Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and is one of the groups of hormones known as androgens. It is responsible for the development of reproductive tissues in men and promoting the development of a man’s secondary sexual characteristics (body hair growth, deepness of the voice, body fat distribution, and increased bone and muscle mass).
In addition to developing male sexual organs and characteristics, testosterone also triggers the androgen receptors found in muscle and skeletal tissues. When these receptors are triggered, it sets out a response in the form of protein synthesis in muscle tissues and of increasing the mineral uptake of bone tissues. These responses result to muscle growth and increase bone density and strength.
Around 95% of the testosterone produced by the body originates from the leydig cells found in the testicles (ovaries for females). The remaining amount is produced by the adrenal glands, which are found above the kidneys.
The whole process of testosterone production starts in the brain’s hypothalamus. It releases a hormone known as the gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). This hormone triggers receptors in the pituitary gland that causes it to release luteinizing hormones (LH) and follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) into the bloodstream. When the luteinizing hormones make it to the testicular leydig cells, it starts the process of converting cholesterol to testosterone – specifically, free testosterone.
Once free testosterone is produced, it enters the bloodstream to get to various parts of the body. Free testosterone can readily bind to receptors whenever they come across activated androgen receptors in a cell.
As the name suggests, these testosterones are free to be used by the body. But, free of what exactly?
Hormones, like testosterone, estrogen, and dihydrotestosterone, can be bound by proteins to make it incapable of influencing their corresponding receptors in cells. These proteins are called sex hormone binding globulin or SHBG.
SHBG is produced by the liver and helps regulate androgens during puberty. After puberty, SHBG levels normally decline. However, this is not always the case as it is one of the causes why testosterone can be abnormally low.
Like any other hormone, when testosterone levels are not at its optimum levels, it can lead to negative effects on the body. When the male sex hormone levels are too low, it can lead to obesity, Type-2 Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, depression, and prostate cancer.
With these consequences, it can be tempting to take medication to boost your testosterone levels. But, by filling up your body with testosterone from external sources, your body lags behind in its natural production of testosterone as there is an abundance of testosterone available.
And, when you stop taking exogenous testosterone, your body would still not produce the needed testosterone. Moreover, increasing testosterone through this method comes with the risk of having too much testosterone. This can lead to high blood pressure, gynecomastia, abnormal behavioral changes, and increased risks of cancer.
For this reason, the best way to increase testosterone levels is through natural means. Some of these natural ways include: having a diet high in healthy fats, Vitamin D3 and Zinc supplementation, and exercise.