What is the link between Body Fat and Testosterone Production?
Testosterone, the predominant male sex hormone, does more than just ramp up masculinity.
Of course, testosterone plays an important role in building muscle (we’ve all seen those massive body builders with plenty T to spare). But that muscle gain becomes vital in increasing insulin sensitivity and maintaining metabolic health as well. We don’t all have to be body builders, but maximizing testosterone production is important and minimizing body fat plays a key role in doing so.
Lower levels of testosterone may lead to insulin resistance, or the metabolic inability to handle carbs. This basically means any carbs you consume will go straight to fat tissue – yikes!
How does that work? Body fat contains aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogens, the main sex hormones in women.
When you have excess estrogen in your system it triggers your body to slow its production of testosterone.
Studies have shone this clear relationship between body fat and testosterone. Body fat = more estrogen, which = less testosterone.
In fact, a study of 1,822 men by the New England Research Institutes (NERI) confirmed that a man's waist circumference is the single strongest predictor of low testosterone levels.
Yes, men do lose some testosterone naturally as they age; but weight gain can accelerate that process. NERI researchers monitored the health of men ages 40 to 70 for 9 years and found that the men who became overweight or obese experienced a more rapid drop in testosterone than those who'd kept a normal weight.
Obesity and Testosterone
Due to the relationship of body fat and testosterone, it can be easy to get caught in a vicious cycle. Those struggling with obesity are at an especially high risk of losing testosterone.
On the one hand, obesity impairs testosterone production. However, at the same time, lower testosterone makes it easier to store fat; so one feeds off the other.
So you might think losing weight is the key to improving testosterone levels. Time to start dieting, right? But this is where many men go wrong. Unfortunately, most diets actually dramatically decrease testosterone levels. In fact, it might be one of the worst things you can do for your testosterone levels.
So how do you cut body fat and improve testosterone levels?
How diet affects testosterone
Where most dieters go wrong is by eating a bunch of low-fat, high-fiber foods. Avoiding fatty foods can be good, but cutting out all fat is not. The key is eating the good fats.
In fact, about 20 to 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat, and not just those heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Contrary to popular belief, saturated fats aren’t always your enemy. Saturated fat contains cholesterol, which is crucial to testosterone production. In reality, 5 to 10 percent of your daily calories come from saturated fat in foods like red meat and egg yolks.
Other things to consider when dieting include aiming for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily and eating 2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight daily. Maintaining a 2-to-1 carb-to-protein ratio that's optimal for raising testosterone levels.
And equally important – don’t deprive yourself of calories! Men on an intense exercise regimen who took in only about 1,800 calories a day experienced a 40 to 50 percent drop in testosterone after just 5 days.
Finally, avoid extreme energy deficits. That is, avoid eating extreme reductions in calories than you take in. Many times, weight loss steals at least some muscle mass along with the fat. Therefore all weight loss results in reduced testosterone to some degree. However, preserving lean mass while losing weight can combat this. Obviously, the more muscle mass you retain, the less testosterone you lose.
To optimize retention of muscle mass, make sure to do weight training during weight loss to maintain strength and muscle mass.
It’s time to shed that body fat and optimize testosterone!
Stay tuned for next week’s blog post on how body fat affects estrogen in women.
Anonymous. "Fat and Hormonal Effects." The Physicians Committee. N.p., 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 05 July 2017.
Parker, K.T. "Estrogen & Obesity." LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 12 Oct. 2015. Web. 05 July 2017.
"What Men Should Know About Testosterone and Weight Loss | Paleo Leap." Paleo Leap | Paleo Diet Recipes & Tips. N.p., 12 Mar. 2015. Web. 05 July 2017.
"3 Steps to More Testosterone." Men's Health. N.p., 28 Oct. 2016. Web. 05 July 2017.