Testosterone: What It Can And Can’t Do, Signs You’re Low, And How To Increase It – Men’s Health

Feeling tapped out? Foggy? Just not all that into sex? Gotta be your testosterone, some people would have you believe. And were believing it, too, with interest and investment in T-boosters and T-supplements rising steadily in the past decade.

Dont get us wrong: testosterone is one critical hormone. Babies first encounter it in utero, when it triggers the differentiation of boys from girls. In puberty, it contributes to your bone growth and muscle mass, and continues to affect functions including your red-blood-cell production and mood stability.

But the message certain vested interests are sending plays right into the economic and social anxieties men are facing. Its like when anti anxiety meds such as Valium first came onto the scene, says urologist Elizabeth Kavaler. All these middle-aged women were addicted to Valium, because that was the solution to everything. Testosterone has become the new answer for a life of quiet desperation. More and more of us are feeling the exhaustion of uneasiness. We are being asked to do more with less. Were just trying to get through the day alive. Men think, Well, if I just get a little testosterone, Im going to feel great! Kavaler says. And thats not the case.

Theres so much information out there about T much of it speculation and lore that leads us to jump to conclusions about it. Men put all kinds of psychological weight on their testosterone number a low one makes you think youre somehow less manly; a high one means youre basically LeBron James and thats where we get things wrong. Theres little evidence for those stereotypes. Low doesnt automatically imply youre weak or retiring; high doesnt guarantee you muscles or MVP athletic performance.

A low number might not even be a low number for very long. It might just indicate that you havent been treating yourself very well. A high number doesnt mean youre programmed to be aggressive. As long as your T is in the normal range, theres nothing about a high number thats better than a low one, or vice versa. In the name of science and good journalism, I got my testosterone tested twice while writing this story.

It put my assumptions up against a pretty big test, too. What do you really know about this famous hormone? Here, we break down the best and latest information to give you the clearest picture yet of what T means for you.





You should have at least two blood tests, since T is constantly in flux. It peaks in the morning, so if youre young and on a typical sleeping schedule, aim to be tested by 10am. If youre over 50, it doesnt matter as much. Also note: vitamins with biotin can lower your score, so skip them for three days before testing.

A T level of 8.64 to 29 nanomoles per litre of blood is considered normal. If you are close to 8.64 and you feel fine, then youre no less healthy than a guy whose level is 35 and also feels fine. Theres an exception to that, though. (See What the Numbers Mean.)

I got my first test at the tail end of a busy week. Id slept less than five hours the night before, then scrambled to the phlebotomist in a daze. My number: 9.9. Thats in the normal range, but just barely. I have no symptoms of low T, but it was hard to shake the feeling that there was something wrong with me, even though I know that normal is normal, no matter where it is in that range. Eleven days later, I was tested again. My number was 14.8. Why such a dramatic change? It might be because Id slept better and cut out my multivitamins. Irrational or not, I felt like more of a man. The whole experience was a microcosm of our relationship with T. We act like its destiny, but its just biology easily misunderstood and more varied than we think.

Common symptoms of below-normal t, which could affect as many as 500,000 men in Australia (generally older men):

1. Lack of energy

Youre lethargic not like you didnt get enough sleep last night but like no matter what you do, you never feel rested.

2. A paunch

Having a dad bod doesnt mean you have low T but it could be one indicator.

3. Lack of libido

Sort of. Its the lack of your base level sex drive that sudden feeling of being turned on by the sexy person you spot on the street that indicates low T, according to Dr Tobias Kohler, of the Mayo Clinic. Its not considered low libido when you dont want to have sex on a Thursday night after youve been crushed by work all week.

4. Erectile problems

Only precipitously low T will keep you limp. But if you have problems getting it up, you may have other issues to solve, which may require a visit to a doctor. Or a little blue pill. Or couples therapy

If your t is truly low youve got three courses of action, says mills, in order of increasing aggressiveness. choose wisely.

1. Lifestyle Adjustment

The single best thing you can do to improve your level is be healthier. Avoid stress, get more sleep and lose weight an enzyme in fat tissue converts testosterone to estrogen. Thats one reason flab can lower your T. Its also why overweight guys can develop man boobs, and why bodybuilders who juice can also develop man boobs they dont have much fat, but theyve jacked their T levels so high that theres a lot of it available to be turned into estrogen. Thinking of T strictly as the male sex hormone oversimplifies the complex hormonal interactions that make our bodies work. Which is also why, if you can avoid it, you dont want to go with the needle-in-the-butt routine to raise your T.

2. A Testicle Stimulant (plus lifestyle adjustment)

If your level is low enough to warrant more aggressive treatment, your doctor can prescribe a drug that causes your pituitary to tell your gonads to make more testosterone. The typical choice is clomiphene citrate (Clomid), a common fertility drug for women. Using it doesnt exempt you from needing to get healthy, though, as it doesnt diminish the risk of losing T to bad sleep and a beer belly.

3. Testosterone Replacement Therapy (and yes, youll still need to adjust your lifestyle)

This should be your last resort. When you give your body T, it stops making its own, and theres no guarantee it can start again. Before you replace it, find a doctor who can help you choose from the following delivery systems (see right), and be glad that weve moved past the early days of replacement therapies, like one in the 1920s that involved transplanting goat testicles into men.

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Testosterone: What It Can And Can't Do, Signs You're Low, And How To Increase It - Men's Health

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