As part of a recent series, in advance of our new book Reclaim Your Masculinity, we have been examining what testosterone (T) is and does, why T levels are falling across the developed world and what you can do – the foods you should avoid and the foods you should eat – to begin to restore your proper hormonal balance and with it your precious masculinity.
‘He’s got low T!’
Testosterone in Modern Times
Let there be no doubt: the modern world is waging a war against masculinity, both at the social and the molecular level. Putting the social level to one side, at the molecular level today’s man is caught in a ruthless two-pronged assault from natural estrogenic foods and industrially produced estrogenic chemicals, both of which combine to reduce testosterone levels on a global scale.
Men today have considerably less T than men of the same age even a single generation ago.
A 2007 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed a significant reduction in the T levels of men since the 1980s. A 60-year-old American man in 2004, for example, had 17% less testosterone than a 60-year-old American man in 1987. These findings were corroborated in a study of Danish men, who displayed a two-digit decline between the 1920s and the 1960s
Falling T levels are a fact of life for all men as they age; unless you take exogenous T, it’s as unavoidable as taxes and death, I’m afraid. After the age of 30, a man can expect to lose 1% of his T every year for the rest of his life.
But the natural reduction all men can expect to suffer pales in comparison with the society-wide collapse in T levels that has occurred over the second half of the twentieth and the first quarter of the twenty-first century.
So why is this a bad thing? After all, how bad can it really be to have low testosterone? Well, let me tell you: it’s really bad. In this article we’ll examine ten ways having low T can seriously ruin your life. But first, a testimonial from a young man with low T. [Source]
I’m a 23 y/o male. I have low T – last test was 212 ng/dL with a reference range of 241-827 ng/dL… I have a few things that are really troubling me, and I don’t know who else to talk to.
- I have no interest in sex. This is nothing new – last summer I hooked up for the first time, but lost interest and wasn’t able to get off… For about the last two months, I don’t even get erections anymore and I can’t masturbate. I don’t feel the urge to do it anymore, and any attempts are disappointing. This feels so terrible, especially when my peers are so sexually active and open. Even porn, nothing.
- I’ve been able to lose a lot of weight, but these enormous man boobs – which my doctor days will go away with treatment – are not going away with regular weight loss. They feel big as ever and I feel like a total freak. Everything on my body is getting smaller except my chest.
- I’ve become so bitter at others talking about sex or relationships – things I’ve never really known or been able to enjoy. Songs about these topics make me cry if I keep them on, so often I have to have foreign radio playing. I’m so miserable, and some days it’s literally all I can think about because it’s all around me.
I’m starting to believe I’ll be alone forever. I can’t make connections with people. Not even in a romantic/sexual way, but as friends. I have no enthusiasm for life, despite my antidepressant and such. Pretty often I feel like ending my own life, because I have such a desire for companionship, love and affection, but have no way to express it, look for it or participate. Yet still I have the yearning for love in my head, even though my body can’t make that happen – and that’s so hard.
No libido, man boobs (gynecomastia), depression, lack of energy and enthusiasm – these are just some of the (at least) ten ways having low T can ruin your life. And remember, it’s not likely that you’re going to experience just one of these ten things; no, like the poor young man in our testimonial, you’re going to experience five, six or all of them at once.
Like I said, having low T sucks.
Low T Absolutely Sucks
1. IT CAN PREVENT YOU DEVELOPING PROPERLY AS A CHILD AND DURING PUBERTY
Here’s the real blackpill. Low exposure to testosterone in your mother’s womb – something you can do nothing about – can ruin your life. It will literally make you less of a man, or barely even a man at all. That’s right.
Testosterone, as we’ve seen in our series on the hormone, is the master male hormone and is responsible for male sexual differentiation, that is for making men men and not women. Levels of testosterone exposure in the womb will determine whether or not you develop properly as a man. A lack of the necessary exposure to testosterone in the womb may result in ambiguous or underdeveloped male genitalia. This is often described as feminisation. [R] [R]
Something very similar can also happen as a result of prenatal exposure to xenestrogens, such as pthalates. Studies of pthalates have shown that prenatal exposure may cause feminisation of baby boys and be responsible for smaller penis size in newborn males. [R]
Pthalates were first introduced on a wide scale during the 1950s, when PVC became readily available. They are used to increase plastic flexibility, and as a result have a myriad of applications: in food containers, water bottles and children’s toys, as well as foams, solvents, perfumes, pesticides, nail polish, adhesives and lubricants.
