We have all heard about testosterone, but not everyone knows the details of this hormone or its effects on the body.
It is the most important hormone in males and it is strongly related to sexual function.
But what is it made of?
How does it work in different tissues?
After reading this article, you will have the answers to these questions and much more.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is the male hormone, the one that activates puberty in young males turning them into adults.
It is synthesized in the testicles, more specifically, in cells known as Leydig cells.
They have androgen receptors in the cell wall and receive luteinizing hormone (LH). Once received, this LH activates the machinery, and Leydig cells start producing testosterone.
If you look at testosterone and cholesterol molecules, you will see many similarities.
They have a ring system in common, and cholesterol is essential for testosterone synthesis.
This conversion also happens in other tissues, especially the adrenal glands.
Once released to the bloodstream, testosterone triggers thousands of chemical reactions in the body.
Similar to what happened with LH activating testosterone production, this hormone interacts with receptors all over the body.
For educational purposes, we’re summarizing the most important signals and their effects on the human body.
10 effects of testosterone on the body
The following points are what males experience when testosterone is released and received by various tissues:
1) The body becomes ready for reproduction
This is probably the primary function testosterone has.
It is called sex hormone because it is designed to promote sexual health.
Testosterone is involved in almost every step of reproduction (1):
- Speeds up sperm production
- Maintains sexual desire and arousal levels
- Prevents erectile dysfunction
- Causes transformations in the body, making males appealing to females
If you have testosterone deficiency, one of the first noticeable changes will be in your sexual functioning.
2) The mind starts behaving differently
The reason why males can be so competitive with one another has to do with testosterone.
In various brain centers, this hormone causes significant changes in neurotransmitters.
Testosterone boosts competition and dominance in males as an instinct to get females.
In some cases, such traits turn into aggression, especially when testosterone levels are extremely high.
Androgen deficiency causes brain alterations as well.
3) The muscles prepare for battle
Testosterone is prevalent among bodybuilders because it is essential to stimulate muscle growth.
It is the reason why males find it easier to gain muscle compared to females.
Testosterone acts in the muscle fiber, speeding up protein synthesis and increasing muscle strength and size at the same time.
With a testosterone deficiency, males start to lose muscle mass.
This is particularly noticeable in seniors with frailty and other forms of muscle wasting (3).
4) The bones become stronger
Males are traditionally chosen for labor work, and it has been so for millennia.
That’s why men also need testosterone to guarantee bone density and mineralization.
Similar to estrogens in women, testosterone helps bone tissue, stimulating cells to create more bone.
Low testosterone leads to an increased risk of fractures.
5) The skin and hair promote a manly appearance
Once arriving at the skin, testosterone does a lot in this tissue.
It causes hair growth and increases the synthesis of various glands in the skin.
The resulting odor is supposed to attract women, but in our modern world, it does the opposite.
Acne also develops because oil production in the skin increases, causing clots and infections in the long term (1).
All of this should give a man a more manly appearance and feel around women.
6) The cardiovascular system prepares for arduous work
Studies show that testosterone at a healthy level is also beneficial for heart health.
It balances cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and other parameters.
All of this is very important to prepare the body for defending females and territory.
It is also essential for the arduous work ancient males went through to ensure survival.
Low testosterone levels lead to alterations in cholesterol levels and increase heart disease and other cardiovascular problems in males (5).
7) The boy turns into a grown man
We mentioned above that testosterone is what triggers changes in puberty.
It does so by increasing levels in the blood and activating enzymes that turn testosterone into DHT.
This substance is also known as dihydrotestosterone, and it is more active than testosterone.
Once the body has enough levels of DHT in boys, they start experiencing changes.
Their voice starts to change, they grow body hair, their genitals grow, and the body adopts a more muscular proportion.
Not having enough testosterone to trigger these changes causes a delay in puberty or a complete absence of this natural process.
These patients often suffer from hypogonadism, and testicle failure is often the cause (1).
8) Fat metabolism starts to change
Testosterone causes significant changes in the metabolism of fat.
Men are more likely to burn fat when their testosterone levels are optimal.
This is why females keep more fat in certain parts of their bodies, even when they are slim.
Men have a very different distribution of body fat, and testosterone is one of the reasons.
Fat and testosterone do not get along. Fatty tissue converts testosterone into estrogen in a process called aromatization.
Testosterone accelerates the process of fat burning and reduces body fat (6).
9) Carbohydrate metabolism becomes faster
Another change that people do not often talk about has to do with insulin and the metabolism of carbohydrates.
Testosterone facilitates the breakdown and management of sugar, protecting males from insulin resistance.
Obese men with low testosterone levels are more likely to suffer from diabetes.
If they do, they are more likely to have a more difficult control of their disease.
10) A feedback mechanism is triggered
Finally, testosterone arrives at the hypothalamus, too.
This brain center stimulates the pituitary gland to release LH, which initially triggered testosterone production.
By shutting down this function, testosterone makes sure that we don’t have an excess of this hormone.
It is a feedback mechanism that ensures normal testosterone levels at all times (1).
The effects of testosterone protect males from sexual dysfunction, transforms young boys into a grown man, speeds up muscle growth, bone mineralization, and both carbohydrate and fat metabolism.
It has many functions all over the body, but males usually find out they have low testosterone levels because their sexual function starts to change.
If you believe this is your case, it might be appropriate to run a test with total testosterone and other hormone levels.
Your doctor will help you read and interpret these tests and may recommend testosterone replacement therapy if your deficit is pronounced.
Testosterone supplementation (testosterone therapy) can happen with a variety of anabolic steroids.
Most of them are testosterone injections, while others are topical testosterone solutions.