Drinking Alcohol and Low Testosterone: Clarifying the Connection
When we talk about the consequences of drinking too much alcohol, we usually think about the loss of inhibitions, saying embarrassing things we perhaps shouldn’t, the shame that comes with the loss of coordination and fine motor skills, and the potential for a hangover.
If we pause to consider how the routine consumption of a lot of alcohol affects our health, weight gain or the wear and tear on our livers are likely to come to mind.
Drinking alcohol in excess will harm your natural testosterone production.
However, it’s important to notice the qualifier in that statement—in excess.
Alcohol and Low Testosterone—The Good News First
Looking at the overall association of drinking alcohol to your testosterone levels, the important consideration is whether you’re drinking enough to cause a shift in your overall hormone balance, which determines the amount of active testosterone available for your body to use to power its critical systems.
Light to moderate alcohol consumption is unlikely to cause significant damage to your testosterone levels. There are some studies that associate slight dips in testosterone levels with consumption as moderate as a couple of beers per day, but the preponderance of research concludes that light alcohol consumption likely has a variety of health benefits, including:
- Reduced heart failure risk
- Reduced heart attack risk
- Reduced stroke risk
- Reduced dementia risk
To sum that up, a little bit of alcohol each week is probably fine—just don’t go overboard. The routine overconsumption of alcohol is what damages testosterone production and can lead to Low T levels.
The Direct Effect of Alcohol on Your Testosterone
First, studies continue to show that heavy doses of alcohol directly cause a decrease in testosterone production in men.
In a review of the available research, scientists concluded that a 160-pound man would need to drink 5 or 6 glasses of beer that contains between 4.5 and 6 percent alcohol per 12-ounce glass in order to cause a direct decrease in serum testosterone levels.
That’s still an approximation, but it supports what we’ve known for decades:
Ethanol alcohol is a testicular toxin, and these large doses reduce testosterone function, sperm count, fertility, and can even cause permanent damage to the testes.
Alcoholic men are known to suffer higher rates of infertility and extremely low testosterone levels.
An important side note is that no differences between adolescents and adults were identified, which means binge drinking among younger males likely has harmful effects on their hormone balance—possibly resulting in Low T symptoms despite their relatively young age.
Alcohol, Weight Gain, and Low T
Continued, heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to elevated levels of the female sex hormone estrogen.
This could be a hormone balance issue directly caused by the lower testosterone production associated with excessive consumption of alcohol, but it could also be the result of weight gain.
Alcohol, beer in particular, contains high amounts of sugar, and it’s high in calories while providing very few nutrients. Excessive calories leads to weight gain and an increase in fat tissue, and fat often functions as an estrogen-producing organ.
Increased estrogen usually means decreased testosterone levels.
Beer also contains prolactin, a substance that tends to increase fat production, increase estrogen, and is thought to be a key contributor to the “beer gut.”
Alcohol, Poor Sleep, and Low T
In low to moderate doses, alcohol initially promotes sleep. However, the medical consensus is that regular alcohol consumption ultimately disrupts your sleep schedule, and is even associated with insomnia.
In healthy adult men, testosterone production increases and levels rise during deep sleep, a function of the body’s circadian rhythm (the natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats on each rotation of the Earth, or roughly every 24 hours). Levels peak just before awakening, falling as testosterone is utilized by the body to fuel critical systems during waking hours.
Medical research shows that disturbed sleep hinders production and depletes testosterone levels.
If your sleep schedule is regularly disrupted by alcohol’s direct effect on your circadian rhythm, your body is likely to fall into a state of general instability. It never gets enough rest to repair itself or knows when it should begin to work harder to restore hormone levels. The inevitable result is insufficient or inconsistent production of testosterone.
Getting Back to a Better Version of “You”
The picture becomes clear the more we investigate the effects of alcohol on the male body. Directly or indirectly, too much alcohol wrecks your body’s ability to produce hormones correctly.
If your testosterone levels regularly fall below the optimum range and you’re experiencing chronic symptoms, or your symptoms are of a severity that hinders your enjoyment of life, it may be time to learn more about Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT).
Our comprehensive TRT guide has the facts and answers to the most common questions asked by concerned people just like you.