Weightlifting causing improved and worsened symptoms

Hi all,

I’ve been exercising regularly this summer for the first time since I’ve been suffering from PFS (around two years now) but I recently took an unscheduled break for around two weeks and the difference in my symptoms was staggering. When I quit, my erections became much improved and the shape and feel of my penis in an erect state returned almost to normal, feeling less atrophied and no longer able to easily fold in half. My armpits started to smell again for the first time that I can recall. During the summer and once before I’ve also been noticing an unpleasant fungal smell, like moldy cheese, coming from my crotch (but no noticeable rash or irritation) which seems to have completely disappeared when I stopped exercising.

Now I’ve gone back to the gym and the results have been instant. My libido is always diminished immediately after working out, whereas before PFS going to the gym would increase my libido, so this is a familiar symptom. My armpits have also stopped smelling entirely after 3-4 sessions, though that may have happened after just one session as well.

I’ve gained some strength and noticeable muscle mass to the point that I’m more or less as strong as I’ve ever been before, falling perhaps slightly short but still in the range of 80-90% of my best performance. I deadlifted 185kg for 3 reps, which nearly rivals my personal best of 190kg for 5 reps set a decade ago. My barbell overhead press is at 53kg for 3 sets of 5, whereas my previous best was 55kg. I’m very encouraged (and fortunate) that I have not suffered any noticeable muscle wasting from PFS and I appear to be able to gain strength and muscle mass more or less the same as before. I can’t be certain of this but currently there is at least no significant impairment in this area. I do suffer from headaches and light-headedness when exercising, but I have experienced this before PFS as well and it gets much better with improved conditioning.

My observations suggest to me that lifting weights is very taxing on my endocrine system and recovering from lifting pulls resources away from other areas, most noticeably libido. But when I stop exercising my symptoms appear to be better than they were before, suggesting that an improved body composition improves symptoms. My takeaway is that I might benefit the most from taking regular, scheduled breaks from lifting, perhaps one week every two months to give my endocrine system some time to recover. Hopefully as my body composition improves my symptoms will gradually improve as well. My basic understanding is that fat tissue produces estrogen whereas muscle tissue produces testosterone, and I have plenty of room for improvement in both areas.

The program I’ve been following is a 6 day per week PPL (Push/Pull/Legs) program and my adherence to it has been good but not perfect. Each session I do three compound movements (e.g. squats, deadlift, bench press, pullups, barbell rows, etc) in a low rep range, usually 3 sets of 5, followed by 4-6 isolation exercises in the 8-12 rep range and finishing up with some dropsets or cluster sets at the end, attempting to work the muscles to complete exhaustion.

There are two confounding factors, being that I’ve been in and out of ketosis during this time and I’ve also been experimenting with L-Arginine, which had a profound effect on my libido even before taking a break from the gym. In the future I would like to observe how my body reacts when I take breaks from the gym without any confounding factors.

I feel certain that exercise isn’t going to return me to normal but I’m hopeful that improving my body composition can at least help me achieve a better baseline. I wanted to share my experiences and also ask if anybody else has experienced a similar pattern when exercising and if you’ve found a best approach to lifting weights and taking scheduled breaks? Or if you’ve found any method of alleviating the negative side effects of exercising that I’m experiencing.

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Congrats on getting back to working out. Your observations echo mine. PFS has changed our bodies physiology in many ways including endocrine system that may linger for some longer than others for reasons we do not yet fully comprehend. I’ve noticed there’s an individual point of diminishing returns when it comes to working out. Going beyond this point means more stress hormones (e.g Cortisol; adrenaline) and more inflammation and less anabolic/sex hormones (e.g T; GH) floating around. As thus, low libido ensues. Daily calories; fats consumption; sleep quality and quantity; workout session length; off/on days; hydration are all factors that come into play.

