We all know that stress is bad for us. Whether it’s work, our relationships, family or money, stress can affect us in many different ways.
One of which is the link between testosterone and stress. But how does stress affect our bodies? Can stress cause low testosterone?
We take a look.
What is stress?
We’ve all experienced some form of stress during our lifetime. Pinning down something as ‘stressful’ can vary from one man to another, with something that may seem stressful for one person, appearing minor to someone else.
Stress is a state that threatens our body’s natural physiological balance. It could be a traumatic event, a social event, work, relationship changes – pretty much anything.
Stress can affect us in many different ways. The spectrum of what is deemed stressful can vary greatly, with some of us managing stress better than others. However, long term stress can affect our minds and bodies more than we first believe.
There are different forms of stress – some “good”, such as rising to a challenge and taking risks, others “tolerable”, where we are able to cope through support from friends and family, and then “toxic” stress. Toxic stress is often the result when we experience stress with no support network, with stress quickly turning into chronic, long term stress.
But the types of stress aside, they all have repercussions on our bodies and wellbeing. For us guys, stress and testosterone are frequently linked. And since testosterone is so important for a whole world of reasons, managing stress should be a top priority.
Stress: Does cortisol block testosterone?
The best way to describe cortisol is to consider it your body’s alarm system. When you feel stressed, cortisol works with certain parts of the brain to control mood, motivation, and fear.
Made in your adrenal glands – at the top of your kidneys – cortisol is commonly held responsible for your body’s “fight or flight” instinct when under duress. But it also plays an important role in other parts of the body, including minimizing inflammation, regulating your blood sugar and boosting your energy levels to help restore balance after stress.
While we may not be able to eliminate all stresses from our lives (if only!), when our body’s hormones are out of balance, testosterone and cortisol (the stress hormone) can have a very rocky relationship.
Let’s put it this way…
Testosterone and stress
When you follow a healthy diet and do regular exercise, your blood sugar remains stable, minimizing crashes and therefore cortisol release.
When your body experiences ongoing stress, it results in a consistent release of cortisol, potentially leading to poor sleep, poor memory, a weakened immune system and inhibited testosterone levels.
If your body has low testosterone already and high cortisol levels, naturally you will feel as though you’re lacking confidence and strength – whilst feeling stressed, agitated and nervous.
Can stress cause low testosterone?
When it comes to stress and testosterone, it can be a vicious circle that is difficult to get right.
In short, yes, stress lowers testosterone, or at least has the power to. Then when your testosterone levels are low, you’ll stress out further and release more cortisol – repeating the cycle. Long term stress and low testosterone can share some of the same symptoms, often making it difficult to interpret.
When it comes to low testosterone and stress, you may feel fatigued, have a lack of sex drive and low in energy – however, it can be difficult to decipher which is the cause. Seeing as the symptoms of stress and testosterone can be similar, it could be that stress lowers your testosterone, or you’re suffering from low T levels already.
Also Read: What makes Testogen so effective?
However, it can depend on the cause of the stress response, and whether it’s chronic or acute. Acute stress has the ability to lower testosterone, but only temporarily. Although commonly ignored, excessive exercise can be problematic for your body, resulting in inadequate recovery and this stress lowering testosterone.
Generally, those suffering from chronic stress will see a reduction in their testosterone levels.
Managing stress and low testosterone
It’s important to find ways to manage your stress levels and identify any signs of low testosterone. When it comes to stress and testosterone levels, your wellbeing is incredibly important and should be your first priority.
Let’s face it, stress is subjective. We all experience stress differently, and we all manage it in a variety of ways. Plus, we all have different triggers. One thing that works for a friend, may not help you, and vice versa. However, there is one thing for certain, stress can negatively impact your body, and stress and testosterone can be a tricky combination.
The stress system is a complex one. During stressful experiences, our heart rate and blood pressure can rocket, you could feel shakey, with racing thoughts. This is why many men wonder: ‘Does cortisol block testosterone?’ since this stress hormone is responsible for physiological changes.
Adrenaline and testosterone
Put simply, the amygdala in your brain is responsible for processing a variety of emotions, including fear, arousal and emotional stimuli to understand the best response. A signal is then sent to the hypothalamus, which responds by secreting corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF), signalling the pituitary gland to secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
This knock-on effect of ACTH leads to an increase in the production of cortisol – the stress hormone. From there, catecholamines are released, including epinephrine, which we know as adrenaline.
During stressful events, the “fight or flight” instinct releases adrenaline into our system, which is why our bodies can often achieve things we may not have otherwise have tried. This adrenaline can somewhat “take over” making quick decisions for us in stressful situations.
Since adrenaline is linked to cortisol, and stress and testosterone are linked, adrenaline and testosterone is also a topic for discussion. This release of adrenaline can cause a spike in heart rate, hypertension, sweating and increased breathing, as well as an increase in blood glucose.
In a roundabout way, a healthy level of cortisol acts to regulate the metabolism of glucose, lipids and proteins, as well as controlling the immune response. However, during stressful situations (beyond a healthy level of cortisol in our bodies), adrenaline can work to counteract the healthy balance of glucose, as well as impacting our bodies in other ways.
Different types of stress and testosterone
Since there are so many factors involved when it comes to stress and testosterone, cortisol levels and adrenaline, it’s important to understand the wider implications these hormones can have on anabolism and catabolism.
Anabolism is the set of metabolic pathways that construct molecules from smaller units. These reactions require energy, known also as an endergonic process. Anabolism is the building-up aspect of metabolism, whereas catabolism is the breaking-down aspect.
As we’ve already covered, stress hormones can have a huge impact on our bodies. Generally, stress hormones act to cause a net catabolic state where there’s a downregulation of synthesis.
Catabolic in nature, glucocorticoids, such as cortisol cause a decrease in synthesis and increase degradation of protein and RNA in muscle, skin, connective, adipose (fat) tissue and lymphoid. This is largely catabolic, and necessary in times of stress, including stress induced by exercise.
Viewed as the primary anabolic hormone during stress, growth hormones are important for the growth of lean body mass. So if you’re struggling to get lean, there could be other things going on in your body and stress levels that are impacting your progress.
Otherwise known as “adrenaline”, epinephrine has a somewhat complicated relationship with testosterone. Adrenaline and testosterone are both commonly associated with strength – Testosterone leads to increased musculature and adrenaline’s link to strength is its increase of contractile strength of muscles, temporarily.
In short, it’s common to assume that adrenaline and testosterone work together, however, adrenaline has short term effects and doesn’t necessarily show cooperation with testosterone.
Frequently referred to as a catabolic hormone, glucagon encourages lipolysis and glycolysis. It works in a negative feedback loop with insulin, so that when blood glucose is low, glucagon is released to raise blood glucose and fatty acids in your bloodstream. To summarise, it’s elevated during stress.
Unfortunately, stress is a part of everyday life. However, the levels of stress and our own personal response to stressful situations can vary greatly.
When we feel unable to handle stress, or stress becomes a chronic issue, stress can cause low testosterone and affect our overall health. While some symptoms of low testosterone could also be the result of long term stress, pinpointing the cause can be tricky! So, if you’re wondering, can stress cause low testosterone, the answer is: Yes. It most certainly can.
The type of stressor and how we manage stress is imperative to the effect it can possibly have on our mental and physical health. Be sure to surround yourself with a strong support network and establish ways to manage day to day stress, such as meditating and self care.
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