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Alcohol and Mental Health

How Does Alcohol Affect Testosterone Levels in Men?

Published:
February 13, 2024
·
12 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
February 13, 2024
·
12 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
February 13, 2024
·
12 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
February 13, 2024
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12 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
February 13, 2024
·
12 min read

Some of the effects of alcohol on our physical body are fairly obvious: we might feel our heart starting to race after several drinks, or realize we have to urinate more frequently once we begin drinking. 

Other effects are a bit more subtle, but they’re no less detrimental to our health and well-being. Alcohol’s effect on men’s testosterone is one example. In fact, studies have found that heavy alcohol consumption results in reduced testosterone levels in the blood. 

What Exactly Is Testosterone?

Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males, and it plays a number of important roles, such as the development of the penis and testicles, the deepening of voice during and the appearance of facial and pubic hair starting at puberty, muscle size and strength, bone growth and strength, sex drive, and sperm production. 

A sad man pointing at his arm

Testosterone levels can also affect our mood. For instance, low levels of testosterone can enhance moodiness or lead to feelings of depression and low self-esteem. It can also lead to decreased sex drive, less energy, weight gain, less body hair, and thinner bones. 

As a hormone, testosterone is part of our endocrine system — the network of glands and organs that make hormones and release them directly into the blood so they can travel to tissues and organs all over our body.

The production of testosterone in men is controlled by signals sent from the brain to the pituitary gland at the base of our brain. The pituitary gland then relays signals to the testes to produce testosterone. A “feedback loop” continually regulates the amount of testosterone in the blood; when testosterone levels are too high, the brain sends signals to the pituitary gland to reduce production; when levels are too low, the pituitary gland kicks in to boost production.

How Alcohol Affects Testosterone Levels

While testosterone production naturally begins to decrease as a man ages, other factors can cause hormone levels to drop. For instance, injury to the testicles and certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation, can negatively affect testosterone production.

Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause both short-term and long-term changes to men’s testosterone levels. In fact, alcohol can disrupt testosterone production by interfering with the three major glands needed for production of testosterone in men: the hypothalamus, the anterior pituitary gland, and the testes. 

Even small amounts of alcohol can cause immediate changes. For instance, research has found that testosterone can drop in as little as 30 minutes after alcohol consumption. In one study, healthy men were given the equivalent of a pint of whiskey per day, over the course of 30 days. Their testosterone levels were then compared to those of men with chronic alcoholism. The study found that healthy men’s testosterone levels began dropping by the third day and reached similar levels to those of the men with alcoholism by the end of the month. 

Over time, chronic alcohol consumption has long-term effects that can cause testosterone levels to stay low. Research indicates that chronic alcohol misuse damages the Leydig cells in testes, which are responsible for testosterone production. In fact, heavy drinkers are more likely to have poor testicular function than people who only consume a moderate amount of alcohol. 

Since testosterone is a “sex” hormone, men who drink heavily are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction and low libido, or sex drive. As time goes on, chronic low testosterone may result in other symptoms, including decreased muscle strength and size, weakened bones and loss of bone density, lower energy, reduced male fertility, weight gain, and depression. 

How Alcohol Affects Men’s Sperm

Alcohol can also lower the sperm count in men by impairing the function of testicular Sertoli cells, which are vital for sperm maturation. Both testosterone and FSH, a hormone released by our pituitary gland, play an important role in spermatogenesis, or the development of sperm. Disruptions of these hormones can lead to “spermatogenic arrest” — the development of sperm is interrupted, leading to low sperm counts.

Research indicates that heavy drinkers are more likely to experience spermatogenic arrest. In fact, one study noted that 50 percent of heavy drinkers had spermatogenic arrest, compared to only 20 percent of men without alcoholism. Researchers also found that men who drank heavily had slightly but significantly smaller testicals than men who didn’t. 

In general, studies suggest that more than 14 drinks a week can significantly lower testosterone levels and affect sperm count.

How Alcohol Affects Men’s Sperm

Can Testosterone Levels Return to Normal?

Quitting or reducing our alcohol consumption can help reverse some of the damage to our testes. In fact, the study mentioned previously found that when healthy participants stopped drinking after having a pint of whiskey per day for 30 days, their testosterone levels quickly returned to normal.

However, some damage may be permanent, depending on the quantity and amount of time we’ve been drinking. If we think that our drinking has affected our testosterone levels or reproductive health, it’s a good idea to see a doctor for individualized treatment. 

We can also take some steps to help mitigate the effects of alcohol on our testosterone levels and support our overall hormonal health. Here are some tips:

  • Eat healthy food. A healthy diet is important for all our bodily functions, including our hormone production. Foods that may help boost testosterone include fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines; dark, leafy greens; avocados; eggs; berries; cherries; pomegranates; and shellfish, such as oysters and clams. 
  • Exercise regularly. While endurance training can boost testosterone levels briefly, resistance exercises are proven to help increase short- and long-term testosterone levels. Physical activity can also help reduce stress, which negatively affects hormonal balance. Try incorporating strength/resistance training into your workout routine three days a week.
  • Get adequate sleep. Testosterone levels naturally rise during sleep, and studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause significant decrease in testosterone production. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day and night (weekends included), and consider creating an evening routine to promote relaxation. Aim to get between 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night.

Keep in mind that while all of these are vital for living a healthy life, quitting alcohol or reducing our intake is one of the most important things we can do to protect our testosterone levels. If that seems daunting, Reframe is here to help. And when you join our community, you’ll be supported and encouraged by hundreds of others just like you.

Some of the effects of alcohol on our physical body are fairly obvious: we might feel our heart starting to race after several drinks, or realize we have to urinate more frequently once we begin drinking. 

Other effects are a bit more subtle, but they’re no less detrimental to our health and well-being. Alcohol’s effect on men’s testosterone is one example. In fact, studies have found that heavy alcohol consumption results in reduced testosterone levels in the blood. 

What Exactly Is Testosterone?

Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males, and it plays a number of important roles, such as the development of the penis and testicles, the deepening of voice during and the appearance of facial and pubic hair starting at puberty, muscle size and strength, bone growth and strength, sex drive, and sperm production. 

A sad man pointing at his arm

Testosterone levels can also affect our mood. For instance, low levels of testosterone can enhance moodiness or lead to feelings of depression and low self-esteem. It can also lead to decreased sex drive, less energy, weight gain, less body hair, and thinner bones. 

As a hormone, testosterone is part of our endocrine system — the network of glands and organs that make hormones and release them directly into the blood so they can travel to tissues and organs all over our body.

The production of testosterone in men is controlled by signals sent from the brain to the pituitary gland at the base of our brain. The pituitary gland then relays signals to the testes to produce testosterone. A “feedback loop” continually regulates the amount of testosterone in the blood; when testosterone levels are too high, the brain sends signals to the pituitary gland to reduce production; when levels are too low, the pituitary gland kicks in to boost production.

How Alcohol Affects Testosterone Levels

While testosterone production naturally begins to decrease as a man ages, other factors can cause hormone levels to drop. For instance, injury to the testicles and certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation, can negatively affect testosterone production.

Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause both short-term and long-term changes to men’s testosterone levels. In fact, alcohol can disrupt testosterone production by interfering with the three major glands needed for production of testosterone in men: the hypothalamus, the anterior pituitary gland, and the testes. 

Even small amounts of alcohol can cause immediate changes. For instance, research has found that testosterone can drop in as little as 30 minutes after alcohol consumption. In one study, healthy men were given the equivalent of a pint of whiskey per day, over the course of 30 days. Their testosterone levels were then compared to those of men with chronic alcoholism. The study found that healthy men’s testosterone levels began dropping by the third day and reached similar levels to those of the men with alcoholism by the end of the month. 

Over time, chronic alcohol consumption has long-term effects that can cause testosterone levels to stay low. Research indicates that chronic alcohol misuse damages the Leydig cells in testes, which are responsible for testosterone production. In fact, heavy drinkers are more likely to have poor testicular function than people who only consume a moderate amount of alcohol. 

Since testosterone is a “sex” hormone, men who drink heavily are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction and low libido, or sex drive. As time goes on, chronic low testosterone may result in other symptoms, including decreased muscle strength and size, weakened bones and loss of bone density, lower energy, reduced male fertility, weight gain, and depression. 

How Alcohol Affects Men’s Sperm

Alcohol can also lower the sperm count in men by impairing the function of testicular Sertoli cells, which are vital for sperm maturation. Both testosterone and FSH, a hormone released by our pituitary gland, play an important role in spermatogenesis, or the development of sperm. Disruptions of these hormones can lead to “spermatogenic arrest” — the development of sperm is interrupted, leading to low sperm counts.

Research indicates that heavy drinkers are more likely to experience spermatogenic arrest. In fact, one study noted that 50 percent of heavy drinkers had spermatogenic arrest, compared to only 20 percent of men without alcoholism. Researchers also found that men who drank heavily had slightly but significantly smaller testicals than men who didn’t. 

In general, studies suggest that more than 14 drinks a week can significantly lower testosterone levels and affect sperm count.

How Alcohol Affects Men’s Sperm

Can Testosterone Levels Return to Normal?

Quitting or reducing our alcohol consumption can help reverse some of the damage to our testes. In fact, the study mentioned previously found that when healthy participants stopped drinking after having a pint of whiskey per day for 30 days, their testosterone levels quickly returned to normal.

However, some damage may be permanent, depending on the quantity and amount of time we’ve been drinking. If we think that our drinking has affected our testosterone levels or reproductive health, it’s a good idea to see a doctor for individualized treatment. 

We can also take some steps to help mitigate the effects of alcohol on our testosterone levels and support our overall hormonal health. Here are some tips:

  • Eat healthy food. A healthy diet is important for all our bodily functions, including our hormone production. Foods that may help boost testosterone include fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines; dark, leafy greens; avocados; eggs; berries; cherries; pomegranates; and shellfish, such as oysters and clams. 
  • Exercise regularly. While endurance training can boost testosterone levels briefly, resistance exercises are proven to help increase short- and long-term testosterone levels. Physical activity can also help reduce stress, which negatively affects hormonal balance. Try incorporating strength/resistance training into your workout routine three days a week.
  • Get adequate sleep. Testosterone levels naturally rise during sleep, and studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause significant decrease in testosterone production. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day and night (weekends included), and consider creating an evening routine to promote relaxation. Aim to get between 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night.

Keep in mind that while all of these are vital for living a healthy life, quitting alcohol or reducing our intake is one of the most important things we can do to protect our testosterone levels. If that seems daunting, Reframe is here to help. And when you join our community, you’ll be supported and encouraged by hundreds of others just like you.

Get on Track With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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