Feeling sluggish and gaining weight? Your testosterone levels may be to blame — for men and women alike. Healthy levels of testosterone are important for many aspects of life: your health, mood, energy levels, focus, sex drive, productivity, and more.
Testosterone has many important roles in the male body. Among those, it has a profound impact on body weight and belly fat.
If you’re a male, your testosterone levels can cause initial weight gain when they start to dip too low. With healthy levels of testosterone, this vital hormone can assist in the metabolism of fat and help you maintain a healthy body weight.
If you’re a woman, however, testosterone works a little differently — excess testosterone can lead to weight gain in women.
This article explores how testosterone levels can impact your body weight and body composition, and how testosterone works differently in male and female bodies.
What Is Testosterone?
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone. The hormone is produced mainly in the testicles in men and prompts the growth of muscle mass, stronger bones, and facial and body hair. It also plays an important role in regulating male fertility. It’s also thought to regulate libido and the regulation of red blood cells.
As men age, their bodies tend to produce less testosterone, leading to low T levels. This can lead to a testosterone deficiency which may lead to a loss in muscle mass and an increase in body fat.
In female bodies, testosterone is primarily produced in small amounts in the ovaries. Along with estrogen (a primary female sex hormone), testosterone promotes muscle growth, supports bone strength, and influences certain behaviors (e.g, sex drive, motivation).
Testosterone was first used as a clinical drug in 1937. Today, it is widely prescribed to men with testosterone deficiency.
Does Low Testosterone Cause Weight Gain?
Testosterone levels begin to decline with age. As we grow older, we tend to lose muscle mass and bone density. You may have noticed this when you’re at the gym — you have to work much harder for the “gains” that would’ve been easier to attain in your 20s and 30s.
Testosterone not only promotes muscle growth, but also helps suppress fat gain, which can be one of the symptoms of low testosterone. Low testosterone levels can lead some men to gain fat more easily than their peers who are not testosterone deficient, particularly around the abdomen/waist.
This is partly because muscle burns more calories than fat. Less muscle tissue means that your body is more likely to store excess calories as fat. Reduced muscle mass may be the primary reason testosterone deficiency leads to weight gain in men.
Studies show that men with testosterone deficiency have a higher percentage of body fat than men with healthy levels of the hormone.
However, low testosterone isn’t the only reason why men may gain weight. Obesity is associated with low levels of testosterone. This means that men who were not previously deficient in testosterone but who are obese tend to have lower testosterone levels. This can create a vicious cycle — with obesity causing low testosterone levels, and low testosterone levels causing weight gain.
The good news is, testosterone replacement therapy coupled with lifestyle changes can help you regain your physical fitness and improve your health.
What Is Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) involves using injectible testosterone to correct a hormonal imbalance — deficient testosterone levels — in men. Testosterone levels begin to decline after the age of 30.
Low testosterone levels may lead to increased body fat, low libido, loss of muscle mass, fatigue, depression, and low motivation. TRT can help restore testosterone levels to a healthy range. Many middle-aged and older men may benefit from TRT to restore testosterone levels.
Testosterone replacement therapy offers many benefits in many with testosterone deficiency, including:
- Higher libido/sex drive
- Increased muscle mass
- Lower cholesterol
- More energy
- Reduced body fat mass
- Improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance
- Weight loss or fat loss
If you suspect you have a testosterone deficiency, working with a doctor who is familiar with hormone replacement therapy — including testosterone replacement therapy — can help you restore your testosterone levels to manage your weight and get your health and life back on track.
Does Testosterone Replacement Therapy Help You Lose Weight?
Research shows that long-term (5+ years) testosterone replacement therapy helps promote progressive and sustainable weight loss in men with low testosterone levels. The study found that TRT helped with significant weight loss, a decrease in waist circumference, and reduced body mass index (BMI).
Participants in the study lost an average of 20% of their body weight, whereas men in the control group (those who did not receive TRT) gained approximately 4% of their body weight in the 10-year follow-up.
Furthermore, the group that received TRT lost an average of 4.9 inches around their waist, and their BMI decreased by approximately 7.3 points.
The study shows that testosterone replacement therapy is effective at helping men with low testosterone levels improve their body size and composition and sustain weight loss.
Increased Energy Levels on Testosterone Replacement Therapy
The positive effect TRT has on weight loss may also partially be attributed to increased energy levels. Men with low testosterone levels tend to struggle with fatigue, low motivation, and low energy levels. This can make it difficult to find the motivation to exercise and get physical activity in throughout the day.
However, many men on TRT experience an increase in energy levels and motivation once their testosterone levels are given a boost thanks to the therapy.
This increase in energy and improved fatigue may contribute to higher levels of activity and motivation to exercise. Thanks to the improved energy levels, men on TRT are able to find the energy to get exercise, which can help with weight loss and muscle building.
Testosterone Helps Build Muscle
Testosterone replacement therapy can help increase muscle mass. Men with low testosterone levels can benefit from TRT, as it can help increase muscle size and strength. One study found that TRT helped increase lean muscle by 5.7% and increase total body strength by approximately 10-13%.
Muscle Helps Burn Fat
Testosterone helps build muscle. While on TRT, you can expect to build lean muscle and improve your strength. This is due in part because testosterone increases neurotransmitters that encourage tissue growth, and testosterone boosts levels of human growth hormone. This makes it easier to build muscle, particularly if you are exercising regularly.
Testosterone also has a role in fat metabolism, helping the body burn fat more efficiently. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. This means that the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn, even while doing nothing.
When TRT is combined with an exercise program (e.g., cardiovascular exercise, weight lifting), you can build muscle quickly and help your body burn fat more efficiently.
Testoterone and Weight Gain in Women
Though testosterone helps build muscle in both men and women, it works a little differently in the female body. Women who have too much testosterone will experience a hormonal imbalance. This can lead to unexplained or sudden weight gain.
While many women may assume it’s because they’ve been overeating or not getting enough exercise, an excess of testosterone may be to blame.
Women with high testosterone levels may experience symptoms such as:
- Excess body hair
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Mood changes and feelings of anxiety
- Excess facial hair
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain
High testosterone levels in women may indicate an underlying health condition, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a tumor on the ovary or adrenal gland, or Cushing syndrome. Each of these conditions affects the adrenal glands, which prompts the ovaries to produce higher-than-usual levels of testosterone.
If you’re a woman and have experienced sudden or unexplained weight gain, talk with your healthcare professional. They will ask about your symptoms and may conduct a blood test to determine if you have a hormonal imbalance.
Working with a specialized provider for hormone replacement therapy is the best and safest option for restoring your testosterone levels. While it’s possible to seek hormone therapy from your primary care physician, this is often not as effective as working with a specialized hormone physician (endocrinologist).
At Elite HRT, you will receive a personalized hormone replacement therapy program to help you restore your hormone levels and optimize your results.
If you’re ready to lose weight, build muscle, regulate appetite, and increase your energy levels, contact us today to get started.
Effects of long-term treatment with testosterone on weight and waist size in 411 hypogonadal men with obesity classes I-III: observational data from two registry studies | International Journal of Obesity