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Does a High Protein Diet Decrease Testosterone? (Explained)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

Recent research shows that following a high-protein diet can boost testosterone production, impacting your ability to lose weight or gain muscle mass. However, others maintain that it has the opposite effect.

So, I consulted a dietitian and pored through various research studies for several weeks to understand whether too much protein could actually be causing low testosterone levels.

Here’s what I found out.

Quick Summary

  • A protein-rich diet can have many benefits, including weight loss, muscular gain, and enhanced recovery.
  • While getting enough protein can help you keep your testosterone levels in check, extremely high-protein diets can reduce your body’s testosterone levels.
  • An average person needs 0.8 g of protein for every pound of lean body mass for an effective diet.

Does a High-Protein Diet Lower Testosterone Levels?

Close up image of healthy protein vegan meal

Yes, a high-protein diet can cause low testosterone levels.

While the fitness industry glorifies such diets, research suggests that high protein intake can decrease T levels by more than a third [1].

University of Worcester researchers found that very high-protein diets could impact resting total testosterone, increasing the risk of erectile dysfunction, low sperm counts, and infertility.

This observation was made as part of a study that combined the findings of 27 studies involving 309 males [2].

Additionally, low-carb diets can increase the production of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the blood, which could then result in low immune system and testosterone levels [3].

Along the same lines, another study published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology found that high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets led to increased SHBG levels [4].

This is problematic because high levels of SHBG were associated with low free testosterone levels [5].

How to Maintain Healthy Testosterone Levels Through Protein Diet

To maintain optimal testosterone levels through a protein diet, people on high-protein diets should limit protein to no more than 25% of their daily caloric intake or 0.8 g of protein per pound of body weight.

In addition, you should aim at evenly spacing out protein intake throughout the day to ensure stable blood sugar levels.

If you're not getting the optimal protein intake for muscle growth through diet, you can supplement with protein shakes or powders.

I recommend that my clients gradually add protein to their diet but never exceed the recommended daily intake.

This will help ensure healthy growth without any adverse endocrine effects.

“Protein is the building block of your muscles. Therefore, eating adequate amounts of protein helps you maintain your muscle mass and promotes muscle growth when you do strength training.”

- Kris Gunnars, Editor at Authority Nutrition 

What Are the Benefits of Including Protein in Your Diet?

Preparing a high protein diet

The benefits of including protein in your diet include weight loss, muscle building, faster recovery, and boosted metabolism.

Weight Loss

Protein helps you lose weight and is more filling than carbs or fat, so you're likely to eat fewer calories overall if your diet is high in protein [6].

Moreover, protein requires more energy than carbs or fat, so you'll burn more calories just by digesting protein.

Finally, the more muscle you have, the easier it is to burn calories [7].

Muscle Growth

Man lifting weights in the gym

For our body to use a protein molecule, it first must break it down into its component amino acids.

These are then transported into the cells of the muscle tissue, where they are assembled into new protein molecules.

This process is known as protein synthesis [8].

So, it is essential to eat foods high in protein for muscle gain and provide all of the essential amino acids needed for protein synthesis.

Muscle Recovery

Adequate protein consumption is beneficial for repairing muscles after a workout because it helps rebuild and repair tissues damaged during exercise [9].

In addition, moderate amounts of protein can help reduce inflammation, which can also help promote muscle recovery [10].

What Are the Side Effects of Eating Too Much Protein?

A woman having chest pains because of eating too much protein

The side effects of eating too much protein are decreased T levels, dehydration,  and increased body acidity.

This acidity can cause the "burn" you get after eating a lot of protein [11].

Other potential side effects of excessive protein intake are:

  • Increased risk of kidney damage [12]
  • Cardiovascular disease [13]
  • Bone loss [14]
  • High ammonia levels [15].

Having this in mind, high-protein diets could be implemented with moderation, while consulting an experienced dietician.

FAQs

What Does a High-Protein Diet Do for Men?

A high-protein diet can have several negative consequences for men, including low testosterone levels, increased stress hormone (cortisol) levels, and a weakened immune system.

Do Protein Shakes Reduce Testosterone?

No, protein shakes don’t reduce testosterone if you consume them in moderation.

Protein shakes are a great way of dosing the necessary amount of daily protein intake.

However, overconsumption can lead to adverse effects.

What Foods Increase Testosterone Production the Most?

Foods that increase testosterone production the most are ginger, leafy-green vegetables, oysters, pomegranates, extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish, and onions.

Boost Your T Levels Naturally With a Balanced Approach

While a protein-rich diet is beneficial for muscle development and recovery, consuming more than 25% of caloric intake through protein could be counter-productive.

Since there’s a thin line between lowering and increasing your testosterone production, I typically don’t recommend this diet to my clients.

Instead, I advise them to eat foods that are high in nutrients like zinc and combine them with a high-quality T booster:

We’ve tested many different supplements and have put together this list of top-tier products. Make sure to share your experience with us if you decide to give some of them a try.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35254136/
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/364610762_High-protein_diets_and_testosterone
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24431964/
  4. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/85/1/293/2854619
  5. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/14791641211002475
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4258944/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661116/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566799/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142015/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7759799/
  11. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/138/4/718/4665021
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7460905
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4045293/
  14. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/128/6/1051/4722393
  15. https://tbiomed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12976-019-0109-1
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