Testosterone can interact with many substances in different ways. It is a very active hormone, and it doesn’t even have to interact with substances directly. All it takes is that the substance in question interacts with one of the systems that impact either testosterone production or testosterone levels, and we have a connection.
Coffee is a very common beverage, and it has many benefits for those who consume it. Being that it has a very active impact on our everyday lives, we’d like to explore its connection to testosterone — if any.
What you need to know
Caffeine: The primary active ingredient in coffee
Most of us are aware that the primary active ingredient of coffee is caffeine. This substance falls into the category of natural stimulants, which can be relevant information as some people are allergic to these substances while others are sensitive to them. Either way, they are certainly not for everyone.
They take effect by stimulating the central nervous system and the brain, most noticeably increasing alertness and tiredness prevention.
Our road to figuring out caffeine as a species is a long one. We know that humans brewed teas as far back as 2500 BC, but the discovery of caffeine is a far more recent affair. Coffee was discovered by a goat shepherd in Ethiopia who noticed goats get a boost of energy when they eat it. The 1800s started the caffeine craze with soft drinks flooding the market.
These days as many as 80% of the world’s population drinks caffeinated drinks each day, and most of us can’t imagine going through the day without them.
Other drinks that contain significant amounts of caffeine
The list of drinks that contain caffeine is very long, so we’re not going to mention all of them here. We are, however, going to mention the most popular and widespread ones. Coffee, of course, tops the charts, followed by black and green tea. Even though we associate Turkey with coffee quite a lot, the nation drinks black tea far more than coffee.
Energy drinks usually contain caffeine, along with other stimulants. The coffee plant is associated with caffeine almost exclusively, but caffeine can be found in many other plants.
Guarana is one of these plants, and it’s very commonly used as an ingredient in energy drinks. The cacao tree and its product, cacao, are another option for you to get caffeine into your systems.
Sodas also commonly contain caffeine, although significantly less than energy drinks.
How are testosterone and caffeine connected
Caffeine generally has a positive impact on testosterone levels. It has been shown that men that consume caffeine on a regular basis, on average, have more testosterone than those that don’t. Not only this but the estradiol levels, both free and total, have been reduced. It has also been suggested by researchers that caffeine may act as an aromatase inhibitor that boosts testosterone production.
We want to temper expectations here. Coffee is not a full solution to testosterone deficiency — caffeine can slightly boost testosterone levels with regular consumption. Testosterone deficiency is a complex issue and can be caused by several things, so using caffeine is not a “swiss army knife” solution for this issue.
What you should be doing when you notice testosterone deficiency symptoms is go see a doctor, get your levels tested, and take it from there. Coffee can be one small piece of the puzzle in your recovery that you throw in for good measure.
Studies that cover the effects of caffeine on testosterone
The best way to confirm an effect of a particular study is through clinical studies and meta-analysis of the results. Let’s see what studies outline the relationship between caffeine and testosterone.
A study from 2008 by C Martin Beaven et al. studied the effect of caffeine on 24 professional rugby players, and they tested how various doses of caffeine impacted them during resistance training sessions. They came to the conclusion that caffeine can positively impact testosterone levels, but its impact on cortisol needs to be weighed with positive effects.
Not all studies show positive results, however. A study from 2012 by Nicole M Wedick et al. showed that there is no connection between the two. Still, even the authors themselves caution against taking this study at face value due to the small scale of this study.
A study by David S. Lopez et al. from 2018 used cross-sectional findings from NHANES 1999–2004 and 2011–2012, which included 2581 men. They found no relationship between testosterone and caffeine, but they did find a connection between caffeine and reversing obesity which could also be a way to contribute to testosterone growth.
As you can see, studies show a wide range of conflicting results, and we’re still some time away from figuring out this relationship completely. For now, what we’re comfortable claiming is that it may help some people get a slight boost of testosterone — that’s it.
How does caffeine impact other hormones?
Amazingly, caffeine does interact with more than a few other hormones in the human body. Let’s go through the more important ones:
The female sex hormone interacts with caffeine but only in specific circumstances. One study showed that women who consumed 200 mg of caffeine had lower estrogen levels than those who didn’t, but this drop didn’t have any adverse effects on them.
The “feel good” hormone is highly coveted by most, and caffeine doesn’t really have a good interaction with it.
Studies show that caffeine is able to trigger the secretion of serotonin, which can lead to it being depleted. This can lead to issues with sleep and increased caffeine cravings culminating in symptoms of depression.
If you notice these symptoms, make sure you discontinue the use of caffeine.
The “happy hormone” makes us feel euphoric. This hormone is commonly released after we work out and is the reason why people get hooked on going to the gym. Dopamine is always present in our brains, but elevated levels lift our moods.
Like with most other hormones, caffeine doesn’t directly interact with dopamine — it actually just prevents dopamine from leaving the brain, making its effect longer. Keep in mind that this is one of the reasons why we get addicted to caffeine, so keep your coffee intake moderate.
One of the two “fight or flight” hormones in our body, adrenaline, provides a short but intense burst of energy for specific situations. Caffeine is able to trigger a short release of adrenaline and give us a spark of energy. When this adrenaline vanes, though, we crash, and this is why the delayed tiredness feels more intense when the effect wears off.
Too much caffeine can cause adrenal fatigue as it may harm our adrenal glands, so again, we advise moderation.
The second “fight or flight” hormone, also known as the stress hormone, cortisol, has a longer effect than its counterpart, adrenaline.
It has several roles to play in our body aside from the above-mentioned — boosting energy, regulating the sleep cycle, dealing with inflammation, increasing blood glucose, and management of carb, protein, and fat food use.
Caffeine is capable of raising cortisol levels in our body which is not necessarily a bad thing. Like any other hormone, it has its optimal range, and neither low nor high levels are good for us.
The boost to cortisol will vary from person to person and the amount of coffee they ingest.
One thing to note here, caffeine is something our bodies develop a tolerance to, and if you have tolerance, a lot of these interactions with hormones don’t occur. This is why most supplements that contain caffeine as one of the primary ingredients are usually cycled — you use them for a while, then you discontinue use for a while to avoid developing tolerance, and then go back to using it again.
How much caffeine is too much?
The number of 400 mg per day seems to be the consensus for maximum daily intake, and this amounts to around four cups of coffee per day — depending on the coffee, of course. Going over that may lead to a variety of side effects, including headaches, insomnia, irritability, nervousness, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, and frequent urination.
Those that are prone to anxiety attacks may experience even more frequent attacks due to caffeine overload. Even people who don’t have anxiety issues may experience the jitters from a caffeine overload.
Coffee has many benefits that we can rely on, but testosterone boosting seems not to be one of them. Studies that sought out the connection between the two came back with mixed results. We wouldn’t recommend it to those seeking ways to consistently boost their testosterone levels and combat deficiency.
It does, however, interact with other hormones and may be useful for some people seeking specific effects. The only things you need to be mindful of are developing tolerance and developing addiction — both of these require scheduled, regular coffee intake.
We hope we managed to help you out.
There are studies that show caffeine increases testosterone but also those that show it does the opposite. The best answer we can give is that it may boost testosterone in some, and not terribly significant amount.
Decaf has been shown not to have an effect on testosterone, so if you seek this effect, you should go for regular coffee.
There are studies that show this, but this effect hasn’t yet been confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt.