Testosterone Week: The Declining Virility of Men and the Importance of T

by Brett on January 13, 2013 · 105 comments

in Health & Sports, Wellness

testosterone

At the end of last August I decided to start an experiment on naturally increasing my testosterone levels. Kate and I had just finished a month-long series called Heading Out on Your Own: 31 Life Skills in 31 Days. We cranked out a 2,000-4,000 word post every day for 31 days straight. Writing over 75,000 words in less than a month was physically and emotionally taxing on both of us. We were hardly sleeping, were eating like crap, and our workouts became spotty. On top of that, we were stressed to the max.

Knowing a bit about the link between testosterone and a person’s health habits, I had a suspicion my T-levels would be in the tank. Curious, I got myself tested at a lab here in Tulsa.

My suspicion was confirmed.

test1

I had below average testosterone levels.

My total testosterone was 383 ng/dL, which is near the bottom of the reference range of the lab I used.

My free testosterone (testosterone available for your body to use) was 7.2 pg/mL, which is below the reference range. According to many websites, I was a candidate for testosterone replacement therapy.

Crap.

After recovering from the shock that I had such puny amounts of the virile serum floating through my bloodstream, I got busy crafting a plan on how I was going to raise my testosterone in a natural way. I wanted to see how making some simple, long-term lifestyle changes would affect my T-levels. I gave myself 90 days to see what sort of results my efforts would produce.

Three months later, I got tested again.

test2

Total Testosterone: 778 ng/dL

Free Testosterone: 14.4 pg/mL

I had doubled my testosterone.

But is it really that big a deal? Does testosterone really make the man?

Why You Should Care About Your Testosterone Levels

Forget what you think you know about testosterone for a minute. Try to scrub your mind of juiced-up bodybuilding bros in the gym or paunchy middle-age men rubbing prescription gel on their soft bellies.

The subject of testosterone has picked up some unfortunate associations recently, but in reality it’s something every man should understand and be concerned about — whether he’s an egghead or a jock, a grandpa or a college student.

How so? A man is more than his hormones, right? Doesn’t being a man mean stuff like taking responsibility, working hard, and having integrity?

Sure. But do you know who else takes responsibility and works hard? Women.

When we defined manliness, we said that men and women share many of the same virtues, but often attain and express them in different ways. The metaphor we used was that of two different musical instruments, playing the exact same notes, but producing two different sounds — each which adds rich music to the world.

Testosterone is what shapes the form of your instrument — your body and mind — and the “sound” it makes. And for a long time now, there’s been a lot more flutes in the orchestra than tubas. The notes being played remain the same, but the music’s gotten a whole lot less brassy.

Men ARE Less Manly Than They Used to Be

There’s been a lot of talk recently about what’s the matter with men these days. Some folks think men just don’t seem as manly as they used to be. When they compare their grandfathers with men today, the latter just don’t seem to stack up. Plenty of theories get thrown around as to the reason behind this perceived decline in manhood — changing economy, video games, feminism — and much of it is bunk.

But there is in fact one thing about manliness that we can objectively point to as being in decline. Testosterone levels.

Most of you probably know that your individual testosterone levels fall as you age. But studies have shown that men today, across the population, have about 20% less testosterone than men the same age did just two decades ago. That’s a huge dip.

What’s causing this decline? Rising obesity and less smoking, for starters. The latter, while causing a myriad of deleterious health effects, actually increases your T. Go figure. But even when these factors are taken into account, they don’t explain the whole decline. It has been theorized that environmental toxins are also playing a big role. Many modern household products and foods contain chemicals that raise your levels of estrogen, and decrease your T.

Not only does this society-wide drop in testosterone negatively impact men’s health and well-being, which we’ll talk about in more detail in the next post, but it also likely affects the preponderance of traditionally masculine ways of thinking, acting, and feeling.

So if you’ve ever felt like men today just don’t have the same swagger, the same virility as your grandpa did, that they don’t look and act as masculine as the strapping men you see in black and white photographs, well it turns out it’s not all in your head. There’s a reason guys today are more like the Biebs than the Duke, and it’s because we don’t have as much T flowing through our veins anymore.

Testosterone Week at AoM

Even if you’re healthy and young, the testosterone deck is stacked against you. And I know plenty of men who regularly live their lives like I was back in August: they eat garbage, they don’t exercise, they get little sleep, and they’re stressed out. On top of the health issues like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes that come with such poor lifestyle choices, these gents are likely lowering their T levels even further.

Unfortunately, instead of making the lifestyle changes that would allow their bodies to naturally create optimum testosterone levels, more and more men these days are asking their doctors to prescribe expensive (and potentially dangerous) testosterone replacement therapies.

The sad thing is that many doctors are pushing this artificial testosterone on their male patients instead of encouraging them to lose some weight, get some exercise, and get a bit more sleep. Unless you’re suffering from a severe thyroid problem or have had testicular cancer, there’s really no reason to use artificial testosterone replacement therapy. You can increase your T levels naturally by making some simple changes in your lifestyle.

When I first began my testosterone experiment, I really didn’t know much about it. And what I found in my research is that good, accessible information on the subject is surprisingly hard to find. So what I’ve decided to do is devote a week on the site to helping men understand what testosterone is, how important it is to their health and virility, how to get tested for it, and how to naturally increase it.

Here’s the roadmap for the rest of the week.

Monday: The Benefits of Testosterone – Men of all ages should take advantage of the myriad of powerful benefits that come with having optimal levels of testosterone. I’ll also discuss some of the myths about testosterone.

Tuesday: Understanding Testosterone – We’ll take a look how our body creates testosterone so we can understand how we can increase our T naturally.

Wednesday: What’s a “Normal” Testosterone Level and How Do I Get Tested? - We’ll look at why “normal” testosterone levels are deceptive and how you can get your testosterone levels tested.

Thursday: How to Increase Testosterone Naturally - In my final post I’ll share with you everything I did to double my testosterone.

{ 105 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sam V January 13, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Great post, Brett!
One question, however. You say here in this post that smoking increases testosterone levels. All well and good; however, in the 30DTABM: Day 4 article, also on testosterone, you claim that smoking lowers and inhibits testosterone production. So which is it?

