ATC 331: Does Lifestyle Affect T More than Increasing Age? Plus: Newbie Triathletes Gettin’ The Run Done, and Female Athlete Heart Rate Considerations

August 27, 2021


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Intro Banter

Tawnee and Lucho catch up on their current training—Lucho is in the thick of pursuing his Ironman training with 20 hrs a week of training, still including plenty of strength training, and transitioning out of base training already. Meanwhile Tawnee has cut back to low volume and is switching it up to more focusing on fitness for health and workouts that complement busy momlife.

Richard asks:

Help for middle-aged male with low-T, high-E woes

Hi, I am a 47-year-old male endurance athlete and I recently confirmed what I thought to be true—I have low T, estrogen dominance and high cortisol. My doctor hasn’t been able to help me for these issues in the past (because here I am with the same problems!), so I’m seeking your advice for a couple reasons:

  1. What kind of practitioner or coach should I hire for this? I know you guys can’t give me personal medical advice but could you point me in the right direction?
  2. I’m nearing 50 and I’m sure that makes fixing this more difficult but not impossible, so, what lifestyle, exercise and diet/supplement tips do you have for me? (I know Tawnee is good with holistic health and nutrition advice, whereas Lucho is a master of all and can speak from experience as a dude around the same age—how does he do it?!)
  3. Fasting or no fasting? Keto or no keto? I’ve tried both these techniques before—like, I went all in—but, again, here I am in the same mess.

I do want to note that I’ve cut back on my endurance training and racing over the past year, and am doing more HIIT type exercise these days + lifting, but is the damage done and is it too late? Also, I am almost always super tired and flat feeling (sometimes wired usually before bed), and have excess body fat in all the wrong places, despite my best efforts. I have a demanding, stressful, on-my-feet job and can’t just sit around meditating, sleeping in or relaxing like a probably need to be. Thanks!

What the coaches say:

Lucho’s T experience

    • Lucho shares experience in how he’s maintained normal T levels as an endurance athlete male approaching 50.
    • He has no symptoms of low T despite.
    • Personality type helps Lucho build and maintain healthy T.
    • Gravitates towards hard, heavy, painful workouts and he tends to shy away from chronic aerobic exercise these days.
    • He has been incredibly consistent over time, and knows his baseline to keep a good homeostasis. May slip up here and there but can return to the baseline where he thrives.
    • But (and a big but) Lucho also has a work-from-home job with major flexibility!

Lifestyle and T

    • With T, context matters!
    • Multiple profiles of men with low T, it varies a lot so know who you’re dealing with before making recommendations.
    • First address the lifestyle and underlying root causes.
    • HIIT and heavy strength help, but can’t just go all in and do too much if body is already very worn down and struggling with immense stressors.
    • Recent ep with Brock had good recommendations of training in pursuit of health with exercise for health recommendations.
    • What type and amount of exercise will help all depends on the person’s presentation and lifestyle factors

“T” take-homes:

  1. Age is not a guaranteed risk factor for Low T.
  2. Co-morbidities are more well established to affect T, so be extra mindful of your foundation of health! In particular: inflammatory issues, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, CV disease, sleep apnea, autoimmune issues, prostate disease, cognitive disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, opioid use, etc.
  3. Check often if you suspect T issues (T can fluctuate acutely).
  4. Check SHBG – starts to gradually rise around age 30, and this binds to T to make it inactive. 
  5. Check estrogen levels and aromatase enzyme—aromatase is an enzyme responsible for the biosynthesis of estrogens, or conversion of androgens (T) to estrogens.
  6. Association between lifestyle and low T is HUGE—this includes gut, stress (physical stress, emotional stress), poor sleep, exercise choices, excess alcohol consumption, chronic inflammation even in athletes, and so on.
  7. Check root causes before starting meds or hormone replacement therapies.
  8. High cortisol can contribute to an upregulation of aromatase, converting T to E.

Aromatase increases with and adds to excess estrogen by:

  • high alcohol
  • low zinc
  • Insulin resistance
  • Inflammation
  • obesity
  • stress
  • leptin
  • aging


  • Look at your life more holistically and don’t latch onto a “quick fix” expecting that’ll save you.
  • Have a functional doctor run a gamut of tests to investigate all possible root causes that is causing T to plummet; check for:
    • Hypothyroidism- check full thyroid panel
    • Gut issues, malabsorption
    • Zinc deficiency
    • Sleep deprivation
    • Phthalates!!! And environ toxins, endocrine disruptors


  • Mitochondrial support via diet:
    • quality and high protein – up to 1g/lb/bodyweight
    • low glycemic foods
    • colorful foods- very common for this to be lacking in busy men’s diet 
    • antioxidants
  • Micronutrients/Supps:
    • detox support (glutathione, NAC), zinc, Vit C, Selenium, B complex, Mg
  • Instead of going straight from stressor to stressor try healing practicies like:
    • Sauna
    • Remove environ toxins (eg glass over plastic)
    • Cold therapy – daily cold water immersion even shower

T therapies?

