There is no denying the link between testosterone levels and building muscle mass, and we have not written this article to bore you about that.
We know test high test levels are required in order to pack on the muscle, in this article we look at whether or not TRT is the best way to achieve that.
Time to get down to business. How useful is Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) for bodybuilders?
What is TRT?
TRT involves introducing synthetic testosterone into the body in pretty serious doses. We’re not talking about messing around at the sidelines, TRT will increase your test levels. It is a massive business estimated to be worth over $2 billion dollars a year, and the preserve of Big Pharma companies such as Abbott Laboratories, Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Pharmacia & Upjohn.
The products themselves come in a variety of forms. The most common are injections and transdermal gels (absorbed through the skin), but patches, nasal gels, subcutaneous pellets, capsules, and tablets are all available.
The clue is in the name.
The idea is that TRT replaces depleted testosterone and raises it back to normal levels. Naturally there is a buoyant market for bodybuilders who want to raise their testosterone levels beyond normal levels to supranatural levels. In other words, beyond the levels normally seen naturally.
Whilst testosterone replacement therapy is likely to be available on most medical or health insurance plans, normally clinical hypogonadism has to be established.
Even then (depending on your plan) there is a chance that the only costs covered are initial testing and ongoing monitoring, plus the administration of any injections. There is a chance your plan will not include the cost of the drugs themselves.
Assuming you do have a generous healthcare plan which covers TRT for hypogonadism, your insurers are very unlikely to start signing checks of you have normal testosterone levels and want abnormally high levels levels for cosmetic or lifestyle reasons.
So if you want TRT for;
- Packing on the muscle in the gym
- Weight Loss
- Sexual Performance
- Boosting energy levels
You will be obliged to fund this yourself by recruiting the services of a physician to source and administer your treatment. Cost? Difficult to say, it will vary from clinic to clinic, so you would be advised to shop around.
One thing we can safely say is that it will not be cheap, take a look at the screenshot below taken from the Hamilton Project on US pay by profession. In the USA doctors are top dogs, earning on average even more than top company executives.
Here we have Physician’s pay statistics from across the country.
They don’t earn that money by offering bargain deals or working for free, you are going to have to pay up for the privilege.
The United Kingdom
In the UK the National Health Service provides free healthcare to all at the point of delivery and this article from 2016 in tabloid newspaper The Sun says that;
“GPs last year wrote 374,457 prescriptions for testosterone”
However that doesn’t extend to drugs used for lifestyle enhancements such as gaining weight or packing on muscle to look good on the beach. Anybody not suffering from severe hypogonadism trying to get TRT free on the NHS is in for a battle.
You’ll need to persuade your GP to refer you to an endocrinologist but you’ll get a full rundown on the process here.
Anecdotal evidence suggest the overstretched health service will provide you the relevant gels and then it’s up to you to get on with it as there is little in the way of ongoing support or retesting.
Budget private options found online would be a bare minimum of £100 a month, with more exclusive private clinics coming in at a lot more. Private consultants Jaguars and golf course memberships don’t pay for themselves you know!
In Germany prescriptions are issued through Germany’s statutory health insurance funds. This (admittedly dated) data from Spiegel Online shows that even ten years ago the price was around €60 per month;
“Scientific Institute of AOK, one of Germany’s largest insurers, analyzed this data on behalf of SPIEGEL and found that prescriptions for testosterone gel more than tripled between 2003 and 2011. The most recent statistics show 390,000 daily doses per year. In Germany, a month’s supply of the product costs around €60 ($80)”
Do It Yourself – Online Prices
Let’s assume you are not getting this on your healthcare plan and you don’t want to pay a TRT clinic to administer it.
What is the cheapest way to self administer TRT? We’ve looked for the prices of the following TRT treatments, bought online and self-administered. All prices taken from Goodrx.
Variants such as Testosterone Undecanoate (Aveed) and Testopel are not available in pharmacies, you’d have to have those administered via a healthcare practitioner so we’ve not included them here.
Testosterone Cypionate (Injection)
The best prices 200 mg/mL of Depo-Testosterone (Testosterone Cypionate) are about $15 for the generic non-branded version if you’ve got discount coupons.
Average retail price is $52.89. With shots given every 2 to 4 weeks and the fact that dosage will be patient dependent, you are looking at $30 minimum up to $120 a month.
Testosterone Enanthate (Injection)
Higher price for Delatestryl, the brand name for Testosterone Enanthate with the rock bottom generic price at $30 (twice that of Depo-Testosterone) and the average price of $105 means you could be paying up to $240 a month just for the drug.
Transdermal gels are far more expensive than intramuscular injections, but also far more convenient (even to those that are not needle-phobic).
The lowest price available for the common generic version of Androgel is around $195.23, with an average retail price at a whopping $600.25. It’s delivered in a metered pump dosing system, or a packet to ensure consistent dosing.
Another gel, a cheaper alternative to market-leading Androgel, you are still looking at a lot more than injectable test. Goodrx quotes the best prices at $96.46, with an average retail price of $548.90.
TRT Side Effects
TRT has suffered numerous recent setbacks, in particular, class action lawsuits resulting in the pharmaceutical manufacturers of TRT gels and patches paying out many millions of dollars to claimants.
However, these payouts weren’t won because the products didn’t work. They were won because the products weren’t labeled properly.
Some studies have shown there’s a chance Testosterone Replacement Therapy will increase the risks of strokes and heart attacks, and the manufacturers never made that clear. Naturally there are other studies contradicting these results.
These aren’t the only problems with injecting testosterone though.
Pain, Spikes & Inconvenience
The side effects of TRT depend mainly on the delivery system.
- Pain : Intra muscular injections can be painful, it is not a small needle used.
- Inconvenience : Going to a clinic once a month to have a treatment applied might be a minor inconvenience if you work next door to that clinic. It becomes a major pain in the ass when it’s 30 miles away.
- Spikes : Manufacturers have done their best in recent years to try and produce delivery systems which don’t spike test levels, but unfortunately for some methods you are fundamentally not going to have uniform delivery of the synthetic test.
You can find a run down of the some of the pros and cons of different delivery systems here.
The reason global revenues from TRT are forecast to fall in the future is down to the risks of heart attack and stroke. And the reason for this is that these products don’t gradually or naturally rebuild testosterone levels.
Just like steroids, they deliver high doses of synthetic testosterone. An artificial spike in levels which may have adverse effects on some.
What’s the alternative? A natural testosterone booster. Increase your body’s endogenous testosterone levels slowly and steadily but keeping them within the normal range, not spiking them up to supra-physiological levels.
Click here for our top muscle building test boosters.