Cycling/bicycling is a natural way that can increase testosterone production if done right.
However, there are a few factors that will determine how beneficial or detrimental cycling will be.
Testosterone levels of cyclists
To see if cycling is good for testosterone, we have to look at the T levels of average and elite athletes (cyclists).
Average cyclists are people that do cycling recreationally without the intent of doing a competition or setting records. The training is usually low to moderate intensity.
Elite cyclists are those who’ve been training hard for 5 years or more and competing at a National level or higher.
The average testosterone of:
- 12 elite male cyclists (26.2 ± 6.3 years of age) are 11nmol/L (317ng/dl), which is hypogonadal (R).
- 22 professional mountain bikers aged 17-45 years were 614 ng/dl (R).
- 25 professional cyclists who participate in national and international competitions at a high level are 751.68±191.45 ng/dL vs 493.04±175.15 ng/dL of the general population (R).
- 22 elite cyclists who’ve been doing it for 13 years have an average testosterone of 17.4nmol/l (502ng/dl) (R).
- Elite cyclists doing the Tour of Spain had an average testosterone of around 500ng/dl on day 1 (R).
- 4 elite male track cycling athletes average age of 20.8 years had testosterone 16.9-19.8 nmol/L (487-571ng/dl) and varied luteinizing hormone (4-10 U/L) (R).
- 34 male experienced cyclists (49.1 age) were 20.8 ± 8.6 (600ng/dl) (R).
- 9 well-trained cyclists aged 25.6 ± 5.2 years with a training experience of 5-7 years were 390ng/dl (R).
- 6 athletes racing 160kg over Alaska 13.81nmol/L (398ng/dl) (R).
- 34 healthy male athletes from the National Cycling Team before doing a 300km race had 603ng/dl (R)
As you can see it varies a lot. On average it’s around 500-600ng/dl, but some tend to have low testosterone levels (hypogonadal range). But the question is: Is cycling making them hypogonadal, or something else?
I’d say something else is because the other elite cyclists aren’t also hypogonadal.
Does endurance training increase testosterone?
Endurance exercise can help to increase testosterone due to a variety of reasons.
It’s important to know the difference between acute spikes in testosterone. Low-intensity exercise doesn’t acutely promote the release of testosterone. Whereas the more intense the exercise is, the greater the temporary increase in testosterone and growth hormone. However, this spike is temporary and your hormone levels will go back to normal in 30-60 min after stopping exercise.
Also, training larger muscle groups will spike testosterone more than training smaller muscle groups.
But first, let’s see how effective cycling is at increasing testosterone.
Exercise can help to keep testosterone high as we age.
In this study, they compared the testosterone levels of 70 elite power and endurance master athletes (EMA; 51.3 ± 8.0 yr) to 32 young controls (YC; 23.7± 3.9 yr) and 24 untrained age-matched controls (MAC; 47.2 ± 8.0 yr) (R).
Power athletes did 100m, 200m, 400m, 110m with barriers, among others and the endurance athletes did 5km, marathons, and triathlons.
As you can see in the graph below, endurance exercise helped to keep the testosterone of older guys as high as the younger guys.
Cycling 4 times a week for 5 weeks increased total testosterone from 18.84± 5.73 nmol/l to 22.03± 6.61 nmol/L (543 to 635ng/dl) and free testosterone from 374 ± 116 to 470 ± 153 pmol/L in untrained men (R).
They did continuous endurance cycling on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and intermittent endurance cycling (varied intensity) on Mondays and Fridays.
Cycling once a week for 50min at 60% maximal effort didn’t increase testosterone (530ng/dl before and after) after 12 weeks (R).
This is because they didn’t lose weight over 12 weeks, even though they got fitter.
Exercise factors that influence testosterone
Cycling training volumes and testosterone
Training too much can have the opposite effect and lower testosterone. At first, the female athlete triad was discovered, but more recently male exercise-induced hypogonadism is becoming more well-known.
Elite cyclists typically cover annual distances of ~26‐32,000 km and ~850 hours of training, wherein ~70%‐80% is low‐intensity training (LIT), with singular sessions lasting up to 7 hours, interspersed by high‐intensity training.
That’s some serious volume.