2 jmundstuk January 13, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I hope you’ll include info on how correlations between various behaviors and attitudes and testosterone levels in scientifically controlled samples. Looking forward to learning more.

3 Larry January 13, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Looking forward to the series. I had my testosterone tested a couple of years ago, and it was low. I haven’t had it tested recently, but I know (and so does my wife) it has increased since dropping 40+ lbs.

4 Joe January 13, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Recommend you check out..
Author of Live Life Aggressively, Kettlebell Instructor, and hormone optimization researcher: http://mikemahler.com/

Good article by the way. Student of hormone optimization

5 Alec January 13, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Gah, of course you’re saving the best for last! :P

6 Brett McKay January 13, 2013 at 10:19 pm

@Sam-

Ah, you’re right. I don’t remember where I got the information about quitting smoking raising T levels in the 30 DTABM post. We always try to present the best info, but I don’t think my research on that post was probably deep enough. The depth of our research is something that’s increased over time, as we’ve gotten better and more committed to it. This series will definitely be in-depth. Sorry for the error.

Although to be honest, there’s a lot of contradictory info on the matter. The study write-up on the society-wide decline in T levels that’s linked to above says, “Smoking is associated with higher testosterone levels; if you stop smoking that can bring levels down.” Some studies have found smoking increases some types of T but not all, and some have found it doesn’t have an effect, and some have found it raises it at first, but then lowers it later. It’s a little confusing.

Here’s are some of the studies on the subject:
https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:NhJ3EAnIDTcJ:212.250.180.69/cs/100/0661/1000661.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgv7zsf_aL7_OWVcN77S0RFO-4INkl2bx1x-O2ShB1QD44e5_eY7grBUlBRClLUITKk9sX5IBZztCWoCM9r891OvRCJhPORmfG6AU4qzqfSA9hMrMNJP-q8ezL-ocZaykFqHaUP&sig=AHIEtbSMCrYOSrnpfc92ZSbAEo9DCpTmrw

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3421245

http://f1000.com/prime/1161695

http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/17/6/1554.full

And just in case it’s not clear to anyone — I’m obviously not suggesting cigarette smoking as a way to increase your testosterone! I just mentioned it as an explanation of why testosterone levels have dropped society-wide. There are plenty of ways to boost your T naturally that improve your overall health at the same time.

7 Kevin January 13, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I never knew that about smoking. The damage it does to the blood vessels can eventually cause issues with sexual health (in addition to all the other nasty medical issues).

8 freeze January 13, 2013 at 10:29 pm

the decline of testosterone is the global problems…we have been weak by feminise diet,stress and etc nowadays.the way to kick up the problems is eat a lot of meat,egg,veggies and other natural made food.kick out soy and other food chemical substances and start doing workout that involves compound move,just like an old school ways..problem solves

9 Andrew January 13, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Pumped for this series. Ready to up that T.

10 skyler poston January 13, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I haven’t even read this yet but I feel like I have LT. Looking forward to guidance from this post on what to do what to ask what to say etc…

11 Rob January 13, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Awesome. It’s like you were reading my mind or something, because the past few days I was wondering what I could do to raise my testosterone naturally. I haven’t been able to find anything that clearly spelled out what to do. The only problems is that I have to wait until Thursday for the actual “how to” part!

12 Travis January 13, 2013 at 10:43 pm

I would guess synthetic estrogen in the environment (especially caused by hormonal contraception) has a big effect on male reproductive health that is hard to quantify. It wasn’t around when our grandparents were, and today our drinking water is laced with estrogen that could be causing prostate cancer and other developmental problems. Could be interesting. http://www.1flesh.org/contraceptives-and-sperm-count/

13 BJ January 13, 2013 at 10:48 pm

Can’t wait to see the series. Looking forward to this subject. I’ve lost almost 60 pounds since last February through diet (calorie counting) and exercise. I hit a brick wall in July with my weight loss. So, I researched different things and found solace in intermittent fasting. Really focuses on a man’s natural production cycle of HGH and Testosterone.

HGH goes into overdrive while you sleep so sleep is the one thing that a man can do for better wellness. Then, after I wake up, I fast all day till 5 pm. I’d have a 5 hour eating window and I’d eat whatever I wanted during that time period and then go to bed. The fasting keeps your HGH and Testosterone working so you are a fat burning machine all day. Once you eat, you lose that ability and actually risk producing estrogen from what I understand? Gosh, I hope I’m not stealing your thunder for the conclusion of your series. I really am looking forward to all that you’ve got to say.

14 chad January 13, 2013 at 11:04 pm

My wife just told me that I am pretty “testostorony”? Lolz

15 caleath January 13, 2013 at 11:06 pm

I am looking forward to this. A few of us at work have been discussing this subject for a while now.

16 Mike D January 13, 2013 at 11:06 pm

This reminds me of some studies Tim Ferriss cited in his book “The Four Hour Body”… very sobering to read.

My lifestyle has changed as a result – better diet, more weightlifting, and less time with my phone on my belt.

Thanks for bringing attention to this.

17 Carl January 13, 2013 at 11:06 pm

As soon as you said smoking cigarettes, I said to myself, “so smoking might be a good thing?” (lol) I have no plan to start anyway, but I’m interested in this series and would like to know how important testosterone is for a man and how to increase and maintain normal levels.

In fact, I think it was this very website that mentioned pumpkin seeds help increase testosterone. I’m ready for this series. Thanks.

18 Sara January 13, 2013 at 11:11 pm

This is very interesting. However, it might be more interesting to see the difference between your usual testosterone levels and the levels after trying to raise them naturally. It’s no big surprise that they increased so drastically after feeling like crap for a month. But to see the change from a baseline after normal routines for a couple months might be neat.

19 Brett McKay January 13, 2013 at 11:17 pm

@Sara-

Yeah, I thought about that, but the reason I chose to do it when I did is that I thought it would be more interesting to show what would happen to a guy living the “typical” American lifestyle if he started living healthier and made some changes. Whether you start as someone living unhealthily or someone already doing pretty well, you will see your T levels go up with the changes I’ll suggest. I just wanted to showcase the big potential possible if you’re starting from a low point.

