The Lifestyle Factors That Affect Testosterone Levels

by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert

Ben Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert Sports and Exercise Nutrition Level 2 Strength and Conditioning CoachWritten by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.

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In recent years, low testosterone levels have been a growing problem. 

The average serum testosterone level in men has declined over the last several decades. 

What? The mass decline in testosterone affects all age groups. Our testosterone levels have dropped since our cohorts from 50 years ago. 

Why is testosterone in men dropping compared to previous generations? 

We'll look at some key lifestyle choices that could be affecting our testosterone levels. 

What is Testosterone?

Testosterone Hormone Explained Your body produces testosterone as a sexual hormone through the gonads (testicles in males and ovaries for females), where it encourages masculine sexual characteristics to emerge. Testosterone also acts as an androgen hormone which promotes masculine features of sexuality in males.

Men reach their peak testosterone levels around age 20, before levels gradually decline with age.

Testosterone plays an integral role in making sperm, maintaining muscle strength and bone density and even managing mood.

A deficiency may cause issues: decrease in sexual desire or difficulty getting or keeping an erection are common.

Low testosterone may also alter physical appearance by losing muscle mass or having wrinkled, "parchment-like" skin texture changes that might make one appear older; low levels may even alter mood or lead to weight gain.

Women also produce testosterone, though their production is approximately one-tenth that of men.

Testosterone is converted in the body into the female sex hormone estrogen; high levels of natural testosterone may lead to hirsutism (in which facial and body hair is grown in an male pattern).

Furthermore, this condition may impair ovulation causing irregular periods or infertility for some women.

Synthetic testosterone molecule drugs are used to treat numerous medical conditions associated with low testosterone levels in both men and women.

Available as oral tablets, gels or injections as well as ingredients in some creams and lotions.

Testosterone in the form of steroids may cause serious or life-threatening side effects. These may include high blood pressure and heart attack for some individuals.

Furthermore, taking testosterone for long or at higher dosage than prescribed by your physician could increase your risk of blood clots in lungs or deep veins of legs as well as liver issues.

Medical professionals define normal testosterone levels for men as between 300-1000 nanograms per decilitre.  

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Why do Testosterone levels decrease?

What causes the testosterone levels to fall in the first instance? Let's explore. 

The main cause is age. As we age, testosterone levels naturally start to decrease. This decline is approximately 1-3% per year starting in your late 30s and 40s. 

Andropause is the cause of many of the physical and mental changes we experience with age, including: 

  • Increased body fat
  • Less muscle mass
  • Hair loss
  • Feelings of irritability and moodiness
  • Irritable man
  • Energy levels are declining
  • Reduced sexual drive
  • Sperm problems
  • Sexual dysfunction (e.g. Orgasm or erectile dysfunction problems)

These changes may appear inevitable, but if you maintain your testosterone levels as you age, you can avoid them. 

The generational differences are not explained by these age-related testosterone drops. Or that young men and adolescents also seem to have lower testosterone levels than men from previous generations. 

What's the deal? Scientists believe that lifestyle changes and the way things have changed in recent decades are to blame. 

What lifestyle factors decrease testosterone?

You can reverse the damage by increasing the testosterone levels in your body.

Poor Diet

In a relatively short period of time, the Western diet as a whole has undergone a massive change. Now it's easier than ever for people to get sugars, fats, and other unhealthy additives in their diet. 

Sugary processed foods and beverages are one of the biggest culprits in lowering testosterone. Sugar spikes your blood glucose levels and stimulates the production of insulin, which causes testosterone to drop. 

Just 75g of sugar is enough to reduce testosterone levels by 25% for two hours. Do away with processed and manufactured foods and replace them with more natural, healthy and whole foods. 

A 2021 study looking at the different factors that may influence testosterone serum levels found that those who would eat poulty and fish tended to have healthier testosterone levels. 

Micronutrients

A nutrientional deficiency of certain micronutrients have been shown to contribute to lower than ideal testosterone levels. 

These important micronutrients include:

Chemicals

Not only does the food we consume affect our male hormones but also the packaging. 

