What started out as a normal Friday night having a beer with my mate changed course when he confided that he thought he was going through “the change”.
A once proud gym rat, he’d suddenly given up on his training and grown complacent with his podgy new dad bod. He also confessed he had lost his mojo in the bedroom.
Was this the fabled “manopause”? As we age, are our levels of testosterone bound to nosedive?
Everyone knows that men have much higher levels of testosterone than women. But testosterone production peaks during puberty and then starts to slump after 30. For each year over 30, your level of testosterone starts dipping at a rate of around one per cent each year. So a decrease in your T levels is a natural effect of Father Time.
Here’s why that matters: testosterone isn’t just about aggression and getting over-competitive when you play Assasin’s Creed. It’s also a “feel-good” hormone that lifts your mood and increases your libido. “Testosterone in men is important because it makes blokes blokes and is vital for sperm production, energy levels and regulating metabolism,” explains Dr Sam Hay, host of Embarrassing Bodies Down Under.
The symptoms of low testosterone can be vague and changes occur very slowly, so it can be easy to miss, claims the show’s other host, Dr Brad McKay. “Many health conditions cause men to have low energy, poor concentration and become irritable and cranky – but these are all symptoms of having low testosterone too”.
Low testosterone can cause physical changes like reduced strength, increased body fat and extended recovery times between workouts. Men can be embarrassed by the sexual side-effects of low testosterone too – think decreased sex drive and erectile failure.
So what can you do to fight back? Follow these tips to stop your T-levels from heading south.
Drink less booze
Your old mate alcohol might help you have a good night out with the boys, but it can be toxic for your liver. “Binge drinking is defined as having more than six standard drinks of alcohol in one session,” says McKay. “Anything above this causes liver damage, fatty deposits and scarring (cirrhosis).” Stick to the recommended drinking levels of two standard drinks per day. In addition, aim to have at least two alcohol-free days per week to give your liver a break from the onslaught.
Eat a Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean Diet is packed with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil. It also favours fish and poultry—lean sources of protein—over red meat. The benefits can include weight loss, better control of blood glucose (sugar) levels and reduced risk of depression. “Eat fish two-to-three times per week, with a variety of fresh vegetables, cook with olive oil and add in a few fresh oysters for good measure,” recommends McKay.
Bonus: A Mediterranean diet means you can still enjoy pasta, but try to stick to wholegrain.
Speak to your doc
Erectile dysfunction is such a downer concept, which explains why most guys don’t want to talk about it. A lot of men seek medical help only when they realise their beard growth has all but stopped or notice manboobs (gynecomastia) forming where there were once granite-hard pecs, says McKay. There’s no harm in getting along to your GP or a good endocrinologist to have your testosterone levels checked. However, Hay says that while manopause (known as andropause in the medical community) is a real condition, it tends to be over-diagnosed and over-treated, and that testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) comes with risks.
It may be time to invite your office nemesis to a bench pressing match-off. A US study found vanquishing rivals is more physiologically rewarding than winning against your bros. Testosterone levels increase when men triumph in competition, but the spike is significantly shallower if the vanquished is a mate.
Catch more Zzzzs
One known side effect of low testosterone is compromised sleep quality, which may not improve simply by observing the basics of sleep hygiene.
Your move: try eating two kiwi fruit about an hour before bed. Taiwanese researchers found that kiwi fruit contains numerous medicinally useful compounds that may be beneficial in treating sleep disorders.