Ultimate Guide to Testosterone (Part 1: What It Is & Why You Need It)
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Ultimate Guide to Testosterone
Part 1: What It Is & Why You Need It
Testosterone is one of the most desired things in all of fitness: from testosterone boosters to injectables, everyone’s trying to maximise their testosterone levels. That’s why we’ve created this 3 part series Ultimate Guide to Testosterone…
The problem is that everybody wants more of it, but very few people understand it. This article is going to change that: you’re going to learn everything you need to know about testosterone, what it is, and how it works.
Forget What You Thought About Testosterone
There’s a lot of misunderstanding around testosterone in the fitness community. To start with, it’s not just a steroid and it’s not just there to build muscle and make you look jacked.
It might be part of every supplement company’s marketing plan, but it’s also a key player in your wellbeing and mental health!
The problem is that testosterone has such a caricature in most people’s minds that it’s hard to get over it. You might think about giant, red-faced men with roid rage when someone says testosterone, but you probably don’t think about recovery and reducing depression risks.
That’s why this article is so important and why you should stick with us!
Part 1: What Is Testosterone?
First things first in this Ultimate Guide to Testosterone… You probably already knew that testosterone is a hormone – it’s the most famous. It’s the hormone that makes men look like men.
It is, also, an Anabolic Androgenic Steroid (AAS) and has been abused by athletes to give themselves an unfair competitive advantage. This is because testosterone is one of 4 growth hormones that are famous for boosting muscle growth and strength – a pretty big advantage!
Testosterone is the predominantly-male sex hormone and is associated with everything from puberty to physical strength in men. While women do have testosterone, men produce about 20x more naturally.
Testosterone is also a key part of the signalling process that surrounds the anabolic and catabolic systems. Simply put, it promotes growth and replacing cells, while reducing the risk of catabolism – breaking cells down.
It plays a key role in mental health, with well-researched effects on social behaviour and sexuality. Testosterone also has a central role in feelings of wellbeing, mood and even how energetic you feel.
The interesting part is that testosterone responds to the things that you do and what you eat. The way that you live will have a large effect on testosterone production, which will improve your life. Between the mental health benefits and the growth benefits of AAS, it’s obvious why it has such a reputation.
Part 2: What Does Testosterone Do?
This is what you’re here for: it’s all about what it does in your body. This isn’t just going to be the benefits, but the most important roles that testosterone plays, especially the ones that impact your day-to-day life.
Myth-Busting: What Testosterone Does NOT Do!
Everyone wants to talk about boosting testosterone but there’s been a lot of exaggerated discussions of testosterone online.
- Testosterone does NOT cause rage
Despite what you’ve probably heard, testosterone doesn’t make you angry and it won’t make you violent if you increase your T levels.
It does make you more energetic, confident and impulsive, however (1).
You’re not going to become more violent, but if you’re a violent person then you’re probably going to have more confidence and act on your impulses more. It’s easy to see how this might be bad for some people but, as long as you’re not injecting the stuff straight into your muscles, increased testosterone won’t be a problem.
- Testosterone does NOT turn women into men
We’ve heard loads of women worried that increasing their testosterone (by eating a high-protein diet or lifting weights) will make them look like men.
While increasing testosterone levels will contribute to things like muscle-building and lower resting fat levels, it takes a huge amount to make women manly (2). A woman would have to increase her testosterone levels by 1,000% to start looking even slightly masculine!
- Sex is NOT bad for testosterone
This one’s a bit crazy! Many online articles have discussed how abstinence and restriction from masturbation is good for testosterone because it keeps everything in. In reality, the opposite is true (3): something as simple as spending time around people you’re attracted to can boost testosterone production (4).
Testosterone is a key player in attraction, just be careful that you don’t mix up libido and testosterone: some supplements like Tribulus are all about increasing libido but don’t boost testosterone.
Testosterone & The Body
Our Ultimate Guide to Testosterone already states the obvious: testosterone is key for muscle building, but it has a variety of other physiological applications that means you’re going to experience better results and health…
It’s all about growth: testosterone and associated hormones are responsible for increasing your muscle and joint strength, as well as the nervous system that controls them, and how your body signals for various processes.
Muscles and Joints: A Brief Overview
There are a few ways in which testosterone improves muscle growth. First, it improves your ability to hold muscle and reduces the natural storage of fat whether you try or not (5). It’s a key player in determining how your body uses food and their constituent nutrients.
The big role it plays is the signalling for muscle protein synthesis. This is the process that your body uses to replace the proteins in muscles that become damaged during exercise – it’s the same process that makes exercise WORK in the first place (6).
More protein synthesis means more muscle, but it also means more collagen and healthy joints.
Finally, testosterone comes as part of a quartet of anabolic hormones:
- Human Growth Hormone (Somatotropin)
So, when you’re producing testosterone you’re also increasing the secretion of these other compounds that work with it. These all have their own benefits in the body and contribute to the development of stronger muscles and tendons (7).
Blood and Bones
Signalling is a big deal and it’s what hormones do. It should be no surprise that testosterone also boosts your ability to heal wounds. It causes the platelets in the blood to work more effectively in sticking together, protecting you from infection and boosting your recovery after any type of cut (8).