20 Kit January 13, 2013 at 11:34 pm

It doesn’t necessarily mean anything if your T values are “below average.” You are, after all, looking at an average, and some perfectly healthy people have values at both the high and low ends of the bell curve. Sure, being stressed out, tired, and unhealthy might have affected your T levels, but you don’t actually know how much since you didn’t take a baseline test to establish that, which ruins the validity of your “n=1 experiment.” If I were to take my temperature after being out in subzero weather and note that it is below 98.6, that could be great cause for worry…but I happen to know that my normal temperature is less than the average human body temperature (by about a degree) and therefore can accurate gauge how much I should be concerned. If you’re trying to up your T levels by being healthy, that’s probably going to work, but by not having a baseline, we don’t know how much they changed from your normal values (since you specifically said that you’d been feeling down for about a month).

21 Jerry January 14, 2013 at 12:35 am

Thank you so much for this article! I look forward to following the series.

22 Peter Hernandez January 14, 2013 at 12:41 am

Just wanted to clear up something I’m seeing pop up in the comments. Some have already started to blame the feminizing of the world in a way… such as the use of contraception or eating soy… SO I’m gonna lay down the facts (as someone who’s had health problems with this since birth)

1) There is a lot of chemical stuff (including synthetic estrogen) in the environment, but it doesn’t come from contraception, but the hormones we inject into our cows, which leads to:

2) diet, including eating a lot of industrial meat, can have a HUGE impact on your T levels, and not for the better. So before you reach for that extra steak I encourage everyone to read up on proper diet and exercise habits and maybe even CUT their meat intake, since you’re probably eating too much as it is.

just my two cents, thank you for reading this far.

23 José Pablo January 14, 2013 at 1:00 am

I am sure going to follow this series. Until tested, no one can really know where on the spectrum they are. I’ll drop tomorrow at the lab to see if I can get a test.

and @Sara, I excercise, eat and sleep well and enjoy a fulfilling relationship. If I get tested and follow Brett’s recommendations, I’ll get back here with results for amusement.

24 Grant January 14, 2013 at 2:29 am

I’m looking forward to these! We’re all gonna make it.

25 Ryan Rudolph January 14, 2013 at 4:57 am

Heya, your article didnt say why Testosterone is important, unless I missed it. Could you elaborate?

26 Vincent January 14, 2013 at 5:11 am

Good idea to kick of the new year. I’m looking forward to reading the following posts.

Thanks for posting the studies about smoking and testosterone / sperm quality. Interesting to read something about it and strange that the results are different between studies. The fact that men with higher levels of testosterone might have an higher change to start health declining behavior is also interesting, maybe that is a reason why smokers have an higher level of testosterone.

Keep up the good work.

27 Luna May January 14, 2013 at 5:31 am

The smoking way back when was “healthier” because they didn’t use all the chemicals in it that they do now. It was more straight tobbacco than chemical mess. So maybe that’s why it helped raise the testosterone levels? Or maybe the men who smoked just had more testosterone before smoking?

28 Bob Powell January 14, 2013 at 6:08 am

T has been getting a lot of attention lately. T replacement therapy even more. I had prostate cancer surgery two years ago and my T levels were slightly below the bottom of the normal range.

It would be great if some studies by age group of men showed the benefits, if at all, of increasing T levels naturally for seniors.

I’ve been doing heavy weight lifting on the Stronglifts 5×5 program since last year and at age 65 have packed on muscle that my wife and I can’t believe.
Vigorous strength training is supposed to increase T levels. But how much based on age as it normally declines anyway as we get older?

29 Bonnie January 14, 2013 at 6:25 am

It is great that you were able to raise your levels naturally. However, your research thus far, is anecdotal. My partner’s T dropped dramatically (at 39 yrs old) from extreme exercise, stress and hormone imbalance – all the hormones in the endocrine system. He has been having tests, MRI’s and a multitude of tests for 2 years. He is on TRT and it has helped him live a somewhat “normal” life. You forgot to mention the loss of muscle mass, the depression, the radical mood swings when a man goes into sudden “andropause”. Glad you are bringing attention to the matter, but please don’t preach that a good diet and exercise will alter potentially very serious health problems, (infertility, impotence, anxiety) it may alter the symptoms and levels. The lifestyle you mention is implicit to the 21st century hipster. Perhaps, this is TMI or anecdotal to your readers – best of luck with your research.

30 Jared January 14, 2013 at 6:41 am

I think there’s no evidence on the scientific literature that low testosterone levels would have any effect on the perceived manliness of anyone.

Low testosterone levels are going to cause low energy levels, low concentration, more belly fat but they aren’t going to make men look more feminime, this is shi-fi.

And what we consider manly or feminine in appareance is mostly shaped by culture and nothing else. The pictures of our great grandfathers in black and white might be different from men today but are also different from men from the 1700 with their wigs and soft skeletal structure or men from the roman empire or ancient greece.

First of all men have changed because of naural selection. Nowadays natural selection is selecting certain traits more than in the past, traits of youthfulness like small noses, pink skin, less hair. These doesn’t make modern men less manly.

And I don’t know what would define Justin Bieber, obnoxious as he may be, as feminine when in truth he has anything that an high-testosterone person is supposed to have according to this article: hard-working, girls-loving, lean.

Does anyone really think that a dose of testosterone would suddenly make Biebers traits more rough? That his nose would grow bigger and his voice stronger? Testosterone effects would have no effect on his physical appareance, which depends on his genes and natural physical structure. And I see no reason to believe that Bieber has low-testosterone. Does he suffer from low-energy or jump around on stage every night for hours? Does he has a lack of interest in women or is always seen dating models? Does he has a beer belly or skinny as you might think he is, he is pretty lean too?

