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.