Testosterone and Weight Loss: Is There a Link?

Think testosterone is all about bulk? Guess again. It turns out there might be more to the potent male hormone than muscle size alone. According to research, there’s a close link to weight loss too.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is arguably the most important hormone you have and most of it is produced inside the testes.

Hormones are signaling molecules used to send messages around the body. Testosterone itself triggers many crucial changes throughout your life[1].

It made masculine traits like muscle mass, increased height, and voice deepening emerge during puberty for a start.

Testosterone then continues to thrive well into early adulthood. Here it’s responsible for helping to regulate mood, sex drive, fertility, bone density, and body composition. Yes, testosterone can even affect the way your fat’s distributed.

Normal testosterone levels for men sit between 300 – 1,000 ng.dL.

You’re at your androgen hormone producing peak in your late teens. Everything then starts to level out in your 20s, before dropping off slightly after 30.

Age-related testosterone decline is inevitable[2][3], yet, your lifestyle still matters. Filling your days with exercise, great sleep, and good food are simple steps that support your hormones.

Back in 2007, a large study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology reported a substantial drop in the testosterone levels of US men since 1980[4].

Decline in levels averaged around 1% each year too, meaning 21st century men live with decades worth of dropped androgens compared to our predecessors.

Low testosterone in men

Testosterone and Weight Loss: Is There a Link? 1

When testosterone levels dip below the 300 ng.dL baseline, they’re considered abnormally low. Hypogonadism is the technical term for this condition, but most men use the simpler expression ‘low testosterone’.

Low testosterone can severely rock your wellbeing. All the benefits of robust testosterone production can be diminished, leaving you feeling weak, lethargic, and irritable. Symptoms of low testosterone include:

  • Low libido/sex drive
  • Low semen volume/sperm quality
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Hair loss
  • Increased body fat
  • Reduced muscle mass
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Testicle atrophy

Naturally, either of these side effects can significantly alter your wellbeing. Many men faced with low testosterone say it seriously disrupts their life.

Age-related low testosterone is typically reserved for older men and a lot of doctors don’t treat it.

However, modern, stressful lifestyles full of anxiety, low levels of exercise, and bad diets can cause havoc for your hormones. Experts have also found a connection between low testosterone and obesity.

Low Testosterone and Obesity

Obesity is incredibly bad for your health. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis and chronic kidney disease are some of the more severe risks associated with carrying too much body fat[5].

In 2010, experts estimated that 3.4 million deaths had been caused by being either overweight or obese[6]. They then reported that the global count of overweight men grew from 28.8% in 1980 to 36.9% in 2013[7]

Apparently, obesity might be a cause of lower life expectancy in the future[8]. We could literally take a step backward after generations of extending the average lifespan.

But what does it all have to do with testosterone?

Testosterone and obesity are a dangerous double-edged sword. Because while obesity can cause low testosterone, low testosterone can also cause obesity.

They both influence each other in a bad, hormone-suppressing feedback loop.

Earlier we saw that testosterone plays a part in body composition. The powerful androgen hormone has the ability to boost muscle building, and in turn, promote fat loss[9][10][11].

Men with thriving testosterone typically find it easier to stay leaner than their hypogonadal peers.

Low testosterone men, on the other hand, often find that they gain fat easier in comparison. This is where the double-edged sword analogy comes into play, because testosterone levels are frequently reduced in obesity too[12].

How obesity lowers testosterone

It’s estimated that testosterone levels are 30% lower in obese men and that over 70% of those men have hypogonadism[13].

Considering the importance of testosterone, you could say that’s a considerable amount. What’s optimistic though, is how weight loss might reverse their low testosterone[14].

Experts aren’t exactly sure how low testosterone is impacted by obesity. Yet, a lot of research suggests that visceral abdominal fat might play a part. You’ll know this as belly fat, the stubborn kind most men want to get rid of.

Belly fat has high levels of aromatase inside, which is an enzyme that converts estrogen into testosterone. So, just by carrying more belly fat, you can increase your natural levels of estrogen[15].

Although this doesn’t sound too bad, remember that estrogen is the female sex hormone and having too much disrupts your hormone balance.

Low testosterone can be one negative side effect[16], as well as gynecomastia, the development of large breasts in men[17].

Low testosterone’s impact on obesity

One theory suggests that low T men might gain more weight because of their reduced muscle mass[18].

Healthy testosterone promotes peak muscle protein synthesis, so when its low, muscle loss starts to occur. Your body composition begins to change in favor of fat over muscle.

Muscles need energy to function and stay alive. So, because there’s not as much muscle craving calories, it’s easier to eat too much.

If there’s less muscle to use up extra energy, there’s more chance food calories will be stored as body fat. Put plainly, your calorie needs get smaller.

How can you increase your T levels naturally?

It’s clear to see how optimizing your testosterone could fuel fat loss. However, hormones can be tricky to navigate without the right know-how.

Whenever you’re trying to top up your testosterone, it’s good to start natural. There are lots of avenues to explore before asking your doctor for treatment. TRT isn’t the only way to amplify your androgens – you could try these few steps first.

Reduce stress

Testosterone and Weight Loss: Is There a Link? 2

Stress is a not-so-silent killer of modern men. High job strain and twenty first century anxieties are making many of us seriously ill[19][20]. It’s also messing with our testosterone.

Chronic stress causes rampant release of the hormone cortisol. In short doses, this natural response can be beneficial in helping us deal with intense situations.

But when stress is ongoing and your cortisol levels consistently creep higher, testosterone takes a back seat[21].

The hormones share an inverse relationship, meaning that if one increases, the other usually comes down[22].

What’s even worse is that cortisol can also increase appetite[23]. So, not only could stress cause your testosterone to fall, but it might make cravings harder to handle. Studies show that cortisol also sends signals to store more body fat too.

Simply put, stress could be stopping your weight loss in its tracks[24].

Take time to reduce stress and start supporting your testosterone. Try a new past time, revisit an old hobby, or even give transcendental meditation ago.

There are genuine studies showing how channeling your inner Zen can ignite masculine hormones[25].

Take the right supplements

Eating a well-balanced diet is one of the best bases for building healthy testosterone. Supplements simply offer a chance to add-on key nutrients or fill in any gaps.

Zinc and vitamin D especially can be beneficial for men. Not only are they integral to your overall health, but deficiencies can cause complications when it comes to testosterone.

Experts agree that men who don’t get enough of either are likelier to have lower androgen counts. Interestingly, studies show that supplementing can help reverse dropped testosterone as well as deficiencies[26][27].

Ashwagandha, an ancient adaptogen herb with stress reducing benefits is another popular choice[28]. Unlike some traditional medicines, studies actually show ashwagandha in action.

According to one from 2009, men who took ashwagandha hiked up their testosterone by 10-22%, and 14% of their partners became pregnant during the study[29].

Another suggested that the herb is able to boost exercise performance, strength gain and fat loss too[30].

You can pick up all three of these nutrients as standalone supplements. Dedicated testosterone boosters, however, tend to compile them into a single product.

These can be useful alternatives if you’re busy, don’t like taking multiple pills, or don’t know which individual ingredients to buy.

Exercise – especially strength training

Testosterone and Weight Loss: Is There a Link? 3

Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. You don’t have to go ham in the gym to fix up your fitness either.

Hitting the free weights and getting out on the track four times a week is usually enough. The trick is to do enough that you feel challenged, without overstaying your welcome.

Experts say that grabbing your gym bag and heading to the iron house is great for your testosterone too.

According to one study, physically active men have a more anabolic hormonal environment and a healthier semen production[31] compared to sedentary types.

Interestingly, exercise might also be even better at helping obese men boost their hormone than a weight loss diet alone[32]. Here are a few reasons why.

Testosterone is released as a short-term response to resistance exercise[33].

One research team suggests strength training at over 70% intensity seems to create a considerable spike in the hormone[34].

Another saw total testosterone increase across an entire eight-week program too[35].

What closely connects those studies? Intensity. Going in, strapping up, and lifting heavy. Strength training was at the core of their programs, not high-rep bodybuilding.

High-intensity weight training doesn’t just make you strong though. There’s a reason high-level weightlifters are so lean; it’s an indispensable tool for fat burning.

You’re calling on so much energy to move the barbell that it’s impossible not to scorch through a hefty calorie count[36].

Compound exercises using multiple muscles are the most effective say scientists – so don’t skimp on your squats[37].

Strength training can really be a testosterone boosting no brainer. Hire a trainer to show you the ropes.

The Final Word

Is there a link between testosterone and weight loss? Looking at the facts it’s pretty impossible to deny it. While testosterone might not make of break weight loss success, it could play a part.

Healthy hormone balance is paramount for your wellbeing. Yet, there’s a lot of research suggesting it could help you lose weight and stay lean too.

Obesity and low testosterone seem to be so closely connected that they actually influence each other. Hiking up your male hormone might go a long way in helping you lose weight – and the other way around.

Bottom line – testosterone has a distinct link to weight loss. Regaining control of your hormones could improve results.  

 


References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526128/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5434832/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1719016

[4] http://uk.reuters.com/article/health-testosterone-levels-dc-idUKKIM16976320061101

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4624264/#R10

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4624264/

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4624264/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15784668

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12960001

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10997611

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2917954

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20418719

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20173018

[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22923309

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12198740

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20628262

[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3987263/

[18] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20448541

[19] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC129630/?_escaped_fragment_=po=57.5000

[20] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341031/

[21] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15618989

[22] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6348068/

[23] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21294656

[24] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19300426

[25] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9226731

[26] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21154195

[27] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875519

[28] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798

[29] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19789214

[30] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26609282

[31] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22234399

[32] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26798202

[33] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10879453

[34] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17051372

[35] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9660159

[36] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551736/

[37] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5524349/

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