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Leaner = Manlier - Your Weight and Testosterone Levels

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By: 
Ashleigh Atkinson
MHK

With the development of the “dadbod” craze reaching its peak and (hopeful) descent, it’s important to look at the impact extra body fat can have on your manhood.  While the dadbod wasn’t characterized as being overweight, the images used to represent it were definitely showcasing the love of a six-pack … and I don’t mean abs. While nothing’s wrong with indulging in food and drink from time to time, celebrating extra body fat is no joking matter—for your overall health or the future of your sex life. That got your attention, didn’t it?

Testosterone is a naturally occurring androgen hormone produced by men and, to a lesser extent, women. Its key role is in the development of male reproductive tissues, but it’s well-known for its role in muscle growth.

Several factors can impact your testosterone levels in negative and positive ways. Some of these factors are out of your control, such as aging. A study found that a 10-year increase in age among participants leads to a 36 percent increased risk of low testosterone levels (Hall et. al, 2008). These decreases are natural, but there are things you can do to slow them down.

No Sucking It In
While your body mass index is commonly used as a health landmark, your waist circumference paints a much clearer picture of your health. This measurement has been used to screen for chronic health problems such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, but it can also be an indicator of poor testosterone levels. The guideline recommends that men have a waist circumference of less than 40 inches for general health. Men with a measurement four inches larger than this were found to have a 75 percent increase in odds for low testosterone (Hall et. al, 2008).

What’s the Big Deal?
Don’t think lower testosterone levels are something to worry about? Think again! Beyond the body composition concerns, having a low level of this hormone can impact your mental health as well as your sex life. Mentally, low levels can result in mood changes, depression, irritability, and a lack of focus. Physically, you can experience fatigue and energy loss, as well as a decrease in sex drive and function, such as difficulties getting and keeping an erection.

Stepping Onstage
For those with goals of getting onstage as a physique or bodybuilding competitor, or continuing their involvement in the sport, this topic should be front and centre in your mind. While the days of a massive off-season “bulk” are fading, many competitors still carry a lot of excess weight throughout the winter.

The amount of extra body fat you’re holding has a direct relationship to your testosterone levels—and is within your control. Body fat contains aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. As you likely know as a man, excess estrogen is your enemy. This toxic relationship is cyclical; an increase in estrogen leads to a decrease in testosterone production. Lower levels of testosterone leads to faster body fat accumulation, leading to—you guessed it—even higher estrogen. Getting your weight under control can put a stop to this harmful cycle.

The focus of your off-season is always to put on as much muscle mass as possible, which requires a surplus of calories and an increase in body fat is unavoidable. However, if that weight gain gets out of control, your testosterone levels could take a hit, hindering your ability to put on that sought-after muscle.  And don’t forget the estrogen impact; that’s the last hormone you want to rise during your time to gain. Keeping your weight under control all year round can yield much better results when you step onstage next time.

Lifestyle Test Boosts

The good news is that there are plenty of lifestyle habits you can alter to protect your manhood.

Sleep – We all know that getting adequate amounts of quality sleep each night is best for our health, but did you know it directly affects your testosterone levels? In fact, a sleep restriction study found a 10 to 15 percent decrease in testosterone levels when sleep was reduced to less than five hours a night (Leproult & Cauter, 2011). Aiming for at least seven hours of sleep each night will help you function well all day, and keep your testosterone levels up.

Train Hard – Increasing the intensity of your workouts is a great way to boost your testosterone. Mix things up with your training program. If you normally train in the 8- to 10-rep range with 60-second breaks, try aiming for 6 to 8 reps and reduce your rest periods to keep the intensity high. Losing excess body fat and building muscle mass is a natural way to increase your testosterone, so train and eat with those goals in mind if you have weight to lose.

Fuel your Body – If you’re looking to lose weight or build muscle, anyone will tell you that your diet is critical. A diet rich in healthy fats and proper supplementation with zinc and vitamin D can help boost your testosterone levels. Saturated fat is a precursor to testosterone and polyunsaturated fat is good for blood flow, a benefit in the bedroom and the gym when trying to build muscle. Adequate levels of zinc allow testosterone to be released for use, and vitamin D supports testosterone production.

Alcohol – The occasional drink isn’t a cause for concern in this department, but regular heavy drinking can have some less-than-desirable outcomes. You may not notice it, but heavy drinking interrupts your sleep (if you skipped the above point, refer back now). Additionally, heavy drinking often finds you in the fast food drive-through, and a hangover is a great way to put a damper on your training schedule. [Note: Drinking and drive-throughing implies drinking and driving, which isn’t healthy either!] Prolonged binge drinking will often lead to weight gain—cue the beer belly and estrogen spikes.

Whether you’re looking to compete in the world of fitness, or just want to maintain a healthy, strong physique as you age, testosterone plays a vital role in your body composition and function. If you’re concerned about your testosterone levels, talk to your doctor about running simple blood work to investigate it further and keep your manhood intact.

Key References
Hall, S.A., Esche, G.R., Arauo, et al. (2008). Correlates of low testosterone and symptomatic androgen deficiency in a population-based sample. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 93 (10), 3870-3877.

Leproult, R. & Cauter, E. (2011). Effect of one week of sleep restriction on testosterone levels in young healthy men. The Journal of the American Medical Association. Retrieved from http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1029127

Poliquin Group. (2012). Five simple ways to raise testosterone levels for better body composition and optimal health. Retrieved from http://www.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/934/Fiv...