The secret’s out: Even hard-working bodybuilders love their booze from time to time. After all, is there a better way to reward yourself for all the hard work you put at the gym? But, no matter the reason, no one is immune to the unpleasant consequences of testosterone and alcohol.
From mild dehydration to crippling hangovers, alcohol may have all sorts of effects on your body. However, the one effect every regular gym-goer should worry about the most is testosterone production. The word on the street is that alcohol and testosterone don’t get along that well. In fact, booze is rumored to suppress the synthesis of the male hormone through various metabolic pathways. But, what does science has to say about this?
How Alcohol Lowers Testosterone Levels
Oxidants, Alcohol, and Testosterone
Whether we like it or not, alcohol has its way of supporting oxidation from the moment it enters the human body. For those of you who don’t know, oxidation is the process during which the balance between free radicals (toxins) and antioxidants is disturbed.
This imbalance results in oxidative stress which has a direct effect (not the good kind) on cells. Now, alcohol consumption is known to induce oxidative stress either by decreasing the total count of antioxidants or by increasing the number of toxins in the testes. In fact, certain byproducts of alcohol metabolism are that toxic that they alter the process of testosterone synthesis by inhibiting the function of certain proteins.
Nitric Oxide, Alcohol, and Testosterone
An important part of several vital body functions such as memory retention and blood pressure regulation, nitric oxide (NO) is a gas-like substance which is synthesized in the testes and plays a huge role in testosterone flow throughout the male body by increasing the dilation of blood vessels.
However, as soon as alcohol makes the scene, nitric oxide levels drop significantly since ethanol serves a super-effective NO inhibitor. So, the less nitric oxide your body has, the less testosterone is delivered throughout your body. That means that your testicles don’t need to produce that much T.
Estradiol, Alcohol, and Testosterone
Primarily associated with the female body, estradiol is the predominant form of estrogens. However, it’s not just women who carry this stuff, but also guys, to a lesser extent of course. But, what happens when a guy has too much of the hormone roaming around in his body? Experts are clear: Anything from low libido and muscle loss to mood swings and increased abdominal fat is fair game. We wouldn’t want that, would we?
However, some of the things guys do on a regular basis such as alcohol consumption increase their estradiol levels without even them knowing. According to one study, alcohol promotes the aromatization of androgens (testosterone, DHL, etc.), a process during which testosterone converts into estradiol. Long story short, drinking one too many reduces testosterone concentration in your body while increasing estrogens.
NAD+, Alcohol, and Testosterone
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, NAD+ for short, is a coenzyme found in Leydig cells which actively participates in the production of testosterone and other androgens. However, research shows that alcohol reduces NAD+ concentration in the liver and testes. As a result, your alcohol-influenced body produces less testosterone than usual.
Beta-Endorphins, Alcohol, and Testosterone
Known for boosting our mood (hence the tipsy sensation after a couple of drinks), beta-endorphins are synthesized in the pituitary gland and serve as excellent androgenic steroids. That means that they naturally promote the synthesis of testosterone and various other androgens.
However, the testosterone-friendly effect of beta-endorphins is no longer active after alcohol makes it to your body. In fact, research suggests that alcohol reduces the concentration of plasma testosterone in men by inhibiting the function of the pituitary gland and, thus, beta-endorphins.
Cytokines, Alcohol, and Testosterone
Alcohol is rich in various toxic compounds. According to one study, the destructive nature of these substances promotes the production of cytokines, a bunch of inflammation-friendly compounds. In their turn, cytokines suppress the production of various male hormones, including testosterone.
How Much is Too Much?
Before you turn your back on alcohol altogether, you need to know that a couple of drinks every now and then never hurt anyone.
In fact, experts claim that men who consume a low dose of alcohol (about 0.5 grams for 1 kilogram of their body) actually have higher testosterone levels than those who abstain from alcohol. Plus, a moderate dose of alcohol which equals to 1.5 glasses of red wine reduces testosterone levels just by 7% which is not that much, to be honest.
Your T levels are only at risk when you get too drunk. And remember, working out with a hangover only makes things worse. In these cases, not only do your testosterone levels reduce dramatically but the effects are also long-lasting.
The Case For Testicular Atrophy
For years now, scientists have been trying to determine the connection between alcohol and testosterone. And the results from various rodent and human studies are in: Alcohol DOES lower testosterone levels dramatically. What’s more concerning, though, is that in one rodent study the testicle size of the rats reduced by almost 50%, showcasing that consuming alcohol too often is likely to result in testicular atrophy.
Things couldn’t be any clearer. Alcohol and testosterone are not a good match. However, if you consume small quantities of alcohol at a time, the effects on your testosterone are negligible. However, excessive consumption not only reduces T levels significantly but also increases the risk of testicular atrophy. So, as always, moderation is key.
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