Low libido, difficulty building muscle, depression, and increased body fat. These are the four most common symptoms of low testosterone people ask me about.

If you have low testosterone, you’re not alone.

A 2006 study found 39% of U.S. men, age 45 and older, were testosterone-deficient.

I’m confident the percentage would be higher if measured today.

The situation is slightly better for women.

Daniel Amen, in his book, Unleash the Power of the Female Brain, points out that 20% of women have low testosterone.

He also suggests another 20% of women have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) caused by testosterone levels that are too high.

Rather than first looking at what raises testosterone with my clients, I always review what causes low testosterone.

After all, a great strength training program, a testosterone-boosting supplement, or hormone therapy won’t have much of an impact if you sabotage your levels with one or more of the following.

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1. Overweight and Obesity

Low testosterone increases body fat, and increased body fat lowers testosterone. This creates a vicious cycle of ongoing weight gain, which lowers testosterone, which causes more weight gain.

Not surprisingly, hormone therapy does decrease body fat and increases muscle mass. However, I’d never recommend starting with hormone therapy. Instead, get your body fat under control by starting with your protein intake, sleep, and strength training.

Grab a copy of my free ebook that goes deeper on these three: The First 3 Habits of VIGOR(ESS) Health.

2. Unmanaged Stress

Women are more susceptible to stress-related drops in testosterone than men. Men primarily produce androgens in the testes, but women depend on their adrenal glands to produce the precursor DHEA, which is then converted to testosterone.

The adrenals also produce the stress hormone cortisol. When stress levels are too high, or when women can’t recover from the stress they face, it can limit the production of testosterone, increasing the ratio of estrogen to testosterone.

Men are not immune to stress either, but it can take longer to show symptoms in men than in women.

Read also: The Best Adaptogens for Health and Fitness

3. Sleep Debt

Testosterone levels peak in the morning, just after waking up (in men, that’s why something else reaches a peak in the morning as well, provided their levels are optimal, and they’re getting enough sleep).

Sleep debt or interrupted sleep suppresses androgen production.

A staggering 26% of middle-aged men have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which drastically limits testosterone production.

You might be surprised by how much better you feel after two weeks of consistent, sufficient sleep.

4. Excess Alcohol Consumption

A little alcohol increases androgens. Too much and it’ll tank them.

A single night of moderate (one serving for women, two servings for men) increases testosterone. But if you drink more on a single night, or drink more often, you’ll likely lower your hormone production.

Chronic drinking also raises cortisol, which can be a double-whammy for women.

Heavy drinking may lower testosterone by 23-27% 12-16 hours later.

5. Statins

A six-month study showed Rosuvastatin (Crestor) suppressed androgenic hormones. Levels returned to normal after discontinuing use.

Atorvastatin (Lipitor) is also known to lower testosterone. Interestingly, research shows that Lipitor combined with testosterone therapy leads to better outcomes than using Lipitor alone.

That said, I always encourage people to ask a lot of questions before committing to statin therapies. The side effects are undeniable, and the statin isn’t always a necessity.

Sometimes doctors can correct patients’ cholesterol levels by treating their thyroid. Other times, the cholesterol levels take care of themselves with good lifestyle and nutrition choices.

6. Head Trauma (Men)

The pituitary gland triggers the testes to produce testosterone in men (in women, it affects estrogen production). The pituitary gland sits in your head and can get damaged by head trauma.

In some people, the effects of the head trauma on the pituitary don’t show up for years. In others, the effects are almost immediate.

Sometimes the effects are short-term, and other times they are permanent.

When low testosterone is related to pituitary damage, doctors often use another hormone called HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) to stimulate the testes to produce testosterone. The benefit of this therapy is that the testes work like they’re supposed to, rather than using exogenous testosterone, which may cause the testes to stop functioning.

7. Oral Contraceptives (Women)

Women using oral contraceptives often have lower testosterone levels.

Ironic. Contraceptives that prevent pregnancy can lead to low testosterone’s lack of libido, which makes sex less likely anyway.

There’s one exception, though. Some research shows that when women on oral contraceptives consume alcohol, their androgen levels rise. Of course, it’s dose-specific.

8. Long-Term Calorie Restriction

Calorie-restriction is a significant stress.

You don’t have to be on a 500-calorie diet to see your testosterone plummet. You have to eat fewer calories than you burn consistently.

I bring this up because an athlete who’s training for hours each day might eat more calories than the average person, but fewer than he or she needs. In that case, it could lead to excess cortisol and low androgens.

9. Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids such as prednisone and cortisone can lower testosterone levels. If you use these medications daily, get your testosterone levels checked!

Also, if it’s possible, deal with the cause of whatever you need the corticosteroids for.

Summary

Testosterone plays an essential role in your long-term mental and physical health. Even if you don’t have symptoms of low testosterone today, you could develop them in the future if any of the above choices describe your lifestyle.

Have a thought, question, or comment to share? Keep the conversation going in the VIGOR Training Facebook Group.

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