Effects of testosterone supplementation on body composition and lower-body muscle function during severe exercise- and diet-induced energy deficit: A proof-of-concept, single centre, randomised, double-blind, controlled trial

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BACKGROUND: Severe energy deficits during military operations, produced by significant increases in exercise and limited dietary intake, result in conditions that degrade lean body mass and lower-body muscle function, which may be mediated by concomitant reductions in circulating testosterone. METHODS: We conducted a three-phase, proof-of-concept, single centre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (CinicalTrials.gov, NCT02734238) of non-obese men: 14-d run-in, free-living, eucaloric diet phase; 28-d live-in, 55% exercise- and diet-induced energy deficit phase with (200 mg testosterone enanthate per week, Testosterone, n = 24) or without (Placebo, n = 26) exogenous testosterone; and 14-d recovery, free-living, ad libitum diet phase. Body composition was the primary end point; secondary endpoints included lower-body muscle function and health-related biomarkers. FINDINGS: Following energy deficit, lean body mass increased in Testosterone and remained stable in Placebo, such that lean body mass significantly differed between groups [mean difference between groups (95% CI), 2.5 kg (3.3, 1.6); P < .0001]. Fat mass decreased similarly in both treatment groups [0.2 (-0.4, 0.7), P = 1]. Change in lean body mass was associated with change in total testosterone (r = 0.71, P < .0001). Supplemental testosterone had no effect on lower-body muscle function or health-related biomarkers. INTERPRETATION: Findings suggest that supplemental testosterone may increase lean body mass during short-term severe energy deficit in non-obese, young men, but it does not appear to attenuate lower-body functional decline. FUNDING: Collaborative Research to Optimize Warfighter Nutrition projects I and II, Joint Program Committee-5, funded by the US Department of Defence.

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