Platelets are important because they work on the inside too: the health of your tissues depends on your body patching you up when you get hurt. If you’re like me – always on the go and exploring nature – you’re going to get nicked here and there. Platelet boosts mean you’re not going to get septicemia and die from a scratch – there’s no use in being big and strong if you’re fragile and sickly!
Testosterone is also important for joints because it increases the health and strength of the bones. It’s not an advantage you hear often, but bone density for high-testosterone individuals is much better than everyone else.
It increases the intake of minerals to the bones, which is one of the best ways to protect yourself from fractures (9). Osteoporosis is a serious medical problem for everyone during aging and testosterone’s effect on bone health can protect you from the long-term risks of these bone-weakening illnesses.
Getting Past Muscle-Building
The first thing to remember about testosterone is that it’s not just about building muscles and gaining strength. There are a variety of key roles:
Testosterone For Sex and Social Benefits
One of the most important roles for testosterone is in sexual health and maturation. It’s essential for sexual health and social interaction – especially with those you’re attracted to.
Testosterone is a major player in how you act in public – both when talking to women and people in general. It regulates things like sexual competition (how you act with other men and display dominant or submissive attitudes) and how confident and capable you feel in the eyes of the opposite sex (10).
Testosterone determines your body’s pheromones: it affects how you smell and the social effects associated with it. This means smelling more attractive to the opposite sex and more assertive to everyone around you.
Testosterone is a big deal in human social structures: those with high testosterone tend to perform better in social situations, have better relationships and sex lives, and achieve their goals more consistently (11). Clearly, it’s worth working on!
Testosterone For Mental Health Gains!
Testosterone is also a key part of the way that your body regulates mood. It’s one of the main drivers of competition, confidence, energy and happiness in men. And it’s not just because they’re getting bigger and stronger!
Testosterone deficiency is one of the leading causes of suicidality in older men, while high testosterone levels are tied to things like ‘purpose’ and ‘meaning’ in life (12). If you’re feeling down, there’s a possibility that you’re experiencing stress-related testosterone deficiency.
We mentioned the anabolic quartet earlier, but it’s also defined in contrast to the catabolic hormones – the ones that break down tissues and deal with stressors. The balance between anabolic and catabolic hormones in the body is essential for all kinds of processes (13, 14, 15).
When you experience too much stress (either training stress or psychological stress!) you can easily be too high in catabolic hormones and too low in anabolic ones. This suppresses the immune system and contributes to mental health problems like depression (16). Testosterone can mediate this problem, plays a key role in this balance, and reduces male depression and suicidality risks.
Taking care of your body and balancing your hormones will take care of your head and keep you healthy in mind and body!
Part 3: Things You Need Testosterone For
So, hopefully after reading this far in our Ultimate Guide to Testosterone you know a bit more about T and how it works. Next, you’re going to want to know what it means for you and your lifestyle. Below we’ll go through the main benefits – the reasons why you want to increase your T levels.
Look Better Naked
Resting testosterone levels determine how much fat and muscle you hold – and what your body chooses to build. This means that more testosterone (if it’s the right kind) will mean a leaner, more muscular physique (17).
It also boosts your ability to break down fat and build up muscle – so it’s going to mean improved results from your own hard work. If you’re putting work into training, then having a good hormonal environment is going to be key to maximising your results.
Testosterone means better recovery between workouts and improved performance in each workout. It does this through a mixture of the mental health benefits and nervous system improvements mentioned above.
You’re going to see more muscle-building, better power output and an improved mentality to training as you increase your circulating levels of Testosterone.
Recovery is 75% of improving your physique and strength (18), so testosterone’s role here is a big deal to your success!
Sort Your Head Out
Mental health is receiving more and more attention and rightly so: it’s a big deal and rates of mental health problems are on the rise. Low testosterone is a key player in depression and increasing your resting levels protects you from depression and mood disorders.
Boosting your testosterone won’t solve everything, but it will protect you in the long-term and improve confidence and purpose in your life. These are common reasons for feeling down and chronic stress (something that testosterone combats) is one of the leading causes of mental health problems.
The Ultimate Guide To Testosterone Conclusion
Testosterone is a varied and versatile hormone that can improve your life in many ways. It can boost your physical performance and appearance, protect your brain and even make you more successful in social and sexual situations.
Stay tuned: in the 2 follow-up Ultimate Guide to Testosterone articles we’re going to give you all the tools you need to improve your lifestyle, diet and supplement routine to maximize testosterone. You’re going to learn how to make the best of your recovery, performance and life by simply adjusting this one key hormone…
Professional sport/fitness writer at ApexContent.org, weightlifter and S&C enthusiast. Liam has over 5 years experience in coaching positions, learning under the best mentors and sport coaches in Britain. At the same time developed a love for relentlessly researching and writing scientifically backed content in health, fitness and sport performance.
Liam wears many hats, but they’re unified by a love for competition, performance, and engaging writing. You can throw abuse (and questions) his way in the comments and he’ll be happy to help you!