How Testosterone and Metabolism are Connected (And How to Increase Both)

Article by Tim Berzins;

Metabolism underlies every aspect of optimizing hormonal health.

I know that might sound like a big claim, but every single cell in your body depends on its ability to produce enough energy to do everything it needs to do (or even more than enough energy). 

The more energy your cells can produce, the more resistant to stress they become, and the more your body will shift away from the negative hormonal environment and towards the beneficial one.

A high metabolism state means low levels of estrogen, prolactin, cortisol and serotonin (which isn’t the “happy hormone” as it’s commonly proclaimed, but more like the “hibernation hormone”, associated with lower metabolism and lower energy levels).

All of these hormones have negative effects when elevated for a long time, and they all work together in concert to produce the “low metabolism”, stress state, characterized by poor hormonal health and all the other negative symptoms that come along with it (brain fog, low energy, fat gain, low sex drive, lack of motivation, poor sleep, etc.).

But when you take steps to raise your metabolism, you shift into the beneficial hormonal environment characterized by hormones like thyroid, progesterone, pregnenolone, DHEA and improved insulin sensitivity.

These are all protective hormones. When the cells can create plenty of energy, the production of all of these hormones is elevated, while the stress hormones are minimized.  

And of course, one of the most protective hormones that gets elevated along with these is the principle male hormone that we’re on a never-ending journey to maximize: Testosterone.

how metabolism and testosterone are connected

The Link Between Metabolism And Testosterone

Because testosterone and metabolism are so closely linked, increasing your metabolism will increase your testosterone.

But this isn’t some generalized idea - there is a specific reason why increasing your metabolism, specifically by increasing thyroid hormone - will result in higher testosterone.

In order to explain this, we need to look at the process of how testosterone is made in the first place, all the way from the food you eat, to the production of the big “T”.

In general, it looks something like this:

>>> You eat food

>>> Your liver converts some of that food into cholesterol

>>> That cholesterol gets turned into the “mother” steroid hormone, pregnenolone

>>> The pregnenolone can then get converted to DHEA, and then testosterone

Voila - food gets turned into testosterone.

But how does metabolism play into this?

Specifically, the active thyroid hormone, T3, is needed in order to turn cholesterol into pregnenolone, so that it can follow the path of steroid conversion to testosterone.

Thyroid Hormone: The Ultimate Testosterone and Metabolism Booster

Once the liver pumps out cholesterol, it can only turn into pregnenolone by combining with T3 and vitamin A.

Cholesterol + T3 + Vitamin A = Pregnenolone

testosterone-and-metabolism

That means if your metabolism is low and you aren’t producing as much T3 as you should, you’ll be making less pregnenolone, leaving cholesterol to accumulate in the blood.

This is supported by the fact that thyroid hormone has well-documented cholesterol-lowering effects, because it's causing the cholesterol produced by the liver to be used up.

But this isn’t the only way metabolism is connected to testosterone production.

The high metabolism state requires a healthy liver, that has plenty of glucose and glycogen to perform it's myriad of functions.

This means that it's better able to create cholesterol by combining fat with choline, as well as converting the inactive thyroid T4, into the active T3.

That means you’ll be making higher levels of both cholesterol and T3, and assuming adequate vitamin A, you’ll be making much higher amounts of pregnenolone.

On top of this, a higher metabolism will prevent too much production of the stress hormones like estrogen and cortisol, which are both steroid hormones that are created from pregnenolone. Since less of these are produced, that leaves more pregnenolone to be converted to the protective steroid hormones, like testosterone.

All of this points to one simple idea:

The more energy your cells can create and the more T3 you produce, the higher your testosterone levels will be.

Two Keys To Increasing Testosterone And Metabolism

If you have low testosterone, metabolism is most likely a contributing factor.

Having looked at the underlying biochemistry around how testosterone and metabolism are related, you’re probably now wondering what that means for the real world.

What can you do to create more T3 and reap its testosterone and metabolism booster effects?

Eat More Sugar

It may seem odd that I’m telling you to eat more sugar, but in reality, sugar is incredibly metabolic, and actually one of the healthiest things you can eat.

As it turns out, most of what mainstream nutrition preaches about sugar is dead wrong.

