Sunshine and Testosterone

The other day I was driving back from the gym, after going very hard in the weight room. By “very hard,” I mean lifting until muscle failure, which means there’s involuntary grunting going on, shaking legs, etc. After each set, you know you are making a difference when you temporarily cannot move the muscles in question, then suddenly feel a surge of energy all over.

Driving back, having chugged some whey and whole milk and caught my breath, I turned on the radio. The “classic rock” station was playing Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” I turned it up, bopped around a bit, turned it up more, found myself bopping with even more energy, and finally cranked it full blast. I felt a surge of positive energy.

That’s not a particularly aggressive song (especially compared to what I was listening to when I was actually lifting). And Freddie Mercury is not exactly the most, ahem, traditional man. But it’s certainly peppy, assertive, and has a driving, unapologetic beat, if you will. I used to listen to “classic rock” all the time when I was in high school, working out very hard five days a week on the crew team. Part of that was being a white, teenage male in the 1990’s in the United States (going through a Led Zeppelin stage, for instance, was a bit of a rite of passage where I grew up, whether or not you were an athlete). But as I listened to Queen on the way home, I realized just how closely linked the weight lifting and my current enjoyment of that song were. 

If I had been on my way home from McDonald’s, or a movie about how horrible white people are, or some other such poisonous activity, I would not have enjoyed that song in that moment. I probably would have changed the station, or I might have let it play at a low volume, letting it be a buzz of mindless background noise. But lawdy, in my current amped-up state I was really cranking that stuff and enjoying it with a big smile.

Now, enjoying Queen songs is pretty value-neutral, if you ask me. Lifting weights isn’t good because it makes you crank the classic rock music. It’s good because it’s very good for your health and your psyche. It increases muscle mass, which is very closely linked to overall longterm health; it increases testosterone which is the natural miracle drug of male bodies, and it makes you a more physically capable person in everyday life. (Dennis Mangan is my favorite non-meathead proponent of weightlifting. Some of the meathheads are pretty great too, but I’ll let you find them on your own.) But I submit there is a real link between extremely rigorous, rippingly painful exercise (plodding jogs don’t count) and the sort of sunshiny aggressiveness I was feeling in my car that day.

And I’ll go a step further and say that a healthy man in his prime should feel sunshiny aggressiveness. Not all the time, of course, but it should be common and almost a baseline. A lot of modern life is designed to make us into mopey, self-loathing cogs. Eaters and spenders. When you break out of that mold and feel how natural and positive it is to have your testosterone flowing, it’s a bit of a revelation.

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8 comments on “Sunshine and Testosterone

    • outofsleep says:

      Thanks for the link. Yes, sunshine is very important! It’s really tough where I live to get enough natural light in the winter. You can still soak up ultraviolet even when it’s cloudy, of course, but you need to be outdoors basically all day. For my ancestors who were farmers and laborers this wasn’t a problem, even in the dreary northern climes of Scotland and Norway. But I work indoors, and even if I take a nice long walk around noon, in the winter time I get basically no Vitamin D from natural sources… and for months at a time! This is not healthy.

      So I go “tanning” once every week or two in the winter. I put “tanning” in quotes, because my goal is not to turn my skin darker, but just to soak up some rays. When I first started this a couple years ago, I was astonished at how great it made me feel. Low levels, for a short time, to avoid unnecessary skin damage. Once you get past the stigma that surrounds tanning (“it’s only for shallow club girls and vacuous gay men,” etc), it’s a bit of a minor miracle how invigorating it can be.

      • ajb says:

        That’s interesting – I’ve never thought of artificial tanning in that way. I’m in Canada, where the sun is pretty weak past, say, October, so I currently supplement with several thousand or up UI Vitamin D more or less per day (official daily recommendation is something like 600 UI) once it starts getting into fall-winter. My guess is that one reason lots of flus and so on increase around this time of year is Vitamin D deficiencies. Certain foods also contain Vitamin D3, in particular fatty fish and fish liver oil.

      • Johnny Caustic says:

        You’ve just put the best information in a comment. Maybe you should append it to the post.

        • outofsleep says:

          Thanks for the heads-up, Johnny. This blog isn’t intended to be an “advice” blog. I’m actually much more concerned with spiritual issues than issues of testosterone. (I simply posit here that things like testosterone are underrated when it comes to spiritual development.) There are lots of good resources already online for people who want to increase their T. The main message in my post has to do with the interaction between the spirit and the body (which, again, I feel is underexplored these days). Anyone sufficiently interested in what I have to say about weightlifting and testosterone presumably will click the “comments” link and see the addendum about tanning. Thanks for your comment.

  1. ChesterPoe says:

    Outofsleep, it is good to see you back blogging again. I started reading your blog right before you left in February. Anyway back on topic. When doing any serious exercise I always find that the more enthusiastic, fast-paced and usually very masculine songs (especially Rammstein and similar bands) are much more powerful. Any other time I could just listen to them and move on, instead I dive into them. As for the vitamin D, having spent much time as a night owl it is true that sunlight affects your testosterone levels which in turn positively changes your outlook and mood. Living in Florida it certainly is not hard to get plenty of vitamin D.

    • outofsleep says:

      Thanks ChesterPoe, please keep reading, as I intend to keep posting.

      About Vitamin D: I understand if tanning seems a bit silly to people, but for anyone in places like Seattle or anywhere in Canada (or Scotland, or Scandinavia), it’s definitely worth considering. You’re spot-on that D (or any of a number of other nutrients) can have a real impact on how we think and feel.

      About music: I intend to develop this more in a future post, but I consider bands like Drudkh and Rammstein to be rather degraded compared to Bach or even someone as late into modernity as Mahler. Nevertheless, I find a place in my life for limited doses of Drudkh, Rammstein, and the like. Even in the times of Bach, of course, even the holiest of holies didn’t spend 24/7 in the chapel listening to Bach. There is a lot to be said for the incoherent rush of raging energy that one gets from such (modern, metal) music. Was it natural for people to hunt boars in 1250 AD? I think so. And if so, and if one no longer hunts boars, is it not natural to replicate such feelings through “hard” music and heavy weights?

      A rhetorical question… my answer is in the original post.

  2. Out of Sleep says:

    […] my last post, I […]

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