Last time I saw him on a shared pic on facebook, he was at the gym, lifting weights and sporting a lean physique for someone as petite (but again this has nothing to do with his testosterone but with his genes) as he is.

http://cdn.idolator.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/24/justin-bieber-gym-2012-justin-bieber-400×300.jpg

Ghandi was a pacifist, skinny, hard-working and a brilliant mind. I’m pretty sure he was as man as it gets with perfect testosterone levels. It would be absurd to believe he has any problems with his testosterone levels just because he wasn’t big, muscular, aggressive and full of body hair. For all you know an apollo looking, baby-faced guy without beard and soft skin and a tenor voice might have a lot more testosterone than a rought faced, fully bearded, rought skin, aggressive attitude with a bass voice male, whose lack of testosterone wouldn’t be observable in his appareance but in problems like lack of energy, falling asleep immediately after work, depression, high cholesterol…

31 Christopher January 14, 2013 at 6:55 am

Really looking forward to this series. Especially the testing part! Thanks for putting this together.

32 John D January 14, 2013 at 7:04 am

I will be following this series with great interest. I determined that it was low T coupled with afew other hormones out of whack like high cortisol, caused my stroke 2 years ago. The doctors said it was a leision and the resulting high cholesterol that blocked the artery to my brain stem. But what caused the leision? Again, my reading has led me to hormones out of whack, principally, low testosterone.

33 frequentreader January 14, 2013 at 7:18 am

/\ well said, Jared – that is one of the wisest things I’ve heard said on AOM.

I like this website. I visit several times a week; mainly for the occasional interesting article. It is perfectly fine as tongue-in-cheek “manliness” resource, but things seem to have gotten a little more, shall we say, evangelical, in the past year or so. This testosterone “drive” seems to be the icing on the cake.

More than anything, I think most AOM’ers are hopeless nostalgics and romanticists. Their idealised ‘man’ is something like an archetypal 1950′s blue collar worker. It is always more appealing to imagine a time when “men were men”, with blue collar jobs and bryllcreamed hair…

34 A. January 14, 2013 at 7:27 am

There has been so much talk about T, but so few clear answers. Looking forward to the straight story.

35 Dave January 14, 2013 at 7:27 am

I think that this is a good idea for an article for AOM, but just not enough time spent on it. I would suggest being a man, take your lumps & look over all the really good feedback, give it a re-write and press on … just like a man.

PS. I was always under the impression that pot smoking increased testosterone … that is one of the reasons stupid people are out breeding the rest of us.

36 Sam January 14, 2013 at 7:28 am

Good information! I am looking forward to the rest of yout piece on T. I have been on TRP for a few years and I am starting to think it was a mistake to start. Can I stop useing the gel and recover to the point that my body will produce T? Is there a way I can increase my T levels naturally after years of Androgel?

Thanks

37 Robert January 14, 2013 at 7:40 am

This is one series that I am looking forward to reading. Your hard work in researching these articles saves me time for which you get my gratitude.

Robert

38 Brian January 14, 2013 at 7:40 am

One connection I think more people should look into with men of all ages having lower testosterone levels these days is PORN. Believe it or not, there’s been some interesting research done in the past few years on the effects porn has on us guys and it hasn’t looked good.

A youtube video of interest:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSF82AwSDiU

39 Victor P January 14, 2013 at 7:44 am

I know a few ways to bump your T a few clicks right off the bat:

1. Watch Predator
2. Wear boots.
4. Spit.

40 Landon Troyer January 14, 2013 at 7:50 am

Great post mate..
looking forward to the rest of the week!

41 Matt January 14, 2013 at 7:52 am

“Unless you’re suffering from a severe thyroid problem or have had testicular cancer, there’s really no reason to use artificial testosterone replacement therapy. You can increase your T levels naturally by making some simple changes in your lifestyle.”

Well thanks for that brush stroke. I’m 25, and by all chemical and physical markers, I’m healthy…except my very low testosterone levels (pre-therapy levels were 157 ng/mL, not sure of free testosterone number). Testosterone therapy has done wonders for my energy level and overall mood, even though, as my doctor will tell you, I was already living a healthier than “American average” life. I don’t regret my decision to start therapy, and I’m not ashamed that my body works a little different than the average male. My point is, be careful painting with that brush, especially on posts that start to sound like you’re doling out medical advice.

42 Steven January 14, 2013 at 7:56 am

Brett, thanks for another great article. I am looking forward to the rest of the story. A couple of years ago I had my T levels tested and they were about or lower than your initial ones.
Keep up the great, awesome and manly work of this site.

43 J. Delancy January 14, 2013 at 8:14 am

Looking forward to the series. At 45 I know I can’t feel the same as I did at 25 but if there is anyway to get some of my ‘mojo’ back I’ll be open to trying it.

44 J.W. Simpkins January 14, 2013 at 8:18 am

Although I agree that there are many nutrition and lifestyle strategies you use to naturally increase testosterone levels – there comes a time in every man’s life when declining hormone levels necessitate TRT.

I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of your series!

45 Jeremy Krones January 14, 2013 at 8:19 am

This is fascinating! I am very excited to have this reading material as I make my way back home (cross-country) for school: I already have some life-changing goals for this semester, many of which are along the lines of raising my T!

46 Dan January 14, 2013 at 8:21 am

Brett & Kate:

Great series idea! Looking forward to reading the subsequent posts.

I would imagine you have done a fair amount of research on the topic, and I think it’s sad to see a handful of people posting their experiences that differ from your research in a tone that seems to “debunk” what you’re positing.

There are certainly anomalies with any study. But I think the vast majority of your readers get what you’re going for. And it’s greatly appreciated.

Take care, McKays! You’re making a difference in the world.

Dan

47 Waitsel Smith January 14, 2013 at 8:37 am

Brett, I’m really enjoying your articles. I have one point to make about your first testosterone article in this series. While I agree that dropping testosterone levels may help explain why there are less manly men today, it does not explain why over half of all American children grow up in fatherless homes, nor why three-quarters of all African-American children grow up in fatherless homes. I would say the lack of positive male role models in boys’ lives has to be the number one factor in making our men unmanly. So, while I will be one of the first to agree that diet and exercise are important, you cannot discount the fact that most men are choosing to walk away from their responsibilities as fathers and husbands – which would make women MORE responsible than men. And what are we walking towards? Spectator sports, pornography, making money – living for ourselves instead of living for our families and especially for the next generation of men coming along. I’m new to your site, so maybe I’m naive as to how you’ve addressed this issue in the past. I know I am. So I look forward to catching up. Thank you for all the good work you’re doing.

