Intermittent fasting involves, for a predefined time period, either not eating at all or substantially reducing your calorie intake. It is usually done in either one of two ways – fasting on alternate days and avoiding food at specific meal times of each day. Intermittent fasting was at one point thought of as just another fad diet that would eventually fade away once the excitement around it dissipated.
Surprisingly though, it has remained pretty persistent with growing numbers of people swearing by it and its weight loss benefits (proof of its effectiveness is mixed). What does intermittent fasting do for testosterone though? I’ll tell you.
Is There a Connection Between Intermittent Fasting and Testosterone?
There is a connection but it is probably not the kind of connection you may have hoped for. In early studies (as far back as the 1980s) showed intermittent fasting may increase testosterone. In the years since, the science has overwhelmingly stated the reverse – intermittent fasting will lower your testosterone. A review of studies involving lean, young, physically active males, concluded that intermittent fasting decreased testosterone levels.
And it isn’t hard to see the possible reasons why. For instance, intermittent fasting can deprive the body of calories. The deprivation will affect numerous physiological processes and your body may respond by reducing resources devoted to hormone production.
I have to say research on the link between intermittent fasting and testosterone is still relatively thin. The human body is complex and there is still a lot that scientists do not know. It is possible that as the body of knowledge on both areas grows, future studies could eventually come to a different conclusion from the present one.
But Doesn’t Weight Loss Affect Testosterone?
There are four ways to naturally increase your blood testosterone:
It is on that last aspect that intermittent fasting could play a role. The primary goal of intermittent fasting is fat reduction and weight loss. And in that, intermittent fasting may have a positive albeit indirect effect on testosterone production.
Here’s how. Research shows excess weight is detrimental to total testosterone. In moderate obesity, this is believed to be due to the reduction in sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) as a result of insulin resistance-linked reductions. Most of your body’s testosterone is held in SHBG and so a reduction in SHBG comes with a near commensurate reduction in total testosterone.
In cases of severe obesity, the testosterone shortfall worsens. And this time it affects free testosterone, the active form of testosterone. The free testosterone decline due to a deterioration of the pivotal hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis. Low testosterone is of itself a risk for excess weight gain. So this all creates a vicious cycle.
Conversely, weight reduction when coupled with regular exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits can stimulate testosterone production.
Reduced weight also diminishes the risk of chronic inflammation, oxidative stress and the production of the stress hormone cortisol. As each of these are risk factors for low testosterone, it stands to reason that intermittent fasting could indirectly safeguard normal testosterone.
But even then, this is not of a sufficient or consistent enough degree for us to say intermittent fasting can be a reliable fix for low testosterone.
Intermittent fasting is an effective tool for fat reduction and weight loss. What it is not is a solution to low testosterone even though weight reduction may come with improvement in total testosterone. If anything, it could exacerbate the deficiency.
In case you are suffering from low testosterone, you are better off going for tried and tested solutions like testosterone boosters. It’s important that you talk to your doctor to find out which treatment path is most viable. They could recommend lifestyle changes that are best suited to support testosterone production. As a last resort, your doctor may prescribe testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).