Alcohol’s Effect on Testosterone
Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
Heavy drinking decreases testosterone levels in men, researchers say. The more you drink, the greater the impact.
In the short term, low testosterone levels could keep you from fathering a child. In the long term, your low testosterone could weaken your bones.
Doctors can use medications to raise testosterone levels, but you must be sober to take full advantage of their effects. The good news: If you stop drinking, your testosterone levels will rise naturally.
What Does Testosterone Do?
We think of testosterone as a sex hormone that makes men look bigger, hairier, and stronger. But testosterone does more than that.
Your testosterone levels regulate all sorts of core systems. Low levels could change the following:
- Bone mass
- Fat distribution
- Muscle mass
- Red blood cell levels
- Sex drive
- Sperm count
In a study, researchers found that people with low levels of testosterone had decreases in their lean muscle mass, muscle size, and muscle strength. These are problems you can see and feel daily.
Alcohol & Your Testosterone
Your body transforms alcohol into ethanol. As your systems break down ethanol, a key coenzyme responsible for testosterone production dips. You’re making less testosterone with each sip.
If you keep drinking, your body puts on added pounds of fat. Those fatty cells produce estrogen, which can counteract or destroy any testosterone your body is making.
And as your sleep schedule changes due to alcohol abuse, your body produces even less testosterone. The cycle repeats when you get up and start drinking again.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
A man’s testosterone levels fluctuate throughout his life, and numbers naturally dip with age. But alcohol could push you into the low-testosterone category.
Men with low testosterone have measurements of 300 nanograms per deciliter or less. They may have symptoms like these:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low sex drive
- Muscle wasting
Consider any of these issues short-term symptoms of low testosterone. Keep drinking, and they could worsen. In the long term, you could also develop bone loss, resulting in frequent fractures.
Could Alcohol Impact Your Fertility?
Every system in your body is harmed by alcohol exposure, including your reproductive system.
Long-term, heavy alcohol use has been associated with shrinking testicles, decreased testosterone, and low sperm counts. You may also have a low sex drive, and erectile dysfunction could keep you from having successful intercourse.
If you’re interested in adding a child to your family, continued drinking could harm your plans. Even mild drinking has an impact.
Men who drink just five units of alcohol per week have poorer semen quality than men who drink less. If you drink more, the impact rises.
How Can You Prevent Low Testosterone From Drinking?
Your doctor can use synthetic forms of testosterone to help boost your health and rebuild your fertility. But you must stop drinking for the therapy to work. Each sip of alcohol you take counteracts your treatments.
If you stop drinking, you can heal your own body. Testosterone levels rise about three weeks after men stop drinking, and the benefits continue.
As you settle into sobriety, you’ll lose weight. That dip can keep you from producing estrogen and killing off natural testosterone.
What About Your Beer Belly?
If you need another incentive to quit drinking, consider this: Your drinking habit could add to your waistline.
Your beer belly is closely tied to drinking. The problem follows this pattern:
- Your testosterone decreases.
- Your muscle mass decreases.
- Your body puts on fat.
- Fat increases estrogens.
- Estrogens encourage more fat.
Your high-calorie drinks don’t help, but in men, a beer belly is closely tied to low testosterone levels. If you quit drinking, you could shrink it.
What Can You Do Next?
If you’re ready to quit drinking, talk with your doctor first. People with a significant alcohol habit can experience life-threatening seizures if they quit cold turkey.
Don’t stop drinking suddenly on your own. You’ll need a doctor’s help to ease from intoxication to sobriety safely. And you’ll need therapists to help you maintain that sobriety too.
With the right care and support, you can successfully stop drinking. Your hormone levels will begin to stabilize, and you’ll feel a lot better.
Testosterone Increases in Men After a Low Dose of Alcohol. (April 2003). Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Understanding How Testosterone Affects Men. (September 2013). National Institutes of Health.
What Is Low Testosterone? Urology Care Foundation.
Alcohol and Fertility: How Much Is Too Much? (July 2017). Fertility Research and Practice.
Habitual Alcohol Consumption Associated With Reduced Semen Quality and Changes in Reproductive Hormones: A Cross-Sectional Study Among 1221 Young Danish Men. (October 2014). BMJ.
Impact of Alcohol Consumption on Male Fertility Potential: A Narrative Review. (December 2022). Environmental Research and Public Health.
Smoke, Alcohol and Drug Addiction and Male Fertility. (January 2018). Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology.
Sex Hormones During Alcohol Withdrawal: A Longitudinal Study of 29 Male Alcoholics During Detoxification. (September 1997). Alcohol and Alcoholism.
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