Testosterone – Everything You Need To Know
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone responsible for the development of the male reproductive tissues such as the penis, testes, and prostate. It also promotes secondary characteristics such as –
- Sex drive
- Sperm production
- Deepening of voice during puberty
- Increased muscle and bone mass
- Red blood cell production
- Fat distribution
- Growth of body and facial hair.
When you get into the fitness scene, you’ll be bombarded with the word “testosterone”. Rather than being confused and clueless about it, you’d be better off dropping knowledge and engaging in a conversation about testosterone when the topic comes up.
Diseases and Conditions That Affect Testosterone
A drop in testosterone can be linked to conditions and/or diseases affecting the –
- Testes – direct injury, castration, infection, radiation treatment, chemotherapy, tumors
- Pituitary and hypothalamus glands – tumors, medications (especially steroids, morphine or related drugs and major tranquilizers, such as haloperidol), HIV/AIDS, certain infections and autoimmune conditions
Genetic diseases, such as Klinefelter syndrome (in which a man has an extra x-chromosome) and hemochromatosis (in which an abnormal gene causes excessive iron to accumulate throughout the body, including the pituitary gland) can also affect testosterone.
If you think you have one of these diseases but aren’t sure about it, check for the signs mentioned below.
Signs of Low Testosterone
Men with T-levels at 300 ng/dL and above are considered to have a healthy amount of active test. But you might ask what happens when the test levels fall below the natural levels and why is it such a big deal that everyone is always talking about it? Think of testosterone as the fuel a man’s body runs on. Once the body falls in the low fuel stage, these are some of the most common signs –
Weaker Bones and Joint Health
Contrary to what most people think, bones aren’t like metal poles meant to give length and shape to your body. Bones are living tissues that constantly break down and rebuild themselves. The role of testosterone in bone health?
When T-levels fall, your bone breaks down faster than your body can build it back up. As a result of this phenomenon, you’re at a higher risk of low bone density, osteoporosis, and fractures when your test levels are low.
Fall in Sex Drive
A drop in libido is arguably one of the most common signs of low testosterone levels in men. Not only will you want to desist from having sex, but it’s also reported that men with low test levels masturbate less often.
Brain areas involved with sexual desire are packed with testosterone receptors. The male hormone fits inside them like a key inside a lock. Turning the key lights up the brain areas responsible for turning you on. Without testosterone, there would be no turning-on process. Goodbye, foreplays.
To make matters worse, a lack of sexual desire can cause problems with erections, though low T doesn’t directly affect the plumbing involved in getting or staying hard.
Drop-in Muscle Mass
A healthy testosterone level puts your body in an anabolic (muscle building) state by helping your body produce and assemble proteins. In the cases of low T-levels, your body turns catabolic which leads to the breaking down of muscle tissue instead of building them up.
A drop in test levels can take some time to show in your muscle mass. At first, you might hit a plateau and notice that it’s harder to push as much weight in the gym. You can expect to lose muscle size after a few weeks of low active testosterone levels.
Higher Risk of Heart Diseases
A study conducted in the U.K. found men with low T-levels had a greater risk of dying from heart disease than men with normal levels. The reason behind this could be that testosterone can help open up blood vessels to the heart, allowing blood to flow more freely.
But before you jump onto a doctor’s table for testosterone therapy, you should know that some studies have shown that testosterone therapy – especially in older men or those with existing heart conditions—might increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Experts believe that therapy can lead to thickened blood and the possibility of blood clots. (More on this later in the article).
One Australian research found that men with prostate cancer gained 14 percent more body fat and 22 percent more visceral fat after one year of androgen deprivation therapy – a treatment that turns off testosterone’s effects.
For the people who don’t know what visceral fat is, it’s the deep abdominal fat that forms around your organs and increases your risk for diabetes and heart disease. It’s no coincidence that inactive men and people with low test levels have bulging stomachs.
Low hormone levels are also responsible for balding in elderly men and the growth of man boobs (moobs). A rise in estrogen levels (the female sex hormone) and a decline in testosterone are the reasons behind fat and balding men.
Oh, so you thought mood swings are a girly thing, get ready to be surprised. While some side effects of low testosterone like a loss of sexual appetite and weight gain can contribute to mood swings, there is also evidence of a more direct effect of low testosterone on mood.
According to a study conducted by the Endocrine Journal, 23 percent of young men with newly diagnosed low testosterone met the criteria for depression, compared to only 5 percent of young guys with normal levels of the hormone.
Smaller Penis and Scrotum Size
Falling T-levels cause you to gain size where it hurts and lose where it counts. A lack of a steady flow of test can cause the tissues in your penis, scrotum, and testicles to shrivel. And as a result, your penis might lose length and girth.
You might also notice your balls shrink to half the size and turn squishy instead of firm. Fun fact – according to research conducted by the Indian Journal of Urology, testosterone therapy in boys with a micropenis can increase their size by up to an inch and a half.
