“Can testosterone help you lose weight?”
Before I answer this question, I want to back up a little bit and talk about how testosterone works (and what the symptoms of low testosterone are).
I also want to stress something—testosterone is not a miracle drug that can fix anyone’s bodily issues.
It’s only appropriate for someone, man or woman, who is genuinely suffering from abnormally low testosterone levels.
If your testosterone levels are normal, testosterone replacement therapy may not be for you.
However, normal, when it comes to testosterone levels, is a very subjective term—it can range widely from person to person. According to The Endocrine Society, the bottom of the normal range (for men) is 300 ng/dl for total testosterone and 9 pg/ml for free testosterone.
Still, the reaction of your body to a low amount of endogenous testosterone can be very different from the reaction of another’s, meaning 300 ng/dl might result in few symptoms of low testosterone for another person but many symptoms for you.
This is why we focus on symptoms when levels are near the bottom of the normal range.
Can Testosterone Help You Lose Weight? First, Let’s Look at the Symptoms for Men
Low testosterone can affect you sexually, mentally, and physically. Let’s start with the sexual symptoms:
Sexual Symptoms of Low Testosterone
- Diminished libido
- Sexual dysfunction
As you might imagine, these symptoms are often the primary concern of patients. However, mental symptoms can be just as devastating:
Mental Symptoms of Low Testosterone
- Difficulty concentrating
- Insomnia and sleep problems
Again, severe symptoms, each of which, in itself, is enough to make you seek professional help.
The same can be said of some of the physical symptoms:
Physical Symptoms of Low Testosterone
- Decreased muscle mass and increased fat levels
- Increased fatigue
- Diminished bone strength
- Loss of height
- Decreased body hair and need for shaving
And now back to the original question: can testosterone help you lose weight?
Note the first physical symptom—this is the heart of the issue.
Testosterone plays a very critical role in the building of muscle mass. When you work out, you need a normal level of testosterone to ensure you get the most out of that work out.
If you have low testosterone, you’re going to have a very hard time building muscle, no matter how much protein you eat, how hard you lift, or how much recuperation you get.
Testosterone also plays a crucial role in how your body distributes fat. Even if your exercise goal is only to lose weight, if you have low testosterone, you may not be able to get rid of the fat you want to shed.
It gets worse.
Fat itself can act as an endocrine organ, pumping estrogen into your body, exacerbating your low testosterone situation.
This sets up a negative feedback loop of sorts—more estrogen means any testosterone you might gain from heavy lifting is negated.
If you can introduce testosterone from outside your system (through testosterone shots, for example), you may be able to break this cycle.
Can Testosterone Help You Lose Weight? Yes. But It Doesn’t Work by Itself
I said above that you may be able to break the cycle and finally get back into shape (through testosterone replacement therapy) because testosterone alone isn’t going to fix your body.
It’s not a miracle drug. It can’t make you lose 30 pounds of fat and gain 30 pounds of muscle by itself.
What it can do is make your workouts effective again.
Studies have shown that testosterone can help combat obesity, demonstrating statistically significant changes in both body weight and body fat.
But these same studies suggest that testosterone alone is insufficient—hard work is necessary, both in the gym and in the kitchen.
So, can testosterone help you lose weight? It sure can, but only in conjunction with diet and exercise. And, more importantly, it can help you improve your body composition.
So, what does that mean? Well, what most people really want, when it comes to improving their body, is to improve the way it looks. What you see when you increase muscle, but decrease fat, can have a profound impact on how your body looks, but it can also have a perplexing effect on the scale.
If the numbers on the scale are our only metric for health, we are probably going to miss something.
What really matters is overall health, and if your muscle mass increases, your weight can definitely go up. We need to shift the way we evaluate progress to match what the true goal is: better health and a healthier body.
I suggest you take a look at my ebook, titled “What are the Symptoms of Low T?” It will help you better understand your low testosterone and your body.
Augie Galindo, PA-C