Does alcohol lower testosterone?
If so, you’re in the perfect place. As we detail exactly what men need to know about alcohol and testosterone levels right here.
There are a lot of misconceptions about how alcohol impacts testosterone levels. Some people think that drinking any amount of alcohol will immediately destroy your bodies natural testosterone production. Others think that alcohol has no impact on your hormones, and that you can drink as much as you like without any negative consequences.
The truth, as you will see, is somewhere in between these two viewpoints.
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is one of the most powerful hormones in the human body. Testosterone is sometimes called the “male sexual hormone” because it plays a huge role in men’s growth and development. Men produce over ten times as much testosterone as women. However, women also produce some testosterone, and it plays a critical role in their overall health.
Testosterone is the hormone that gives men their secondary sexual characteristics, such as a deep voice or facial hair. However, testosterone also plays a critical role in the overall health of adult males. For example, testosterone plays a critical role in preventing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, sarcopenia and osteoporosis.
Men who have hypogonadism, or low testosterone levels, are at increased risk for a large number of diseases. For example, a recent study showed that firefighters with low testosterone levels are at significantly increased risk for cardiovascular disease . Research shows that men of all age groups, including older and younger men, can experience symptoms of low testosterone.
Men with low testosterone levels often experience serious long-term side effects, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes [2, 3]. Of course, there are other, more obvious signs of low testosterone. Many men with low-T have little muscle mass, or a hard time recovering from workouts.
Several recent meta-analyses have shown that men suffering from hypogonadism, or low testosterone, have low muscle mass, reduced strength and frail, brittle bones [4, 5, 6]. Other men suffer from issues with their sexual health. Indeed, the latest research shows that low testosterone is often the cause of erectile dysfunction and infertility problems [7, 8]. The good news is low testosterone is a reversable medical condition.
Testosterone replacement therapy is one of many different medical interventions that are available to treat hypogonadism. Research shows that testosterone replacement is a safe and effective way to raise men’s testosterone levels, and that men who undergo treatment often see a dramatic improvement in their overall health and well-being [9, 10, 11]. The bottom line is healthy testosterone levels play a critical role in men’s overall health.
Men who have low testosterone levels often experience significant side effects, and are at greater risk for many long-term health complications.
Alcohol and Testosterone
Alcohol is an ingredient found in beer, vodka, wine and many other beverages. Alcohol is one of the most popular and socially acceptable drugs in the world. It is commonly consumed at parties and social gatherings as a way to facilitate social behavior. So what actually happens when someone drinks beer, or any other alcoholic beverage?
When you have a beer, the alcohol in the drink is absorbed by your body and enters the bloodstream. The alcohol stays circulating in your bloodstream until your liver can break it down to water using different enzymes. If someone has several drinks in a short period of time, the alcohol in their bloodstream will build up faster than their liver can break it down.
If enough alcohol builds up in the bloodstream, the person may become “drunk,” and lose the ability to make normal, clear-headed decisions.
Consuming a few drinks with your friends is probably nothing to worry about. However, alcohol is a drug, and consuming too much of it in a short period of time can be very damaging to your health. Research shows that there are significant risks associated with long-term alcohol abuse . Alcohol is known to damage the central nervous system, and long-term alcoholics are often have an impaired decision-making ability [13, 14, 15].
Research even shows that brain volume and alcohol use are inversely correlated. In other words, long-term alcohol use can cause your brain to shrink in size . Alcohol can also be very damaging to your liver and kidneys [17, 18, 19, 20, 21]. This makes sense, as the liver and kidneys are responsible for removing the alcohol from your bloodstream. Of course, long-term alcohol abuse can also suppress your bodies natural testosterone production.
Does Alcohol Lower Testosterone?
And now for the big question – does alcohol lower testosterone? According to the scientific literature, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Studies show that most alcoholic beverages decrease the total amount of testosterone circulating in your bloodstream. This is not too surprising, as most drugs have a negative impact on your body’s overall health. So why does this happen? Why does drinking alcohol result in lower testosterone levels?
