Obesity, Exercise and the Testosterone Sweet Spot

Ripples of muscle lower tesosterone
The ripples are cool but potentially costly (Courtesy: Unsplash.com)

He looked absolutely shredded. An all-natural body builder with more ripples than a lake on a windy day, he worked out 3 hours daily and it showed. But his testosterone levels were in the tank, far lower than normal and similar to someone who is overweight and doesn’t exercise at all. How is this possible?

Driving Testosterone Down

Testosterone balance is very sensitive to both extreme physical activity and to body weight. But for different reasons. Too much exercise is stressful for the body; the body’s response is to dump adrenaline, not testosterone. Extreme exercise stimulates the “fight or flight” nervous system, similar to running for your life as a caveman. This alters hormonal signaling to favor survival hormones and not restorative ones like testosterone. Testosterone levels fall during intense activity and rise with rest. If you never really rest, testosterone levels stay low.

Weighing On Testosterone

Similarly, obesity is associated with low testosterone and altered hormonal signaling. But in a different way. The brain provides “fuel” (luteinizing hormone, LH) for the engine (testicle) to make testosterone. The brain is also very sensitive to changes in weight. Obesity increases fat stores and fat converts male hormones (testosterone) into female hormones (estrogens). Too much estrogen in men acts through a feedback loop on the brain and lowers the fuel (LH) to the testicle, thus decreasing testosterone output.

So, what’s a guy to do? Find your testosterone “sweet spot.” Avoid extremes and run somewhere in the middle. Regular, moderate exercise is great. Staying reasonably close to normal body weight and keeping the belly fat off is also great. If you do this, your testosterone will be at its best and you will enjoy it the most.