Carbohydrates and Testosterone: This Is Why Carbs Are Essential For the Production of Androgens (Updated)

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Carbohydrates have been unfairly bashed in the media for the last few years.

Nowadays, many people are dumb enough to believe that increased carb intake would make them gain weight and that the “most evil of them all” – sugar, would be the reason to the current obesity epidemic.

Funny thing. Since weight loss has been proven time and time again to be all about caloric balance, not about omitting or adjusting your macronutrients. And sugar ain’t that bad either, as it’s been shown to stimulate metabolic rate due to increased thyroid hormone production (fructose especially is highly effective in these regards1).

Good example of the importance of energy balance for weight loss success, is the story of Professor Mark Kraub, who lost 27 pounds by eating a diet of Twinkies, little Debbie snacks, Oreos, sugary cereals, and Doritos chips. How? He was on a calorie deficit.

But enough about the carb myths, let’s move into the more important topic of carbohydrate intake and its importance for testosterone production.

Carbohydrate Intake and Testosterone Levels

carbs and testosterone levelsSimply put, carbohydrates are the most important macronutrient to consume for hormonal health.

Mounting pile of evidence shows that to be true in subjects who exercise and in subjects who remain sedentary.

Even the neurons in the brain responsible for releasing the master hormone (GnRH) that triggers the whole cascade of events that lead to testosterone being produced in the gonads, adjust their pulsatile release of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone accordingly to the blood levels of glucose2. Diazoxide, a drug that suppresses insulin release and thus prevents glucose uptake into the cells, is also notorious of its effect in lowering both free and total testosterone in men3. This again highlighting the importance of simple carbohydrate in the production of T.

Enough with the speculative studies though, in the following ones, we can see the clear positive influence dietary carbohydrate consumption has on testosterone.

Study by Volek et al4. for example saw that when their resistance-trained subjects consumed more protein and less carbohydrates, their testosterone production was suppressed in a dose-dependent fashion (the bigger the ratio of protein/carbohydrate, the larger the drop in testosterone).

Anderson et al5. saw similar results with sedentary subjects. Their study examined hormonal parameters in subjects who were put on diets that were nearly identical in terms of caloric intake and dietary fat intake (20% of calories), but differed dramatically in the amount of protein and carbohydrate (10% protein 70% carbs vs. 44% protein 35% carbs). The results showed – as to be expected – that testosterone and DHT were significantly lower in the high-protein low-carb group, whereas their cortisol (stress hormone) was also significantly higher. In other words, carbs had an androgen boosting, stress suppressing effect.

carbohydrate intakes and its effect on testosterone production

Athletes have for long understood the importance of carbohydrates for performance. And no wonder, research clearly shows that carbs powerfully modulate one of the most impactful measurements of hormonal exercise performance; the free-testosterone to cortisol ratio (fTC).

Study by Lane et al6. had one group of men consuming lower-carb diets (30% energy from carbohydrate) and other group eating higher-carb diets (60% energy from carbohydrate), during three consecutive days of intensive exercise (70–75% maximal oxygen consumption, 60 min/day) followed by one day of rest afterwards. The subjects who ate more carbohydrate, had significantly higher free-testosterone levels accompanied by lower cortisol thorough the study period.

carbohydrates testosterone and cortisol in training men

So more carbs equals more testosterone?

Yes, to say it in a simple manner. There is however some room for debate on what type of carbs you should be consuming for best testosterone response. Increased intake of gluten-rich grains for example, has been shown to increase prolactin in few studies7,8, and prolactin is notorious for its testosterone lowering effect9 as it suppresses GnRH release10. Some grain-products also tend to increase endotoxin and serotonin production (due to intestinal inflammation and being high in tryptophan), which can negatively impact dopamine and testosterone production11.

If you ask me, best types of carbohydrates for hormonal optimization come from root vegetables (potatoes and such), white rice, fruit & pressed fruit juice, milk, and even cane sugar (yes, stop being so afraid of simple sugars).

How much carbs should I be eating?

