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Does Low Testosterone Cause Weight Gain? (3 Things to Know)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Last updated: December 7, 2022

When the scale goes the wrong way, many of my male clients come to me asking if their low testosterone could be the culprit.

I know from my own experience that there’s an intimate relationship between testosterone and weight gain, but I decided to tackle the science behind this question as well by reading several medical studies and discussing the literature with an endocrinologist.

Let’s take a look.

Quick Summary

  • One of the common symptoms of low T is weight gain in men, and that can be a motivating factor in maintaining good hormonal health for testosterone-deficient men.
  • Because low testosterone can cause weight gain and obesity can result in low levels, men can find themselves in a vicious cycle of weight fluctuation that is hard to correct.
  • Low testosterone levels can be addressed through testosterone replacement therapy, lifestyle changes, and natural supplements like testosterone boosters.

Is There a Connection Between Weight and Testosterone?

Using a weighing scale to measure weight

There is a connection between weight and testosterone, with many studies supporting a direct link between low testosterone and increased body fat percentage and overall weight gain.

Testosterone is the primary sex hormone for men; however, a hormone imbalance has massive effects beyond sexual function, including weight gain.

Hypogonadism in men refers to testosterone that is lower than normal levels.

Let’s take a closer look at how they are connected.

Metabolism

There is a close relationship between metabolic syndrome and low T levels.

Metabolic Syndrome is a cluster of abnormal metabolic factors, including abdominal obesity, hypertension, and insulin resistance, that increase the risk of certain health problems like cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes [1].

Early intervention with testosterone replacement therapy benefits hypogonadal men with metabolic syndrome, type-2 diabetes, or both. [2].

Additionally, as testosterone levels decline, so does the amount of muscle mass, which we discuss next, resulting in a slowdown of metabolism.

Bottom line: higher testosterone levels equate to better metabolism.

Muscle

Man looking at his muscles

Testosterone directly influences muscle mass development, and low T levels can result in a significant loss.

Muscle growth occurs because muscles have androgen receptors that bind with testosterone to maintain the muscle fibers.

Without testosterone, the maintenance stops, and the muscle fibers slowly degrade [3].

Interestingly, a 2015 review shows that though mass is affected, muscle function and strength may not diminish [4].

Bottom line: you need to increase testosterone to lose body fat and increase muscle mass.

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Fat

Fat cells contain an enzyme called aromatase that converts testosterone to estradiol (estrogen).

This conversion and increase in estrogen levels signal the endocrine system to slow testosterone production [5].

Hormone replacement therapy can effectively improve the body composition of hypogonadal men by increasing serum testosterone levels [6].

A connection exists between testosterone and weight loss. Low T equals more body fat, and obesity lowers testosterone production, so men can find themselves in a vicious cycle when it comes to losing weight and gaining lean body mass.

Bottom line: health concerns with increased body fat are aplenty, from heart disease, high blood pressure, carrying extra weight on your joints, inhibiting the body’s ability to maintain a normal testosterone level, and affecting other hormones like estrogen.

“Testosterone also plays common roles for both sexes. For example, the hormone stimulates the body to make new red blood cells. Testosterone can also affect a man’s bone density, fat distribution, and muscle strength.”

-Rachel Nall, MSN

Cortisol Levels

Man not in the mood

Stress, particularly long-term stress, can increase cortisol levels and result in a reduction of T levels. Essentially creating an inverse relationship; as one rises, the other decreases [7].

Increased cortisol levels lower testosterone, which can lead to weight gain; it can also increase food intake and fat tissue, particularly belly fat [8].

Belly fat can increase because cortisol is released in response to stress, raising blood sugar levels, and this increase encourages fat storage, especially around the abdomen [9].

Bottom line: high testosterone levels mean low cortisol levels, but higher than normal levels of cortisol can lead to stress-eating and low T, ultimately causing your body to store fat and promote weight gain.

