One of the trademark symptoms of low testosterone in men is chronic fatigue — the type of tiredness that doesn’t improve after rest. About 5 million men in the Unites States have low testosterone, and fatigue is one of the ailment’s most common and debilitating symptoms, along with loss of muscle strength, mood changes, and lack of interest in sex.
But what is the relationship between fatigue and low testosterone? The hormone testosterone, produced mainly by the testes, drives a man’s sexual desire. It also helps make sperm cells, maintains muscle, and generates energy. Testosterone levels decrease in all men with age, typically about 1 to 2 percent per year after age 40. As part of normal aging, energy may start to drop a little, and interest in sex may decline a bit as well. However, it’s not normal for testosterone levels to get so low that fatigue impacts daily activities or for there to be a complete loss of interest in sex.
Energy-Boosting Tips for Low Testosterone
Fortunately, there are several options men have to rev up energy levels again. “I always recommend easier lifestyle changes first,” says Aaron Lentz, MD, an assistant professor of surgery in the division of urologic surgery at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
Here, Dr. Lentz offers six suggestions how men can boost energy and break out of low testosterone-related fatigue:
Check for other ailments. Men should ask their doctors if other conditions or medications may be contributing to fatigue. Sleep apnea, thyroid disease, and medications such as narcotic pain pills and some antidepressants can cause fatigue along with a drop in testosterone levels. Addressing these conditions first may alleviate the fatigue from low testosterone.
Get plenty of sleep. During sleep is when men produce most of their daily testosterone. Less sleep means less testosterone. So, one of Lentz’s first recommendations is to get a good night’s sleep. If having too much caffeine is disrupting your sleep, try consuming less and at earlier times during the day. And if sleep apnea is a problem, treat it.
Eat a healthy diet. A balanced diet that’s low in saturated fat with a rich mix of fruit, vegetables, and a moderate amount of animal fat, can help diminish feelings of fatigue. Part of a healthy diet also means drinking alcohol only in moderation. Too much alcohol can cause fatigue and liver dysfunction, which ultimately can lower testosterone levels, Lentz says.
Break a sweat. Exercise will naturally increase your testosterone levels, according to Lentz. Do what you enjoy, whether it’s walking, playing sports, riding a bike, or lifting weights. Regular exercise can help you feel more energized, control your weight, and improve your overall health.
Treat depression. It’s also important to be treated for any depression or anxiety, which will tap your energy and has been found to be related to low testosterone. In one study, Toronto researchers compared the testosterone levels of men ages 40 to 65 who were depressed with those who were not depressed. They found that the men with depression had lower levels of testosterone. Although antidepressants that fall into the drug class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may negatively affect a man’s sex drive and performance, Lentz says there are other types of antidepressants that shouldn’t interfere.
Follow your low testosterone treatment plan. After treating other testosterone-lowering conditions, such as diabetes, depression, or obesity, your doctor may suggest a testosterone therapy. Some men feel better and more energized once their testosterone levels have gotten back to a normal range, Lentz says. However, some men don’t feel better after starting treatment. In that case, a different type of treatment may help. There’s a caveat to supplementing testosterone: These supplemental forms of testosterone inhibit the normal ability of the testicles to produce the hormone, and Lentz says that means your testicles may never produce testosterone again once you start therapy. Once you start, you may need to continue the therapy for life. And testosterone therapy also isn’t recommended for men who want children in the future because it can impair fertility.
The overall result? Lentz has seen many of his men improve their energy levels and start feeling better. If testosterone therapy is right for you, it could potentially help you kick the fatigue. But that doesn’t mean it’s magic — a healthy diet, regular exercise, not smoking, and taking good care of yourself in general are still a must and can help you regain your energy.
Last Updated: 01/16/2014. By Marie Suszynski, Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH and Clifton Jackness, MD
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