48 PWDB January 14, 2013 at 8:40 am

Two debilitating contributors to men’s low testosterone levels is soy and hops. We are what we eat and hops decreases production while soy converts to estrogen in a mans body. Give up soy lecithin and hops beer and you will be girding up your loins before you know it.

49 Jonathan January 14, 2013 at 8:47 am

One of my goals this year is to raise my T levels, as I feel they’re probably in the tank after a year of practically no exercise, being quite busy, and going through the first 7 months of fatherhood. So, I’m definitely looking forward to this series!!

50 Turling January 14, 2013 at 8:47 am

“paunchy middle-age men rubbing prescription gel on their soft bellies.”

Pretty sure that’s not where they rub it…

51 L.T January 14, 2013 at 8:59 am

A few years back, I suspected low T and went to the doctor. Turns out I was “within normal limits”. I was a bit overweight, on BP meds, and eating a high carb diet.

Dr. pretty much told me I was headed for Metabolic syndrome and possibly diabetes. I recoiled at that, pretty much told him “Not bloody likely” and asked what I could do to prevent that. He recommended a low carb diet.

Four weeks later after swearing off bread, rice, spuds and sugar I had lost almost 40 pounds. Felt a ton better, looked better, and none of my clothing fit. BP meds were soon a thing of the past.

Now, three or four years later at 43 years of age, I am prescription free, love to hike in the hills/mountains, and chase my hot wife of 18 years around constantly. Never felt more T infused than I do now. What was suspected as low T was in reality me letting myself go and eating a crappy diet.

Making that change was the best thing I ever did.

52 Jesse Johnson January 14, 2013 at 9:01 am

My friend and I agree, that Testosterone is like quantum mechanics: the act of questioning or observing it, changes it. So, when I shared this post with him, he said he didn’t need a test, he knew his levels were fine, while I said I was afraid to see my results. Thus proving (to him) that mine must be low because I question them, and his must be high because he didn’t.

53 Eric L'Espeance January 14, 2013 at 9:12 am

I’m looking forward to this series of posts. Thanks for pulling this research together.

54 Nate January 14, 2013 at 9:37 am

@Brett,
During your research, have you come across anything that showed a link between contraceptives and the decline of T. I ask because that was one of the things that came after our Grandfathers. Just wondering.

55 Kevin January 14, 2013 at 9:40 am

I read the first segment “Testosterone Week: The Declining Virility of Men and the Importance of T” and I too am a novas expert on T. My numbers looked about the same as yours and all my other numbers looked bad too. My cholesterol numbers looked really bad and I was proscribed meds for that. SoI did a large amount of research on the subject for personal use. I like the article and look forward to the rest of the segments but I have to call you out on one point you made. You said…
” more and more men these days are asking their doctors to prescribe expensive (and potentially dangerous) testosterone replacement therapies.
The sad thing is that many doctors are pushing this artificial testosterone on their male patients instead of encouraging them to lose some weight, get some exercise, and get a bit more sleep.

I agree that eating, exercise and sleep are the best way to raise your T levels, but I must point out that injecting Testosterone is not expensive, is not synthetic and is not dangerous.
I only pay $10 for 10 milliliters of Testosterone. I like my T levels to be high (safe but high) so with my doctors supervision I started injecting 1mil. a week so $10 covers 10 weeks of therapy. I do not use synthetic Testosterone. The prescription grad T is the real thing. It is very safe and I now can regulate my T levels to fit my life style. Some weeks I my want a little more than others. The aggressive 1mil. a week kicked off a get healthy marathon. After 2 weeks I actually wanted to exercise, started eating healthier and sleeping better. The T helped to boost me into “get health overdrive”. After 6 weeks I was retested on a full panel and all my numbers had improved dramatically. I don’t use the any cholesterol meds. now. I only use 1mil. of T every 2 weeks so $10 covers 20 weeks of T. I have excelled in my business in my personal life and in the bedroom. I have become more of the man I can be. Low Testosterone is devastating to a man without the man knowing it. I’m very glad you are writing this. I believe that if all men had their T level up on the high end of the test spectrum that this world would be meany times better off and our grandfathers would be proud!

56 James January 14, 2013 at 10:21 am

Brett,
I think 2013 will be a big year for AOM and men everywhere. In the last year, I’ve been following Elliot Hulse who has been talking about neurotic holding patterns and primal living, and how we have all this pent up neurotic energy with no natural outlet for it, the Japanese are discovering the benefits of forest bathing and how being online for long periods of time are causing the social centers of our brains to atrophy, and I saw a recent TED talk about how porn rewires the reward centers in the brain, again, all with recent information. I think this will be a good year.
Brain on Porn: http://youtu.be/wSF82AwSDiU
Elliot Hulse: http://elliotthulse.com/blog/
Forest Bathing: http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/wellness/Take-Two-Hours-of-Pine-Forest-and-Call-Me-in-the-Morning.html

57 Bryant January 14, 2013 at 10:51 am

Stoked to see this series play out on AoM. I’m sure all this is to be addressed in future posts, but there is already some misinformation floating around in the comments. I’m a pharmacist, so these are questions I get regularly and I thought I’d try and clear some things up.

1. What’s ‘normal?’ Unfortunately, a ‘normal’ testosterone level is poorly defined because it’s so variable between men – see how the normal range on the test is around a 3-fold difference? So it’s important to take the numbers with a grain of salt, because the level that is normal and healthy for one dude could be too high or low for another.

2. What’s ‘free’ testosterone? Like many hormones, most of the testosterone swimming through your blood is bound to a protein called albumin. This is the ‘bound’ portion, the rest is ‘free.’ Your body can only use free. It’s like the total testosterone is the amount of gas in your tank, and the free is the small amount that the fuel injectors provide to the engine block. This is important because many things can affect your albumin level, thus changing the ‘free’ testosterone.

3. There is absolutely no connection between oral contraceptives and male testosterone levels. This is ridiculous. How can a woman taking a pill change the amount of hormones a man’s body is making? No. The hormones in OCs are chemically metabolized/inactivated before they leave her body.