In my controversial program Ignite Your Metabolism, I reference over 80 studies around sugar being extremely beneficial, and I explain why and how it delivers those benefits.

But how is sugar specifically helpful when it comes to testosterone?

testosterone-and-metabolism-booster

Sugar, as opposed to starches, contains a monosaccharide called “fructose” which I’m sure you’ve heard about before - it’s the one that is typically claimed to have negative effects.

But in reality, fructose helps improves insulin sensitivity, refills liver glycogen, increases protein retention and protects thyroid production, and increases metabolism.

When the liver has more glycogen, it gets the signal that energy is plentiful, and it will start converting more T4 to T3 (as we talked about before).

Not only that, but fructose is highly “lipogenic”, meaning that if your liver needs to, it can convert it into fat more easily than other nutrients.

Why would we want this?

Because fat in the liver is what is used to create the all important cholesterol.

As long as your liver is healthy and is supplied with the necessary nutrients to convert that fat into cholesterol (that we'll talk about in a minute), then there are no negatives from creating this fat. In fact, it just leads to more cholesterol production, and more pregnenolone/testosterone production down the line.

It only poses a problem when the liver is unable to export the fat it creates into that cholesterol.

But if the liver is healthy and able to export that fat, then eating more fructose will lead to both increased T3 and cholesterol.

As we’ve seen, these are the ingredients for testosterone production (along with vitamin A).

So what helps the liver to export the fat created from fructose into cholesterol?

That's where the second key comes in: Eating enough protein and choline.

Eat More Protein And Choline

In order for the liver to create cholesterol, it must combine fat in the liver with the nutrient choline.

In fact, choline deficiency is actually the cause of fatty liver disease - the fat created from fructose can easily be exported to cholesterol if there's enough of this nutrient.

Since choline can be created in the body from methionine and homocysteine through the SAMe cycle, eating enough overall protein can allow your body to create enough of it (if you have the right genes for it, which not everyone has). 

low-testosterone-metabolism

 

However, your primary focus should be to get enough choline in your diet. You should be sure to eat eggs and animal liver regularly, both of which contain a good amount of it. You can also choose to supplement with it to be safe (just be sure to take it with fat to help absorption and prevent indigestion).

In general, I’d aim for around 500 mg of choline per day, minimum, and eat at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass.

Increase Both Your Testosterone And Metabolism

By eating more sugar and eating enough protein and choline, you can help increase your metabolic functioning and improve the process of taking the food you consume all the way through the pathway to testosterone.

Of course, one huge point here is to make sure you’re also eating enough vitamin A, which is a crucial ingredient for turning cholesterol into the “mother” of all steroid hormones, pregnenolone (along with T3).

So how do you know how fast your metabolism is?

The best measures are your waking body temperature and heart rate. If your metabolism is working properly, you should be between 97.8 degrees F and 98.2 degrees F (underarm reading), and in the 80s for heart rate (assuming it's not being falsely elevated from the stress hormones).

Start eating more sugar, start eating enough protein and choline, and watch as your metabolism and testosterone increase!

How Testosterone and Metabolism are Connected (And How to Increase Both) was last modified: February 5th, 2017 by Ali Kuoppala
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.
Ali Kuoppala
  • Manu

    Very interesting stuff…
    Tim,
    When you suggest to eat more sugar, are you talking about refined table sugar or via fruits?

    • Generally nutritious sources like fruit, honey, molasses, etc. would be best, but if you view plain sugar as a “supplement”, it can sometimes be useful. I’ve heard many stories of people curing their hypothyroidism from eating lots of refined sugar. But as always, micronutrients are crucial too, so it’s a balance.

  • Sebastian

    I have to admit, I am a little confuse know. Previously it was said that sugar was bad for testosterone https://www.anabolicmen.com/sugar-testosterone/, did I miss understood this new article? where is the confusion

    • Most of the research shows short-term decreases in T after eating sugar, but eating almost any meal will lower T in the short-term, which has practically no effect on the actual action of T. Some of the studies mentioned in that article were with pure glucose tolerance tests, which doesn’t tell us much about the metabolic activity of fructose (plus some starches digest faster and cause a bigger glycemic response than pure simple glucose does). Since fructose doesn’t cause a rise in insulin, an actively lowers the insulin response to other carbs, the points on insulin and diabetes are also moot. That article is a bit older, and I know through conversations with Ali that his views on sugar have changed as well.

