The relationship between sugar and low testosterone

As we can see in the testosterone book and this blog, diet has an enormous influence in our testosterone levels. It’s one of the battlefronts in our quest to increase testosterone levels. And one of the most important things that you can do to increase your testosterone through diet is this:

Kick sugar to the curb.

In fact the thing is: cut the excessive amount of sugar you are probably ingesting. That means pasta, pizza, bread, cereals, sweets,  ice cream, desserts…

If you live in a western country, chances are that you are taking too much carbohydrates, especially industrially made food loaded with tons (and tons) of sugar.

When we ingest sugar, our insulin rises. More sugar = more insulin and if insulin is high, testosterone is low (1), and that happens even when you are a twenty-something.

In the 91st Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society in Washington, D.C. they concluded that, no matter how healthy you are, ingesting sugar decreases testosterone… hard. We are talking about 25%, that’s worse than adding 20 years to your age.

How is that possible?

In the testosterone book we talk about how our bodies are like factories with limited resources. If they need a lot of some kind of hormone, they tend to shut down others. Others being testosterone.

When you eat that “Chocolate Triple Threat” dessert there is a ton of sugar running around, and your body needs to cope with it before you become blind or something. The pancreas releases insulin to manage that and it becomes a priority.

If you are a professional athlete and you just completed several hours of strenuous training, your body will use the sugar to restore glycogen in the muscles (and liver). In every other situation (99% of the situations for us, mere mortals) your reservoirs of glycogen are full (because, let’s face it, you don’t burn too much energy playing Call of Duty) so our body can’t process all that sugar that you eat and the command is: “ok, let’s store it as fat”.

Yes, unused sugar is stored as fat, so join the dots. You can eat those silly “low fat” foods that taste like cardboard and you store fat in a worse way that if you eat some pork ribs. Why is that? Because, basically, when you trigger insulin your body enters in a “store fat” phase, so you won’t burn those love handles.

Icing the cake, the hormones that burn fat are insulin sensitive, so when there is insulin wandering the streets our “fat burning” hormones are not active. And yes, they don’t tell you that part when they sell you that awful “low fat” food.

But regarding the main topic here, the thing is that if your body needs to release tons of insulin all the time, testosterone fades into the background. On the other hand, if you keep your insulin in check, not indulging in sweets and carbs all the time, your testosterone (and your fat loss efforts) won’t suffer that much.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a low carb diet. Insulin spikes are a natural process, so now and then they are more than fine. But if we take a look at how we are eating nowadays this is a bigger problem than we think. We eat sugar constantly. In time, with too much sugar, you can develop insulin resistance, a condition where so much insulin has been released (due to constant ingestion of sugar and carbs) that the hormone become useless and it cannot do its job anymore. That happens in the same way that when you use anything too much, their effects disappear in time. As you can imagine, insulin resistance is related with low testosterone⁠ (2).

The next step can be diabetes, and that is very, very bad for your testosterone (and life, in general).

We are bombarded with messages about how “healthy diet” means eating carbs and cutting fat… looking at how obesity and diabetes run rampant today, something is really wrong here… And we become emasculated in the process.

Cutting sugar, which is likely addictive⁠ (3), and other carbs can be hard, especially if they are the cornerstone of your diet. I’m not saying that you become necessarily a “carb hater”, but some foods should be banned right now. I’m talking about every industrial snack or cake, and everything made with refined flour. The first rule of thumb is that: if the food comes in a bag or a box it’s an usual suspect.

Say goodbye to Doritos, donuts, chips, cakes, sugar loaded cereals, chocolates, snacks, cupcakes… Those foods create insulin spikes that will tear a hole in your roof.

That’s the first step, next maybe you will want to know more and restrict grains, bread, pasta, etc. But that’s up to you if you want to go deeper into the rabbit hole, for now, don’t spike your insulin constantly.

Studies referenced

1 Interrelation between plasma testosterone and plasma insulin in healthy adult men: the Telecom Study. D. Simon, P. Preziosi, E. Barrett-Connor, M. Roger, M. Saint-Paul, K. Nahoul and L. Papoz

2 Increasing Insulin Resistance Is Associated with a Decrease in Leydig Cell Testosterone Secretion in Men. Nelly Pitteloud, Megan Hardin, Andrew A. Dwyer, Elena Valassi, Maria Yialamas, Dariush Elahi and Frances J. Hayes

3 Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews Volume 32, Issue 1, 2008, Pages 20-39. Nicole M. Avenaa, Pedro Radaa and Bartley G. Hoebel. Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA