Produced by the testicles, testosterone is considered the most important sex hormone in men. It endows them with male characteristics like deep voice, stronger bones, and body hair. Sufficient levels of testosterone are vital for sperm cell maturity and also for protecting male fertility. The hormone also stimulates muscle mass.
As a natural phenomenon, the levels of this hormone start declining with age, which leads to muscle and bone loss, affects sexual desire, and is also believed to initiate weight gain.
Testosterone has the potential to curb fat accumulation; hence a decline in its levels can have the opposite effect. This explains why men with testosterone deficiency are obese compared to their peers with better levels of this hormone.
Also, we know that muscle can burn calories more efficiently than the fat tissues; therefore, lack of muscle can expose one to higher risks of calories storage in the form of fat.
Interestingly, many medical practitioners agree that reduced muscle mass is the principal factor behind testosterone deficiency, causing weight gain. That said, obesity is also believed to have the potential to curb testosterone levels. Typically, obese men have been found to have 30 percent less testosterone levels than the ones with standard bodyweight.
Research also shows that above 70 percent of men with morbid obesity are afflicted with testosterone deficiency - a condition called male hypogonadism, where they have unusually low levels of the hormone. The reason behind fat men having low levels of testosterone, as has been established by multiple kinds of research and studies, is that - excessive belly fat reduces the levels of testosterone. In effect, the high levels of aromatase enzyme present in belly fat convert testosterone into the female sex hormone, estrogen.
Can supplements help?
It is often believed that testosterone supplements can lead to weight loss. Such supplements are available in three forms - testosterone boosters, testosterone replacement therapy, and illegal anabolic steroids.
Testosterone boosters stimulate the natural secretion of testosterone in a man’s body. Research findings say that some boosters might have the potential to help men with testosterone deficiency. Testosterone replacement therapy, on the other hand, results in weight loss in obese men who are deficient in the sex hormone.
Illegal anabolic steroids are synthetic steroids connected with testosterone. Bodybuilders often indulge in abuse of these steroids to raise testosterone levels beyond normal to trigger muscle growth. This is illegal. Also, those with normal testosterone levels must refrain from using these steroids as prolonged use might affect sexual health and cause aggressive behavior, liver issues, and heart conditions.
Improving levels naturally
Luckily, several ways exist to increase low testosterone levels naturally. Here are some key ones-
- According to research findings, strength training can enhance levels of testosterone.
- Since vitamin D deficiency plays a role in low levels of this hormone, taking vitamin D supplements can normalize the levels.
- Zinc deficiency is also known to reduce levels of testosterone; hence, consuming enough zinc-rich food, like meat, seeds, and nuts, can have positive effects.
- Sleeplessness is also associated with a drop in levels of this hormone. Hence, a good night’s sleep is vital for improving levels.
- Ashwagandha, an essential Ayurvedic herb with many medicinal qualities, can also increase testosterone levels.
- Last but not least, acute stress can potentially increase cortisol levels, a hormone that can curb levels of testosterone. Reducing stress levels and opting for relaxing activities will yield positive results.
Low testosterone is a normal age-related phenomenon, but with some cautious efforts, you can keep your levels at their best with age. However, if you experience symptoms like low libido by reducing sexual desire, erectile dysfunction (ED), infertility, lack of concentration and motivation, diminished muscle mass, decreased bone density, depression, etc., by all means, visit a doctor and get the necessary tests done.
Medically reviewed by Rishabh Verma, RP