The Forgotten Symptoms Of Low Testosterone Levels
Are you having a hard time building new muscle? Do you suffer from
low sex drive, constant tiredness, depression, or a loss of strength?
If so, low testosterone levels could be the problem.
Many think of low testosterone as something that just affects
older men. However, men in their 30's and 40's also fall prey to
low testosterone counts. According to the FDA, more than four million
men suffer from low testosterone levels. Yet, 95 out of 100 men
fail to seek treatment - often because they just accept the
symptoms as a "normal" part of getting older.
Low testosterone levels
Testosterone is produced mainly in the Leydig cells in the male
testes, and in smaller amounts by the adrenal gland near the kidneys.
In women, where production is about one-tenth the total of males,
roughly one-half comes from the ovaries. For men, the normal level
of testosterone in the bloodstream is between 350 and 1230 nanograms
The production of testosterone increases rapidly at the onset of
puberty. Once you reach middle age, however, testosterone levels
begin to drop by about one percent each year. In the short-term,
this might not sound like much. By the time you reach your 70's
and 80's, this constant decline increases the risk of obesity, brittle
bones, muscle loss and impotence. Very low testosterone levels can
also increase your risk of dying from a heart attack.
Although it's considered as a male hormone, women need testosterone
too. Despite the fact they only produce a small amount, testosterone
helps women maintain the strength of muscle and bone. After the
menopause, testosterone levels drop. Estrogen replacement therapy
can also reduce testosterone levels, leaving some postmenopausal
women concerned about a lack of energy and libido.
Testosterone is a hormone that's also very important for people
wanting to shed fat while preserving (or even gaining) lean muscle.
In fact, hormones such as testosterone are one reason why you can
lose weight on the scales without being able to shift the fat that
seems to be glued to your stomach.
Think of a hormone like the remote control for your television.
In much the same way that you change the channel using the remote
control, hormones can change the way your fat cells respond to the
food you eat.
Your body has billions of these tiny fat cells. They expand to
many times their original size in order to store fat. They also
shrink when they release stored fat. Fat cells respond to hormones
in one of two ways, depending on whether the signal is lipogenic
The term lipo means fat, while lysis means breakdown.
So, a lipolytic (pronounced lip-o-lit-ik) hormone increases the
number of fat calories burned for energy. Hormones that promote
fat storage, on the other hand, are known as lipogenic (pronounced
lie-po-jen-ik). In other words, lipogenic hormones promote fat storage.
Testosterone affects fat loss in one of two ways . Just like
a car, your fat cells have a series of brakes and accelerators.
The parts of a fat cell that accelerate the release of fat are called
beta-receptors. The parts of a fat cell that put the brakes
on fat loss are known as alpha- receptors.
The distribution of brakes and accelerators on each fat cell is
one reason why certain parts of your body shed fat faster than others.
Women, for example, often have a hard time losing fat from their
hips. That's because the fat cells in that area have a higher ratio
of alpha- to beta-receptors.
If a fat cell has more beta-receptors, it will release stored fat
more quickly than one with fewer beta-receptors. That's where testosterone
appears to help. By increasing the number of beta-receptors, testosterone
makes it easier to lose stored fat.
What's more, testosterone can also limit the storage of fat. When
fat cells are exposed to testosterone in a test tube, the activity
of lipoprotein lipase an enzyme that promotes fat storage
is dramatically reduced.
To see whether the same thing happens in the human body, researchers
from Sweden gave a group of overweight older men supplemental testosterone
(in the form of a pill or an injection) for six weeks . When
it was measured after just one week, lipoprotein lipase activity
in abdominal fat tissue dropped. Even more dramatic changes were
seen six weeks later. Waist size also dropped in 9 of the 11 men.
Further research confirms the positive effect of testosterone on
body composition in older men . The men were aged between 65
and 87. All had low levels of free testosterone, and were treated
with either transdermal testosterone (two 2.5 milligram patches
per day) or fake patches containing no testosterone.