Bisphenol-A is found in high concentrations in plastics, cans and some papers used to wrap, store and sell food. BPA exposure can affect testosterone production in males, as it has a molecular structure similar to estrogen. 

Tip: Avoid tins containing BPA and plastic packaging. Instead, use reusable steel or tempered glass water bottles. Also, avoid paper receipts in the supermarket because they are lined with BPA. 

Your cleaning and grooming products may also contain toxic substances that can affect testosterone. Check all your cosmetics and toiletries, including shampoos, deodorants, or toothpastes. 

You could suffer hormonal damage if they contain ingredients ending in "paraben" (such as methylparaben). Instead, choose brands that contain natural and organic ingredients. 

Weight Gain

The average person has gained weight over the years due to the affordability and easy availability of high-calorie food. 

A surplus of body fat leads to an increase in estrogen, which is at the expense testosterone. 

This can lead to a vicious circle, whereby less testosterone will decrease your muscle mass and then lower your testosterone levels.

This was outlined as a predominant cause of low testosterone amongst men in Adelaide, Australia.

As you age, you will feel fitter and stronger if you reduce your excess fat and build some muscle mass. This will also boost your testosterone levels to healthy levels. 

Lack Of Exercise

It relates to the last point we made about how much extra weight our nation carries. Our bodies are suffering because we lead a more sedentary life than before. 

Most of us have desk jobs or work in positions where we sit for long periods of time. 

We can then access the internet from home, including movies, videogames, social media, etc. 

The more active and outdoor activities are less popular today. 

Exercise, particularly resistance training using weights, increases testosterone and builds muscle mass. 

Finding ways to exercise, or even increase your level of physical activity is the best thing you can do to improve your hormones, your health, and your fitness. 

Lack of Sunlight

The sun's rays are essential for vitamin D, which we can get even when it is overcast and cloudy. 

The lack of sunlight exposure is causing vitamin D deficiency in the population. This can also affect the amount of testosterone produced by your body. 

Get outside at least 20 minutes a day to boost your testosterone and vitamin D levels. 

Clothing

This was probably not what you expected. 

What we wear can make a big difference. 

The type of clothing you wear is important. Tight underwear and slim jeans are two examples. 

Constrictive clothing can restrict blood flow and overheat the testicles. What is the result? A reduction in hormone production. 

Try wearing looser clothes to allow more space in your testes and to increase testosterone production. 

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption can be harmful to your health and weight, but it also affects your T level. This is true both in the short and long term. 

Your testosterone levels begin to drop within 30 minutes after drinking alcohol. The drop in testosterone may be temporary, but regular drinking can quickly become a problem. 

Your body may have problems producing testosterone if you disrupt hormonal function in your brain. The oxygen molecules produced by the alcohol processing can also cause damage to the cells in the testes. This may further reduce testosterone production. 

Substance Abuse

We won't list them all because we all know about the health risks and dangers of drug abuse. We will also add low testosterone levels to this list. 

Opioids can have a negative impact on hormone production. In men who take opiate-based drugs, testosterone levels are reduced by as much as 50%. 

Nicotine, amphetamines and cannabis can also negatively impact spermatogenesis. They may cause oxidative stress in the testicles. 

One more reason not to abuse drugs or harmful substances in your body 

Steroids

Anabolic androgenic steroid can cause a number of health problems, including lowering your T level. 

Although you might expect to get more testosterone from injecting synthetic hormones, the opposite is actually true. 

The body will believe that it does not need to produce its own testosterone after introducing exogenous hormones. 

After using steroids, it can take four months to get your T-levels back to normal. 

Medicines

You probably don't find it surprising that drugs like alcohol and narcotics can affect your testosterone levels. But what about over-the counter medications?

You should check with your doctor about the possible side effects before taking any medication, since many drugs can affect testosterone production and levels. 

  • Beta Blockers
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Hypertension meds
  • Opioid-based medication
  • Tranquilizers
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Blood pressure medication

There are many other medications that can impact testosterone, including antibiotics. Be aware of the possible effects your medications may have on testosterone before you take them. 