I’ve been trying to train less (4 days on & 3 days off split) and reduce cardio to help reduce resultant stress levels. 1-2 weeks off (deload periods) every 2-3 months is an excellent idea and helps reduce injuries likelihood. My hypothesis is that PFS results in weakened adrenals and increased overall inflammation so our resilience to exercise is reduced (lowered capacity). Getting lean indeed reduces enzyma aromatase and help balances T:E2 ratio in a favorable way. However, getting TOO lean (sub 10%) is also not advisable either. My gut tells 10-15% is just about right.

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Must admit I have noticed an improvement that coincided with NOT lifting too. I really really do miss gym I must say.

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Thanks for your response.

You are right that factors like diet, sleep and more all have an effect. I have wildly varying symptom expression depending on these and other factors. Some days I am pretty functional, other days I am highly impaired.

I have had some improvements on the ketogenic diet before but I’ve never been ketogenic while working out this hard. I think my next step will be to make sure I’m consistently ketogenic while working out regularly and observing any differences.

You’re probably right about getting too lean but that has never been my issue. I’m easily 20%+ at this point so it’s going to be a long time before I have to worry about being too lean.

It’s also well known that gaining muscle mass stimulates T production, in particular compound exercises like squats and deadlifts have a positive effect. That’s the reason why I posted my exercise regime and some of my lifts. The average person does not work out in a competent manner so when comparing symptoms I think it’s important to gauge whether the person is working out in a way which will actually produce results. Obviously not trying to put anybody down and I don’t consider myself to be all that either, but if someone says they’re working out it’s important to know whether they are doing compound movements, applying progressive overload and so on.

I think your approach of lowering training frequency is sound. My issue is that I actually find it much easier to adhere to a program if I’m working out almost every day. It’s easier to make it habitual and if I happen to miss a day it doesn’t have much of a psychological impact and makes it easier to get back on track. That’s just due to my own psychological make up though.

Again, I appreciate your feedback. If you’ve been working out regularly, have you noticed any changes over time and in response to your working out and any changes in body composition you might’ve had?

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Sad to hear it. My conclusion at this point is that working out can be both beneficial and detrimental in my specific case. However my understanding is that some people are affected so severely that they are unable to work out at all.

If you’re in a similar situation as me then perhaps you could see some improvements from working out again but I have a feeling this is going to be very individual and I recognize that I am lucky that I haven’t suffered from muscle wasting and seem to still be able to build muscle to some extent.

I discovered a thread (Recovery: Gym, L-Arginine, L-Carnitine Regimen) posted by another member where he works out in a manner similar to myself (heavy compound lifts, six days a week) while supplementing L-Arginine and L-Carnitine. His experiences suggest that these supplements may have a positive effect on the symptom aggravation I experience when I work out.

I have had positive effects from these supplements in the past so I will be trying his regime but at a lower dose while maintaining a heavy workout schedule. I will try to update you all if I see any results, good or bad.

In the meantime if anyone has any experience using these supplements in conjunction with working out hard I’d love to hear your experiences.

Well, unfortunately doesn’t seem to be much interest in this topic.

I can report positive results so far, I’ve been taking 3g each of L-Arginine and L-Carnitine daily in a single dose while working out for a week now. All symptoms are improved. I’ve been smelling like a man, I get morning wood and I’m able to get an erection that could actually do some damage.

My cognitive sides seem to be improved as well. I notice less of the brain fog/cognitive shift that is normally one of my worst symptoms and my vision has been bothering me less than usual.

All this while working out six days in a row from the 14th to the 19th. I have no idea right now how things will develop but for the past week these supplements have brought me to a level of functioning that is tolerable while still being able to work out hard. It’s a massive difference compared to when I was working out but not taking these supplements, like day and night.

I’m worried that I will stop experiencing these positive effects from L-Arginine and L-Carnitine. I’ve done some cursory reading and it seems like there may not be a need to cycle these and the dose I’m taking seems to be fairly low. I’ll definitely keep taking them for now and just take things one day at a time, hoping for the best.