What Testosterone Isn’t

I see a lot of patients who think that their testosterone is good. Even I have been heard to say that it is the “elixir of a man’s life.” Indeed, testosterone is one seriously important molecule throughout men’s lives. In the womb, it determines anatomic maleness. And during puberty, when another splash of testosterone hits boys and sticks for good, I don’t have to tell you what it does: feeds the growth spurt, cracks the voice, encourages hair growth, acne, stronger muscles and is the ultimate governor of teenage thought and action.

Testosterone in Adults

Testosterone in men is essential for health and well-being. First isolated in 1935, it is an anabolic hormone in that it generally induces growth. And it does this all over the body.  In the brain, it influences sex drive, assertiveness, mood, energy and some aspects of thinking and verbal memory. In the heart, it helps dilate the arteries, which is good. Testosterone increases muscle strength and maintains normal bone density. It also reduces belly fat. In the kidney, it stimulates a hormone called erythropoietin that keeps blood counts normal. It also strengthens the immune system and helps blood to clot. In the male sexual organs, normal testosterone levels are important for erections and sperm production. So, it’s about as close to an “elixir” as any single circulating molecule in our bodies.

A List of What Testosterone Isn’t

Testosterone is not as vital to us as oxygen. For the record, here is what testosterone isn’t or doesn’t do:

  • It is not a common reason for erectile dysfunction (<6% of cases).
  • It is not a common cause for low sex drive.
  • It will not help you get more dates or make you a sex machine.
  • It will not magically make you a muscle man.
  • It will not magically cause weight loss or reduce fat. This requires a diet and exercise program.
  • It will not help you live forever; it falls with age.
  • It does not cause prostate cancer or liver cancer.
  • It is not higher during periods of stress; in fact, stress lowers testosterone levels.
  • It is generally lower in athletes than non-athletes.
  • It does not by itself cause baldness. Baldness is mainly genetic.
  • It does not get lower the more you masturbate.
  • It will not make you taller or your hands bigger as an adult.
  • More testosterone will not solve all of your problems.

What’s absolutely key to testosterone management is that there are symptoms present in association with low levels. In such cases, the benefits of treatment are clear. Think of testosterone as oil in your car: it helps everything work better, but when a problem occurs, it is usually something else that has gone wrong.

14 thoughts on “What Testosterone Isn’t

    1. With women your fertility deaeecsrs in your thirties but not so with the guy. I would just try to relax and let nature take its course. It takes the average couple 6 months to conceive and you aren’t supposed to see a doctor about it unless it’s been a year.

    1. Joshua, testosterone supplements vary widely in their effectiveness, largely because they are not pharmceutical grade, certified, FDA approved products. My best advice is “Buyer beware.”

    1. I hear that the over the counter tests are very exnvesipe. Contact your insurance company and see if they cover it. I was very surprised to find out how much infertility diagnosis and treatment our insurance covers. If it is not covered, they are reasonably affordable, I think our doctor charges $125 for a semen analysis that is not covered by the individuals insurance.

  1. Hi Dr Turek. Is there a clinical significance in the balance/disparity of bound/unbound testosterone, especially in relation to male fertility?

    1. Chris, this is complicated. Think of total testosterone as all parked cars in a lot. Think of free or unbound testosterone as those cars that actually run and can leave the lot and “bound” testosterone as those that can’t. It’s the unbound or free testosterone that does the hard work in the body; the rest is unavailable. Yes this balance can impact male fertility as men with low testosterone (best measured as low free or unbound T) can have reduced sperm counts. First thing to do is figure out why its low and then treat that issue if possible. Clomiphene citrate is a great way of bioidentically improving testosterone balance.

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