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Healthy Habits: Are you the man your Dad was?

If you measure your manliness according to your testosterone levels, sadly the answer is likely no, according to current statistics comparing men today with the previous generations at a similar age.  Naturally there is more to a man than his testosterone score, but testosterone plays a powerful role in how we feel as men. It is our dominant hormone responsible for the development of our sex organs along with playing a major role in so many of our health characteristics including muscle mass, bone density, libido, wellbeing and moods.

By Craig Burton

Sunday 25 October 2020, 02:15PM

Falling testosterone levels affect much more than an are-wrestle with your dad. Photo: Craig Burton

Falling testosterone levels affect much more than an are-wrestle with your dad. Photo: Craig Burton

Last year the lab I use here in Phuket  lowered the testosterone normal reference ranges (the range that is considered normal and okay) from previously 280-800ng/dl to now 193-740ng/dl – nearly a 100-point decline. Why? The standard normal ranges for blood tests are often the result of plotting all the test results for normal people into a bell curve and identifying the outlying 5%, suggesting a strong testosterone decline, which is a worldwide trend.

Testosterone trends and statistics

Low testosterone has really become one of the biggest men’s health and wellbeing issues today, with approximately 30% of men worldwide affected by low testosterone.

A global estimate of total testosterone sales from 41 countries indicates increases from US$150 million in 2000 to US$1.8 billion in 2011. This figure has a lot to do with more advertising and exposure via the internet to sell testosterone but likely also represents the greater awareness of men realising an issue and looking for a solution.

Low testosterone issues

Recent studies have demonstrated that low testosterone in men is strongly associated with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease.

But along with these issues is the often silent mental health issue that goes with low testosterone, namely depression. Studies are very clear in showing the relationship between low testosterone and depression.

One study from over 800 men showed a clear and significant inverse relationship between serum testosterone levels and depressive symptoms. As testosterone goes down, depression goes up.

The Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS), which included 1,709 men aged 40 to 70 years, showed that each unit increase in the concentration of total serum testosterone results in a 10% reduction in the risk of depression. 

Low Testosterone Symptoms

So what does a guy look and feel like with low T? Well simply not himself – low energy, vitality, low sex drive are classic symptoms. He easily gains fat around the midsection, that male pregnant look and it’s hard to lose it even if he tries with diet and training. 

Causes of low testosterone

I often look at health according to four foundations which I will link to low testosterone:

  1. Mindset – Chronic mental stress leading to sustained high cortisol is a big factor today. This can be from work, finances, relationships. 
  2. Lifestyle – Another stress to the body is lack of adequate sleep, testosterone is mostly produced when we sleep. 
  3. Nutrition – Inflammation is a stress and a diet high in refined sugar, refined seed oils/vegetable oil are two of the main inflammatory stressors in our diet today.
  4. Movement – Sedentary lifestyle is not helping produce our prime hormone. If you don’t move it, you lose it!

I will also add to this list environmental toxins such as plastics which are affecting our hormones and possibly increasing estrogen levels. 

Low T solutions

Here they are:

  1. Try not to sweat the small stuff and ideally practice meditation – to balance cortisol.
  2. Go to bed as early as possible and ideally sleep till you naturally wake up.
  3. Cut down the ultraprocessed food (sugar and bad fats) and replace with  plenty of good fats (like coconut oil, avocado, eggs, olives, fatty fish) as testosterone is made from fat, along with clean protein and loads of above ground vegetables 
  4. Do strength training – T loves it. 

What about testosterone supplementation?

It is critical for those wishing to supplement with testosterone to do so only under medical supervision. Labs need to be done regularly to see you are in the right range for your body – more is not better. Over-supplementation can cause many problems including increases in estrogens (due to testosterone converting/aromatising to estrogen), which is bad news for a male body.

If you are not checking you are just guessing

My recommendation for all men over 30 is every year please get a physical with labs included and insist on them adding testosterone to keep an eye on it. You really have to insist as it’s not often done unless you say you have a low libido. If possible ask for also SHBG and albumin (to work out free and bioavailable testosterone), Estradiol, and DHEA. Don’t wait until it becomes a problem. To understand how to optimise testosterone on a deeper level please check out my free course.

Craig Burton (BSc, NASM, CISSN) is a practicing Clinical and Sports Nutritionist with over 20 years’ experience as a health practitioner. He holds an array of qualifications in nutrition, as well as in health, fitness, mental and lifestyle coaching. To find out more about Craig or contact him go to www.craigburtoncoaching.com

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