When people think of testosterone, they usually think of it as the male hormone responsible for a man's sex drive and muscle mass. After all, testosterone levels and libido both peak in men in their early 20s.
Testosterone production in men drops off with age, and according to the Mayo Clinic, levels decline about 1% per year after age 30. Some men, however, experience much more severe declines in testosterone levels, and this can affect sleep, body fat levels, and mood, in addition to sex drive.
Though testosterone supplementation is commonly associated with athletes and body builders, it can actually be beneficial to men regardless of their level of athleticism. Here are 5 surprising benefits of testosterone supplements.
1. Slower bone loss. Bones continue to add density until about age 30, and then begin gradually losing density. Many factors affect bone loss, including genetics, diet, and physical activity levels. One out of four men age 50 and older will experience a fracture related to reduced bone density in their remaining life span. Low testosterone levels are considered an important factor in male bone density loss because testosterone is known to stimulate bone mineralization. In men with low levels of testosterone, supplementation can actually increase bone mineral density, and stronger bones mean a lower risk of fracture.
2. Improved energy and concentration. One of the most common side effects of declining testosterone levels in men is a decrease in energy levels and an inability to concentrate. Men with low testosterone levels who begin taking testosterone supplements report greater energy levels and improved concentration. Testosterone doesn't just deliver results in the gym!
3. Improved red blood cell production. As men get older and testosterone levels decrease, red blood cell production also declines. Testosterone supplementation has been shown to increase red blood cell counts. Low red blood cell counts can cause a person to feel fatigued and weak. Dizziness and increased heart rate are also symptoms of low red blood cell counts. Fortunately, finding out your red blood cell count only requires a simple test at your doctor's office.
4. Easier fat loss. Many people associate higher testosterone levels with weight gain, but this is because testosterone makes it easier to build muscle mass. Though men taking testosterone supplements may gain weight, this weight gain is usually accompanied by loss of excess fat. Testosterone tends to reduce body fat by inhibiting the maturation of fat cells and changing the body's fat uptake activity. As muscle cells burn more fatty acids instead of glucose and glycogen, glycogen stores are better maintained even as body fat decreases.
5. A sense of motivation and optimism. Many men who take testosterone supplements hoping for improved physical fitness find that their mental state undergoes changes as well. Men who started out with low testosterone levels reported more motivation to get up and go every day as well as a general lift in mood after taking the supplements. These changes may be due to direct effects of testosterone on brain chemistry, or they may be accounted for by the increased energy, decreased fat levels, and better physical fitness that result from testosterone supplementation.
Testosterone affects much more than muscle mass and sex drive. Men naturally experience declining testosterone levels with increasing age, and these changes affect mood, bone density, and energy as well. Testosterone supplementation has been shown to produce positive effects for men of all ages.
Photo credit: Gareth Williams