Having trouble with thinking clearly or remembering stuff? There might be something wrong with your testosterone levels. In a 2015 study, men whose testosterone levels declined over 5 years also experienced a drop in scores on tests of their mental function and memory.
If you have low test levels, we hope you remember everything you read in the article. Jokes aside, low T-levels aren’t as big a deal as some people make them. Eradicate low test levels by following the action steps mentioned below.
Way of Improving Testosterone Production and Levels
As you age, a gradual decline in your natural T-levels is normal and nothing to worry about – about 1 percent a year after age 30 or 40. On the other hand, if you’re at the dawn of your adult life, living with low test levels for a prolonged time can be a cause for concern. Use these steps to boost your testosterone naturally –
Studies have shown that working out (endurance and resistance training) can boost your active testosterone levels. As mentioned earlier, low testosterone levels can affect your sex drive and mood.
Training, on the other hand, can elevate your mood and make you feel good. Regular training boosts the release of endorphins which are brain chemicals that help you feel happier and more confident.
Get Enough Zinc
In some cases, low testosterone production can be due to hypogonadism – which is a failure of the gonads, testes in men and ovaries in women, to function properly. Most men with hypogonadism often have zinc deficiencies.
Low zinc levels can strike a big blow to your T-levels as some studies suggest that zinc plays an important role in regulating serum testosterone levels in healthy men. Adult males should aim to get 11 mg of zinc each day. Foods such as beans, nuts, crabs, lobsters, and whole grains are rich in zinc.
Lose The Excess Weight
Overweight, middle-aged men with prediabetes are more prone to have low testosterone levels. Men who maintain a normal weight have a lower risk of developing full-blown diabetes as well as hypogonadism.
A study published in the European Journal of EndocrinologyTrusted Source showed that losing weight can help boost your testosterone production. If you want to improve your T-levels, losing the weight and keeping it off by following a healthy lifestyle should be your priority.
Cut The Sugar
If you’re experiencing low test levels, you’ll have to say good-bye to your favorite food and beverage cravings that are loaded with sugar. The Endocrine Society reports that glucose (sugar) decreases testosterone levels in the blood by as much as 25 percent.
The next time you’re about to take a bite of your favorite donut or a sip of coke, remember the effect it’ll have on your manhood. Getting rid of sugar from your diet or using healthy alternatives like stevia is the way to go if you want to improve your test levels.
Nothing can beat the contribution of eating a healthy diet to testosterone production. If you have low test levels or want to make sure it never falls below the recommended levels, you should eat these testosterone-boosting foods –
- Low-fat Milk With Vitamin D
- Egg Yolks
- Fortifies Cereals
Low testosterone levels can be seen in people who tend to overwork and exhaust themselves psychologically and physiologically. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night should be non-negotiable in your quest for improved T-levels as research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that lack of sleep can greatly reduce a healthy young man’s testosterone levels.
Sleep deprivation doesn’t end at low test levels, the study participants also reported a decreased sense of wellbeing as their blood testosterone levels dropped. Eating, working, and resting well should be the mantra for healthy testosterone levels.
Due to the unhealthy modern-day lifestyle, more men have lower testosterone levels than ever. Thanks to the advancement in sports and nutrition science, there are many effective testosterone supplements on the market.
Testosterone boosters are natural supplements that can increase your testosterone production. Some of these supplements include –
- D-Aspartic Acid
- Vitamin D
- Tribulus Terrestris
Best Testosterone Boosting Supplements
If you’ve tried everything mentioned in the article but still can’t get your T-levels to budge in the right direction, you should consider seeing a doctor. Up until now, the article was all about self-diagnose and treatment but now we’ll get into the medical side.
Testosterone therapy can help reverse the effects of hypogonadism. Currently, testosterone therapy is approved primarily for the treatment of delayed male puberty, low production of testosterone (whether due to failure of the testes, pituitary or hypothalamus function) and certain inoperable female breast cancers.
Testosterone replacement therapy is available in several forms –
- Skin patch (transdermal): Androderm is a skin patch worn on the arm or upper body. It’s applied once a day.
- Gels: AndroGel and Testim come in packets of clear testosterone gel. Testosterone is absorbed directly through the skin when you apply the gel once a day.
- Mouth patch: Striant is a tablet that sticks to the upper gums above the incisor. Applied twice a day, it continuously releases testosterone into the blood through the oral tissues.
- Injections and implants: Testosterone can also be injected directly into the muscles, or implanted as pellets in the soft tissues. Your body slowly absorbs the testosterone into the bloodstream.
You might be wondering why there is no testosterone pill on the list? While there are oral pills available on the market, some experts suggest avoiding them as they can negatively affect your liver. Using skin patches, gels, orally disintegrating tablets, or injections, bypasses the liver and gets testosterone into the blood directly.
- Benign prostatic hypertrophy
- Sleep apnea
- Prostate Cancer
- Congestive heart failure
- Blood Clots