Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert. Sport & Exercise Nutrition, L2 Strength and Conditioning Coach.
No matter what look you’re going for during your workouts and diets, it’s important always to remember the importance of having some fat in your diet, fats are considered one of the essential nutrients.
Having fat in your body helps to regulate body temperature, keeping you warm in the colder months. Also, it’s required to absorb some essential vitamins which can only be taken into the body through fat.
When it comes to building muscle however, it’s widely understood that we need healthy levels of hormones like testosterone. This hormone not only increases strength and muscle mass, but it also helps to regulate our libido and the production of sperm, increase bone mass, and helps to produce a healthy red blood cell count.
When it comes to fat and its role with testosterone, it’s slightly contested as to its uses and benefits, so we wanted to discuss the opposing ideas with the relation between fat and testosterone, and hopefully bring you a bit of clarity on the matter.
- The Role Of Testosterone In The Body
- What Fats Do We Need?
- What Negatively Impacts Our Levels Of Testosterone?
- So, Does Fat Increase Or Reduce Our Levels Of Testosterone?
- Can You Have Too Much Testosterone?
- Is It Okay To Take Testosterone Supplements?
The Role Of Testosterone In The Body
Generally speaking, testosterone regulates many features that make someone male. As a predominantly male hormone, it helps in the development of many physical features such as the penis and testicles, the lengthening of vocal cords resulting in a deeper voice, facial and body hair, muscle size and strength, our sex drive and reproductive systems like sperm production.
This hormone isn’t only present in men though. Just as estrogen isn’t only present in women, they also benefit from its effects. Testosterone is an androgen, or male sex hormone, and is one of several that are present in the female body in a smaller amount. It is said to play an important role in the healthy function of ovaries, strengthening bones, and regulating sexual behaviour.
What Fats Do We Need?
Over the years our understanding of nutrition has improved dramatically, and we now fully understand the benefits of having good fats in our diet.
Ideally, you’ll want to avoid saturated fats found in processed and oily foods as much as possible, and instead eat foods that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in avocados and fish, respectively.
These good fats help to actually counter many of the negatives of bad fats, such as reducing our risk of heart disease and stroke and lowering blood pressure.
The link between testosterone and fat is a confusing one, however. Because the hormone itself is actually synthesized from cholesterol, which is primarily created in the body, and is itself a fat, so it’s understandable that people would assume that the more fat you have, the more testosterone will be created.
What Negatively Impacts Our Levels Of Testosterone?
Our testosterone levels aren’t static at all, and tend to fluctuate even throughout the day. There are so many things in our day-to-day lives that can alter these levels, as well as more long-term factors from our lifestyle.
Things like our BMI, general nutrition and diet, alcohol consumption, disease, and our age can reduce our levels of testosterone quite dramatically. There are also more acute factors to these drops in testosterone levels, including injuries and poor sleep.
Ultimately, trying to follow a healthy lifestyle where possible is ideal for keeping a good hormone balance, although sometimes those factors are out of our hands.
Does Fat Increase Or Reduce Our Levels Of Testosterone?
So, the main question is, does fat impact our levels of testosterone? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t entirely straightforward.
Because this hormone does come from the fat, cholesterol, it is understood that it can have an impact on these balances.
There are some people that make the logical connection here that the more fat you have, the more supply your body has to create more testosterone. However, contrary to this, it’s been proven that being overweight or obese actually drops your testosterone levels.
The science behind this is that your body fat converts testosterone into a form of estrogen that, while being known as a female sex hormone, actually plays a vital part in male fertility and sexual desire.
It makes sense then, that if you have too much fat in your body (research states that total daily energy intake from fats that is greater than 37% loses all benefit), the conversion rate of testosterone to estrogen is much higher than it needs to be, causing an imbalance in these hormones.
Yet, data published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology also shows that men who eat a low fat diet also suffer from low testosterone, particularly those of a European heritage.
Fat Intake Recommendations
Ideally, you’ll want to have a healthy level of fat, but not too much, so that you get these balances right. If you are unsure about how much fat to have in your diet, the recommendations by The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) is that fat intake should be 20-35% of your daily calorie intake.
It is recommended that our intake of fats are from plant sources instead of animal sources. This is because animal sourced fats are high in saturates which can increase blood pressure and increase your chances of cardiovascular diseases. The exception being fish.
Plant Sourced Fats
- Vegetable oils – olive, walnut, corn, rapeseed, safflower and sunflower oils
- Nuts & seeds
- Oily fish – tuna, salmon, trout, herring, pilchards, and mackerel
Fats are Important
Furthermore, ensuring you consume the right amounts of fat helps your body to absorb certain vitamins.
These vitamins have been linked to regulating restosterone levels and ensuring that your bodily functions are operating effectively such as vision, and preventing oxidation of cells.
Can You Have Too Much Testosterone?
You most certainly can, although it’s not as common in men as some people like to perpetuate. In young men going through puberty, there is often raised levels causing symptoms like acne, mood swings, irritability, and delusions.
These tend to not really be much of an issue and are a normal part of growing up. While it is difficult to dictate what exactly normal levels of testosterone are, adult men and even women can develop too much testosterone, which can lead to heart disease, liver disease, insomnia, headaches, increased risk of blood clots, and overtly aggressive behavior.
However, this almost entirely comes from athletes that misuse anabolic steroids or untested supplements that raise hormone levels beyond what they need to be. There’s also a risk when using prescribed hormone replacement therapies, too.
Is It Okay To Take Testosterone Supplements?
There is a fear regarding supplements sometimes that is pretty unnecessary. Many people take supplements for many different health reasons, and testosterone supplements aren’t an exception.
If you feel as though you’re suffering from a deficiency in testosterone, it’s highly recommended that you visit your doctor first to find out whether or not a supplement will be right for you.
Once you’re sure that this is the right choice for your situation however, testosterone boosters like those from Military Muscle can help to rebalance your hormone levels and could greatly improve your quality of life.
Not only can naturally raising these testosterone levels help you to build muscle and improve your recovery times, leading to better strength and endurance, but it can also help to restore a lost or reduced libido and even improve your sexual performance, safely and legally.
It is clear fat does have an effect on testosterone, however, there is a balance.
If you follow the recommendation of consuming 20-35% of your calorie intake from unsaturated ‘healthy’ fats (monosaturated and polyunsaturated) this will contribute to optimizing your hormone balance. However, if you dip below 20% or go over 35% this can have a negative effect on testosterone levels.