“Middle Age,” According to several dictionaries and the American Psychiatric Association, begins at roughly 45 and runs all the way to 65. But for me, it actually came early—at 38. Until then, I’d always been an active guy—not a star athlete, to be sure, but someone who did calisthenics every morning walked to work and ran about 10 miles a week. I ate a balanced diet and was naturally slim. But then, last year, I inexplicably started gaining weight and feeling exhausted most of the time; mysterious, often-debilitating aches and pains began shooting through my muscles and joints. For much of the past 12 months, I couldn’t even walk without the aid of crutches or an orthopedic boot, having developed an excruciating case of tendinitis in both feet simultaneously. It felt as if the bottom had fallen out of my life—like age had finally caught up to me and run me over. I fell into a depression.
To fight back, I sought out Michael Matthews’ 2014 book, Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body—an Amazon top seller—and read it with a highlighter in hand. Following Matthews’ program, I switched to a high-protein diet of “clean” foods—lean meats, Greek yogurt, fruits, green vegetables—and made sure I got eight hours of sleep a night. I even lightened my schedule to reduce stress.
In the gym, I became an early-morning regular, doing heavy compound lifts three days a week. I lost some fat, sure, but made only negligible gains in muscle mass. If anything, all that pumping iron caused my body to hurt only more. Nothing I did seemed to work; I didn’t feel any better. In fact, I felt only more exhausted, particularly at night, which, let’s just say, isn’t exactly great for a marriage. That was the final straw.
Frustrated and confused, I scheduled an appointment with my primary care doctor for a blood test. Reviewing the results, he did a double take: “This can’t be right,” he said—never something you want to hear from a doctor. “Your testosterone is super low.”
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