While we hear about hormonal issues in the context of female health but the truth is that it is important for both genders. Female health is a bit more impacted because the hormonal fluctuations in females are more prominent due to their menstrual cycles. Still, while not as widely known, there is a low-key epidemic of testosterone deficiency in modern men.
Let’s see how testosterone deficiency develops and why it is important to take care of the issue as soon as possible.
What are the causes of testosterone deficiency?
There are several things that can cause a drop in testosterone levels.
Age is one factor. Testosterone starts dropping in men after they hit 35 and tends to drop at an average rate of 1% per year. This isn’t a rule written in stone, and the drop can be less or more severe depending on lifestyle and genetics. In women, the drop happens later in life as they go through menopause, as a big chunk of their testosterone is produced by the ovaries, which stop producing eggs after that occurs.
Another big factor, which is mostly responsible for the overall increase in testosterone deficiency in the 21st century, is the modern lifestyle. With more and more jobs requiring people to sit during work hours and more and more hobbies being sedentary, we now have people who rarely get up and do physical activities. Having a sedentary lifestyle is a big contributor to the drop in testosterone levels.
Finally, we’ve all heard about the massive jump in obesity around the world. The medical world, up until recently, thought that fat tissue was just a repository for energy to be used later, but in actuality, it has a bigger effect on the body. It releases enzymes that convert testosterone into estrogen, which can mess with the hormonal equilibrium of our bodies.
Other factors may include various diseases and treatments that can interfere with testosterone production, but these can rarely be resolved naturally and require medical assistance, so they are not a part of our discussion.
Symptoms of testosterone deficiency
Testosterone handles quite a few things in both the male and female body. A deficiency may disrupt some pretty big processes but a bit more so in male bodies than in female ones — it simply has a bigger role to play in men.
A couple of universal issues that both men and women can experience include osteoporosis and issues with libido. Testosterone plays a big role in the repair of bone tissue, and if the body is exposed to prolonged testosterone deficiency, it may not be able to keep up with the deterioration leading to osteoporosis.
The hormone also plays a vital role when it comes to healthy sexual desire in both genders, as the body relies on a particular hormonal balance to function properly.
In men, a lack of testosterone can lead to several other issues. As testosterone is responsible for mood regulation, a deficiency can lead to problems with mood swings. Sometimes this can manifest as a lack of energy. In other cases, spikes in irritability, agitation, anger, and even depression. Testosterone can also impact the quality of sperm and may lead to erectile dysfunction.
Testosterone also has a big role to play in protein synthesis, which is crucial in the development and maintenance of lean muscle mass. The fall in testosterone levels in older men is the direct cause of their inability to develop muscles as fast as younger men do.
A unique and a bit surprising role of testosterone in the female body is that it is essential to the repair of the reproductive organs during the monthly cycle. A lack of testosterone can lead to inconsistent and prolonged menstrual cycles.
Testosterone also has a big impact on fat metabolization in both genders. A lack of testosterone usually indicates that you'll start gaining more weight as your body will not be as effective in processing it.
Things that improve testosterone levels
Now let’s discuss some effective approaches to helping your body improve its testosterone production. Most of these are generally good for your health and benefit your well-being, so relying on a multiple of these isn’t only possible but very advisable too.
One of the biggest causes of an early and intense drop in testosterone is a sedentary lifestyle. It leads to poor circulation and obesity, and all of this increases the chances of failing testosterone production. The countermeasure is simple — you start moving and working out. There are two specific types of exercise that have been proven to be very effective in raising testosterone levels, and we’re going to go over them.
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, includes intense workouts and short breaks in between up until the point of exhaustion. Now what’s very good about this type of exercise is that it’s more of an exercise philosophy and can be done with various types of exercise as long as the philosophy applies. The impact of HIIT on testosterone has been proven in a study by Tadeusz Ambroży et al. from 2021, among others.
The other good option is resistance training. If you've never heard of this type of training, it’s basically the most stereotypical training type you would imagine for a gym goer — barbells, a lot of weight, and low reps. If we talk about specific exercises, deadlifts, bench press, squats, and barbell rows have been proven to be the most effective. Jakob L Vingren et al. did a study in 2010 that outlines the effects of resistance training on testosterone pretty nicely.
Of course, other types of exercise will help as well but keep away from intense cardio as it is known to actually lower testosterone which is the last thing you want.
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to eat bad-tasting food — it does mean you have to drop fast foods, processed sugars, and bad fats. There are several types of foods that are known to contribute to testosterone production:
There is an abundance of recipes you can make with these, and these are not the only ingredients you can use. Just keep it healthy and add whatever you want.
3. Healthy sleep patterns
We still don’t really know how sleeping impacts our health exactly or why we need it, but what we do know is that lack of sleep leads to some big consequences.
