Drugs Testing & T

In most sports, at a recreational level, you won’t face drug testing but in strength sports- well powerlifting and weightlifting but not strongman- you can find it happening at any level. It’s been a real barrier to me. I was really concerned that being trans and being on T, for any reason, could be a big can of worms and that put me off competing for a long time. Never mind the fact I wasn’t sure if I would positive on a drug test at all. If I did test positive I’d get a life time ban so it didn’t seem worth the risk.

After a fair bit of digging I found a dependable source that actually talks about testing in sports. It says:

Once the steroid has been metabolised in the nucleus, it is taken from the cell and degraded in the liver. From here it is excreted in the bile or the urine. The actual excretion products vary from one androgen to another and it is these products that are detected in sports drug testing

So, if you take T they will be able to detect it in a urine test. If your levels are in ‘normal male range’ then it wouldn’t be detected on a blood test but any sports testing I’ve ever heard of is urine. The good news is that doesn’t bar you from competing as you can apply for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE).

The main authority on drugs in sports is World Anti-Doping Agency and they have guidance on trans guys who are on testosterone competing in sport. In reading it you need to consider the criteria for TUE:

  • The athlete would experience significant health problems without taking the prohibited substance or method

  • The therapeutic use of the substance would not produce significant enhancement of performance, and

  • There is no reasonable therapeutic alternative to the use of the otherwise prohibited substance or method.

So what the document is addressing is how this criteria would apply to trans guys. There is some vagueness in the document and I think this is because WADA don’t see it as their place to say whether or not a particular sports body should allow trans people to compete. But, in my opinion, what WADA are saying is being on T is not a reason to ban trans guys from competing and if you allow trans guys to compete then they should be granted TUE for T.

There is a but, your T levels will likely to be within ‘normal male range’ and you will typically need a doctor signing off on your TUE application. Though I wouldn’t expect that to be a problem for most.

Training Without T and Starting T

This post is going to be about training before you start T/never being on T and then when you first start T. I know that there can be many complication, like changing room and binding, so posts on those sorts of things are upcoming. If you want a notification of when those posts are online, check out the follow options in the sidebar.

I am only covering not being on T and when you just start T because otherwise I think trans guys are in the same boat as cis guys. So once you’ve been on T a bit all the advice out there for men applies to you too.

Pre/No T

If you are not on T then obviously your ability to build muscle is going to be lesser than that of someone with higher T levels. That said you can still get bigger and stronger so it’s not in itself a reason for you not to start lifting.  Exercise is good for you mentally as well as physically and you may well find you like your body a bit more as you start to gain strength and size.

Posts on training programmes are on their way so read those but I would suggest some tweaks to them. These programmes (unfortunately) assume the person doing them has T levels higher than your’s. But it’s nothing major that needs changed. The difference is in how quickly you can progress, particularly in your upper body.

For overhead press start with 10kg/20lbs, your gym should have smaller fixed weight bars or a smaller set of plastic weights that you can use. This means you’ll need to lift the bar off the floor instead of out of a rack but it’s light enough that you will be able to do that fine. Switch to an empty bar when you get to 20kg/40lbs.

a plastic weight set that will allow you to start lighter than 20kg/40lbs

For bench, start with an empty bar then add half the weight the programme recommends.

For everything else do it as recommended by the programme but once you’ve had to deload a few times consider halving it too.

Starting T

Firstly, if you’re just starting T then congratulations!

You probably know that you will now be able to build strength much quicker. As such, no matter how long you have been training already, I recommend you switch back to a beginner’s programme. You might not run it for as long as genuine beginners would, but the increase in your potential is enough that you will be able to make at least some linear progress again.You would make the same progress over a longer period of time on an intermediate programme but why not make it ASAP? That’s what switching back to a beginner’s programme will allow you to do.

How much muscle you can gain has increased along with your ability to get stronger. In the run up to starting T I’d suggest doing a bit of a cut if you’re a bit squishier around the edges than you’d like to be. Then when you start T make the most of that increased muscle building potential by bulking. By cutting first you should be able to bulk for longer-hence gain more muscle quickly- than if you were already a bit higher body fat % than you like.

A note on bulking though, when I say it I don’t mean it as an excuse to get an unhealthy body fat percent. I recommend gaining 1lbs per week to keep your fat gains minimal. I’m not saying everyone should want to be lean enough to have a 6 pack but I don’t think many people want to be gaining big amounts of fat.