4. Environmental contribution to a downward generational trend in testosterone levels is likely. Estrogenic hormones are used to make chickens with bigger breasts. rBGH is used to increase milk production in cows. Soy protein, found in processed foods and some protein supplements, has estrogenic effects.

5. Indeed, higher testosterone levels can increase muscle growth, deepen your voice, increase body hair growth, increase aggression, etc. This is why females undergoing a sex change use it to make them look & sound more manly.

6. So-called “natural testosterone supplements” are a waste of time and money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

7. Higher testosterone levels are not necessarily better. Levels that are too high for an individual could cause an enlarged prostate, acne, gynecomastia (man boobs), violent mood swings, and liver problems. Ideally, a man achieves healthy levels of testosterone by living healthy, eating healthy, and staying active.

58 Gary January 14, 2013 at 11:06 am

Looking forward to this series. I see a lot of ads on TV about T supplements, but I’m wary of the side effects. There has also been an ad about older paunchy doctors and their weight loss plan.

A few months ago I bought a book by one of these men, a doctor who’d appeared on the “Dr. Phil” show, and I recognized him from the ad. The first half of the book was about proper eating, exercise, etc. It finally got to what made their program different/better, and it was hormone therapy. I lost interest at that point. It was the “magic pill” approach all over again.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about what’s in our food, and none of it has been encouraging. I’ve been following the eating recommendations and doing ddp yoga, and it’s been helping.

59 hbrocks January 14, 2013 at 11:21 am

(doctor to 22nd century man)
Here….Take these
-2 packs camel non’s….
-and this 10 mil’s syringe of T…
…call me in the morning!

60 Alex January 14, 2013 at 11:22 am

One of my resolutions is to start seeing a Naturopath , Will wait till this series is finished.

I’m pretty sure is comes down to energy and motivation , with out Testosterone the normal reward pathways in the brain won’t be as crisp and producing the atp to engage in rewarding activities won’t be as easy with low testosterone.

Resulting in a feedback loop we call boring and lazy.

61 Matt January 14, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I’m super stoked about this week on AOM!!!!!!!!!!!!

62 P January 14, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Contrary to what someone said above, testosterone does change your physical appearance — deepening your voice, bulking your muscles, increasing body hair, and thickening jawline. That is why female to male transgenders take testosterone for the rest of their lives.

And those changes aren’t simply because they start as women. A “normal” woman can have more T than a “normal” man actually,

Some of the most interesting reports on how testosterone changes thinking and behavior come from transgenders too. Female to male transgenders report lots of thinking and behavior and new interests that they used to think were stereotypically male, but came along with the T.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/08/fashion/08CHAZ.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/220/testosterone

63 Ian January 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I’ll join the chorus of approval for a great post – bravo!!!

As someone who also had a testosterone test and found it to be at the lower end of the scale, I think it’s really sad so many men don’t even know that low test is an issue!

64 dannyb278 January 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Chop wood. Eat meat you hunted and killed. Bang your hot wife.

Problem solved.

Joking aside, although he is no expert in anything but being a badass, i think Clint Eastwood was right when he called “my” generation aka anyone under 40 a generation of pussies. We turn to self help groups, follow fads like low carb, high carb, eat 5 meals a day, crossfit, etc and turn to medication to deal with our of problems on why life isnt fair. Would the fathers and grandfathers that are held up as near idols on this website be concerned about Low-T? No goddamn way.

65 Davis January 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Don’t rule out head injuries especially to the back of the head where the pituitary gland is located for testosterone levels to drop. This happened to me back in the early 90′s. Even though I had no symptoms related to low T-levels my doctor discovered the low levels after I had a massive heart attack and triple bypass surgery. Since I couldn’t produce the needed T he put me on a natural testosterone cream (not androgel and the like). He also informed me that testosterone is not only a sex hormone but is also a healthy heart hormone. Apparently, there are more testosterone receptor in heart muscle than any other place in the body. I’ve been on a compounded form of testosterone cream for almost 12 years post heart attack and feel great. I was in “good” health when I had the heart attack. There is more to heart disease than cholesterol and genetics. Thanks, Brett for bringing an important discussion to your men’s forum.

66 Logan J. Phillips January 14, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Did you get tested in Tulsa, Oklahoma? If so where did you go for the test? I would also like to get tested.

67 Lee January 14, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Testosterone, especially on the internet, has such a stigma that when I saw the words “increase” and “testosterone” in my AoM Facebook feed my immediate first thought was that the site had been hijacked by spammers or, worse, had sold out!

I’m glad to see you tackling this misunderstood, too-often-exploited subject.

68 LR January 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Great post. Just want to add that in addition to working out regularly and eating right, I have added a supplement called “Maca” to my diet. I have seen gains in energy levels and while I haven’t had my T tested, I suspect it has helped with that too. Again, I don’t rely on this, I just use it to augment my overall health/fitness plan.

69 Eric January 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm

@Kit –

As another n=1 data point, I was diagnosed last year with low T, and put on supplemental gel. Starting at 1 packet a day, I felt no effect and my T was unchanged (low end of normal, experiencing low-T symptoms including lack of energy, low libido, lack of motivation). It took about 3 months of 2-a-day packs to “break through the wall” – last month, I experienced something very much like abruptly waking up – my appetite has gone down, I’ve had more energy and less desire to eat crap (not MUCH less – my habits have been bad for so long that I’m still fighting to make the changes I need, but I WANT to now), my libido has increased, my muscle tone has increased and fat decreased (slightly in both cases, without increasing physical activity). I’m putting together a workout program, and getting a handle on my poor eating habits, for the first time in nearly 20 years. I’m sure for a lot of that time, I was not low-T – but I suspect I was for the past 5 years or so, and it would explain a lot.

Being able to discontinue the Androgel would be great, though – I look forward to reading the rest of this week’s articles.

70 T.B. January 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm

I pick up a bodybuilding magazine every now and then. Last time I did, I was astonished at the number of ads for T-enhancing pills, potions, and powders. As well as all the other ads–there were hardly any articles on working out in this particular magazine! So, I went to GNC and bought P6. Not cheap. After a few months, I’d say it pumped me up a bit when I flex after a workout . . . did it raise my T level? Can’t say for sure until I go to a doctor to get it checked which is out of the question, as my health insurance won’t cover it.

