Caloric Intake and Testosterone: How Much You Really Need to Eat to Boost Test

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When it comes to the subject of how much to eat for weight loss or to get more muscle mass, people can be divided into two camps: the ones who claim that calories don’t matter, and the ones who say that calories is what weight manipulation is all about.

To make sure that this article doesn’t turn into a fight between the two camps, I want to make one thing perfectly clear.

Calories are what its all about. You can’t lose weight without being on a calorie deficit, and it’s very hard for your body to synthesize new muscle tissue if you’re not on a calorie surplus. This is not an opinion, it’s a scientific fact.

To claim something else is just absurd, when pretty much all of the studies conducted about the subject of calories and weight loss/gain (independent of the macronutrient ratios), show very clearly that the above is true (study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study).

In fact, the only studies where calories don’t seem to matter that much, are the ones where the subjects report their own caloric intakes to the researchers. These kinds of studies are notoriously inaccurate and shouldn’t even be published, since the human species is extremely inaccurate at estimating its own calorie intake.

You simply cannot escape the law of thermodynamics, no matter what that “guru” or “weight loss expert” is telling you. Carbs will not make you fat, overeating does. Fat doesn’t make you fat, overeating does. Protein doesn’t make you fat, overeating does.

Now that you understand the importance of calories on weight loss and gain, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this article. The importance of caloric intake on testosterone production:

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Calorie Intake and Testosterone Levels

how much you need to eat to increase testosteroneDieting is notorious for its testosterone lowering abilities, and usually, the bigger the calorie deficit, the harder the drop in testosterone.

Why it happens is fairly simple: when you don’t eat enough to support your body’s multiple mechanisms, it eventually has to shut/slow down some of them. As the reproductive system is not essential for short-term survival, that’s one of the first ones to slow down to spare energy for more vital functions of the body (study, study, study, study).

The catch-22 here, is that if you’re already fat, then being on a slight calorie deficit can actually increase your testosterone levels. This is because any extra fat mass that you have increases aromatase enzyme activity, which converts testosterone to estrogen. By lowering the activity of this enzyme via burning away the fat mass, more testosterone is left unconverted (study, study).

So to sum up the above: Eating less than your body uses (creating a calorie deficit) is linked to lowered testosterone production, and the reduction in T usually goes hand-in-hand with the magnitude of the deficit. However, as the calorie deficit forces your body to burn away the adipose tissue (fat mass), your testosterone production can improve at the same time, creating a situation where serum testosterone levels usually don’t change that significantly.

But what if you’re already lean, with very little fat mass to burn?

Answer: Then it’s an entirely different situation. For example, natural bodybuilding competitors who get down to >5% body fat, usually experience near castrate T levels. This is of course, with a combination of other factors too, not just the extreme calorie deficit (low-fat low-carb high-protein diet + exercise + metabolic slowdown + messed up thyroid function = hormonal disaster).

The good news are that the hormonal damage caused by larger calorie deficits are often completely reversible. Simply start eating normally with maintenance calories or with a slight surplus after you’ve met your weight loss goals and your testosterone should bounce back up in a matter of few weeks.

What about calorie surplus and/or overfeeding?

Answer: It makes sense that if a calorie deficit lowers testosterone levels, a surplus of calories or just eating roughly the amount that your body needs, would be beneficial for testosterone production. This is also supported by research.

One claim that I’ve ran into many times goes by saying that in order to boost testosterone levels, you’d have to gorge with food and eat a lot more than what your calorie needs of the day would be.

This could work well short-term, and the claim is often backed-up with a study which shows how short-term overfeeding increases testosterone levels. However, what is often left unmentioned, is that the study had only women as subjects (gender differences are hugely important when it comes to hormones).

Another problem with the idea of eating a calorie surplus in order to boost testosterone, is the fact that you’d slowly get fat, which would increase your aromatase enzyme activity, and therefore boost the conversion from testosterone to estrogen. Getting fat would also reduce testosterone synthesis due to increased oxidative stress.

Bottom line: Even though eating a surplus of calories has been shown to increase testosterone levels short-term in few studies, it’s not a good long-term plan, because you would simply get fat, which would negatively affect T levels in the long run.


So how much should you eat anyway? Well that depends on your goals and current body composition.

If you’re at above 12% fat, then by all means use a slight calorie deficit in order to get to 8-12% body fat levels and then once you get there, continue with mainentance calories or bounce around between slight deficit and slight surplus (mini cut/bulk cycles, etc).

If you’re already at the optimal body fat range for T production (about 8-12%) then by all means just eat a maintenance amount of calories, or a slight surplus if you intend to build muscle or get a short-term T boost.

In all of its simplicity, just get to 8-12% body fat, then eat enough to cover your daily needs so that you don’t get fat, but you’re also not eating too little so that your endocrine system functions as it should.

