Low testosterone can make you feel old and fat… not to mention clobber the libido. Learn about the three things that most of us do each day that lowers testosterone, and the remedies.
Note: This is article 5, part 3 to my FREE four-part series about how to build a strong and youthful body.
FOR THE reader who wants the bottom line rather than wading through the “whys and wherefores”, these are the three things most of us do every day that lowers testosterone:
- We eat too many blood glucose-spiking sugars and “simple” carbohydrates;
- We eat insufficient protein; and
- We ignore our muscles.
You can now scroll down to the end for the conclusions.
For the rest of you, what follows is why these assertions are true and what you an do about it.
#1. You eat too many blood glucose-spiking sugars and “simple” carbohydrates
“Nay, not me… I don’t even have sugar in the house,” you mutter in protest.
But, alas, you do!
Walk over to your kitchen cupboard or fridge and open it. Peer in. Grab nearly any container of food – can, bottle, box. Read the ingredients.
On the “Ingredients” label will be listed protein, fat and carbohydrates, among other things, like sugars.
Carbohydrates include sugars, starches, cellulose and many other compounds found in living organisms. They are not all the same. Some are wicked.
Carbs from vegetables are good, and can be consumed with abandon; in fact, the more the better. These are referred to as “complex” or “slow” carbs because they are slowly absorbed into the blood stream and do not cause insulin resistance.
Carbs from starchy plants are good, assuming you can digest them well. Focus on these, according to Chris Kresser’s Your Personal Paleo Code: Sweet Potato, Yam, Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash and Russet Potato.
Carbs from grains are mostly bad, and should be consumed in small amounts, ideally timed with exercise. From a molecular point of view, sugar is simplest of carbs.
The worst carb is sugar and most sugar substitutes. They should be completely avoided, unless of course, you happen to run into some sultry 80% cacao bittersweet chocolate.
Italian researchers discovered that excess glucose in your blood will reduce your testosterone levels. The more simple carbs you consume, they more glucose is produced. This means more insulin needs to be made by the pancreas so that it (insulin) can shuttle the glucose somewhere — either to energy-producing cells or to fat cells if this energy is not required because you’re couch surfing.
The Italian experiment indicated that the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (“GnRH”) has a key role in the body’s release of testosterone, and that high concentrations of glucose reduce the release its production.
High simple carbs = low GnRH = low testosterone.
Back to our kitchen cupboard…
If you happened to have a box of Vanilla Almond Granola cereal in your cupboard, and took a look at the list of ingredients, you’d note:
Serving size: 55 grams (2/3 cup)
Total carbs: 34 grams, of which 3 are dietary fiber and 12 sugars.
Now, pull out a can of Black Beans:
Serving size: 130 grams (1/2 cup)
Total carbs: 19 grams, of which 4 are dietary fiber and 0 sugars.
Will the cereal or the beans spike your blood sugar, require an abundance of insulin to shuttle the simple carbs to your cells to produce energy, the excess — the amount not required for energy — to be stored as fat?
Yep, the cereal it is.
Compare the beans to the cereal. Even though they have well over twice the grams, the beans have only about half the amount of carbs, have more fiber… and 0 sugars.
Yes, the cereal has 12 times more sugars!
The moral of the story is to read labels and to recognize that you want to eat food that is both low in total carbs and sugars, but high in fiber.
Fiber slows done blood sugar absorption, increases satiety and helps digestion and regularity – all good stuff.
“OK, so “simple” carbs are bad, but what does that have to do with my plunging testosterone?”, you ask.
Please bear with me… I have more to share about carbs, dietary fat and some history.
Low Fat, No Fat = Big Bucks
Sometime in the 1970s, a bunch of people who should have known better decided that consuming dietary fat makes us fat, so let’s make all food low or non-fat and not worry about how we have to bump up the carb count to compensate for the decline in taste.
On the face of it, makes sense: eat less fat = get less fat.
This was great news to the food industry because it meant that the industry could expand exponentially as more food products were created that would be altered in the lab to contain less fat.
Think about it.
What was food 100 years ago? Pretty much it was whatever came off the farm. What is food now? It’s every conceivable sliced and diced, remanufactured derivative of something that once grew on a farm. This meant more products to sell. And among them was a long list of low/non-fat foods.
I wrote about this in an article entitled, What’s Making Us Fat And Sick? . It began thus:
“Is sugar evil? Here I examine why sugar and other high glycemic carbohydrates have been eviscerated, and examine if this is deserved. A nation now eating 20+ times the amount of sugar than in the late 19th century, with a concomitant spike in obesity, needs to know the truth”.
I presented a lot of data, mostly in the form of graphs. Here’s one eye-opener:
The above chart was among many in the article that dramatically demonstrated how America’s overweight/obesity rates began to skyrocket after the introduction of low/non-fat food.
High fruit corn syrup and other sweeteners (along with salt) were used to enhance the flavor that would have been compromised by the reduction of the dietary fat content ordinarily found in the now adulterated food.
So, if you track overall sugar (and sugar substitutes, like high fruit corn syrup) consumption along with weight gain, you get charts like the one above.
Now, before you shout out, “but this doesn’t prove causality”, let me admit that it does not. Yet, whether you measure childhood obesity, severe obesity, the growth rate of different BMI categories, or carbohydrates consumed per day per person compared to obesity rates – they all track in lockstep to the introduction and growth of non/low fat food and drink.
[Check out the graphs here .]
What does sugar consumption have to do with testosterone levels?
(Yes, I’m finally am getting to it!)
Quite a bit. It goes like this:
High sugar (carb) consumption = More body fat = Lower Testosterone.
There are several ways that body fat lowers testosterone, but suffice to say, there’s one that covers a lot of territory.
Belly fat is of the biologically active variety; it converts testosterone into estradiol and neutralizes androgen DHT.
Yeah, that’s a mouthful. What it means is that the enzymes in body fat, particularly subcutaneous fat (like belly fat), makes men more womanly from a hormone perspective.
(Not that you get a break with visceral fat – the stuff between your organs, as it has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.)
For men being overweight is so detrimental to testosterone production that those taking supplemental testosterone may not benefit from it, and even may even develop side effects. (See more here.)
For women the story’s a bit different. Although testosterone is also linked to sex drive for women, their primary issue when it comes to the sex hormone balance between testosterone and estrogen is typically the inverse.
To explain this, however briefly, I must take a detour from the “what lowers your testosterone” motif of this article, and then continue with the second thing we do each day that lowers testosterone… [DETOUR]…
As women go through their middle years, their proportion of fat to body weight tends to increase more than it does in men. Especially at menopause, extra pounds tend to park themselves around the midsection, as the ratio of fat to lean tissue shifts and fat storage begins favoring the upper body over the hips and thighs.
Even women who don’t actually gain weight may still gain inches at the waist, as I’ll get to in a moment.
The amount of testosterone and estrogen in our bodies has a profound effect on much of what differentiates the sexes.
As boys move into their teenage years, testosterone surges and helps create the attributes associated with the male gender relative to females, such as a deeper voice, more muscle, facial hair and the like.
As girls move into their teenage years, estrogen surges and they begin to develop the distinguishing phenotype of women, such as more fat on thighs, hips and the development of breasts.
With menopause comes a reduction of estrogen and a tendency for fat to be redistributed onto the abdomen, even if there’s no net weight gain.
But there usually is… the weight gain I mean.
That’s because as they grow older both men and women tend to become less active and get fatter. That extra “biologically active” fat supercharges the naturally declining testosterone and increasing estrogen in men, and declining estrogen in women. [END OF DETOUR]
So, the main takeaway from the first of the three things we do everyday that lowers testosterone is to:
- Strive to eliminate sugars
- Eat as few grain-derived carbs as you can
- Eat as much carbs from veggie and starchy plant sources as you can
- Don’t substitute low/no fat items for full fat if the sugar/carb load is higher in the low/no fat version
On to the second thing…
#2. You Eat Too Little Protein
If you do some searching around, you’ll find several different formulas for the amount of protein to consume, typically measured as grams of protein per body weight.
Sometimes the formula differentiates total body weight from lean body mass (what you weigh without any fat), and sometimes a different formula is suggested for women.
My suggestion is not to wade too deep into these waters.
What you need to know, whether you have a baby-making capacity or not, is that your body needs protein and the amount is dependent on catabolic impact.
Protein builds up what was, in effect, torn down during your use of your body, referred to as catabolism. (Not to be confused with “cannibalism”.)
A body mostly at rest requires little protein. A body engaged in vigorous exercise, particularly exercise intended to exhaust muscles, needs more protein than had it (the body) been parked on the couch.
If you don’t exercise, just make sure you get a handful (literally) of high protein foods with each main meal. Not manageable? Then get a good protein supplement powder and mix it into some water or almond milk.
I use Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein whenever my meal could use some protein, and ProHealth’s Undenatured Whey Protein after workouts, as the whey is more quickly absorbed than most forms of protein and thus starts feeding those worn-out muscles quickly.
If you do exercise casually, the protein suggested in the paragraph above will be fine for you.
If you exercise with intensity, you need to ensure that this level of catabolism is met with a similar level of anabolism, which is the cellular process of building up organs and tissues, aka, muscle.
Proper anabolism requires good sound sleep, rest between bouts of muscle-taxing exercise and protein at regular intervals, like with each meal and ideally after exercising.
How much protein you may need is pretty individualistic, but shoot for 0.75 grams per lean (no fat included) body pound.
Don’t know your lean mass? Well, relax… unless you’re a body builder, just make sure you get a palm-sized portion of protein with most meals and drink 20 to 30 grams of a protein powder supplement after muscle-thumping exercise.
And that, dear reader, nicely segues to the #3 thing you do every day that lowers your testosterone…
#3. You Ignore Your Muscles
Some youngsters just sit around all day, just as their seniors may do. But on average, you were more active when in your youth than when grey flourished like weeds in your garden, threatening to overtake the fecund fruits of your labor.