I read all of these posts. What can I say, other than eat right, lift weights, and get proper rest?

71 Chuck January 14, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Looking forward to the articles. I am 60 years old, but tested low free T at 58 (about 9). I made changes and it went right to 14. Interested to see how the changes line up. BTW an author I very much respect suggested that doing about 1000 words a day is a pace that is manageable. I have found through about 20 years of monitoring, I can crank out 1000 words on a topic, then run out of gas. I can switch topics and go for 500+. You did 2000/day! No wonder you were in the crapper!

72 Roger January 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Did an article on this subject a while back. There is not yet an factual determination as to why male testosterone levels are dropping. There are however several theories. Aside from those cited, except for the less smoking; that is just silly, another major factor is a less competitive environment. Seems more spectating and less doing will drop those T levels. Fortunately with proper diet, exercise, a little competition (that is manly living) most can get those levels elevated again.

73 Jamie January 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Brilliant post, especially for us gentlemen who were not born naturally male (female to male transgenders)

74 Ethan January 14, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Looking forward to learning more.

I could use a little “lift” :)

75 Nick January 14, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Smoking negatively affects the vessels of our cardiovascular system, which includes the ones we think about like our heart and the ones we don’t such as those that allow us to have erections.

Personally if I had to choose between T and avoiding impotence, I think I’d rather it was my T-level that I was unable to keep up.

76 Alonso January 14, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Great post! Looking forward to the next articles of this series!

77 George January 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm

On the other hand, in studies on the lifespan of eunuchs in Korea researchers found that they lived 14 to 19 years longer than the average man at the time.

BBC article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19699266

research paper: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822%2812%2900712-9

78 Jared January 14, 2013 at 8:45 pm

– Indeed, higher testosterone levels can increase muscle growth, deepen your voice, increase body hair growth, increase aggression, etc. This is why females undergoing a sex change use it to make them look & sound more manly.–

just because testosterone and other hormonal changes might change so drastically a woman body, since the difference in levels is drastic from before to after, it doesn’t mean it would cause any of those changes in a man.

What causes men to have more or less bodyhair, deeper or higher voices, rougher or softer traits is their genes not testosterone. I have known people who had low testosterone and they had depression, tiredness, confusion. But after the therapy that increased their testosterone levels and got rid of their sicknesses there were no different in their voice, face traits, arm or leg hair. The author of this article itself didn’t see any difference. I bet he didn’t suddenly look more feminine, had a softer voice, less bodyhair for being low in testosterone and nor he got more hair, deeper voice, rougher skin or what not once his testosterone tripled.

This things don’t define a men. In certain cultures genes make men that have almost no hair, hair as light blond to look white, small skeletal structure, higher tone of voices and full baby faces and still they are as men as anyone else in this blog and might have a lot more testosterone than someone that “looks more manly” according to our cultural standards of what defines a man.

79 Kate January 14, 2013 at 9:37 pm

I have delved deeply into this topic over the last few years. I’m pleased that AoM is covering it but a little distressed at the sentiment in this statement.
“Unfortunately, instead of making the lifestyle changes that would allow their bodies to naturally create optimum testosterone levels, more and more men these days are asking their doctors to prescribe expensive (and potentially dangerous) testosterone replacement therapies.

The sad thing is that many doctors are pushing this artificial testosterone on their male patients instead of encouraging them to lose some weight, get some exercise, and get a bit more sleep. Unless you’re suffering from a severe thyroid problem or have had testicular cancer, there’s really no reason to use artificial testosterone replacement therapy. You can increase your T levels naturally by making some simple changes in your lifestyle.”
It’s true that lifestyle changes are an important factor but it often is not enough. There are more factors behind lowT then cancer or thyroid disease (which is also rampant).
Secondly, there are non-artifical T replacement therapies available.

I speak out of frustration as the wife of a wonderful man who suffered from low T since his late twenties. The four years after he hit 30 really became difficult for me to watch. He suffered from ED and nearly lost his libido.. Depression started to creep in and his ability to make decisions suffered greatly.
It took two years for me to get him to a doctor to be tested and six more months of doctor hopping to find someone to treat him. He was nearly 34 with a T level of 191 ng/dl. Finding one of those T pushing doctors would have been welcome, believe me, After 6 months his levels are only marginally better (326 ng/d) but his symptoms have improved dramatically. Our marriage is in a much better place.

From what I have learned, lifestyle changes do not create more then a nominal change in a man who suffers from chronic low T.

80 Gil January 15, 2013 at 12:22 am

I agree that there’s no easy natural way to increase your T-levels other than to engage in healthful (manly) activities because your average T-level was determined at birth. Not to mention new fathers get a T-level drop to get ready for parenthood and we all know men naturally lose testosterone as they get older. And don’t forget the higher the T-level the higher likelihood you’ll die younger – eunuchs lived around fourteen years longer than the average man.

81 Jonny M W January 15, 2013 at 2:23 am

Fascinating article and series so far. Looks like Don Draper could have done with the medical report about smoking increasing your T in the very first episode!

82 J.J. Vicars January 15, 2013 at 6:28 am

The reason there’s so much discrepancy on smoking either raising or lowering your testosterone is because there’s so much misinformation about smoking. The anti-smoking fascists (I use the term with the utmost sincerity) are nothing more than self-righteous do-gooders on a crusade to reform people. Puritans, essentially. They refuse to acknowledge that major cigarette brands are loaded with all sorts of nasty chemicals, much like America’s general food supply, and that the Indians were doing just fine smoking tobacco before the white man showed up. Without examining it in details it’s likely that tobacco raises your testosterone and the chemical additives in major brands lowers it. So ditch the Marlboros, Camels, et al. and enjoy your rollies, cigars and pipes. Also, that ‘ashtray stink’ comes from the chemicals as well. You’d be surprised how quickly non-smokers chill out when you light up a pipe or cigar, or roll your own. Be a man, light up!