Obviously this number is slightly different for each individual, but a good number to work with would be 40-60% of your daily calories, depending on your ratios of different fats (as explained here) and your protein intake (which is explained more in detail here).

Conclusion on Carbohydrate Intake and Testosterone

So how important is your carb intake for male hormonal health?

Extremely important. The most important of all macronutrients in fact…

…Maybe on par with importance with maybe caloric intake (which is also hugely important).


References

1.
Byerley L, Heber D. Metabolic effects of triiodothyronine replacement during fasting in obese subjects. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1996;81(3):968-976. [PubMed]
2.
Roland A, Moenter S. Regulation of gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons by glucose. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2011;22(11):443-449. [PubMed]
3.
Pasquali R, Casimirri F, De I, et al. Insulin regulates testosterone and sex hormone-binding globulin concentrations in adult normal weight and obese men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1995;80(2):654-658. [PubMed]
4.
Volek J, Kraemer W, Bush J, Incledon T, Boetes M. Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1997;82(1):49-54. [PubMed]
5.
Anderson K, Rosner W, Khan M, et al. Diet-hormone interactions: protein/carbohydrate ratio alters reciprocally the plasma levels of testosterone and cortisol and their respective binding globulins in man. Life Sci. 1987;40(18):1761-1768. [PubMed]
6.
Lane A, Duke J, Hackney A. Influence of dietary carbohydrate intake on the free testosterone: cortisol ratio responses to short-term intensive exercise training. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010;108(6):1125-1131. [PubMed]
7.
Fanciulli G, Dettori A, Demontis M, Anania V, Delitala G. Serum prolactin levels after administration of the alimentary opioid peptide gluten exorphin B4 in male rats. Nutr Neurosci. 2004;7(1):53-55. [PubMed]
8.
Delvecchio M, Faienza M, Lonero A, Rutigliano V, Francavilla R, Cavallo L. Prolactin may be increased in newly diagnosed celiac children and adolescents and decreases after 6 months of gluten-free diet. Horm Res Paediatr. 2014;81(5):309-313. [PubMed]
9.
Zeitlin S, Rajfer J. Hyperprolactinemia and Erectile Dysfunction. Rev Urol. 2000;2(1):39-42. [PMC]
10.
Koike K, Miyake A, Aono T, et al. Effect of prolactin on the secretion of hypothalamic GnRH and pituitary gonadotropins. Horm Res. 1991;35 Suppl 1:5-12. [PubMed]
11.
Peat R. Serotonin, depression, and aggression – The problem of brain energy. Articles, Dr. Ray Peat. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/serotonin-depression-aggression.shtml. Accessed February 14, 2017.
Carbohydrates and Testosterone: This Is Why Carbs Are Essential For the Production of Androgens (Updated) 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.

33 Comments

  1. whteshark on 08/01/2015 at 04:44

    Does this make oatmeal bad?

    • bahadur on 10/01/2015 at 06:32

      Oatmeal increase testosterone

  2. Matthew Greene on 09/01/2015 at 13:17

    Ali, how many carbs do you consume on a daily basis?

    • Ali Kuoppala on 29/09/2015 at 13:49

      200-500 grams, even if I’m cutting body fat.

      • Billy on 12/11/2015 at 15:37

        Even if someone is above 25% of body fat should consume 200g of carbs or even more?

  3. Dem Gainz on 12/01/2015 at 06:30

    I love this post simply because there is SO much bad dietary advice about carbs right now. I used to be a low-carber so I know all about the pitfalls of a low carb intake (p.s. it f**king sucks). Thanks for the post, I look forward to reading the one about fats!

  4. Cong Vo on 06/02/2015 at 06:00

    Rice have no gluten

  5. dudedude7 on 25/02/2015 at 02:10

    Learned something new! Been trying to cut the sweet tooth habit, knowing this will help!

  6. Marko Amore Perätalo on 06/03/2015 at 08:08

    You slammed ALL grains as equal when u said they cause inflammation and then cited a study, well, according to that study it’s just the refined grains, whole grains are anti-inflammatory:

    “These findings suggest that the protectiveness of whole grains in relation to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease may be due to an effect on plasma inflammatory protein concentrations and reinforces the public health recommendations that whole grains be consumed daily as part of a healthy diet.”