The important aspect of sleep for testosterone is the fact that testosterone is the highest during our sleep. If your sleep is interrupted consistently or you are not getting enough sleep, testosterone doesn’t peak, which means that your overall testosterone levels tend to drop. Sleep apnea is a big issue when it comes to this as well since it destroys the quality of your sleep and ensures the oxygen levels are suboptimal.
Make sure you get your sleeping environment and sleeping habits back in order so as to ensure normal testosterone production.
4. Lose weight if you have some extra
We already mentioned how fat tissue impacts our testosterone levels — it releases enzymes that help transform testosterone into estrogen. The more fat tissue you have, the bigger the chances of developing a deficiency and a hormonal disbalance.
The best way to go about this is to exercise and keep a caloric deficit while getting a high-protein diet. This way, you ensure your body burns fat for energy and your muscles get enough protein to grow. This way, you lose weight in the right places.
5. Regular sex
There is a particular bi-directional connection between sex and testosterone. The more sex you have, the more your testosterone rises, the more you crave sex. The reverse is also true. The less sex you have, the more your testosterone drops, the less sex you crave. We know this is easier said than done, as people are not always in a situation to have a say over these matters, but it’s a good thing to consider.
6. Get more vitamin D
Vitamin D levels are at an all-time low. The reason for this is that vitamin D is produced mostly by exposure to sunlight, and most of us need more exposure. The best way to fight this deficiency, if you have it, is to go outside and have some time in the sun. If you can’t do this for some reason, you can get vitamin D from food and supplementation.
Things that reduce testosterone levels
When it comes to boosting testosterone production, it is as important to know what not to do as it is important to know what to do. Let’s look at some of the more destructive things for our testosterone production and see why you should avoid them.
1. Sedentary lifestyle
We have a major epidemic of a sedentary lifestyle. When we combine modern hobbies and entertainment with modern jobs, we get only a few hours of physical activity during the day — if that.
When it comes to testosterone, we have plenty of research that shows that physical activity really benefits our testosterone levels, while being inactive harms it. We recommend you take a look at a study from 2016 by Hiroshi Kumagai et al., which shows the effects physical activity has on testosterone production while also covering other lifestyle changes. We also recommend a study by Lærke Priskorn from 2016 that covers the impact of a sedentary lifestyle on testicular function.
There’s a simple solution here — find activities that get you off your behind and get your body working.
2. Drugs and alcohol
We all know that drugs and alcohol are bad for our health overall. Not many men are aware that they can impact the health of their reproductive system, some leading to hypogonadism, while others are reducing the quality of sperm production.
We recommend you take a look at the Ylenia Duca et al. study from 2019 and focus on the conclusions the study came to. They break down the effects drugs and alcohol have on testicles by substance and give great insight into the consequences of substance abuse.
If you have a testosterone deficiency and you regularly drink a lot or do drugs, you are going to spiral down really quickly. We know that these are addictive activities and that kicking the habit is a challenge, but being hungover, spending your hormones to no end, and losing testosterone will definitely lead to depression. It is going to be a challenge, but it’s well worth it.
3. Certain exercises
It seems that, even though physical activity tends to raise testosterone, some specific types of exercises will make your T levels drop. The primary culprit here is endurance training — in other words, a prolonged cardio activity that exhausts you completely and continues to demand effort. This includes cycling, marathon running, and other activities that are not intense at first but continue to drain you through long workouts.
This is an easy fix, just don’t do endurance training.
Stress is another big factor in disrupting normal testosterone production. There is a curious relationship between testosterone and stress, as testosterone can inhibit stress while consistent stress can reduce the amount of testosterone produced.
One weird thing when it comes to this is that short-term, resolved stress tends to raise our testosterone, while long-term stress negatively impacts our testosterone levels. We can look at the study by Christian E. Deuter et al. from 2021 that shows how this relationship works.
Even though you might be going through a stressful stretch of your life, you can do a few things to get your stress levels down. Meditation, exercise, and some teas can help calm you down, and walks in nature are a great way to decompress from everyday stress. This is worth the effort, as managing stress will not only help you boost testosterone production but will generally keep you healthy and improve your quality of life.
It’s worth noting that if you have an underlying condition, problems with testicular health, or the adrenal gland, which physically prevents you from producing testosterone, few of these things will help. However, if the drop is related to your lifestyle choices, then these things can help.
We would recommend you consider all of the suggestions here and weigh them against your lifestyle choices. Find where you are doing things wrong and start making changes. Each one of the suggestions made above can be expanded upon and may help you get your hormones back on track. Still, if we had to make only a single suggestion, it would definitely be exercise. It has the biggest impact on daily testosterone production and can help combat other bad habits you have. For example, if you have trouble sleeping, exercise can help. Poor circulation? Exercise can help.
We hope we managed to help you out!