Caloric Intake and Testosterone: How Much You Really Need to Eat to Boost Test was last modified: October 19th, 2017 by Ali Kuoppala

Ali Kuoppala

Ali Kuoppala is the founder of Anabolic Men, and an Independent Researcher that has been credited with organizing the findings that have helped thousands of men reach hormonal balance.
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  1. Optimal Symbiosis on 12/05/2015 at 21:14

    I have always found that wheat packs on the (fat) pounds, regardless of calories (calories tracked daily for months with Fitday). I can’t tell you why or how it happens, but it happens… every time. Other guys I know don’t experience this. Wheat Belly Dr. may be on to something.

    P.S. This site is a Godsend, thanks bro.

  2. Christopher on 13/05/2015 at 03:23

    Ali, are you still following carb backloading? What results did it have in terms of testosterone and aesthetics?

  3. Wilma Laura Wiggins on 28/07/2015 at 00:37

    Gentlemen, you may find it interesting to know that vegan men have been found to have significantly more testosterone than either meat eating men or vegetarians. Don’t know if it has anything to do with calories.

    • Ali Kuoppala on 28/07/2015 at 01:37

      Well that’s a load of BS.

      • Wilma Laura Wiggins on 28/07/2015 at 09:52

        British Journal of Cancer, 2000, 83(1):95-97, “Hormones and diet: low
        insulin-like growth factor-1 but normal bioavailable androgens in vegan men”

        • Ali Kuoppala on 28/07/2015 at 11:01

          Study does not show that vegan men have significantly higher T, especially after BMI has adjusted…

          • Wilma Laura Wiggins on 28/07/2015 at 20:08

            “Significant” is a relative term; however, it appears you would rather your readers not know what it DOES say. Not only about testosterone, but also erectile dysfunction. This guy is more forthcoming:
            In a nutshell, “What they found was that vegetarians and vegans had average testosterone 6% and 16% higher than the carnivores, respectively. This, by the way, was after adjusting for important variables such as age and smoking status.[1]
            The one variable that the researchers did not adjust for was BMI (body mass index) and when they did that, the vegetarians and meat-eaters had virtually equal testosterone and vegans were higher than everyone by about 6%” And this is in addition to the cancer fighting and general health promoting properties of a vegan diet.

          • Ali Kuoppala on 28/07/2015 at 21:30

            Well that’s one study showing 6% change in total and no change in bio-available T. So nothing dramatic really. At least if you compare to this one:

   – in this one a switch from meat-based diet to plant-based one reduced testosterone levels by over 30%.

            Plant based high-fiber diets are also notorious for increasing SHBG which binds to bio-available T, rendering it useless for the androgen receptors…

            (this one – – showed a 26% reduction in free T on a plant-based diet…)

            (and this one – – noted a 36% reduction in total T on a plant-based diet…)

            Not saying that vegans can’t have high T nor that meat eaters would always have high T, it goes beyond that, the types of protein, fat, and, carbs, and also the total caloric intake have all huge impact. Whether you eat grass or meat. Or both…


          • Marcus Ruprecht on 30/11/2015 at 00:29

            Thank you for totally obliterating that lady. I doubt she knows much about nutrition (or men for that matter) if she is defending veganism.

          • ken on 23/12/2015 at 16:39

            we are carnivore mandatory and omnivore as optional.

          • bahadur on 03/05/2016 at 23:05

            i don’t think we are carnivore… if you only eat meat, you will feel like crap… i have done it for few days and it isnt good feeling. you need carbs…. eat both plants and animals… if i had to chose between only one of the two, i would go for plants… you can eat only plants and you can still feel great because in plant you can get all three carbs, protein and fat..

          • ken on 04/05/2016 at 12:35

            essential amino acid, essential fatty acids. NOTE: no such thing as essential carbohydrate. this means essential for life. only a fact, can not change this. Note on meat eating. the muscle tissue is the least critical for us. most critical is things like liver are much more important. also note.things like hot dogs are very bad idea. also if it is not a grass fed animal you are not getting what you need. really depends on what the “meat” is. is it a hot dog, brat, lunch meat, yes we will all feel like shit in a short time. the human being has zero requirement for a carbohydrate. when needed it will make it from protein. the body will adapt from fat based diet or carb based diet. at the same time it is a individual thing. carbs will always make me lethargic, tired and very hungry. only way I can fast is with a high fat diet, then 24 hour fasts are easy. but I never neglect the greens. fibrous veggies, obviously these contain minimal calorie content. but keep the body alkaline.

          • bahadur on 04/05/2016 at 16:16

            but do you know that low carbohydrate diet is anti-testosterone ?? in this website, Ali encourages high carbohydrate diet. 40% fat 35 % carbs 25% protein is ideal for testosterone production

          • ken on 05/05/2016 at 08:48

            you can find a lot of research claiming that but the testing done is short term. 2-3 weeks, and it will take the body 3 to 10 weeks to normalize/adapt again to a keto diet. so at first it will go down then come back. why these studies are flawed like this? I dont know. I personally achieved my best composition at age 43. was no mistake test was at a very good level. as a male you can always tell:). I also experimented with a low fat diet in my younger years and became a soft, smaller version of my self. I do wish Ali would do a long term study (12 weeks) that would be a minimum for high fat diet.

  4. Trev Wilcox on 06/07/2017 at 04:08

    How do you recommend calculating maintenance calories?

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