In my coaching experience, I discovered that regular alcohol consumers are one of the most challenging client categories to deal with, as their bodies often seem too hard to sculpt.
They need to work twice as hard to melt body fat and gain muscle - which can point to low testosterone levels. Moreover, alcohol and testosterone are known to don’t go well together,
So, I decided to spend a few days reviewing relevant literature on the subject, and then I spoke with my physician to discuss the effects alcohol might have on testosterone levels.
Here’s what I know.
- Alcohol consumption negatively impacts testosterone levels by disrupting hormonal functions and gland activities essential for testosterone production.
- Regular alcohol intake, even in moderate amounts, can lead to a significant decrease in testosterone levels, affecting muscle mass, sex drive, and overall health.
- Testosterone levels in healthy men dropped significantly within just three days of consuming 16 oz of whiskey daily for a month.
- In my personal opinion, moderating alcohol intake and focusing on a healthy lifestyle can significantly improve testosterone levels and overall well-being.
How Can Alcohol Affect Testosterone?
Alcohol negatively impacts testosterone by disrupting the function of hormones and glands essential for its production, specifically the hypothalamus, anterior pituitary gland, and testes.
In my coaching experience, I've seen clients' testosterone levels improve noticeably once they reduced their alcohol intake.
The Chain of Action
Hypothalamus releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) that acts on your pituitary gland.
Then, the pituitary gland releases follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Lastly, as a response to FSH and LH, the testes produce testosterone (the primary male sex hormone) .
Basically, alcohol impairs testosterone synthesis by interfering with all three glands (e.g., damaging Leydig cells in the testes - the part where testosterone is produced) .
Furthermore, when you drink and your liver metabolizes ethanol (alcohol), the amount of coenzyme NAD+, responsible for testosterone production, lowers. It happens because NAD+ prioritizes aiding alcohol metabolism rather than testosterone synthesis, according to the NIAAA .
“Drinking alcohol has a swift response on testosterone production. You don’t have to be drinking for a very long time to see negative impacts.”
- Jonathan Valdez, RDN & Owner of Genki Nutrition
Indirect Hormonal Interference
Excessive drinking can also release certain endorphins, which indirectly interfere with testosterone levels .
The same goes for the stress hormone cortisol. According to the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, cortisol increases with alcohol consumption and hence decreases testosterone synthesis .
Also, chronic alcohol abuse may disrupt your sleep schedule and increase the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in the body.
Lastly, drinking alcohol may also make androgen replacement therapy ineffective or even harmful, as it may worsen liver function (chronic liver disease is often associated with testosterone deficiency), based on research published in BMC Gastroenterology .
Alcohol, therefore, can cause both short-term and long-term changes in testosterone levels, depending on the amount and consistency of alcohol consumption.
How Much Is Too Much?
When you determine how much you’re actually drinking, it should become more evident whether alcohol is affecting your testosterone levels. In my practice, I've seen even moderate drinkers experience testosterone improvements when they cut back.
If you’re not sure how to quantify and categorize your alcohol consumption, some guidelines can help you out .
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are two following categories:
- Moderate drinking - Two drinks or less daily for males and one drink or less for females are considered moderate alcohol intake.
- Heavy drinking - Fifteen or more drinks per week for males or eight or more per week for females constitute alcohol abuse.
Remember, alcoholic drinks have varying alcohol percentages, so moderation is key.
However, even moderate drinking can affect testosterone levels, with research showing a drop in testosterone as soon as 30 minutes after consumption .
A study published in Journal of Clinical Medicine found that when healthy men consumed 16 oz of whiskey daily for a month, their testosterone levels started dropping significantly by the third day. By the end of the month, these levels were comparable to those in men with alcoholism .
Heavy alcohol consumption has been found to not only lower testosterone levels in the bloodstream but also impair the function of testicular Sertoli cells, which are crucial for maintaining healthy sperm production and hormone balance, according to the Alcohol Health and Research World .
How to Fix the Damage and Enhance Testosterone Production?
To fix the damage and enhance testosterone production, one of the first things you should do is avoid foods that kill testosterone and alcohol intake altogether. I've guided many clients through an alcohol detox, and the positive impact on their testosterone levels and overall health is often remarkable.
Taking a break from alcohol allows your liver to recover and helps you observe how your body responds. Notably, a study on mice showed that the damage alcohol causes to the male reproductive system can reverse after ten weeks of abstaining .
Further research is needed to determine the rate and extent of testosterone level recovery in men after they stop drinking.
It's important to note that alcohol consumption generally lowers testosterone synthesis, and men with already low or average testosterone levels may experience negative symptoms .
The most common symptoms are:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Lower sperm count
- Reduced sex drive
- Low Energy
- Decreased muscle mass and strength
So, after you’ve ditched alcohol, the next thing you should do is adopt an overall healthy lifestyle - eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and avoiding junk food are the recommended ways to increase testosterone naturally.
On top of that, I always advise my clients to include a T-booster in the mix. These products showed some very good results in replenishing levels overall, especially during the ‘recovery’ phase.
Related: Does Spearmint Tea Lower Testosterone?
Can Alcohol Increase Testosterone?
Alcohol can’t increase testosterone, and it’s known that the relationship between alcohol and testosterone is antagonistic. Alcohol decreases blood testosterone in men due to an effect on testicles and other glands.
Does Alcohol Increase Estrogen in Males?
Alcohol does increase estrogen in males in cases of heavy drinking. It’s documented that chronic drinking increases the conversion of testosterone to estrogen and increases stress hormone levels, which can also affect testosterone negatively.
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