Testosterone is a hormone that is produced by both men and women. It is commonly called the “male hormone” because it is responsible for the development of the male sex drive and the secondary sex characteristics of men (a penis and testicles). It is also responsible for men’s higher muscle mass, physical strength, body hair, deeper voices. On a secondary level, testosterone contributes to mental clarity and sharpness, confidence, and physical energy. Some believe that testosterone is responsible for aggression and risky behavior, but this has yet to be proven conclusively.
Normal Testosterone Levels in Adult Men
The normal range for testosterone levels in men ages 20-40 who are at a healthy weight and otherwise in good health, ranges from a low of approximately 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) to slightly more than 900 ng/dL.
At some point in their 30s, testosterone levels will naturally start to decline. It is estimated that nearly 40% of men older than 45 experience abnormally low testosterone levels with unwanted symptoms; however, these low levels can be attributed to a number of causes that have nothing to do with aging.
Like all hormones in the body, testosterone levels are constantly changing in response to your body’s needs. It’s not uncommon for testosterone levels to become unbalanced due to lifestyle choices that lead to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and chronic stress.
In the long term, testosterone levels gradually decline in men. This age-related decline is not dramatic. It only amounts to 1-2% per year. For example, a man whose testosterone level is 750 at age 30 will have a testosterone level of 300 at age 60, assuming a 2% decline (which is on the higher end) and no underlying physical problems or other conditions that would contribute to a more rapid decrease in testosterone. That still leaves him within the normal range at age 60, and there are things he can do to boost testosterone production in his body.
However, some men experience faster than normal declines in testosterone and lower than normal levels. This can have unwanted effects that have them looking for ways to increase their testosterone levels: erectile dysfunction and low libido.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Symptoms of abnormally low testosterone can be annoying and have an impact on your quality of life. These symptoms can include:
- Decreased sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Hot flashes
- Decreased body hair
- Decreased muscle mass
- Growth of breast tissue
- Low energy
Not all men will exhibit all of these symptoms. Most will go to the doctor to treat sexual dysfunction and may consider these other effects as a normal part of aging or attribute them to something else. The only way to determine whether these symptoms are caused by low testosterone is through a blood test.
Increasing Testosterone Levels Naturally
If a blood test confirms low testosterone, this doesn’t mean you automatically have to start with testosterone replacement therapy. Certain lifestyle changes help increase testosterone levels naturally:
- Adding resistance training and high-intensity interval exercises. Weightlifting temporarily increases testosterone levels; while those increases are more noticeable in younger men, it’s important to incorporate resistance training as you age to prevent osteoporosis and loss of muscle mass.
- Losing weight
- Eating a balanced diet high in zinc (leafy greens), garlic, and protein
- Avoiding estrogenic foods such as soy, and environmental estrogens such as BPA plastic (found in some water bottles)
- Getting enough sunlight/vitamin D (particularly important if you are obese)
- Getting enough sleep and managing stress
- Taking herbal supplements including ashwagandha or test-boosters we recommend here
Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Before you ask your doctor to prescribe testosterone replacement, consider that low testosterone can be caused by other factors. These include obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, chronic stress, hypothyroidism, or depression. It’s important to treat these first, as doing so may naturally increase testosterone levels.
If testosterone replacement is prescribed, it will come in several forms:
- tablets or pills
- skin patches
- topical gel
Which treatment is prescribed will depend on the severity of the condition and how much help your body needs. In the absence of underlying problems such as disease, a man can expect to see improvements fairly quickly, especially when it comes to sexual functioning and satisfaction.
Balancing hormones is an ongoing challenge. Not only do hormones fluctuate daily in the normal everyday running of bodily systems, but they are affected by chronic conditions, most notably stress. Stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, which mimics some of the symptoms of low testosterone. Therefore, it’s vital to stay on top of testosterone replacement therapy and adjust it to keep up with existing and emerging needs.
Side Effects of Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Unfortunately, testosterone replacement is not always smooth sailing for everyone. Many men will experience few side effects, but this depends on the individual as well as the dosage. Common side effects include an increase in red blood cells, acne/oily skin, and breast enlargement.
The bad news is that low testosterone definitely interferes with your sex life, and may impact your enjoyment of life in general.
The good news is that low testosterone (also known as hypogonadism) is relatively easy to treat. Begin with making positive lifestyle changes that focus on exercise, a healthy diet, and stress management. In many cases, this will help restore testosterone levels to the normal range.
If that fails, testosterone replacement therapy is highly effective and can restore a youthful vitality. If you don’t want to go to that extreme, we recommend going with testosterone boosting supplements. Our top-rated brands can be found below: