Fitness Articles

Is Low Testosterone Making You Fat?

The Testosterone/Weight Gain Connection

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We all have some amount of testosterone in our bodies, but it's more of a game-changer for men. The hormone controls many of the traits associated with masculinity and virility, such as muscle development, facial hair growth and a deep voice. In fact, men have up to 20 times more testosterone than women (which is why females generally don't need to worry about "bulking up" as a result of strength training).

What many don't realize is that testosterone also plays a key role in losing and managing weight. If you're a man who is trying to build muscle or slim down, the amount (or lack) of testosterone in your system can significantly impact your results.

In research studies, among men who qualified as obese, 75 percent were found to have hypogonadism, a condition where the body produces low testosterone.

Although the levels naturally decrease with age, males of all ages can experience T-triggered weight gain. In addition to age, testosterone can also be lowered by poor diet, excessive exercise and serious illness. Weight gain isn't the only symptom—some other red flags include lagging libido, lower fertility, reduced muscle strength, weaker bones and less energy.

How Does Testosterone Affect Weight Gain?


According to Tyler Spraul, director of user experience at Exercise.com, testosterone can help speed up weight loss in two ways: by promoting muscle growth and by helping to reduce body fat.

On the muscle growth side, testosterone works to increase protein synthesis in the body and also raises the levels of growth hormones, so your workouts are more likely to build muscle. "While this may seem counterproductive for weight loss, building muscle is beneficial because that muscle will burn more calories throughout the day than the same amount of fatty tissue would," Spraul explains.

When it comes to reducing body fat, testosterone has an important influence on insulin, glucose and fat metabolism. As testosterone decreases, the body becomes less efficient in fat metabolism and more likely to store excess energy as fat.

"Another benefit of increased testosterone is that it combats the negative effects of cortisol, which is sometimes responsible for stalled weight loss," says Alexander McBrairty, NASM-certified personal trainer with A-Team Fitness.

Before you blame testosterone for that extra 10 (or 20 or 50) stubborn pounds that have been hanging on for dear life, know that it's not necessarily a one-way relationship. Although low T levels can indeed cause weight gain, the inverse can also be true: Extra weight can trigger a hormonal decline.

Can You Boost Sagging Testosterone Levels?


If your tests reveal low testosterone, you don't have to resign yourself to carrying around extra pounds. In one study, 255 men who received testosterone treatment reported a significant decrease in body weight and waist circumference over a five-year period. But hormone replacement therapy isn't the only solution. According to McBrairty, elevated T-levels could be just a weight (or two) away.

"Testosterone levels increase as a result of resistance training in both men and women," says McBrairty. "More specifically, performing large, compound movements, such as deadlifts and squats, have been shown to have the greatest effect on post-workout testosterone levels." For a greater T-boost, McBrairty recommends including moderate to heavy volume sets separated by short rest intervals.

In addition to strength training, nutrition is a key element of maintaining proper hormone levels. Mike Matthews from Muscle for Life stresses the importance of eating a high-protein, high-carb and moderate-fat diet, and ensuring that you're not in a caloric deficit.

If you suspect that your testosterone levels have dipped, you can make an appointment with your doctor to get a blood test. If the results are abnormal, the doctor will most likely order a second test for verification.

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Member Comments

  • Remember in both sexes some androgens can be converted to estrogens in the body. Females are usually better at between each individuals puberty and menopause. Of course there is always variation with age and there are individual variations to give some variety.
  • Not pushing meds at all, but just offering FYI that my husband has had good results so far from testosterone supplementation. Strength training alone didn't quite get him where he wanted to be. He had to wait a long time to try the supplements because they do affect fertility, and we were going through IVF - but now that we have our two little ones, he was finally able to try the testosterone patches and it has really helped, with strength and general well being as well as weight loss. Might be worth discussing with your doc, especially if your levels are very low. Believe me, after 6 rounds of IVF, I get that tinkering with your hormones is a big deal - but may be worth trying if low T is interfering with your enjoyment of life.
  • Love sought is good,
    but given unsought is better.
    - William Shakespeare
  • A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
    A successful woman is one who can find such a man.
    - Lana Turner
  • Got tested for it apparently not - not convinced by test results, Guess I'm gonna have to keep pumping iron as its supposed to help boost them (albeit temporary according to some wags).
  • Some extra T can help those with low T.
  • TRAILBLAZER6
    It would be helpful to read articles about women and testosterone levels. They are learning more about how these levels affect women as to weight gain, hair loss, energy levels, etc. This should be part of a routine check for women, especially as we get older, such as in our 50's. It was the last thing my endocrinologist and I tackled and it has helped me a great deal.
  • TRAILBLAZER6
    It would be helpful to read articles about women and testosterone levels. They are learning more about how these levels affect women as to weight gain, hair loss, energy levels, etc. This should be part of a routine check for women, especially as we get older, such as in our 50's. It was the last thing my endocrinologist and I tackled and it has helped me a great deal.
  • TRAILBLAZER6
    It would be helpful to read articles about women and testosterone levels. They are learning more about how these levels affect women as to weight gain, hair loss, energy levels, etc. This should be part of a routine check for women, especially as we get older, such as in our 50's. It was the last thing my endocrinologist and I tackled and it has helped me a great deal.
  • Thanks for the info.
  • Great information
  • Great article. Much of this describes me to a T. (Pun intended) I have been getting testosterone injections for two months now. My T levels are up My ng/dL is now 453. It was 106. I was also tired a grouchy. Not so much anymore. Walking for 30 minutes a day at what I consider a brisk pace.

About The Author

Melissa Rudy Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.