  • Testosterone replacement therapy only once you’ve exhausted and addressed all other issues involving lifestyle, diet, stress, etc. 

Koby asks:

Longtime athlete, newby triathlete- help on running, priorities and more!

Good afternoon, I am 32 years old and 6’2 215lbs. I keep in solid physical shape and a well-rounded athlete. My background is basketball and tennis in high school and college so my cardio has always been more sprint based. I still play tennis 3-4 times a week and a few other niche sports to get my competitive fix. 4 months ago I got into hot power yoga as well to work on flexibility and for the challenge.

So I recently decided to start training in for a 70.3 in October “with absolutely 0 swimming or running intelligence” because I am always looking for new challenges. I am 2 months into my training and have a few sprint tris to get my feet wet. I have reached the point where the swim and bike is a non-issue as far as completing the 70.3 in a  respectable time for me.

The run has been a huge issue. My calves were cramping after only a few minutes on runs which was embarrassing. I did some research and got a gait analysis and have worked on changing my rhythm and contact point which has helped soooo much but I still don’t have the endurance that I would want. My current plan has me doing a recovery swim on Monday then a long swim, a long run, a short run, 2 days of short bikes, and 1 long bike ride a week. With some weight lifting in there as well.

1)      Am I doing too much? I don’t want to give up tennis since it is my true passion.

2)      If I am doing too much any advice on how to rearrange or prioritize my week to get my run cardio and muscles to catch up?

What the coaches say:

  • Stop doing concentric calf raises.
  • Maybe replace one of the short bikes with a run for 3 runs a week instead of just two:
    • 2 x 5-6 miles a week, this is about a good short run distance for 70.3 training;
    • plus a long run 1x per week of 13-17miles.
  • Don’t have to sacrifice tennis.
  • Weight lifting can be cut down; ditch one session, replace with another run or rest.
  • T runs: the difference of completing vs competing to win. How many you do depends on how competitive you want to be. Do enough to at least feel comfortable and familiar with the feel of a T run.
  • Don’t discount the quality that tennis brings to training even if not specific.
  • Tennis is refreshing cross training in a way. 
  • For many of us: Stop focusing on just the last 3% as an amateur who’s just in it to complete… in this case for most of us will benefit from ALL activity including non-specific crosstraining.
  • Be sure to do 1-2 big days before the real big day. Check out Joe Friel’s Big Day training workout outline.

Shoshana asks:

ATC 330  followup – were you to quick to dismiss listener question on gender difference?

Hi Tawnee,

Love your show, especially your episodes with Lucho. As an aging and once elite runner, I have been watching my HR drop at the same effort with each passing year. This led me down the path of researching things like resting HR, where I discovered that the female resting HR is actually higher than their equivalent age/health male.

So, when your listener asked about the 180 minus your age formula and you  were quick to say there is no reason that gender would impact this, I wonder if you too quickly went into defensive mode (thinking he was implying women were weaker). Perhaps the one size fits all MAF formula is just another example of women being treated as small men?  If the female resting HR tends to run slightly higher, why wouldn’t their MAF range be just slightly higher too?

I would love for you to revisit on your next ATC show!


  • In this question, we are discussing MAF thus speaking to a singular methodology, not general science.
  • The 180 Formula
    • Wasn’t designed with max or resting heart rates.
    • Was designed based on metabolic principles to aid in fat burning. 
  • Other methods are based on more cardio-based criteria to build zone (eg LT, MHR).
  • Gender plays a role, but:
    • It goes further than that, it’s based on unique individuals.
    • It’s a person-based methodology, not gender based.
  • Will a higher resting HR impact MAF zones? Possibly but not guaranteed, so this is may be a mute point for some, though not for others.
  • According to Maffetone, RHR may decrease for all populations with ongoing MAF training.
  • When does RHR come up?
    • RHR can be used as a marker of recovery, and monitoring it to note any changes against the normal trends, eg RHR may go up if not recovering well or overstressed.
  • Try! If you need to adjust your MAF HR to best serve you then give it a shot! Note its affect on your fitness, recovery, etc.
  • Bottom line: individualizing is important and ok to do to reap most gains from training while still minding recovering and health.
  • Keep it simple! … Except when you don’t see results…
    • Then it can get more tricky and you may have to look elsewhere than just the training and HRs during training, eg looking at health, diet, etc… uncover the roadblocks.
  • More resources: Maffetone addresses women’s higher RHR in this articleThis is another interesting article by him in response to a study saying women’s max HR were lower than men’s.

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