Feeling tired? Loss of libido? Then you could be suffering from low levels of testosterone. Do you know how to spot when your testosterone levels are running low? In this article, we’re going to look at the 8 most common symptoms of low testosterone. But first, let’s explore the basics of what testosterone is. Your body first begins producing large amounts of testosterone when you go through puberty. It’s what gives you masculine traits like facial hair, a deepened voice, and a lean physique. Women need testosterone too, but to a smaller extent than men. Unfortunately, like many aspects of our health, testosterone levels deteriorate with age. By the time you reach your mid-70s, your free testosterone levels may only be half of what they were during your twenties (1). Research shows that testosterone drops about 1% per year (2). If you eat healthy food, sleep properly, and work out regularly, you can slow the onset of low testosterone. However, even with a healthy lifestyle, your genetics may predispose you to low testosterone levels.
Here Are 8 Symptoms of Low TestosteroneWe’ll cover 8 different signs that your body may be telling you your testosterone levels are too low:
- Loss of Muscle Mass
- Increased Body Fat
- Decreased Bone Density
- Low Libido / Erectile Problems
- Hair Loss
- Mood Changes
- Difficulty Sleeping
#1 FatigueOne of the most common symptoms of low testosterone is fatigue. The type of fatigue that low testosterone causes isn’t the kind of fatigue that goes away with a good night’s sleep. Low testosterone causes fatigue that lingers for no apparent reason. Many disorders besides low testosterone cause fatigue. However, if you’re having trouble motivating yourself to get into the gym even if you basically live there, you may want to get your testosterone levels checked. Have you been training hard recently? Maybe too hard? It’s worth noting that over-training can also cause low testosterone and fatigue (3). After you train hard, you cause damage to your muscles and deplete neurotransmitters and hormones. Your stress hormone cortisol also increases after hard training. Normally your hormonal profile bounces back to normal after a few easy days, but in the case of extreme over-training, it could take weeks or months.
#2 Loss of Muscle MassLow testosterone may also make it difficult for you to maintain muscle, leading to what’s known as “muscle wasting.” Usually, men experience muscle wasting alongside fatigue. You may also experience a general feeling of weakness before noticing changes in your body. Why do men, on average, have more muscle than women? The answer is, of course, because they have more testosterone. The average man has twenty times as much testosterone as the average woman (630ng/dL compared to 32.6ng/dL (4, 5). Your muscles have androgen receptors, which respond to testosterone circulating through your blood (6). When testosterone binds to these androgen receptors, your muscles maintain their size. However, when testosterone levels drop, your muscles shrink.
#3 Increased Body FatTestosterone and your body fat have a chicken and the egg kind of relationship. Increased body fat decreases testosterone, and decreased testosterone increases body fat (7). If you’re currently overweight and want to increase your testosterone, you should focus on decreasing your body fat. Fat cells produce an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen (8). Increased estrogen causes men to store more body fat (9). If your body fat percent is increasing even though you aren’t eating differently, you may want to get your testosterone levels checked.
#4 Decreased Bone DensityEven if you’re suffering from low bone density, you probably won’t know without a bone density test. Compared to the other symptoms on this list, decreased bone density isn’t obvious. However, low testosterone can raise your risk of developing osteoporosis (10). Testosterone is an anabolic hormone, which means it builds body tissues. We usually think of testosterone strictly as a muscle builder, but it also thickens your bones. Your muscles are only as strong as the frame they’re attached to. Hormones like cortisol are catabolic hormones, which means they break down tissue. Keeping a high testosterone-to-cortisol ratio can keep your bones strong further into life (11).
#5 Low Libido / Erectile ProblemsAlong with fatigue, low sex drive is one of the most common symptoms of low testosterone. In a study looking at over 1600 men, 11% reported low libido. 28% of the men with low libido also had low testosterone (12). Why does low testosterone cause a lack of sexual motivation? You can thank the part of your brain called the amygdala (13). Your amygdala, which is located deep near the bottom of your brain, is responsible for your sex drive. It’s filled with testosterone receptors. When your testosterone levels are high, the testosterone molecules fit into the receptors like keys into a lock. When your testosterone levels are low, no amount of sexy lingerie is going to be able to get you into the mood. Low testosterone by itself is usually not the primary cause of erectile dysfunction. Diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and high cholesterol are more likely to blame (14). However, these issues can also lead to low testosterone.
#6 Hair LossHair loss is part of the ageing process for many men. The main factor that determines if you’re going to go bald is your genetic history. However, your hormonal profile can also play a role. Low testosterone can cause balding of the hair on your head, face, and chest. Testosterone exists in your body in different forms. Free testosterone is the most bioavailable form in your body. Your body can also make the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) from testosterone through an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase (15). Men with high amounts of DHT and low levels of testosterone are susceptible to male pattern baldness. You can spot male pattern baldness by the distinct crown shape of hair around the sides of a man’s head.
#7 Mood ChangesBetween the ages of 40 and 60, men often undergo a change in mood referred to by some as irritable male syndrome. Men often develop irritable male syndrome at the same point in their lives that women experience menopause. It’s often coupled with symptoms of nervousness, irritability, lethargy, and depression (16). The same part of your brain that controls sex drive, the amygdala, also controls your mood. This means that, once again, low testosterone can cause problems here.
#8 Difficulty SleepingSleep is critical for keeping your testosterone levels high. Multiple studies confirm that more sleep means more testosterone (17, 18). However, if you are suffering from low testosterone, getting to sleep might not be as easy as it once was. A common symptom of low testosterone is insomnia. Testosterone levels are highest in the morning, and restful REM sleep is needed for your body to make testosterone. Less sleep means less testosterone production, and less testosterone production means less sleep. If you’re stuck in this chicken and the egg loop, you may want to ask your doctor to test your testosterone levels. If you can increase your sleep quality, you might see an improvement in your testosterone scores. To improve your sleep, avoid your phone and computer screen before bed. Also, only use your bed for sex and sleep to make the association in your brain between your bed and rest. You should also avoid caffeine at night. Caffeine has a half-life of about five or six hours, so even drinking caffeine in the late afternoon may affect how you sleep.
What To Do If You Have Symptoms Of Low TestosteroneIf you’re experiencing any of the eight symptoms described above, it’s possible you have low testosterone. It’s best to go see a doctor and get checked out because if you have these symptoms then it could be because of low testosterone but it could also be because of something else. The only way to know for sure is by visiting your doctor or having your testosterone levels tested. If you do have low testosterone then there are several ways you can increase your testosterone levels naturally. Unless your doctor thinks it’s urgent it’s always best to go the natural route first before taking medication.