      Hope that helps clarify some things!

  • Felix

    Hi Tim and Ali,

    I like the (Ray Peat inspired) Ideas and yes it´s working pretty good for me at the moment.
    BUT: I can´t really “believe” that eating Gummy Bears (Gelatin+Sugar) and/or Icecream (S-fat, Sugar, Proteine) is healthy on a long approach? Because that´s what I ve done when I was fat und tired :-D. So balance is the key – what are your thoughts regarding -> HOW MUCH Sugar for the Sweet Spot?

    kind regards,
    Felix

    • We’re certainly not recommending that be all you eat (nor does Ray Peat), but there’s certainly nothing wrong with those foods, and depending on the brands, they can have very good ingredients.

      I know Haagen Daaz ice cream is made of egg yolks, cream, sugar and a few other wholesome ingredients, and I see nothing wrong with that. Most gummy snacks contain gelatin, sugar and coconut oil – nothing wrong there either, unless there are other negative ingredients added (again, dependent on brand).

      If your diet is comprised of lots of fruits/fruit juices, hearty meats, maybe some starches and other sugars, then there’s nothing bad at all with adding ice cream and gummy snacks.

      As far as how much sugar, I’ve played with both low sugar/high starch diets, and high sugar/low starch diets, and I really think it depends personally on your situation. Some people shut down stress more effectively with sugar, some do better with starch. The important point is to get lots of carbs and then find which ratios you feel better on.

      • Jose

        Isn’t Haagen Daaz ice cream full of trans fats? The label says 0.3g per serving..

        • There are some naturally occurring trans fats in most animal products, but these are not the same as industrial manufactured trans fats. For example, CLA is a trans fat, and there’s lots of research around it’s benefits. In fact, CLA is probably the primary trans fat found in animal products. If you look at the ingredient list of Haagen Daaz, you’ll see that it’s just cream, milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla.

  • Bill

    Great stuff as always. Ive read that Ray Peat says that starches are not necessary for optimal health, and that you can have equally, maybe even stronger metabolism with fruits, orange juice and honey. Is that correct? How about your testosterone when you eat all your carbs from those mentioned sources? You see most gut fixing diets dont allow starches like potatoes, but they allow fruits and honey because they are much easily digested.

    Cheers.

    • It is definitely true that starches are not necessary for optimal health, but I still think they are a useful tool in the toolbox, and under certain circumstances they are superior to sugar. For example, if you’re dealing with liver damage or fatty liver, it’s probably best to avoid sugar until you bring your liver health up to the point where it can use all the fructose or store most of it as glycogen, rather than immediately converting it into fat and making the problem worse. If your liver is healthy, however, sugar is probably superior for hormonal health. Another example would be in a person who does lots of strenuous exercise – starches are probably necessary to provide enough glucose to the muscles. But as you said, sugars are definitely easier to digest, so if you have digestive issues, sugar might be preferable for that reason. Lots of different aspects to look at, which is why it’s so hard to make blanket recommendations.

  • sinancihan

    Could you please write, what can we do or taking supplements for a healthy liver. For me Milk thistle and curcumin for their liver cleaning benefits. Your opinions are golden for this matter, waiting for your reply.

    Thank you..

    • I think some supplements like that can help, but my bigger focus is on the energy state of the liver cells, and their ability to export any fat they create. So if you have liver issues, going higher in MCTs (basically including more coconut oil in your diet), eating adequate choline, avoiding PUFAs like the plague, and taking L-Taurine for increasing liver glycogen capacity is a great start. Getting sunlight, or using red/infrared light on your liver is helpful too. Once your liver is lean and healthy, then sugar is helpful too for providing energy, but if your liver is in bad shape, sugar can make things worse.

  • John

    Tim, I’m very curious about sources which support this idea that choline is what the liver uses to make cholesterol from dietary fat. I can’t find any article that says that directly. Could you please point me in the right direction?

  • joshuaaa

    Hi all, is it possible to increase naturally if you have a problem related to hypoandrogenism or some other underlying naturally occurring problem?