    • Orion Antares on 14/10/2015 at 17:16

      I guess that also depends on how you define a whole grain. Most commercial “whole grain” is really just refined grain that has had the chaff and some conditioner checmicals tossed back into it.

  7. Jimmy66101 on 10/04/2015 at 15:18

    What happened to your suggestion to eat carbs before bed

  8. Jimmy66101 on 10/04/2015 at 15:23

    What happened to your suggestion to consume carbs before bed? Do you still advocate it?

  9. Lsweet on 17/10/2015 at 16:10

    Do you recommend carbs daily or only on training days?

  10. Swastik Chakravarty on 28/10/2015 at 09:21

    I started a no carb ketogenic lifestyle(75%fat , 20%protein , 5%carbs) .. I ate everything organic .all I ate was meat , eggs and veggies..
    initially my gym performance suffered .. I felt like a sloth.. but what I did was stick with it.. as 1 month passed .. day by day my performance improved I felt like a beast bold and strong as never before .. I felt no lows and highs in energy .. it was a very continuous smooth source of energy .. after a year of keto lifestyle.. I was full of bursting energy.. my libido was good .. I had boner every now and then 😛 (though not a fact to be shared about).. but after reading this article I decided to introduce carb .. but unfortunately I feel like crap every time I eat carb.. and I don’t get as much boner as I used to.. :(..
    my performance is also suffering..
    Ali I need your view about this

  11. Swastik Chakravarty on 28/10/2015 at 09:40

    I started a no carb ketogenic lifestyle(75%fat , 20%protein , 5%carbs) .. I ate everything organic .all I ate was meat , eggs and veggies..
    initially my gym performance suffered .. I felt like a sloth.. but what I did was stick with it.. as 1 month passed .. day by day my performance improved I felt like a beast bold and strong as never before .. I felt no lows and highs in energy .. it was a very continuous smooth source of energy .. after a year of keto lifestyle.. I was full of bursting energy.. my libido was good .. I had boner every now and then 😛 (though not a fact to be shared about).. but after reading this article I decided to introduce carb .. but unfortunately I feel like crap every time I eat carb.. and I don’t get as much boner as I used to.. :(..
    my performance is also suffering..
    Ali I need your view about this

  12. Jeremy Martinez on 01/01/2016 at 16:18

    Ha. I love your site. I used to wrestle, and I had a weird diet. Lean red meat with garlic and ginger, baked potatoes with sour cream and butter, avocados, and yogurt. It was my go to, and I craved it absolutely. I read your site and just smile… I instinctually knew. Thanks for making the effort, man.

  13. William Lebek on 02/03/2016 at 22:12

    Is there any reason to prefer potatoes and rice over green veggies like kale and spinach?

  14. William Lebek on 17/03/2016 at 18:12

    You showed us that eating more protein instead of carbohydrates decreases testosterone in average men. But what about eating more fat instead of carbohydrates? I don’t think the results would be same.

  15. Martin351 on 05/04/2016 at 03:47

    “Fortunately the above is a load of bullshit, because weight loss is all about energy balance. If you consume more calories than you burn, you gain weight.”

    This is actually complete bullshit. The most obese people out there tend to follow diets and lifestyles lower in calories and higher in activity. The authors statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

    While I do think there is some, actually a lot of merit to higher carb being better for testosterone, as far as, weight loss and gain being tied to “energy balance” it’s a complete load of horse crap.

    There have been thousands upon thousands of studies on this over the past 100+ years that have disproven this thousands of times over.

  16. Jonathan Livingston-Seagull Va on 30/04/2016 at 12:11

    You are not taking into acout the highly addictive aspect, as well as the lethargy after a blood sugar crash aspect, of eating too many carbs. I’ve been there, and I noticed that, after a protein/fat rich meal, I can go for 24 hours or more without eating (which is good, since I’m doing intermittent fasting). On the other hand, on a carb rich meal with basically the same amount of calories, I want to eat 4 hours later… You should read all the litterature, not just parts of it, if you’re going to seriously blog about it… But other wise, I do like your blog….

