CrossFit Masters: Mastering the Art of Staying Buff

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by KEN CLARK

CrossFit is continually giving us reasons why it is one of the best training programs for all-around fitness and health. Besides creating amazing athletes across all age groups and forging an unshakeable, close-knit community, for older male CrossFitters in particular, some of the reasons go far beyond just being fit: this is about a longer life and higher quality of life.

Older athletes face unique challenges as they strive to stay fit and competitive. Similar to younger athletes, they want continued muscle growth, increased strength, and stamina. But as we age, these desires can become more challenging to achieve and maintain. The key to meeting these challenges starts with understanding the hormone testosterone.

So…what is testosterone and what does it do for you?

Did you know? Women also have testosterone, but men produce 40-60 times more in their bodies.
Testosterone is an anabolic steroid hormone that most people associate with muscle building, sex drive, and aggressiveness.

What most people don’t know is that 1) testosterone plays a major role in metabolism, memory, & cognitive function, and 2) the presence of normal testosterone levels contributes to maintaining optimal weight as well as reducing risk of degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. An even more powerful hormone than you thought.

Check Your Testosterone Levels

In case you are wondering what your own testosterone levels are like, see if any of these symptoms of low testosterone apply to you.

Symptoms of Low Testosterone
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Reduced strength and endurance levels
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Sleep problems
Natural Ways to Increase Testosterone

Were you nodding your head looking at the list above? Now check out what lifestyle changes you can make to improve your testosterone levels on your own, without taking supplements:

…And where does CrossFit come into the equation?

Know your numbers: The bottom range of a man’s normal total testosterone level is 300 nanograms per deciLiter (ng/dL).
Interestingly — though not surprisingly — CrossFit workouts have the perfect structure for improving testosterone levels naturally. Studies show that one of the best ways of increasing testosterone is high-intensity exercise (CrossFit definitely fits the bill). The short intense workouts and heavy weight movements that are the foundation of CrossFit are the perfect prescription for increasing testosterone levels. Engaging large muscle groups using compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts & burpees (gotta love burpees!) are some of the best testosterone-boosting exercises. The duration of workouts should be short (5-30 minutes) and have very little rest periods between sets. Can you say “CrossFit”?

Now, lest we get too excited, let’s also add a word of caution: It is not recommended that you go into the box tomorrow and start throwing around huge amounts of weight that are beyond your normal abilities.

We must remember that if you want to increase the intensity of your workouts, it is good to start slowly and build up. For best results, and to reduce the possibility of injury, start with a moderate workout and then slowly increase the intensity as the weeks go by. (Note: Logging workouts can give you a idea of your progress and of how to improve across the many training domains that are part of CrossFit).

Studies have shown that overtraining actually significantly reduces testosterone levels for 1-4 days afterward! By the way, it doesn’t matter whether it is endurance or weight training — the lowering effects of overtraining on testosterone levels is the same.

So for my fellow Masters athletes, the story on staying buff is to be aware. Be conscious of how you feel before, during and after training. Know your training cycles and keep a record of your progress. CrossFit is an amazing tool in your bag if you use it correctly.

Tabata Tidbits: Extra Resources

“After age 30, most men begin to experience a gradual decline in testosterone. A decrease in sex drive sometimes accompanies the drop in testosterone, leading many men to mistakenly believe that their loss of interest in sex is simply due to getting older.” -WebMD
To learn more about this important topic, read more of what the experts have to say:

 “A Primal Primer: Testosterone” – Mark’s Daily Apple

Understand how testosterone is important to your body now and back to when you were in the womb, and get more specifics on how making changes in lifestyle, diet, and exercise can have a natural, positive impact on testosterone levels.

30 Days to a Better Man – Day 4: Increase Your Testosterone – The Art of Manliness

After an intro to the benefits of testosterone, the challenge posed is to pick 3 lifestyle changes (from a list of 9) that you can stick to for 30 days. A clear, readable piece.

Low & High Testosterone Levels

This article takes a more scientific approach to interpreting the number of a testosterone lab reading and explains both short- and long-term effects of low testosterone. Bonus: it includes research references to support claims.

Master’s athlete Ken Clark is a veteran CrossFitter at CrossFit Silicon Valley. He competed in the 2011 CrossFit Games in the Master’s 50-54 division after finishing 8th overall in the Open.

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