We got word that guys are being bombarded with ads about low testosterone, or “Low T” as it's been dubbed. You know the commercials we’re talking about: some ultra-masculine guy with a deep voice instilling guilt about low libido followed by a hard sell for a bottle of miracle pills that will turn you into the shirtless male model they hired for the commercial.
As corny as these ads might seem, they’re prompting dudes everywhere to ask their doctors about Low T. In fact, a five-year study of insurance claims found that the more Low T ads a guy saw, the more likely he was to get his testosterone levels checked.
But before you whip out your credit card and buy a bunch of testosterone-boosting supplements from that Instagram fitness influencer, we need to get the facts straight. In this article, we’ll give you the scoop on whether the Low T craze is legit, a scare tactic being cooked up by a bunch of quacks, or both.
Do You Actually Have Low T?
What if we told you your dad had 17% more testosterone when he was your age than you do now?
Before you challenge your old man to a fistfight to assert your dominance, let’s see what this data is all about. According to a 2007 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, men’s testosterone levels have been dropping by about 1% each year since the 1980s. We’ll explore what might be causing this trend in the next section, but for now, here are five symptoms that might mean your test is fading:
- You’re Always Tired: Feeling a little sluggish in the morning doesn’t mean you’ve lost your manhood. But if you experience chronic fatigue, meaning you never feel rested no matter how much you sleep, low testosterone may be the culprit.
- You Can’t Make Any Gains in the Gym: Been stuck at the same fitness level for months? Low testosterone might be holding you back on the bench press.
- You Can’t Make Any Magic in the Bedroom: Having trouble getting it up (or keeping it up)? If you’re never in the mood to fool around, or can’t when you’d like to, testosterone levels are one of the first things your doctor might check.
- You’re Getting Pudgy: Are you growing man boobs? No, seriously: Breast enlargement in men, known as gynecomastia, is a result of a hormonal imbalance and low testosterone.
- You’re Moody: If you’re feeling down in the dumps, irritable, or disinterested in stuff you’re normally pumped about, it could be time to check your testosterone levels, which play a key role in balancing dudes’ moods.
What Causes Low T?
So, why are the testicles of modern men secreting less of this muscle-building, libido-boosting hormone known as testosterone? The answer is complicated, but we here at DUDE headquarters hit the textbooks to narrow down some of the most common causes of Low T.
Aging: This one is a no-brainer. Testosterone levels dip naturally, about 1% each year starting around age 30 to 40.
Higher obesity rates: A decline in testosterone levels is linked to higher rates of obesity (almost 40% of dudes older than 20 are obese.) Of course, this raises the chicken-and-egg question: does Low T cause weight gain or vice versa.
Too much stress: Stress releases cortisol, which is like testosterone’s kryptonite: when one goes up, the other goes down.
Too much sitting: Dudes today are less likely to work manual labor jobs that require high levels of physical activity, which naturally boosts testosterone. Instead, we’re sitting longer than ever (like 10+ hours a day).
Other researchers have blamed home temperatures, environmental toxins, and even tight underwear for Low T. Long story short: nobody can really pinpoint what’s driving the decline.
How Can Dudes Boost Their Testosterone Levels? (Be Careful)
If you thought testosterone pills, pads, or gels were going to be your personal fountain of youth, you might be disappointed. Experts generally tell dudes not to use testosterone supplements unless they have levels below 320 ng/dl and have clinical symptoms of hypogonadism (translation: your balls aren’t leaking enough man juice).
“There is very little evidence that testosterone would benefit men without a clear indication for taking it, and there are still unresolved safety concerns about testosterone that just don’t justify widespread treatment of older men with normal age-related reduced testosterone,” says Bradley Layton, a public health researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Don’t panic, though. Some simple lifestyle changes can naturally restore your testosterone:
- Exercising and lifting weights can boost short term and long term testosterone levels.
- Get your daily doses of protein and healthy fats.
- Minimize your stress, since cortisol kills testosterone.
- Get a good night’s sleep (one study found that sleeping only 5 hours per night was linked to a 15% reduction in testosterone levels.)
If you do opt for a testosterone-boosting supplement, be smart and do some research you ingest a bunch of mystery chemicals. Most supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so before you call the number on that commercial, call your doctor for some professional advice. Sometimes getting back to the basics, like sleeping, eating healthy, and wiping your ass properly is all you need feel like yourself again.