Medical Conditions

Sometimes, the condition itself can cause your T levels drop. 

Diabetes, hormonal imbalances, pituitary disorders and sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) all can have an effect on testosterone. 

Other common medical conditions that are known to reduce low testosterone as outlined in this 2023 review, include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer 

Speak to your doctor if you've recently experienced any medical issues that could affect your hormone levels. 

Injuries

Injuries to the testes can also cause low testosterone. 

Testicles are your body's main source of testosterone, and any trauma or damage to this area will affect how much you can create and release in the bloodstream. 

Testes that are damaged by impact, infection, or undescended testes can produce less testosterone. 

You should consult a doctor immediately if you experience any pain in your testicles or notice any changes. 

Stress

Stress is a difficult thing to deal with, but by reducing stress in your life you can increase your testosterone and improve your physical and mental well-being. 

Stress can have a short-term impact on testosterone production, but chronic or long-term stress can have a much greater effect. 

Cortisol levels (i.e. stress hormone) levels can directly affect testosterone production in the testes, as well as create a negative feedback loop that stops the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPG axis) from releasing sex hormones. 

It happens because the body prioritizes a reaction to a danger over other bodily functions. Stress that is temporary or acute shouldn't affect testosterone levels. If you are under chronic stress, the cortisol will affect your testosterone levels. 

For more information, read our full guide on the relationship between stress and testosterone. 

Poor Sleep

What you do or do not do at night, in addition to all your activities during the day, can also have an impact on testosterone. 

Hormone regulation is one reason why quality sleep is so important. Lack of sleep can lead to a decline in testosterone levels. 

According to studies, getting only five hours of sleep each night instead of seven can cause a drop of 10-15% in testosterone levels. 

To prevent your testosterone levels from falling further, ensure you are getting enough sleep in terms of both quantity and the quality. 

Living with a Partner

Yes, that's correct. A 2021 study looked at different factors that contribute to low testosterone, and living with a partner was one of the causes.

Now is your time to make those excuses, and leave your troubles at the door!

How can you naturally increase testosterone?

To boost your testosterone, you must first determine how low it is. You can test your own testosterone levels at home to determine your baseline. 

Visit your doctor if you believe your levels are dangerously low or if you suspect that lifestyle or medical issues may be causing harm. 

If necessary, they may prescribe a form of testosterone therapy or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). These medications have some serious side effects. HRT is only available if your testosterone levels are significantly lower. 

You can boost your testosterone naturally. 

You can safely increase your testosterone levels by taking a supplement. 

Ingredients such as fenugreek, zinc and ashwagandha can naturally raise your testosterone without any side effects. 

Military Muscle can help you boost your T levels.

A daily dose of Military Muscle contains all of these testosterone-boosting ingredients, plus several others for improved health and vitality making it the easiest way to raise your testosterone and get your hormone levels back up to where they used to be. 

It includes important micronutrients such as zinc, vitamin D and magnesium amongst other evidence informed ingredients.

Conclusion

Testosterone is an essential male hormone, responsible for producing and transporting sperm, controlling sexual desire and expressing secondary sexual characteristics such as body hair growth and strength.

Testosterone levels naturally decline with age but can be further diminished by conditions or diseases that affect testicles, pituitary gland or hypothalamus (parts of your nervous and endocrine systems that regulate hormone levels).

Lifestyle factors can have an enormous impact on testosterone levels. Obesity, poor diet and smoking have all been linked with reduced levels; men who are obese or smoking typically have lower testosterone than those who are lean and nonsmokers.

An inactive lifestyle like spending too much time watching television has also been shown to decrease levels of this male sex hormone.

Strength exercise can help healthy adults increase their testosterone levels. But the type of activity is key: research shows that lifting weights has more of an effect than aerobic exercises such as walking, running and cycling on testosterone levels.

Resistance training exercises that involve lifting or pushing against gravity - like bench presses and squats - should be prioritized over aerobic activities.

Certain foods rich in trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids could potentially decrease testosterone production in your body. 

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