Energy and Stamina

Low testosterone can significantly impact energy levels and stamina, and this is where many of my clients feel the biggest frustration and hurdle to their weight loss goals.

Researchers surveyed men who were taking prescription testosterone, and they reported an improvement in overall health [10].

They were taking it for:

  • Low T (37.1%),
  • Well-being (35.2%),
  • Energy (28.7),
  • Sex drive (21.9), and
  • Social energy (19.4%)

The men surveyed report:

  • Increased energy (52.3%)
  • Increased libido (41.9%)
  • Increased muscle (28.5%)

I tell my clients to think of testosterone as the fuel for energy, muscle gain, libido, physical appearance, and good overall health, so maintaining healthy levels of this key hormone is critical.

Bottom line: if you feel tired even after getting enough rest, low T could be the culprit, and you will likely experience diminished interest in working out, which can put you at greater risk of weight gain.

Can Exercise Help T levels?

Healthy athlete preparing to run

Exercise can help T levels, and it’s probably the best testosterone treatment out there, along with natural testosterone boosters.

Like many of my clients, you may want to find natural ways to increase your testosterone without resorting to hormone replacement therapy, and exercise is a proven way to do that [11].

In my experience as a fitness trainer, testosterone-boosting workouts coupled with natural testosterone boosters consistently yields significant results for my clients.

Additional studies show that exercise significantly increases testosterone levels in obese men more than simply losing weight [12].

A year-long study of men who did not previously exercise showed increased dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels of almost 15 percent when they began exercising [13].

In my research, I found countless studies supporting exercise and increased testosterone. Some studies support moderate exercise with testosterone therapy producing significant weight loss in men with lower testosterone levels [14].

Bottom line: exercise with or without hormone therapy can positively impact T levels.

Symptoms of Low Testosterone

Man not in the mood to work in his office

Testosterone plays a huge role in the male body, and as such, signs of low testosterone are vast and affect many bodily functions, including weight gain, depression, and lean muscle loss [15].

Here’s a list of the common symptoms of low testosterone:

  • Weight gain
  • Low energy
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Loss of body hair
  • Shrinking testicles
  • Hot flashes
  • Low sperm count
  • Infertility
  • Depressed mood
  • Decreased mental clarity (concentration and memory)
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Increased body fat
  • Enlarged breast tissue
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Decreased endurance and stamina

FAQs

Is It Hard to Lose Weight With Low Testosterone?

It is harder to lose weight with low testosterone. Studies link below-normal testosterone levels to weight gain and higher body fat percentage. Additionally, obesity can lower total testosterone causing a cycle making losing and maintaining a healthy weight difficult [16].

Does Testosterone Affect Waist Size?

Testosterone affects waist size, and several studies link low testosterone to increased waist size and consider increased abdominal fatty tissue a good predictor of low testosterone [17].

Does Low Testosterone Affect Metabolism?

Low testosterone can affect metabolism because as your hormone levels decline, you lose muscle mass, which, in turn, causes your metabolism to slow down and usually causes you to gain fat which ultimately makes weight loss difficult.

Low Testosterone and Weight Gain: Final Thoughts

If low testosterone is impeding your weight loss, I encourage you to implement a healthy diet and consistent exercise routine, then add an all-natural testosterone booster to support your efforts.

I keep a record of my client’s improvements, including their bloodwork. In the past five years, most of my clients who have adopted this plan successfully halted their weight gain and improved their body composition, with serum testosterone rising 15-45% over a half-year period.

If you liked how this sounds, check out our list of the top testosterone boosters for men that we personally tested and ranked by effectiveness.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5933580/#:
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474619/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4810760/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5031462/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11399122/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296126/
  7. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/02601060221083079
  8. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.21790
  9. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22187-cortisol
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6765788/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22234399/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4706091/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3040039/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4154787/
  15. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15603-low-testosterone-male-hypogonadism
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955331/#:
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2579652/
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