Volume and testosterone
In a study by Khoo et al, aerobic exercise of more than 200 minutes per week (about 30 min daily) over 24 weeks significantly increased erectile function and testosterone levels compared to those only doing 105 min per week (R).
The high-volume group lost 5.9 ± 0.7 kg (of which 4.7kg was fat mass), shrunk their waist by 4.9 ± 0.8cm and increased their testosterone by 60ng/dl.
The low-volume group lost only 2.9 ± 0.7 kg (1.1kg fat mass), shrunk their waist by 2.7 ± 0.7 cm and increased their testosterone by 23ng/dl.
Doing more volume that leads to more fat mass loss will increase testosterone the most.
Doing more and more volume will not linearly increase testosterone in the absence of fat loss. Doing too much volume will start to lower testosterone.
A training block as short as 4 weeks can start to lower testosterone if it exceeds recovery capacity.
Cycling intensity and testosterone
Intensity is determined by doing all-out bouts, usually against resistance. These bouts can last between 30sec and 4 min and are separated by rest periods, usually between 30 sec and 4 minutes.
The following 12-week study was broken into 2 parts. The first 6 weeks had older men cycle for 150 min/week of moderate-intensity cycling. The next 6 weeks consisted of supervised HIIT (1 session every 5 days; 9 sessions total). Each HIIT session consisted of 6 × 30 s sprints at 40% peak power output (PPO) interspersed with 3 min active recovery (R).
Over 12 weeks, testosterone increased from 13.2 to 15.4 nmol/L (380 to 444ng/dl) on average. Some men had a greater increase in phase 1, whereas some had a decrease in phase 1. So this shows that everyone responds differently and will need to do what’s best for them.
22 elite cyclists with 13 years of experience participated in a 4-week intensified protocol.
They did 32 min of HIIT x3 per week and as much LIT as they wanted to 5 days a week.
They had an average testosterone of 17.4nmol/l (502ng/dl) which increased to 18.8nmol/L (543ng/dl) after the 4 weeks (R).
However, cortisol went from 380 to 430nmol/L, T3 dropped from 2.1 to 2nmol/L, insulin from 34.7 to 31pmol/L and IGF-1 from 18.1 to 18nmol/L.
Although testosterone increased, markers associated with low energy availability such as decreased RMR (resting metabolic rate), lowered T3, insulin and IGF-1, and increased cortisol, were found.
High-intensity training (HIT) isn’t better than low-intensity training (LIT) for increasing testosterone. The benefit of HIIT is that the sessions are shorter and less frequent than LIT. However, it can easily be overdone and that can lower testosterone levels and T3 and increase cortisol.
Cycling events and testosterone
Here are a few examples of what cycling events can do to testosterone.
- 34 male experienced cyclists (49.1 age) had an average testosterone of 20.8 ± 8.6, which dropped to 18.2 ± 6.7 nmol/L (600 to 525ng/dl) after a 164km race (R). No really a big drop.
- 6 men aged 35 did a 160km race over Alaska. Their testosterone dropped from 13.81 to 5.59nmol/L (398 to 161ng/dl) (R).
- 34 healthy male athletes from the National Cycling Team and 24 healthy male student volunteers from University and medical staff did a 300km race. Their testosterone dropped from 603.6 to 424.8ng/dL (R).
Apart from the distance, the environment (hot, cold, humid, etc.) also plays a big role in how it will affect testosterone.
Keep in mind that there were only once-off events and that their testosterone will come back to normal after a few days.
Other factors that influence testosterone levels
Eating in a caloric deficit can increase or decrease testosterone based on someone’s current fat mass. If someone is overweight and loses fat, exercise is likely going to increase their testosterone.
But if they’re already lean and create a deficit with exercise and diet, it might decrease their testosterone and significantly increase their cortisol-to-testosterone ratio.
Be sure to avoid a caloric deficit unless the goal is fat loss. You don’t want to be training intensely and undereating as that’s a sure way to induce hypogonadism and sexual dysfunction.
Poor sleep, and especially sleep apnea, will lower testosterone significantly. You can get an app on your phone that can tell you if you have sleep apnea or not. These apps aren’t perfect, so you can always do a sleep study where they can check for sure.
Fixing sleep apnea will likely make the biggest difference for your testosterone.
