Testosterone: Cortisol's Alter Ego
Because of the media reports of athletes abusing anabolic steroids (synthetic versions of testosterone), testosterone has suffered a negative public image that is not deserved. Many people view testosterone as the hormone that causes bulging muscles and aggressiveness, but it is important to understand that these effects are caused by a gross overuse of synthetic testosterone at extreme, megadose levels. When bodybuilders and other athletes inject testosterone and other anabolic steroids to promote freakish muscle growth or enhance performance, they are artificially increasing their testosterone levels to ten, twenty, or even a hundred times normal values. The results of this unnatural testosterone exposure are the clearly unnatural changes in body shape, mood, and metabolism characteristic of professional bodybuilders.
What Is Testosterone?
In both men and women, testosterone is needed to build muscle and other proteins, such as immune-system components, and to control many aspects of physiology, including blood cell production and metabolism of protein, carbohydrates, and fat from food. A drop in testosterone in men leads to fatigue, a loss of sex drive, and weight gain in the belly—the old potbelly that nobody wants. In women, a drop in testosterone causes the same fatigue and loss of sex drive, and it also induces women's bodies to lose their "hourglass" shape of youth and grow into an apple (or "shot glass") shape via a pattern of abdominal weight gain.
In both sexes, some of the most common effects of low testosterone include:
- Emotional changes (increased anxiety and depression)
- Low sex drive
- Decreased muscle mass
- Reduced metabolic rate
- Increased abdominal fat
- Weak bones
- Back pain
- Elevated cholesterol
Think you might be at risk for low testosterone levels? Answer the questions below to find out:
Have you experienced a recent drop in energy levels?
- Do you have a lower sex drive than you used to?
- Has your strength or endurance decreased recently?
- Do you often get sleepy after eating dinner?
- Are you more grouchy or "blue" than normal?
- Are you less excited about your life lately?
- Has there been any recent deterioration in your work ability?
- Has there been any recent deterioration in your ability to play sports or exercise?
The more questions you answered "yes" to, the more likely you are to have suboptimal testosterone levels—and the more important it is for you to take immediate steps to restore your testosterone to normal levels. Why? Because in numerous clinical studies, in both men and women, the benefits of maintaining normal testosterone levels (versus low levels) include:
- Improved mood
- Heightened sense of well-being
- Increased mental and physical energy levels
- Improved sleep quality
- Improved sex drive and performance
- Increased lean body mass and muscle strength
- Decline in fat mass
- Reduced cholesterol levels (with a better ratio of "good" to "bad" forms of cholesterol)