Low T is the boogeyman of the male psyche. Even whispers of it possibly rearing its hormonal head are enough to send droves of men to their nearest testosterone clinic for a dose of that sweet, sweet T. But while it’s well-known that things like soy products, alcohol and carbs can lower testosterone levels, less known are all the mental states and non-biological factors that affect a man’s testosterone level. Which is why we decided to put together a list of all those factors to help prepare you for your inevitable testosterone depletion.
We already know that becoming a father kills your sex drive, but according to a 2014 study, expecting fathers can expect a drop in testosterone, too. While the drop isn’t anything to worry about from a clinical standpoint, it does have an impact. “Men may not necessarily notice the changes themselves,” Robin Edelstein, one of the study’s authors, told Men’s Journal. “But lower levels of testosterone could contribute to men being more nurturing and caring with their infants, and possibly even with their partners.” The same article also cites a larger 2011 study that found that men who settle down and become involved in caring for their child experience a significant decrease in their testosterone levels as well.
Lack of Sleep
Having kids also means that you’ll be sleeping less, which according a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is a surefire way to lower your testosterone levels. “The study found that their daytime testosterone levels decreased by 10 to 15 percent,” reported Everyday Health. “The lowest testosterone levels were in the afternoon and evening.” According to Rowena A. DeSouza, assistant professor of urology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the link between sleep deprivation and low T goes both ways. “Low testosterone can cause sleep disturbance, and sleep disturbance can cause low testosterone. It can become a vicious cycle,” she told Everyday Health.
Having Less Sex
Based on the first couple of factors on this list, you’d be right to wonder why the title of this article isn’t, “Why Having Kids Will Lower Your Testosterone Level.” Because as anyone who’s a parent will tell you, once you have kids, your sex life falls off a cliff. “The reduction in sexual function was strongly associated with reduction in serum testosterone [levels] in our study,” David Handelsman, a researcher at the University of Sydney and the aforementioned study’s author, told WebMD. But before you reach for the Viagra, you should know that it takes a lot more than just a few months without sex to have a significant impact on your testosterone levels. “The decrease was small and other research has shown that it takes a 70 percent or 80 percent drop in testosterone to affect sexual functioning,” Handelsman added.
The Environment You Grew Up In
Like your personality and behaviour, testosterone is also subject to the forces of nurture as well as nature. A recent study out of Durham University in the U.K. suggests that the environment in which a man grows up helps determines his testosterone levels. “The typical pattern is higher testosterone in men in richer, post-industrialised countries of Europe or North America, compared with men living in poorer parts of the world or places where most of the population faces higher rates of disease,” Kesson Magid, a biological anthropologist and lead author of the study told Everyday Health.
This might sound surprising — one might assume that a man with a rougher upbringing might have higher levels of testosterone to deal with a more aggressive environment — but this difference in testosterone levels is actually a result of how much energy the body is able to invest in generating the hormone. According to the authors of the study, the more energy men spent on survival and dealing with things like fighting off disease or suffering through poor nutrition, the less energy remained to produce testosterone.
Too Much Exercise
Yes, you read that right the first time: Exercising too much can, in fact, lower your testosterone. Researchers out of the University of North Carolina suggest that high intensity exercises are linked to a lower sex drive and therefore — as noted above — lower testosterone levels. “Intense exercise training may spark a condition called ‘exercise hypogonadal male condition,’ which occurs when the hormones testosterone and luteinising hormone are suppressed, the researchers say,” writes Christa Sgobba for Men’s Health.
Considering high stress levels are associated with nearly every medical issue ever, it’s no surprise that it also contributes to lower testosterone levels. The reason is pretty straightforward: When your body is in survival mode, it needs the stress hormone cortisol to help manage things like your blood sugar levels. It just so happens that high cortisol levels are also associated with low testosterone. Still, according to Daniel Shoskes, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic, it’s important to keep in mind that association doesn’t equal causation. “There is very little evidence that stress lowers testosterone and even less evidence that lowering stress will raise testosterone,” Shoskes told Everyday Health. “That being said, we do know that acute and chronic stress have physiologic effects on the body. So, lowering stress could help with low testosterone symptoms like low libido, low energy and depression.”
So stop reading articles about being healthy and go and actually be healthy. Or something.