Activity is muscle making, and in it’s absence things get a bit flabby.
Movement requires muscle and if the movement is under resistance – hauling your body up a hill, or lifting a barbell – then even more muscle is required.
Muscle and testosterone have an interesting relationship. It’s as if neither can decide whose in the driver’s seat. That’s because you need testosterone to make muscle, but also the more muscle-making activity performed, the better
“Training to build muscle mass elevates testosterone, and elevated testosterone helps build muscle mass,” says Gary Kehoe, CEO of Dreamspan Product Innovation.
The type of exercise is important. Aerobic exercise is a good thing, and you’re cardiovascular system will be happy with you, but it will not do much to build your testosterone levels.
To increase testosterone levels, you need to exercise to build muscle. So, go do some push-ups, pull-ups and squats. The next day, you should be a bit sore. Eat protein.
How do you know if you have low testosterone?
There’s a long list of symptoms for both men and women. As with many such lists, the stuff on it could apply to many health issues, particularly those associated with various hormonal deficiencies.
Naturally, the smart thing to do is to get tested, typically via blood or saliva.
Check out an intro to blood letting + links to my experience here.
Men’s Low Testosterone Symptoms
Endocrinologist Dr. Spyros Mezitis estimates that about a quarter to a third of the men he tests for testosterone have levels below normal.
“Sometimes it is testosterone, sometimes it is the thyroid, and sometimes it’s something unrelated to hormones”, says Dr. Mezitis.
So, as with women, the list of symptoms I’m about to share is related to low testosterone but do not definitively indicate low testosterone. For that, as said earlier, you need a blood or saliva test.
The bottom of a man’s normal total testosterone range is about 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). The upper limits are 1,000 to 1,200 ng/dL.
On average – all other things being equal – testosterone declines with age. What level is acceptable to you is up to you, assuming you’re willing to intervene to increase your number.
As I reported here, my last blood test put my total testosterone at 438 ng/dL, which is within the target range for my age, but well below what’s acceptable to me.
Medical doctors will argue this point, but I agree with the likes of Dr. Life who believe that it’s perfectly safe to resist nature and amp up your testosterone.
Dr. Jeffrey Life is a 70+ year-old medical doctor who transformed himself from this…
… to this…
He did it by using bioidentical testosterone, resistance training (building muscle) and diet, which I dig into here.
Unlike Dr. Life, I’m currently disinterested in using testosterone gels, patches or shots; instead, I’ve been taking various supplements that may be useful to helping the body produce more testosterone.
These articles are filled to the brim with suggestions about how you can pump up your testosterone:
- How I’m Boosting Testosterone and Blasting Fat
- Boost Your Testosterone Naturally
- More Muscle, Testosterone and Calm with Ashwagandha
- Fella’s, How Sturdy Is Your Morning Wood?
Here’s Dr. Life’s list of low testosterone symptoms:
Declining sexual and physical energy
Decline in the frequency of early morning erections
Decline in the number of spontaneous erections
Emotional swings, irritability, anxiety, depression
Foggy thinking, memory lapses
Increased cardiovascular issues
Loss of strength
Poor skin tone and saggy, wrinkled skin
Reduced lean muscle, higher body fat
Weak bones, osteopenia, osteoporosis (Source)
Women’s Low Testosterone Symptoms
This list comes from a Buzzle.com post. Remember that stuff on this list may be symptomatic of something other than low testosterone.
Moreover, remember that the whole testosterone subject is very sketchy for women.
Yes, it’s commonly agreed that a woman’s libido is affected by testosterone, but rarely is testosterone supplementation prescribed for women, and if it is, it’s a very smart thing to be under the supervision of a medical doctor who is a hormone expert.
Here’s the list for women:
Definite loss of muscle strength and mass
Accumulation of fat, especially around the abdomen
Anorgasmia or the inability to have orgasms
Increased risk of osteoporosis and related bone deterioration
Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
Lack of interest in sexual activity
Painful sexual intercourse
Sudden absence of menstruation
[Take Dr. John Lee’s Hormone Balance Test, both men and women.]
Just Remember This…
Men: help maintain your testosterone levels by eliminating sugar and reducing simple carbs, the main culprits in belly fat. Muscle-building exercise and protein will help greatly.
Women: Resist the tendency for mid-age belly fat due to naturally declining estrogen levels by taking belly fat promoting sugar and simple carbs out of the equation. Muscle-building exercise and protein will help greatly, not so much for the testosterone boost, but because more muscle increases metabolism.
Need help with the fat? Read the following…
- The Baby Boomers Guide To Trimming Body Fat
- How Joe Warner Got His 6-Pack In Just 12 Weeks!
- Can The Right Gut Bacteria Fight Obesity
That’s it… carry on…
If you liked this article and want to read the rest of the series, go here!
Last Updated on April 25, 2022 by Joe Garma