83 Doctor January 15, 2013 at 7:28 am

I do enjoy reading this blog once in a while, but I had a specific problem with this sentence : “Unless you’re suffering from a severe thyroid problem or have had testicular cancer, there’s really no reason to use artificial testosterone replacement therapy”

This is simply not correct and it is also misleading, food supplements including testosterone supplements and other supplements such as magnesium,sulfur,proteins or omega 3 are necessary to achieve optimal health levels and are often not available from to replace from natural sources and not only due to not being found in the typical diet, but also due to the body’s natural aging process part of which is the decline in the ability to produce certain chemicals. The decline start around age 25 and continues in a linear fashion until you death.

Taking the aging into account in this context the situation created for older men is that even if they did live a perfect life style, ate the perfect diet and did everything just perfect still their body will at some point will not be able to produce as much chemicals, testosterone included, even when the materials were available for this production. It is not obligatory to have a disease to take supplements.

84 T January 15, 2013 at 7:44 am

i think it’s really great – and necessary – to point out that lifestyle changes are first and foremost.

But let’s be careful not to sort of villain-ize exogenous testosterone (what many here have called “artificial” testosterone).

Many, many men – myself included – have a super healthy diet, work out a ton, are thin/athletically built, great sleep habits, etc etc, and still have chronic low T, likely for genetic reasons, or simply unknown reasons. For those men, exo T is needed, and it’s a god send for them.

85 Puzzled January 15, 2013 at 7:57 am

So, how is it that baseball players get harrassed by the government for using steroids, but now TRT for people who aren’t professional athletes is socially acceptable?

And, I agree with the posters above – it’s pretty hard to imagine manly men looking nervous while having their T levels tested.

86 JimW January 15, 2013 at 8:45 am

Are you sure about that diet comment Peter? Its been shown chemically that whole eggs and red meat have a POSITIVE effect on male T production.

Soy has been shown to have an inhibiting effect.

Want to boost T? Go play a sport. I am serious. Discovery channel did some great demonstrations on this. Using cheek swab measurements, they showed that athletic competition had a temporary elevating effect on T.

87 Angela January 15, 2013 at 9:50 am

Have you come across any studies that show that soy (which is in EVERYTHING processed that we eat) adds estrogen to your body? I was just wondering. Many ‘healthy’ protein products are chock of that stuff, which I understand turns into estrogen in our bodies. Thanks for this posting!!

88 Mike Mills January 15, 2013 at 10:33 am

just an FYI to the webmaster, google just flagged that your site has malware in it. Probably nothing to it but figure out if its genuine or someone doesn’t like manliness

-MM

89 Kratoklastes January 15, 2013 at 8:11 pm

@Angela – as far as I’m aware, the main problem with soy is that the phyto-oestrogens in unfermented soy are thought to mimic the feminising behaviour of actual oestrogen. There are plenty of other reasons not to eat much soy, if the literature is to be believed.

That said, I eat a bit of tofu (about 150g/week) and I’m as manly a bloke as ever bit a sandwich… and I will cry if anyone claims otherwise.

90 Derek January 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm

So, I’m catching up on blogs. Today, I read this one. Just yesterday, I was reading another where testosterone was, admittedly tangentially, brought up:

http://aspisofares.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/ares-god-of-manliness/

91 Andrew January 16, 2013 at 4:51 am

Great idea for a series. I know I can trust the authenticity of the information and advice here. Thanks for writing it up.

92 Rachael January 16, 2013 at 10:40 am

I am wondering if the lack of testosterone might not have other causes–some that might be worth the “dip.” I have read studies showing that men who are more actively engaged with raising their children have a drop in testosterone, with many accompanying health benefits (particularly emotional health; less aggression, greater propensity to be nurturing, etc.) Of course, are nation’s awful health habits are a negative cause (smoking, obesity, etc.) and a healthy level of T is obviously important; but I’m wondering if you will address this alternative perspective?

93 Dan January 16, 2013 at 7:59 pm

I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. There was an eye-opening section regarding testosterone and sperm count in Four-Hour Body, which is part of why this grabbed me attention.

94 Thomas Cunningham January 19, 2013 at 11:51 am

Great article, Brent.

“So if you’ve ever felt like men today just don’t have the same swagger, the same virility as your grandpa did, that they don’t look and act as masculine as the strapping men you see in black and white photographs, well it turns out it’s not all in your head” – is there a reason girls are less pretty than in black and white photographs? :-)

95 Abraham Kryger, MD January 22, 2013 at 11:10 pm

It is interesting to see how the male hormone still gets a lot of mens’ attention. Actually smoking is the number one cause of impotence, regardless of whether smokers have higher T levels. Does not do them much good. The best way to naturally increase testosterone is by having more sex or lifting weights. Yes, the bodybuilders got something right.

96 Father Muskrat January 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm

I find it hard to believe there is ANY activity that can make me more manly than I already am. But, I’ll read anyway.

97 Amanda January 27, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Great post! I am a lady and I have even noticed the decline in typically masculine features of the younger generation of dudes. I am only 33, but I can tell a difference in guys that are in their teens and 20s vs. the guys I grew up with and my father’s generation. Women are fighting a weird hormonal battle of our own with all of the xenoestrogens and toxins found in the environment. I am glad that someone is addressing the effects of these factors on men as well because I think hormones affect how gender roles can and are being expressed. I am lucky to have a high T level (just the right amount) husband and I feed him right to keep it that way, but not everyone is so lucky.

98 Mike January 28, 2013 at 11:00 am

An indispensable reference on T is “The Testosterone Syndrome” By Dr. Eugene Shippen . Also, I have two sons, 28 and 34, and have encouraged them to get their T levels tested so they have a reference point for the future since T levels are so different from man to man. One man’s high level in another man’s low.

99 Tim June 7, 2013 at 11:02 am

A great way to get rid of the excess estrogens is with Diindolylmethane aka DIM which is contained in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Here is a great piece on it: http://wholeworldbotanicals.com/factsdimmen

100 antonio June 10, 2013 at 12:37 am

u have not talked about the pornography-masturbation-orgasm dramatic effects on lowering testosterone, i would definitely blame this, check out this site, http://www.yourbrainonporn.com

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