The truth is alcohol has an “estrogenic” effect on the body. In other words, it increases the amount of estrogen circulating in your bloodstream. For example, a recent meta-analysis showed that alcohol consumption increases the activity of the aromatase enzyme in the liver . This enzyme has one job: to take grab testosterone molecules and to convert them into estrogen molecules.
In other words, alcohol tells your body to take some of its testosterone and convert it into estrogen. This is not good if you are trying to maximize your bodies’ natural testosterone production! This isn’t just theory, though – recent studies show that men’s testosterone levels can drop in as little as 30 minutes after consuming an alcoholic beverage . Other studies show that drinking alcohol after a workout can dramatically raise cortisol levels and lower your circulating testosterone levels .
It isn’t just testosterone levs that you have to worry about, though – excessive alcohol consumption can also negatively impact your sexual health. Studies have shown that heavy alcohol consumption can decrease the quality of your sperm, and even cause infertility in men [25–26]. Fortunately, this is only found in men with significant long-term alcohol consumption. Men who are “moderate” drinkers did not have these effects.
Most studies show that alcohol consumption tends to lower your testosterone levels. However, there are a few studies that paint a different picture. Some studies have shown that a small dose of alcohol can raise your testosterone levels, and that consuming fewer than 8 alcoholic drinks per week is actually associated with a decreased risk for erectile dysfunction [27, 28].
However, overall, the research shows that heavy alcohol consumption will increase the amount of estrogen and decrease the amount of testosterone that your body produces.
Alcohol and Estrogen
Alcohol doesn’t just impact your testosterone levels – it has a huge impact on your estrogen levels as well. The truth is alcohol stimulates the production of estrogen in the body. There are many different reasons for this. First of all, studies show that alcohol stimulates the conversion of testosterone into estrogen in the liver. This is all done via the aromatase enzyme [22, 29]. However, studies have shown some other possible mechanisms for the increase in estrogen levels following alcohol consumption.
Ginsburg et al found that excessive alcohol consumption actually prevents your body from breaking down and metabolizing estrogen in a healthy manner . Other researchers have pointed out that alcohol consumption stimulates the production of DHEAS, a precursor that the human body uses to produce estrogen [31, 32]. Of course, some alcoholic beverages increase estrogen levels more than others.
Beer is widely known as one of the most estrogenic beverages that you can drink. On the other hand, hard liquors and red wines are much less likely to increase estrogen levels in the body.
Long Term Effects
There is nothing wrong with being a social drinker. However, long-term alcohol abuse has many negative side effects that you should know about. First of all, excessive alcohol consumption has a devastating effect on your testosterone levels. Research shows that men who drink a pint of whiskey per day experience a significant decline in their testosterone levels by day three.
To make things worse, after just one month their testosterone levels plummeted to the levels of men with alcoholism . This shows that even one month of excessive alcohol consumption can have devastating effects on your overall hormonal profile. The good news is that your testosterone levels can rebound back to their normal levels after taking a break from excessive alcohol consumption. For example, a recent study found that men were able to reverse alcohol-induced damage to their reproductive system after just 10 weeks abstaining from alcohol .
Of course, long-term alcohol abuse can cause many other long-term diseases. For example, alcoholism is associated with disease of your liver, pancreas and cardiovascular system, as well as cancer and certain neuropsychic diseases .
Long-term alcohol consumption also has some negative effects on your athletic performance. For example, researchers concluded that alcohol “selectively impairs IGF-I signaling via S6K1 that directly affects the transcription of genes involved in muscle hypertrophy” . In other words, long-term alcohol consumption can negatively impact your ability to build muscle mass and strength in the gym.
Healthy Drinking Habits
Binge drinking is not the best idea if your goal is to maximize your testosterone levels. However, now all drinks are created equal. Some alcoholic drinks have a bigger impact on your testosterone levels than others. Let’s start by talking about the drinks that you should avoid. Research shows that beer has a bigger impact on your testosterone levels than any other drink.
Beer is known to lower your testosterone levels and raise your estrogen levels at the same time – not good if your goal is to have a lean, athletic physique.
