How to Read Blood Test Results – TRT and Bodybuilding

Your blood tests might be some of the most important tests you do in your life, but they can be tricky to read. Which ones should you even do, and what do they mean?

Having your blood tested every now and then is actually vital to regulating and managing personal health – especially in today’s age. With external factors changing rapidly and life stress increasing more than ever, you better ensure your blood markers are in check.

But just like taxes, you have absolutely no clue WTF any of those figures mean…

Free Testosterone? What, is the other captured?

WTH is a pituitary gland disorder?

A high red blood cell count is good, right?…

Lab tests can be hard to understand. We’re going to take a deep dive into how to read these, which ones you would need to do, and how to make sure your readings are within the normal values.

Key Takeaways

  • Depending on your life decisions you may need blood work three and up to six times per year
  • A ‘healthy person’ will have different readings than an athlete – and that’s okay
  • Your overall health can be determined by some of these factors; thus you’d need to do anything you can to improve them

Which Blood Tests to Do?

When choosing which blood tests to have done you’d want to consider a variety of things:

  • Past health markers: If you know you suffer from high platelet count or cholesterol then you’d obviously want to test those things again to get a new reference range
  • Anything you take medication for: Those markers would need to be tested. If you are taking medication for a chronic condition then you have to have those readings done every few months
  • If you think you may be suffering from a condition: Before you go self-diagnosing you want to make sure you know your lab results. If you don’t and you immediately treat then you wouldn’t know if the medical conditions have been relieved by the dose
  • Your current health: Be honest. If you are carrying a bit of timber then you probably need to test a lot more than just your Testosterone…
  • Family conditions: Contact others in your family for some medical education on their health markers. If diabetes runs in your family (and no one else does) then you are at risk
  • Age: As men and women age we start seeing a decline in certain markers that could lead to health problems
How to Read Blood Test Results - TRT and Bodybuilding
Figure 1: An example of some of the blood results from a male in comparison to an older test and the ‘normal range’

For the purpose of this article, we will also list all the tests you would need to do as an adult male. We will specify if the test applies to a certain population or not.

Male Hormone Test

A male hormone test will cover everything that relates to the male endocrine system. Testosterone test, bioavailable Testosterone, Estrogen, Progesterone, DHT, Prolactin, etc. This will give you insight into your hormone health that could give an indication of erectile dysfunction, male hypogonadism, low sex drive, depression risk, prostate cancer, etc.

  • How often: 1 – 2 per year
  • Symptoms that a test is needed: Low sex drive, gynecomastia, erectile problems, depression, low muscle mass, fat gain around the abdomen
  • Who needs it more: Athletes, older men, overweight men, stressed men, men with hypogonadism

Cardiovascular Readings

How to Read Blood Test Results - TRT and Bodybuilding
Figure 2: Since cardiovascular disease is such a big killer in the USA it would be very smart to test your readings often

A comprehensive metabolic panel is massive. Unlike a Testosterone deficiency that might take years before you ‘feel’ it, irregular cardiovascular readings would wreak havoc on you ASAP. This includes cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, lipoprotein A, full blood count (FBC), clotting screen, BNP (B-type natriuretic peptides), etc.

Some of these lab test results would be needed more than others. If you live an unhealthy life or if you are genetically predisposed to having poor markers you’d need a lot of tests to ensure you are always within the normal ranges.

  • How often: 2 – 4 per year
  • Symptoms that a test is needed: High blood pressure symptoms, ED, blurred vision or other vision changes, sleep disorders, numbness, and/or tingling.
  • Who needs it more: Athletes, older men, overweight men, stressed men, those with a family history of heart disease, those with an unhealthy diet and/or lifestyle

Glycaemic Control

We know that insulin and blood glucose levels can have a big impact on your health. This includes inflammation, diabetes risk, drop in Total testosterone, fat gain, impaired muscular function, and a host of other health conditions.

We also know that those who suffer from diabetes have these tests done quite often. However, the rest of us should have a look at these every now and again as well. Tests to consider would include Random blood glucose level, Fasting blood glucose level, HbA1c blood test, Oral glucose tolerance test, Capillary blood glucose (home monitoring), and Urine test for blood sugar (glucose).

  • How often: twice per year (more for those who have a risk of diabetes)
  • Symptoms that a test is needed: Fat gain, Urinate (pee) a lot, thirst, losing weight without trying, extreme hunger, blurry vision, numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Who needs it more: Overweight individuals, those who consume a lot of refined sugar, older individuals, those who already suffer from health issues, those undergoing cancer treatment

Thyroid Function

The thyroid is a vital gland in the body that is the key to the production of thyroid hormones such as T3, T4, and reverse T3. These are all managed by TSH – thyroid stimulating hormone. You would have a ‘full thyroid panel’ done to gain insight into your reference ranges.

Abnormal results of these tests could actually cause physical changes in the human body so it’s rather easy to spot you’d need to have these functions tested.

  • How often: 2 – 3 per year
  • Symptoms that a test is needed: Fat gain, Experiencing anxiety, irritability, and nervousness, having trouble sleeping, losing weight, having an enlarged thyroid gland or a goiter, having muscle weakness and tremors
  • Who needs it more: Heavier athletes, overweight individuals, those who consume a lot of refined sugar, older individuals, those who already suffer from health issues

Organ Function

Organs are quite fragile and run a high risk of getting injured, especially if you make certain health choices. There is more to these readings than just benign tumors, things blood urea nitrogen, white blood cells, kidney failure, jaundice, and a variety of other health problems can be indicated by organ function.