See our article on xenestrogens for further information on these insidious chemicals, and how to protect yourself against exposure to them.
Later, as a teenager, if you suffer from hypogonadism – chronically low testosterone – and do not receive the testosterone you need to develop from a child into a man, you will not experience normal development. Growth will be delayed and you will suffer negative effects related to voice depth, muscle mass, size including penis size, body hair and enlarged breast tissue (gynecomastia).[R]
More on gynecomastia later.
2 + 3. IT WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY MAKE YOU PUT ON FAT AND MAKE IT HARDER FOR YOU TO GAIN MUSCLE
A so-called ‘skinny fat’ man
Testosterone is responsible for promoting muscle growth. This is why athletes and physique competitors looking to improve their muscular size and strength make take exogenous testosterone, steroids or SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators). Steroids and SARMs both mimic the effects of endogenous testosterone (i.e. testosterone made in the body), although SARMs do this in a more selective way, with far fewer of the negative side effects associated with steroids.
We have a comprehensive article series that you can read here if you’d like to know more.
As well as promoting muscle gain, testosterone appears to suppress fat gain. [R] [R] It has been shown that men with low T tend to gain fat more easily than men with normal or high T. [R] [R] So it follows that having low testosterone means you’re likely to have less muscle and more fat.
The actual mechanisms for this are more complicated, however, and may have to do with the fact that lower muscle mass means your body’s caloric needs are less, making it more likely that you’ll consume more than you need and thus put of fat.
It’s also well-known, as we discussed in our xenestrogen article, that being overweight is pro-estrogenic. This can result in a weight gain cascade, as fat signals your body to produce more estrogen, which in turn makes you fatter – soon enough, you’re seriously overweight. Obesity is becoming one of the leading causes of hypogonadism in the modern world. Obese men generally have 30% lower testosterone than men of a normal weight, and 70% of morbidly obese men suffer from hypogonadism. [R] [R]
4. IT REALLY CAN MAKE YOU GROW BOOBS
Gynecomastia, or enlarged breast tissue in men, is one common symptom of low T, and is also prominent in steroid users, because the excess testosterone in their body can be converted to estrogen through a process known as aromatisation.
According to the Mayo Clinic, as many as 1 in 4 men in America may suffer from gynecomastia. [R]
Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be #thewayyouare
Gynecomastia may become so bad, as in the case of the testimonial and the picture above, that surgical treatment is required – a mastectomy, usually reserved for women with breast cancer – to get rid of the swollen tissue. Gynecomastia usually can be treated with testosterone replacement therapy and/or by making lifestyle changes to increase your testosterone levels.
5. IT CAN MAKE YOUR BONES FRAGILE
Having low T really do be like that
It is well accepted that hypogonadism accelerates bone loss, otherwise known as osteroporosis. [R] This can make you more susceptible to breakages, which we can all admit are no fun at all. Brittle bones will certainly make weightlifting or sport of any kind harder and riskier.
If you don’t want to have the bones of a very old man, do something about your low T levels.
6. IT CAN MAKE YOU LOSE YOUR HAIR
A soyjak in the wild
Testosterone also plays a key role in hair production. Although there is an inherited aspect to balding in men, men with low testosterone may also experience a loss of both body and facial hair; witness soyjak’s horrible wispy beard and patchy scalp. Surprisingly, testosterone plays a key role in hair production for women, and women who have hair loss and are deficient in testosterone can be treated with subcutaneous application of the hormone. [R]
While the sexual politics of baldness may be complicated – not all bald men are unattractive, and some even look better without hair than they did with hair – in general most men would probably prefer not to have less hair than they already do. The British MP Mark Oaten, for instance, famously blamed his spectacular mid-life crisis on the discovery that he was balding.
Jason Statham doesn’t have much trouble with the ladies
7. IT CAN MAKE YOU DEPRESSED
As our testimonial shows, having low T can make you really depressed. So depressed even anti-depressants don’t seem to do the trick.
It’s not immediately clear how low testosterone is associated with depressive symptoms. Common sense might tell us that looking and feeling less like a man would of course be associated with feelings of lower self-worth and happiness. Again, we have to emphasise that having low T brings with it a whole complex of interrelated effects.
