Spoiler alert … here at HowToLiveHealthy, we’re pretty interested in testosterone.
Our aim is to keep you up to speed not only with natural ways to boost your levels, but also with any new discoveries being made about the hormone’s benefits and uses.
It was recently pointed out to me though that maybe we’re too caught up in the weird and the wonderful aspects of T.
So if you’ve some basic questions about the T that you’re too afraid to ask in case you get shooshed by those of us a few seasons further on, this article is for you.
A belated run though the basics.
Think of this as the testosterone equivalent of recapping who that is, what’s that dwarf’s problem is and what’s with all the dragons?
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is the main steroid male sex hormone. It’s part of a group known as androgens, which includes other hormones like DHT, DHEA and DHEA-S.
For now though let’s just focus on T because it is very much the daddy of them all.
Despite being designated the ‘male’ hormone, both men and women’s systems have amounts of T, but guys have up to 10 times more of it. This variation plays a big part not only in physical differences between the sexes, but increasingly, research shows, certain emotional and mental ones too.
Simply put, testosterone is what makes us masculine. Exposure to it in the womb at the very early stages of life dictates which restroom we’ll be destined to use in years to come; then, once we’re out, just over a decade later when puberty swings round, our test really kicks into gear.
Testosterone stimulates growth of our bodies, facial hair and reproductive organs, also playing a key role in healthy sperm production. It shapes our physiques and facial features, influencing things like bone density and body fat. Other characteristics too, such as our deeper voices, can be attributed to more testosterone as it strengthens the vocal chords.
Then of course there’s the fan’s favourite. The aspect that even non-fitness fans know testosterone for. The reason T and peak physical fitness go arm in bulging, ripped arm. Testosterone is anabolic.
When molecules of T reach the androgen receptors in around your body it starts protein synthesis, promoting natural growth of muscle tissue. Its effect on your bones is also to increase density and strength.
Long story short, it bulks you up good and proper.
How is testosterone made?
The next question is, where does testosterone come from? It doesn’t just spontaneously appear, and it doesn’t come out of a tin like Popeye’s spinach. (Actually it can, but it *really* shouldn’t. More on that later.)
Roughly 95% of our T is created from what are called leydig cells in the testicles, with the remaining 5% coming from DHEA (remember that?) in the adrenal glands.
The following is a brief rundown/briefs pulldown of the how testosterone is made. The processes it go through. A sort of ‘Inside The Actor’s Studio’ except, not his studio, his balls. Pay attention, here comes the science bit.
It’s kind of a top down deal, because it all starts with your hypothalamus, the area of the brain which links the nervous system and endocrine system, that regulates hormones. The hypothalamus releases a hormone called gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH).
GnRH then stimulates the endocrine gland in your hypothalamus, releasing two crucial gonadotropin hormones, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). From there these two hitch a ride down bloodstream to the all-important leydig cells in your testicles.
Inside your twin T factories (nuts) FSH and LH go their separate ways. FSH starts the process of spermatogenesis, while LH begins converting healthy cholesterol into T.
Et voila! Fresh testosterone, just like mama used to make. (Well not exactly like mama used to make because she presumably doesn’t have testicles. And you make 10 times more of it, but you know what I mean.)
What next for your T?
The newly prepared T is now carried by the bloodstream as ‘free testosterone’ because it hasn’t attached itself to anything yet.
The aim is to reach your various androgen receptors, but there are a few hurdles to overcome first. Not least a carrier protein released by the liver called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHGB)
At any time up to 60-90% of the T flowing in your system can be tied to SHBG. This is bad news, as while it’s in this state it can’t enter the cells where it’s needed, effectively rendering it inactive. Basically, the higher your count of SHBG, the less testosterone you actually have in play.
Different androgen receptors send out signals depending on the activity T is needed for. So weight training for example would obviously be receptors in muscle calling for attention.
Once safely bound to androgen receptors the final stage is the T molecule changing shape to enter our DNA.
That’s where it can really start to pull the strings and the advantages you all know about (and some you maybe don’t) start to happen. Positive changes in
There you have it. Basic facts about the life cycle of, your T. Just call me David Atten-bro.
The natural choice
You might have noticed earlier we called testosterone a steroid hormone. Most everyday people hear the ‘S’ word and automatically think sports cheat. Well, all those taboo steroids are is laboratory built, artificial T.
Sadly if you’re in the right place, at the right time, with the wrong people, given the potential benefits external T might be tempting.
The reasons why you shouldn’t go the synthetic route are too numerous to cover in full here, but it boils down to these: Firstly your body has a natural upper limit for T production, topping up from external sources and smashing through what you’re designed to cope with can cause booth short and long term health issues.
Secondly if you rely on outside hormones, eventually your inbuilt production will shut up shop.
Imagine you turned up to work and found someone else doing your job. You’d take a day, wouldn’t you? If they were still there the next few days, you might have the week off, and if you keep getting replaced you’re going to quit altogether. Our bodies are a finely balanced, organic supply and demand operation that shouldn’t be messed with.
Now you know. You’re all caught up. Feel free to explore the rest of the site for news articles, diet tips and natural products to make the most of your body’s own brand supply of T, completely clued up.