Poliquin Live

Tip 479: Strategies to Support Male Fertility and Overall Health

Friday, November 16, 2012 6:06 AM
Strength train and limit chemical estrogen exposure for better male fertility and overall health. A new study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology shows that male hormone values are affected by the type of exercise you do, and there’s evidence that simply using a therapeutic cream that contains an estrogen-mimicking chemical may lead to significantly elevated estrogen. This tip will consider the results of the study and provide strategies for supporting male fertility.

Researchers measured androgen hormones, cortisol, and inflammatory markers in three different groups of male athletes: serious amateur cyclists, serious amateur triathletes, and recreational athletes. Both the serious cyclists and triathletes trained more than 5 hours a week doing endurance training, whereas the recreational athletes did about 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise daily. 

Results showed that the cyclists had estrogen levels that were almost 3 times higher than the triathletes and 2.5 times higher than the recreational athletes. They also had total testosterone that was 50 percent higher, however this doesn’t tell us much since free testosterone, which is the form that is available to interact with tissue, was not measured. Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHGB) was higher in both groups of serious athletes, which may have accounted for the higher testosterone, because when testosterone is bound to SHGB it is not available for use in the body. There were no significant differences in cortisol between the groups, whereas inflammatory markers were lower in the cyclists and triathletes than recreational athletes.

Researchers are not clear why the cyclists had such high estrogen, but they were alarmed and suggest that it could indicate altered fertility and imbalances in the endocrine system that could affect health in the long term. One reason for the high estrogen may be that the cyclists regularly used an anti-chafing cream called chamois cream that contains parabens, which have been shown to bind to estrogen resceptors and elevate estrogen levels. Obviously, the first thing everyone reading this tip should do is make sure you are not putting topicals that contain parabens or other estrogen-mimicking chemicals on your body!

Another possible reason for the high estrogen had to do with a shift in the cyclists’ endocrine function to maintain homeostasis under chronic heat stress due to extensive endurance training. Research shows that female athletes are more resistant to exercise heat stress during the phase when estrogen is elevated  in their cycles. It’s possible that although the triathletes experience chronic training stress, they don’t undergo the same heat stress because they experience cooling when swimming.

A previous study done by this research group showed that elite athletes who did intense endurance training had lower fertility markers than physically active subjects. However, this is the first study to find that intense endurance training leads to high estrogen. Generally, an “inverted U” graph describes fertility, the anabolic environment, and overall health in which a sedentary lifestyle is on one end of the U and extreme endurance training is on the other. Neither are ideal for health or reproduction.

In comparison, evidence suggests strength training overwhelmingly supports fertility and healthy testosterone levels: A few studies show elite weight lifters have higher chronic testosterone, and we know for sure that training can cause an acute boost to testosterone post-workout. For the best fertility, use the following tips:

•    Perform a periodized strength training program to continually elicit adaptations and make gains.

•    Avoid extensive endurance exercise.

•    Make sure you are not using creams or other personal care products that contain parabens or other estrogenic compounds.

•    Take action to limit your estrogen toxic load—please read Ten Things You Can Do To Limit Chemical Estrogen Exposure.

Fitzgerald, L., et al. Reproductive Hormones and IL-6 in Serious Leisure Male Athletes. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2012. 112, 3765-3773.

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