As you age, perhaps you’ve experienced slight weight gain despite eating and exercising the same way you always have. You can blame some of this on declining levels of the male hormone testosterone. Normal testosterone levels help keep the body lean and muscular because the hormone binds to fat, carrying it out of the body so less fat is stored around the middle. If it’s any consolation, you aren’t alone – starting at age 30 testosterone levels slowly begin to decline.
The hormone testosterone regulates a number of processes in males, most notably the development of male characteristics (e.g. facial and body hair, deeper voice, and muscle mass). Like other hormones, testosterone functions as a chemical messenger that triggers vital functions in the body, including:
- Sex drive
- Bone mass
- Fat distribution
- Muscle size and strength
- Red blood cell production
- Sperm production
How Testosterone Affects Your Metabolism
Although metabolism is influenced by body size, gender, and genes, it’s common for most people to experience a slower metabolism as they get older. Muscle cells require more energy to maintain than fat cells, so individuals with more muscle than fat tend to have a faster metabolism. Of course in men, testosterone plays an integral role in this process. Declining levels of the male hormone along with fat cells breaking testosterone down into the female sex hormone estrogen are a double whammy that can increase body fat, decrease muscle mass and slow down your metabolism. Some research suggests reduced muscle mass is the primary reason testosterone deficiency leads to weight gain in men.
How to Increase Testosterone Levels Naturally
Low testosterone can lead to weight gain and the more subtle symptoms of reduced motivation and stamina. Together, these can cause some men to feel like couch potatoes. The good news is you can make lifestyle changes to help increase your testosterone levels naturally. Higher testosterone will boost your overall energy, ease fatigue, inspire you to get moving and help improve your body composition analysis (percentage of lean body mass and fat). According to most sources, a range of 11-15% body fat is normal for men, with more than 20% considered obese.
Here are a few tips that can help boost testosterone levels naturally:
- Strength training: Weight lifting or any form of resistance exercise helps build more muscle and burn fat faster, thereby triggering testosterone production and helping to promote healthy weight and fat distribution.
- Reduce stress: Chronic stress raises levels of cortisol, a hormone that may suppress testosterone levels. Exercise itself is a great way to reduce stress.
- Eat a well-balanced diet: Avoid extreme diets, but by all means moderate your diet, especially if you’re overweight. It’s important to eat a diet with a variety of different foods to ensure you’re getting the macro-nutrients your body needs. A high protein diet is especially helpful in building lean muscle mass.
- Avoid alcohol: Drinking alcohol can inhibit the secretion of testosterone. Even two drinks a day can lower your levels, so it’s best to avoid it all together or drink occasionally in moderation.
- Get more sleep: Sleep plays an important role in hormone production, so it’s important to get enough to make sure lack of sleep does not negatively impact testosterone levels.
Dr. Amy Lee, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, Lindora Clinic