After 12 months, free testosterone levels in the group using the
patches rose by 75%. There was no change in the group given the
fake patches. Subjects using the testosterone patches also lost
fat, with the average body fat percentage dropping from 26.3% to
A long-term study also confirms that men with low testosterone levels are more
likely to develop a pot belly . More than 100 Japanese-American men took
part in the research. A number of measurements, including total body fat and
testosterone levels, were taken at the start of the study. The same measurements
were taken again seven years later. Body fat increased to a greater extent in
the men starting the study with low testosterone levels.
The link between hormones and body fat applies to women as well
as men. Specifically, researchers from Yale have uncovered a link
between a hormone known as cortisol and abdominal fat in otherwise
slender women . In other words, women who secrete more cortisol
in response to stress also have more abdominal fat.
While a blood test is one of the most common ways to measure testosterone
levels, there are several less invasive methods currently available.
For instance, some research shows that analyzing saliva is an accurate
way to test for low testosterone levels.
Testosterone travels around your bloodstream in two forms
free testosterone or bound testosterone. Roughly two
percent of total testosterone is made up of free testosterone, which
is the most "active" form. The rest is attached to sex
hormone-binding globulin (known as SHBG) and other proteins .
In aging men, it's possible for total testosterone to appear normal,
while free testosterone is actually low. If you do get your testosterone
levels measured, make sure to ask for a reading of both total and
While a blood or saliva test is a more accurate way of establishing
your levels of testosterone, you can also use The Saint Louis University
Androgen Deficiency in Aging Men (ADAM) Questionnaire. Dr. John
Morley, a researcher with the Saint Louis University School of Medicine,
developed the self-screening tool to help identify symptoms of low
testosterone in men. Choose the responses below that best describe
how you have been feeling.
1. Do you have a decrease in libido (sex drive)?
2. Do you have a lack of energy?
3. Do you have a decrease in strength and/or endurance?
4. Have you lost height?
5. Have you noticed a decreased "enjoyment of life"?
6. Are you sad and/or grumpy?
7. Are your erections less strong?
8. Have you noticed a deterioration in your ability to play sports?
9. Are you falling asleep after dinner?
10. Has there been a recent deterioration in your work performance?
If you answer yes to question one or seven, or at least three of
the other questions you may have low testosterone levels.
Another common sign of low testosterone is a change in mood and
behavior. You find it very easy to get angry at trivial incidents.
Things you used to enjoy now seem like chores. Life no longer seems
to be an endless stream of possibilities.
When men who cannot produce testosterone come off hormone replacement
therapy, they become irritable and depressed. Their mood improves
when they resume treatment.
In fact, some researchers think that low testosterone levels are
one reason why some men become grumpy, nervous and irritable as
they age. Stress can also cause men of any age to experience a drop
in testosterone levels.
The reason is that certain regions of your brain are "loaded"
with receptors for testosterone. In fact, men with depression have
free testosterone levels almost 20% lower than normal . In contrast,
high levels of testosterone lift your mood, giving you a feeling
If you do have a blood test, remember that testosterone levels
are generally higher in the morning and lower in the evening. However,
the degree to which testosterone levels vary during the day is reduced
as you age. There are also peaks and troughs during the year. Testosterone
levels reach a high during June and July, and drop during winter
and early spring .
If you enjoyed this post, there’s a good chance you’ll also like Truth and Lies about Building Muscle: 10 Muscle Myths Debunked By Science.
It's a FREE 20-page special report (PDF) I put together to debunk 10 popular myths that are still widely believed, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Click here now to download a copy.
About the Author
Christian Finn holds a master's degree in exercise science, is a certified personal trainer and has been featured on BBC TV and radio, as well as in Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Fit Pro, Zest and other popular fitness magazines.
If you want better, faster results from the time you spend in the gym, click here now for instant access to his step-by-step muscle-building and fat-burning workout routines.
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