  17. Jonathan Livingston-Seagull Va on 30/04/2016 at 12:12

    Did they check the twinkie guy’s insulin resistance? Blood sugar? hat’s great! I’m gonna start eating those every day now. Every three hours….

  18. Jonathan Livingston-Seagull Va on 30/04/2016 at 12:29

    oh yeah, and sugar feeds cancer cells…

  19. […] we’ll use sweet potatoes, which are ridiculously dense in many T-boosting nutrients and a great carbohydrate source in a testosterone boosting diet (you can use white potatoes too), and also beets, which deliver your body some methyl-donor […]

  20. Jimmy on 08/07/2016 at 16:27

    As far as the Group 1 or Group 2 carbs, what about fruits? I eat lots of frozen berries and apples.

  21. Maximilian Walter on 09/02/2017 at 14:49

    Oats contain zearalenone a well known Myco-estrogen and testosterone killer

    • disqus_8vVe4eL0UQ on 01/05/2017 at 16:30

      Ali, it would be very interesting to have you opinion on oatmeal.

  22. Frank Williams on 26/03/2017 at 16:48

    You say at the bottom of your article.

    “So how important is your carb intake for male hormonal health?Extremely important. The most important of all macronutrients in fact…”

    However I am not aware of any carbohydrate that is considered an essential carb. Yes, we have essential amino acids and essential fatty acids but there are no essential carbs. As a 45 year old male that wakes up with a boner more times than he doesn’t and eats less than 50 gms of carbs a day. I disagree with you. You don’t take into account that fact that in a well adapted athlete carbs can be synthesized from Glycerol and Acetone both by product of beta oxidation.

    • The Future on 16/05/2017 at 19:10

      Frank is correct. Too many narrow view studies with logical but not neccesarily true conclusions. Where the athletes fed low carb diets fat adapted? If not, throw the study conclusions out. Good thing some professional athletes are going high fat, low carb and proving what narrow minded insist is impossible.

      A 3 day study on non-fat adapted people is meaningless. To conclude on this and move on is worse than meaningless. Being in a calorie deficit and having caloric balance makes no sense. See the Minnesota experiments that illustrate a calorie is not a calorie. the hormonal changes from varying macronutrients modifies everything. You can go your entire life without eating another carb and enjoy high testosterone, perfect health.

      My lab results don’t lie.

      There are no essential carbs.

  23. Tanthalas on 05/06/2017 at 01:43

    People are far more likely to overeat carbs than they are fat/protein, for a number of reasons, which is why carbs are being (rightfully) blamed for obesity. To say it’s just all about caloric intake is to completely miss the variables that define how many calories a person is likely to consume.

  24. yair simo on 09/06/2017 at 12:50

    I am not sure though why do you say that gluten increases prolactin, if the human study you use as a reference discusses the increase of prolactin in Celiac patients?

  25. kyle893 on 28/06/2017 at 17:41

    One huge glaring bro science mistake this all makes is that when people are used to supplying their body with carbs, lowering carbs will have a negative effect on protein synthesis. After one enters Ketosis,(using fat for energy) protein synthesis returns with drastically lowered insulin resistance, and a much more natural process of burning fat for energy by getting glucose as needed by fat conversion. This is actually why “intermittent fasting” works so well because the body switches to fat burning for energy faster than if you just cut down carbs alone. So people aren’t actually stupid if they think plowing down 500 grams of carbohydrates a day bad for you, it means they are informed.

  26. Matthew Roach on 14/08/2017 at 15:51

    “Simply put, carbohydrates are the most important macronutrient to consume for hormonal health.” There are essential fatty acids which the body needs, essential amino acids, and…. oh wait… no essential carbohydrates! A zero fat or zero protein diet would be devastating for a human’s health. Many people thrive under a zero carbohydrate diet. This article lost all credibility by crowning the only non-essential macronutrient as the most important one.

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