What is clear, at least, is that such a relationship between low T and depression exists. One study of older men in Iran, for instance, showed ‘a significant inverse relationship between serum testosterone levels and depressive symptoms.’ [R] Testosterone levels have also been shown to have a link to depression in women, although in a parabolic curve relationship: both high and low levels are related to depression. [R]
8. IT CAN MAKE YOU HAVE LESS ENERGY
From bed to desk to sofa to bed, ad infinitum. The average wage slave in 2050 (artist’s impression)
It’s also well-documented that having low testosterone will reduce your energy levels and motivation. In a US survey of men taking testosterone replacement therapy, nearly 29% of men surveyed stated that they were having the therapy to increase their energy levels. [R]
Having low energy and motivation is bad for obvious reasons. Instead of working out and eating healthily, you’ll be more likely not to exercise and eat badly. As we’ve already seen, weight gain can become a snowball or cascade, and having low energy is part of that: you have low energy so you don’t exercise and eat more, as a result of which you put on weight and feel even worse, leading to…
If you feel low-energy, whether you have low testosterone or not, see our recent article on five ways you can increase your energy levels.
If you’d like further information on how to increase your energy levels, check out our article on the subject.
9 and 10. IT CAN TANK YOUR LIBIDO AND FERTILITY
An asexual gentleman
Researchers aren’t totally sure how testosterone increases libido, given how widely libido varies between men. Defining precisely what a healthy or normal libido is isn’t easy. But having absolutely no interest in sex as a 23-year old man, just like our testimonial at the beginning, can hardly be the norm. And at a population level, despite the differences between individuals, testosterone levels are strongly related to libido. [R]
Hypogonadism is also the most common hormonal cause for erectile dysfunction, which can make it impossible to have sex. Treatment with exogenous testosterone is often used to restore proper erectile function in such cases. [R] It’s worth noting, though, that men can sustain erections with lower than normal testosterone levels. [R]
In addition to reducing your libido and making it physically harder (ahem!) for you actually to have sex, low testosterone reduces your fertility, making it harder for you and your partner to conceive. If your testes don’t produce testosterone or produce very little of it, as in hypogonadism, your body will produce less or absolutely no sperm. A low sperm count makes it much harder to conceive a child. Researchers believe that one in three cases of infertility are due to the male partner alone. [R]
Well? If you’re still not convinced that having low T can ruin your life, I don’t know what will convince you.
If you are concerned you might have low testosterone levels, check out our article on how to know if you have low T.
So how can you tell if you have low testosterone?
The easiest and most definitive way is to have a blood test. A normal testosterone level range for men is 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl), whereas for women, it’s between 15 and 70 ng/dl. If as a man your testosterone is below 300 ng/dl, you have low testosterone.
But this is putting the cart before the horse, because before you decide to have a test you will experience some or all of the following symptoms, assuming you actually do have low testosterone.
You’ll have good reason to ask the question ‘Do I have low T?, because in some very obvious ways you’ll feel like less of a man.
The main symptoms include:
- Reduced libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fertility problems (inability to conceive)
- Fatigue/Low Energy
- Depression/Lowered Mood
- Weight Gain
- Muscle Loss
Boys with low testosterone may develop slower, with little or no body hair, under-developed muscles and smaller penises; and men with low T will have difficulty building muscle, no matter how hard they try.
In extreme cases of low testosterone, usually referred to as hypogonadism, men may also develop breast tissue (gynecomastia) and osteoporosis (reduced bone density).
Hypogonadism has a variety of causes, which include:
- Certain genetic disorders
- Pituitary disorders, including pituitary tumours and injuries
- Inflammatory diseases
- Obesity and also rapid weight loss
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Steroid use
Obesity, in particular, is an increasingly common cause of hypogonadism.
Stored fat is highly estrogenic and can wreak havoc on your testosterone levels.
If you want further help in boosting your natural endogenous testosterone production, you can either contact us or try one of the various strategies we have put forward in this article.
Don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected] for personalized coaching and a client questionnaire if you’d like DEDICATED tailor-made personal training on strength training, building muscle, losing fat, developing athleticism, and more — all to your liking, lifestyle, habits, and taste!
Alternatively, you can pick up a FREE eBook on fundamental strength principles offering an introductory workout program.