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Today I would like to talk about testosterone; what it is, what it does, where it comes from, whether we produce enough, and whether we should be taking it as a supplement.
Let’s get started!
Testosterone – What Is It?
Testosterone is a steroid hormone that both men and women produce. We just produce it in different amounts. Men produce about 20 times more testosterone than women.
Testosterone is synthesized in the body from cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean that high cholesterol and high testosterone go hand in hand. The brain and the pituitary gland ensure that doesn’t happen.
In men, the majority of testosterone is produced in the testicles and the adrenal glands pick up the slack. The entire process is a complex bio-chemical routine regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. If you are really interested in how this all occurs, you can read this article.
In women, most of the testosterone is produced in the ovaries and some in the adrenal glands. Again, a very complex process, far to complex for me to try to explain.
Testosterone, as with other hormones, affect change in the body. For men, testosterone is responsible for the changes in our bodies as we mature into young adults.
Beyond this, testosterone will regulate a number of functions in the body. These include, for both sexes:
- sperm production (males only!)
- bone mass
- sex drive
- red blood cell production
- fat distribution
- muscle size and strength
For a detailed discussion of these functions of testosterone, please read this article.
Testosterone also promotes protein synthesis, which is vital in muscle development.
Since this is a site dedicated to exercise, and in particular, weight training, I am most concerned with how testosterone effects muscle development and fat distribution. Maintaining a proper level of testosterone is vital in muscle growth. If we have an imbalance in testosterone, it may lead to an increase in body fat. The number one way to maintain a healthy level of testosterone is to participate in vigorous exercise on a regular basis. Weight lifting is a great way to keep testosterone levels regulated.
Cortisol is an anti-stress hormone that wants to break down muscle and increase fat. Whenever we are under stress, either physical or psychological, cortisol is released into the body. In turn, the cortisol increases the sugar levels in your blood, specifically glycogen. Glycogen is used for energy. Energy is good, but in the end, too much cortisol is not a good thing.
Let me paint a little picture for you (1).
Testosterone and cortisol are opposites. Testosterone wants you to work harder and get stronger. Cortisol triggers fight or flight. In an emergency situation where you are under stress, say someone wants to beat you up, cortisol will be released, glycogen will increase, and you will have the energy needed to leave the situation in a hurry. Testosterone levels in your body would be decreased. That is a good thing. All the things that testosterone influences, such as mating, competition, and aggression could be fatal in emergency situations. It is a good thing, for our own survival, that cortisol and testosterone are antagonists.
But, post-exercise, cortisol will help supply fat to power the muscle-protein synthesis that we need to build muscle.
So, cortisol is not all bad.
But remember, cortisol is an anti-stress steroidal hormone, working against testosterone. It is released when we are under stress, and although it may cause an initial increase in the use of glycogen to deal with the stress, it may eventually cause an increase in insulin and the resultant lowering of blood sugar. This may cause you to crave sugary, fatty foods. Also, since the increase in cortisol will cause a decrease in testosterone, the result will be less energy and motivation to exercise.
My point is, we need to control the amount of stress in our lives so we can regulate the testosterone-cortisol levels in our bodies. This is my non-medical, humble opinion. Go here for a more educated opinion on Bodybuilding.com.
Testosterone – Do I Make Enough?
Even if we start an intense exercise program, we can produce enough testosterone to meet the needs.
Testosterone production decreases with age and about 2 out of 10 men over the age of 60 have low testosterone. That number increases to 3 out of 10 in men over 70.
But until then, we usually produce enough. There are, however, some tell-tale signs that your testosterone may be low. You may have a low sex drive, difficulty with erections, or hair loss. For the weight lifter audience, low testosterone may manifest itself in fatigue. Loss of muscle mass, or increased body fat. If you are experiencing any of these, low testosterone may be the issue.
Stress in your life may be causing low testosterone. Over-indulging in alcohol or drugs may be the cause. Or food.
There are a few foods to avoid because they lower testosterone. These include soy, dairy, alcohol, bread, pastries, desserts, and certain fats. Remember, all things in moderation. You don’t have to stop eating all these things all the time. Just remember that they may have an effect on testosterone production, and consume wisely.
There are a couple of things you can do to increase testosterone production. The number one thing to do is exercise on a regular basis, especially resistance training, as this will put your body under a physical stress and increase the testosterone needed to meet the needs. If you are overweight, then losing the fat in your mid-section will reduce the amount of estrogen and increase the amount of testosterone. Eat a healthy amount of protein, fat, and carbs. Minimize stress in your life so your cortisol production will be lower. Get some sun. Get plenty of restful, high-quality sleep.
There are also foods you can eat to increase your testosterone production. These include: tuna, eggs, low-fat milk, Vitamin D, oysters, shellfish, beans, and beef.
All in all, it is a balancing act. We will have stress in our lives, but we need to take care of it and return out=r bodies to an equilibrium, so there isn’t an excess production of any hormones. Balance is the goal.
Testosterone – Should I Take It As A Supplement?
There is no evidence that taking a testosterone supplement is beneficial to increasing testosterone, and there may be significant side-effects to taking it. So many side effects, that it is better to live a healthy lifestyle, eat the proper foods, exercise regularly, and avoid stress to increase your testosterone naturally.
Guys, starting as early as 25 years of age, our testosterone starts to decrease naturally. There is a link between low testosterone and obesity, increased disease risk, and premature death.
It is never too soon to take the lifestyle steps necessary to maintain or improve our testosterone levels.
Testosterone is important for men and women. In order to have a long, healthy life, we need to pay attention to what we do, what we eat, and the stresses in our life.
Living our lives in a balanced manner to avoid prolonged exposure to stress is important. Exercising, especially weight lifting is also important. As is eating in a balanced, healthy manner. All of these things together will ensure our bodies regulate our testosterone production for our benefit.
Thanks for listening.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Also, if you are a father (or mother) (or anyone for that matter) who would like an easy to follow program that includes a menu and work out information, check out this article from a few months ago.
See you in the next post.
Have a great day!