Fat mass & inflammation
Exercise which helps reduce fat mass and inflammation will have the biggest impact on your testosterone (R). All forms of exercise are good for fat loss, but resistance training is the best because it helps you build muscle. Muscle mass helps to increase the metabolic rate and also produces hormones like DHT.
Mountain bikers, as compared to on-road cyclists, have been shown to be at a higher risk for scrotal disorders. This can also contribute to low testosterone and infertility.
Drinking too much can lower your testosterone. An alcoholic beverage every now and then is completely fine, but when overdone will lower testosterone.
Training intensely at high volume is a sure way to lower testosterone, increase cortisol levels and lower your testosterone-to-cortisol ratio.
Downsides of cycling
- Mountain bikers, as compared to on-road cyclists, have been shown to be at a higher risk for scrotal disorders. As much as 94% of all mountain bikers have scrotal abnormalities (R).
- A lot of cyclists suffer from urogenital problems, such as nerve entrapment syndromes (50-91%) and erectile dysfunction (13-24% prevalence) (R).
- Lower testicular sensitivity to LH (R, R). Meaning high LH but normal testosterone.
- Using paraben-rich chamois creams. Parabens can increase estradiol in the body and they are estrogenic themselves. This can also contribute to sexual disorders.
- Drinking out of plastic bottles containing phthalates. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that can lower your testosterone and cause testicular damage.
- Wearing tight clothing. This will increase testicular temperature and can cause testicular insensitivity to LH (R).
- Experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction, with 22%, 30%, and 57% of men reporting ED, genital pain, and genital numbness, respectively (R, R)
- Low bone mineral density, specifically in the lumbar spine (R).
Benefits of exercise
Regular exercise, regardless of what modality, boosts overall health.
Some of the health benefits include:
- Improving the efficacy of TRT and prolonging the duration of the treatment effect after treatment cessation (R).
- Reducing the incidence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in high‐risk individuals, by lowering blood sugar (R).
- Boosting the immune system
- Improving self-confidence
- Improving cardiovascular health and improving the health of blood vessels, thus reducing the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
- Boosting energy levels
- Enhancing brain function and memory
- Improving sleep quality
- Reducing anxiety and depression
- Increasing bone density (mainly strength training, but HIIT can also)
- Improving balance and coordination
- Improving posture
- Reducing back pain
- Enhancing productivity and focus
- Reducing the risk of some cancers
- Helping control addiction
- Improving sexual function, sex drive and even erections
- Reducing the risk of heart disease
- Improving overall quality of life.
Supplements that boost exercise-induced testosterone
Adaptogens are a great way to boost your testosterone-to-cortisol ratio during a training phase. If you’re going to do an intense training phase, add one or more of these adaptogens to your routine.
Other herbs that can increase testosterone include:
- Tongkat Ali
Check out these articles to learn more about testosterone optimization, because it will make you better at cycling too!
- The ultimate guide for maximizing testosterone 👈
- Tongkat Ali and Fadogia Agrestis for boosting testosterone 👈
- Shilajit on testosterone, dopamine and sexual function 👈
Cycling can increase testosterone as long as it promotes body fat loss. Fat loss seems to be the main driving factor whether exercise increases testosterone or not.
Other ways how exercise can increase testosterone are by (R):
- Lowering fasting insulin levels
- Reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, and
- Lowering the conversion of testosterone to estradiol by aromatase in fat cells, and the
- Directly stimulating the production of DHEA and DHT in the muscles
- Reducing stress
- Allowing you to get more sunlight (if you cycle outside)
- Improving the circadian rhythm (all types of exercise can help with this).
The key concept is that cycling can increase testosterone. But if you’re already lean, cycling is unlikely to increase testosterone even more.
Physical activity can help support healthy testosterone levels, but it’s the most effective on its own.
Optimizing your diet to enhance cycling performance will result in even higher testosterone levels.
I’d recommend doing all forms of exercise, low intensity, moderate intensity, high-intensity interval training and/or sprint training and weight training as each has its own benefits.
Do these tests to see if things are going in the wrong direction (overtraining):
- Total and free testosterone
- TSH, total and free T4 and T3 and reverse T3
- GH and IGF-1
- DHEA, DHEA-S and cortisol
>1000ng/dl Testosterone: My Step-by-Step Guide on How I Do It Naturally!