Effect of Special Operations Training on Testosterone, Lean Body Mass, and Strength and the Potential for Therapeutic Testosterone Replacement: A Review of the Literature


20(1). 94 - 100 (Journal Article)

Objective: Due to physical demands, Special Operations Forces (SOF) endure changes in body composition, work capacity, and endocrine function. These changes result in energy deficits and sleep deprivation, where sleep averaged 3 hours/ day, independently known to decrease testosterone levels. The use of exogenous testosterone shows increases in lean body mass (LBM) and muscle function in healthy males and reverses cachexia in diseased populations. Therefore, the review's primary purpose is to summarize and contrast literature in both SOF and nonmilitary personnel regarding the correlation between negative energy balance, sleep deprivation, and decreased testosterone. The secondary purpose summarizes the effects of exogenous testosterone therapy in healthy males as well as reversing the effects of muscle wasting diseases. Methods: An online literary search from 1975 to 2015 identified 46 of 71 sources addressing both purposes, and data were summarized into tables providing mean observations. Conclusions: SOF training results in decreased testosterone (-6.3%), LBM (-4.6%), and strength (-11.7%), tied to energy deficits (-3,351 kcal/day) and sleep deprivation (3 hours/ day). Exogenous testosterone therapy increases LBM (6.2%), strength (7.9-14.8%), reverses cachexia (2.0%) and increases strength (12.7%) in those with chronic diseases. Therefore, testosterone supplementation in SOF may attenuate changes in body composition and muscle function during training and sustained Special Operations (SUSOPS).

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