Of course having one or two beers a few times a week is not going to set you back too much. However, there are other drinks that are less bad for your hormonal profile. For example, drinking tequila with soda water and limes may be less bad than drinking 12 ounces of Coors Light. Research shows that hard liquors like tequila and vodka have less of an impact on your overall testosterone levels.
They also tend to have less calories. However, if you are serious about raising your testosterone levels then red wine may be your best bet.
Research shows that moderate amounts of red wine actually has a positive impact on men’s testosterone levels. Scientists believe the powerful antioxidants, such as resveratrol, are responsible for this . Red wine also has many other health benefits that you should know about. For example, recent studies show that red wine is beneficial for cardiovascular health and may reduce your risk of heart disease [38, 39].
The Mediterranean Diet is know as one of the most heart-healthy diets in the world, and red wine is one of the key beverages found in this diet.
Of course too much of any drink will eventually lower your testosterone levels. However, swapping out beer for red wine may be a good idea for athletes looking to maximize their hormonal profile.
Alcohol and Testosterone Injections
Is it safe for someone on testosterone replacement therapy to drink alcohol? This is a great question. The truth is testosterone replacement therapy is one of the safest solutions for men suffering from hypogonadism, or clinically low testosterone levels. Several recent meta-analyses have shown that testosterone replacement therapy is a safe and effective way for men to raise their testosterone levels to the higher-end of the normal range [40, 41, 42].
Testosterone replacement therapy has almost no side effects when performed under the supervision of a qualified medical professional. There is also no danger of liver toxicity, because your testosterone levels never go above the healthy, normal range that is optimal for humans. So is it safe to drink alcohol while on TRT? The answer is a resounding “yes.”
To date, there have been no scientific studies showing that drinking alcohol is dangerous for men who are taking testosterone injections. This makes sense, because while alcohol increases the stress on your liver, testosterone replacement therapy does not. However, we still think it is a good idea to limit how much alcohol you consume while on TRT.
Most doctors suggest taking the minimum effective dose of testosterone to avoid any potential side effects. Alcohol tends to lower your testosterone levels, so the more alcohol you drink, the more testosterone you will have to take on a weekly basis to maintain normal testosterone levels.
Alcohol and Sexual Health
We’ve talked about how alcohol can lower your testosterone levels over time. But what impact does it have on your sexual health? The truth is alcohol can have a devastating effect on men’s sexual health and performance. There are two main reasons for this. First of all, men need healthy testosterone levels to achieve and maintain an erection.
If your testosterone levels are depressed, then your sexual performance is going to be negatively impacted. The other reason why alcohol is so bad for your sexual health is it contains toxins that must be broken down in the liver. If your liver is chronically overstressed from excessive alcohol consumption, then your sexual health will be impacted.
Research shows that about 61-72 percent of men who are “alcohol-dependent” experience some level of sexual dysfunction, and the more alcohol these men drink, the more symptoms they experience . Another recent study found that the amount of alcohol consumed appeared to be the most significant predictor of developing sexual dysfunction . This is obviously bad news if you are a heavy drinker.
Heavy alcohol use doesn’t just impact your sexual performance, though – it also impacts your fertility, or your ability to get a woman pregnant. Research shows that about 50 percent of heavy drinkers have spermatogenic arrest, compared with only 20 percent of non-drinkers . If you are concerned about your sexual health then limiting the amount of alcohol you consume is probably a good choice.
Does Alcohol Lower Testosterone? | Verdict
Research shows that alcohol has a negative impact on your men’s testosterone levels and their overall sexual health. Alcohol actually lowers your testosterone and raises your estrogen at the same time, which is obviously not good if you are trying to optimize your hormonal profile. Of course we are not saying you should avoid alcohol at all costs.
The research shows that having a few drinks per week has little, if any, impact on your hormones. The negative side effects start to pop up with “excessive” alcohol consumption over long periods of time. There are also some drinks, like red wine, which have been shown to raise your testosterone levels. If you are really concerned about the negative side effects of drinking, then swapping that beer for a glass of red wine is an easy step that you can take.
The bottom line is alcohol may not be ideal for your testosterone levels, but it’s also probably not as bad as you’ve been told.