  • How often: 3 – 6 per year (depending on your lifestyle)
  • Symptoms that a test is needed: Yellowing of skin and eyes, less urine, fluid retention, fatigue, weakness, a painful abdomen, swollen abdomen, sleepiness, loss of appetite, etc
  • Who needs it more: Heavier athletes, overweight individuals, those who practice bodybuilding, those who do drugs, those exposed to radiation, those undergoing cancer treatment, those with a family history of heart disease, those with an unhealthy diet and/or lifestyle

Inflammation Markers

How to Read Blood Test Results - TRT and Bodybuilding
Figure 3: Increased CRP can be a sign of some serious underlying issues

This is a test most people don’t tend to do, but they should. Inflammation markers like C-reactive protein (CRP), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and plasma viscosity (PV) can give a great insight into any health problem you may have (or may not have yet).

  • How often: 2 – 4 per year (depending on your lifestyle)
  • Symptoms that a test is needed: Abdominal pain, fatigue, poor muscle gain, water retention, joint pain, general unwell feeling
  • Who needs it more: Athletes, heavier individuals, smokers, those suffering from other health issues, those with abnormal testosterone levels, those with high/low red blood cells

Growth Hormone Factors

Typically we see a reduction in IGF-1 (insulin growth-like factor 1) and HGH (human growth hormone) as we age. This is completely normal, however, having them drop too low can be an indication that something else is wrong. Therefore you would need to test these to ensure you are healthy, as abnormal readings could lead to fat gain, muscle mass loss, depression, loss of libido, less bound testosterone, etc.

  • How often: 2 – 4 per year (depending on your lifestyle)
  • Symptoms that a test is needed: Abdominal pain, fatigue, poor muscle gain, water retention, joint pain, general unwell feeling
  • Who needs it more: Athletes, heavier individuals, older individuals, those using certain medicines (like Metformin), those will low levels of muscle

How to Read Your Blood Tests?

Reading your blood test and other tests can be complicated, and I don’t blame you for struggling. They certainly don’t make it easy, but they have made some efforts to make it easier to digest. Have a look at the following results:

You’ll see that there are the present readings as well as the ‘healthy range’ as indicated by your health care provider. This will depend on research done on medical conditions and the healthy population.

There is an issue of individuality here. See, you and I are different. We have different genetics. I’m 6’4 280lbs, of course, my inflammation markers will be higher. My kidney markers will always be evaluated compared to yours because I’m heavier.

Have a conversation with the health care provider. Be transparent with them about all the factors present in your life. They should be able to analyze your lab report in conjunction with the information you give them. For instance:

  • If you are someone who typically eats more protein your creatinine levels will be higher
  • As an athlete, your ‘base’ blood pressure markers are different from a normal human’s
  • As an athlete, you would need more bioavailable Testosterone

Blood Tests – Bodybuilding

Bodybuilders usually all use Anabolic Steroids and other PEDs to improve their performance in the gym. Thus, there are plenty of test results they need far more often and would almost always fall outside the normal range. Here are some ones that are most important:

  • Testosterone test, Estrogen, Prolactin, DHT, and Estrogen
  • Full Thyroid panel
  • Full metabolic test
  • Kidney, liver, and heart health
  • Inflammation markers
  • Glaecemic control

How often do Bodybuilders do Blood Work?

Depending on how often they choose to use Anabolic Steroids they would want to have a blood test done at least four times per year (preferably more).

Blood Tests – Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)

When thinking about getting masculinizing hormone therapy or otherwise known as TRT, you would only really need to suffer from one condition – your testosterone levels decrease. Once your testosterone levels test confirms you are indeed suffering from low testosterone you would be able to get your TRT from a doctor or clinic.

Your health practitioner will then monitor your blood sample every few months; testosterone levels, estrogen, etc. This way they can manage all health markers.

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Conclusion: Reading your Blood Test

The answer is rather simple. Take what the readings give into account along with what you know about yourself. Taking one or the other out of context is asking for trouble, so, best to take both.

The test measures your results acutely, meaning they might change over time. Thus, you would need to have them done rather regularly to ensure that your medical conditions are monitored and that no additional tests are ever needed.

FAQs

How do I read my full blood test results?

You simply compare your results to the ‘normal range’ given on the document. It might also be a good idea to take your own history and health markers into account. If you know you are more likely to suffer from something let your doctor know so you may discuss things in full clarity.

What are the most important numbers in a blood test?

Depending on the person, cholesterol, blood pressure, kidney function, hormone levels, and thyroid function.

Why do bodybuilders get blood work done?

Bodybuilders take a lot of exogenous hormones like hormone testosterone which can have adverse effects if they fail to manage the side effects.

Still Have Questions?

Drop us a comment down below and one of our expert coaches will respond to it. We’ll also be answering questions on our Instagram!

Contributors

Daniel Louwrens BSc PT

Daniel Louwrens BSc PT | Writer

Daniel Louwrens is a well-rounded fitness professional with over 10 years of experience in bodybuilding and fitness. He holds a BSc in Chemistry from the University of Western Cape and is a certified International Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He is also a skilled bodybuilder and head coach for Muscle and Brawn. With his knowledge and expertise, he provides personalized training, nutrition, and recovery guidance to help clients reach their fitness goals.

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