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Does Alcohol Lower Testosterone? (Explained by a Doctor)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Last updated: December 29, 2022

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.

Quick Summary

  • Alcohol consumption affects glands, coenzymes, and other hormones responsible for normal testosterone production.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption or even moderate alcohol consumption can affect testosterone levels to some degree and negatively affect semen volume, muscle mass, sex drive, etc.
  • To repair the potential damage, you should quit alcohol and adopt strategies like proper diet and exercise, and potentially include natural supplements designed to restore normal testosterone levels.

How Can Alcohol Affect Testosterone?

Pouring beer on glass mug, bearded man pointing at himself

Alcohol affects testosterone negatively, by interfering with hormones, coenzymes, and glands responsible for testosterone production.

In men, three glands are needed for testosterone synthesis: the hypothalamus, the anterior pituitary gland, and the testes.

This might get a bit technical but bear with me.

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) [1].

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) [2].

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 [3].

“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

A person with acne close up image

Excessive drinking can also release certain endorphins, which indirectly interfere with testosterone levels [4].

The same goes for the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol increases with alcohol consumption and hence decreases testosterone synthesis [5].

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) [6].

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?

Pouring beer on mug

When you determine how much you’re actually drinking, it should become more evident whether alcohol is affecting your testosterone levels.

If you’re not sure how to quantify and categorize your alcohol consumption, some guidelines can help you out [7].

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are two following categories: 

  1. Moderate drinking - Two drinks or less daily for males and one drink or less for females are considered moderate alcohol intake.
  2. Heavy drinking - Fifteen or more drinks per week for males or eight or more per week for females constitute alcohol abuse.

Still, it’s important to remember that not all drinks are equal.

They all vary in alcohol percentage, and it’s up to you to adjust your intake accordingly to stay on the moderate side.

But even if you fit in the moderate drinker category, it doesn’t mean alcohol can’t lower your testosterone levels. Research has found that testosterone can drop even 30 minutes after alcohol consumption [8].

In another study, healthy men were given 16 oz of whiskey daily for a month (acute alcohol consumption).

What happened is their testosterone levels began significantly dropping by the third day, and by the end of the month, they reached similar levels to men with alcoholism [9].

How to Fix the Damage and Enhance Testosterone Production?

Man refusing to drink alcohol because it lowers testosterone

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.

Alcohol fast is a great way to give your liver a rest from breaking down alcohol and see your body’s reaction to it.

One study on mice found that alcohol damage on the male reproductive tract was reversible after ten weeks of abstention [10].

However, targeted research should be done to see how quickly and to what degree testosterone levels return to normal in men after quitting drinking.

Regardless of how long and how much alcohol you consume, your testosterone synthesis will be lower.

Drinking men with low or even baseline testosterone levels will most likely experience some adverse symptoms [11].

The most common symptoms are:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Lower sperm count
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Low Energy
  • Depression
  • 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.

FAQs

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.

Hold the Middle Ground

If you struggle with low testosterone, make sure to improve the levels first, and when they reach the optimal range, a few drinks a week shouldn’t make a big difference.

To optimize testosterone, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and have a good night’s sleep. You might also want to include natural testosterone-boosting supplements that could fast-track your progress.

We tested dozens of popular products and included the most efficient ones in our lists:

They all contain scientifically-proven herbs and nutrients that can help you produce more testosterone naturally.


References:

  1. https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/hormones-and-endocrine-function/reproductive-hormones
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1016/j.aju.2017.12.004
  3. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-3/195.pdf
  4. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-4/282-287.htm 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3880087/
  6. https://bmcgastroenterol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12876-021-01993-1
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12711931/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6571549/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3739141/
  11. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000722.htm
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