're basically putting them in a state of energy restriction where their body is not getting what it needs to sustain itself.
Then, they're both in a calorie deficit for prolonged periods of time to achieve competition stage ready body fat percentage.
As a result of this, the natural's testosterone levels will plummet, whereas the guy on TRT stays at 900 ng/dL the entirety of his cut.
So, let's take this natural, Chris Elkins, as a perfect example.
Chris posted his bloodwork, and you can see here 250 to 1100 is the reference range.
His total testosterone was 43 ng/dL.
That's literally the equivalent of a girl.
His free testosterone is also far below the reference range.
Bioavailable, free, usable testosterone is the number we actually care about, but both of these are severely low regardless.
He's literally walking around with testosterone levels equivalent to a female while trying to prepare for a male bodybuilding competition.
View this post on Instagram
THE CONSEQUENCES OF ELITE CONDITIONING IN NATURAL BODYBUILDING . . I went to a local Wellness Mart and got a male hormone panel on Wednesday, the 3rd day of depletion before WNBF Worlds. I was at my most depleted, lightest and felt the worst I’ve felt so far in prep. I was very curious to know what my testosterone levels were at this point in prep as I was suffering and knew it was low but had no idea how low it was. . . You’ll have to zoom in to see the results. My total testosterone was at 43. Normal levels are from 250 to 1100 with the average being somewhere around 600 for my age. I have never in my life seen anyone else with 43. Unfortunately, as you get to essential levels of body fat your body shuts down or reduces production of testosterone because reproduction is no longer a necessity in a period of what equates to controlled starvation. Sex drive becomes non existent, energy levels tank, and it’s common to have mood swings. I could feel this happening in my body as I got leaner. As a natural athlete we’re not supplementing or injecting any exogenous hormones so this is something that happens with most natural athletes that push their body to the limit and why I also warn people about dieting to this level if they aren’t competing or even worse, trying to maintain this body fat. . . The good news is that I’m up 10 lbs from my lowest weight and I’m feeling much better. Mood and energy are ten times better. Libido is coming back. I plan to get tested again in a couple of months once I’m more recovered. In the past I’ve always bounced back pretty quickly so let’s hope that’s the case this time. . . Some interesting questions are; if the length of the diet played a role in this. I wasn’t overly aggressive until the very end yet still ended up here. How much did the depletion play a role in these numbers? How much would my levels increase if i was maintaining this body fat on maintenance calories? I also wonder what my levels were around 6 lbs over stage weight and when they really started to tank. I felt fairly good at 145 to 150 lbs (137.6 was my absolute lowest). . . Tag anyone that might find this relevant.
Then, let's take the guy on TRT, who claims that what he's doing is the equivalent to being natural.
We put them on the exact same diet, calorie restriction, intense level of cardio to get down to that body fat percentage.
His testosterone level by the end of it are still going to be 900 ng/dL versus the natural guys' 43 ng/dL.
Who do you think is going to sustain their lean tissue in the cut?
Is it going to be the guy who's walking around with testosterone levels equivalent to a girl, or the guy who has the exact same level of hormone optimization throughout the entirety of his cut?
You can start to see very quickly how there's a big misconception between what is really natural and what's not.
There's no way you could maintain a 900 to 1000 ng/dL testosterone level and be natural in a steep deficit trying to get to 5% body fat, it's just not possible.
There's obviously a performance enhancing advantage to TRT, even though it's just natural levels on paper.
I just wanted to put this misconception to rest.
This is a perfect example of somebody who cut down to to stage-ready body fat levels completely naturally, and what the process did to his hormone profile.
Natural bodybuilding vs. enhanced bodybuilding while cutting on TRT is not equivalent to one another, and that's just a fact.