6 Weight Loss Tips for Men With Low Testosterone

When you’re not well, your body turns off what’s called the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis — parts of the brain and pituitary gland that regulate the testicles, where testosterone and sperm are made, Dr. Anawalt says. Your body does this for a practical reason, he says: “If you’re ill, you shouldn’t be wasting your energy on sex and reproduction — that’s counter to survival at the moment.”

There’s another possible explanation for the connection between being overweight and having low testosterone, Anawalt says. Fat makes a hormone called leptin that regulates appetite. When normal-weight people gain 5 pounds from their baseline weight, the added fat makes more leptin, which turns off the brain’s appetite center and weight goes back down, he says.

“People who become obese often become leptin-resistant,” Anawalt says. “Their bodies make a lot of leptin, but don’t respond to it.” The brain behaves as if the person is starving because it’s not “seeing” the leptin. When an obese person tries to lose that same 5 pounds, the brain increases hunger — causing the person to eat more. At the same time, the brain tells the pituitary gland to stop triggering testosterone production because it “thinks” the man is malnourished.

For men with low testosterone that isn’t due to a problem directly affecting the testicles or another part of the HPG axis, Anawalt says, losing weight may help to reverse leptin-resistance and increase testosterone levels.

How to Lose Weight to Help With Low Testosterone

Overweight or obese men will need to lose 5 to 8 percent of their body weight to see testosterone concentrations go up, Anawalt says. That can be difficult, but following these diet and exercise tips may make it easier:

  1. Don’t starve yourself. Restricting calories can backfire on you,
    and Weiss advises against it. “It may lead to your body burning its own
    lean body mass, thus reducing total muscle mass,” he says.
  2. Move every day. Anawalt suggests exercising for an hour a day. If low testosterone has you fatigued, break it into smaller chunks. Three 20-minute intervals of movement are just as good as a continuous hour, he says. If you’re new to exercise, he suggests you start walking for 20 minutes a day.
  3. Add strength training. Rather than fueling up on extra protein, Anawalt suggests adding strength training to build lean muscle. Weight lifting or exercises like push-ups for 10 to 15 minutes a day three or four times a week is a good goal, he says.
  4. Avoid simple sugars. Excess sugar (glucose) in your blood may reduce your testosterone levels, and the more simple carbs you consume, the more glucose is produced, says Scott Weiss, an athletic trainer and exercise physiologist in New York City. Limit your intake of pizza, cookies, cakes, and white bread, pasta, or rice. Choose complex carbs like whole grains and beans. Also avoid processed foods, Anawalt says, as they often contain simple sugars.
  5. Get enough sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation lowers testosterone levels, Anawalt says, and is also linked to obesity. Insufficient sleep is also associated with lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin — a substance that stimulates appetite. Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep a night, according to guidelines published in 2015 in the journal Sleep Health. Another complication for obese people can be sleep apnea, which interferes with breathing. This can lead to a number of health problems, including a drop in testosterone in men, Anawalt says. Treatment is available, so talk to your doctor about whether you should be tested for sleep apnea.
  6. Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol can affect your weight, which in turn can affect your testosterone level. If you imbibe on a regular basis, you may be drinking empty calories. For instance, an average beer has 150 calories, so drinking two beers adds 300 calories that could be avoided. Don’t go beyond the recommended limit of two drinks a day for men.


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