Myths and misunderstandings about testosterone abound. Here are the ones I hear most frequently:
1. Testosterone improves fertility.
False. Testosterone, particularly at the levels commonly used by athletes for performance enhancement, can effectively sterilize a man and cause his testicles to shrink and become soft.
2. Being overweight has nothing to do with testosterone levels.
Wrong. Extra fat on the body acts like a sponge, taking testosterone out of the blood and reducing libido, energy and other male-related characteristics. This is particularly true if the fat is carried around the belly or abdomen. Fat carried on the thighs or buttocks has less testosterone-draining effects.
3. Men can raise their testosterone levels by exercising vigorously.
The relationship between testosterone and exercise is complicated. Yes, moderate exercise can raise testosterone levels somewhat, but if exercise is extreme, testosterone levels can actually drop. It’s also true that low testosterone makes it harder to exercise, which can lead to a vicious cycle of inactivity and reduced hormone levels.
4. Male mid-life crises have nothing to do with testosterone.
I believe that many times when men say they are bored with their careers, their wives, or their general lot in life, they are actually suffering from low testosterone. I call this phenomenon “menoporche” because I’ve seen guys who think buying a hot new car will give them a shot of sex appeal or attractiveness, when, in fact, they would be much better off getting their testosterone level checked.
5. Testosterone supplements are safe because they have to be approved by the FDA.
Wrong. In fact, as of this writing, the government does not regulate the sale or use of products containing compounds that get converted into testosterone. Testosterone or testosterone precursors should only be used under a doctor’s supervision and testosterone levels should only be raised to normal levels.