Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Male, female, nonbinary — whatever your gender, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of testosterone. (And if not, that’s what we’re here for — no shame in learning something new!)
Widely known as the primary male sex hormone (or androgen), testosterone determines your male physical features like hair growth and sperm production, maintains your sex drive and helps with various bodily functions. In males, most of the testosterone in the body is produced by the testicles.
But did you know your testosterone has levels — and that certain testosterone levels in men could indicate underlying health conditions? If your testosterone is below a certain range, for instance, you may suffer from low testosterone levels (aka “low T”).
So what are normal testosterone levels in men? What causes male testosterone levels to change? How do you check your testosterone levels?
Keep reading to learn more about how to check testosterone levels as well as what the definition of normal testosterone levels in males is.
First things first: Is there such a thing as normal male testosterone levels? The short (but mildly frustrating) answer is sort of — it’s more like a normal range.
Average testosterone levels for adult males range between 300 to 1,000 ng/dL (that’s nanograms per deciliter of blood).
Next question: Are there healthy testosterone levels by age?
It’s completely normal for testosterone levels to fluctuate throughout your life. Factors such as aging, lifestyle, health problems and certain medications might cause testosterone production to increase or decrease during certain periods.
Testosterone levels in men can even change from hour to hour — they’re typically highest in the morning and lowest at night.
Low T comes with aging — testosterone levels naturally decrease by 1 percent each year after age 30. Testosterone levels have also been found to decrease by 100 ng/dL every ten years.
Of course, “normal” is often an elastic term. Even the average level of testosterone in men varies greatly and has a wide range.
While normal testosterone levels vary, it’s suggested that older males should have average testosterone levels between 500 and 800 ng/dL. Meanwhile, young adults should aim for 600 to 900 ng/dL.
But even though normal testosterone levels in men can fluctuate throughout the day and steadily decrease as they get older, lower-than-average testosterone levels can signal a health issue.
Low testosterone levels are often referred to as low testosterone (low T), testosterone deficiency or male hypogonadism. Total testosterone levels below 300 nanograms per deciliter are generally recognized as low testosterone.
Symptoms of low testosterone can vary among men. The side effects might not even show up in some men, but those with low levels of serum testosterone may experience:
Reduced sex drive
Difficulty sleeping, including insomnia
Erection problems, including erectile dysfunction (ED)
Reduced strength and muscle mass
Reduced bone density
Increased body fat or obesity
Depression and difficulty concentrating
Infertility issues, such as lower sperm count
Low levels of testosterone can cause erectile dysfunction. However, the connection between testosterone and ED is a little more complicated, as it’s not the most common cause.
There may also be a link between low testosterone and anxiety. How so? Cortisol levels increase when you’re stressed, which, in turn, reduces testosterone, causing you to feel more anxious and creating a vicious cycle.
But what causes lower-than-normal testosterone levels in the first place?
Numerous factors may contribute to lower-than-normal testosterone levels. Some may be in your control (like diet and exercise), and others are out of your control (such as aging).
Factors that may cause low testosterone include:
Obesity or significant weight gain
Low thyroid function (hypothyroidism)
Abuse of illicit drugs and/or alcohol
Congenital defects that affect the reproductive system
Certain medications, such as chemotherapy drugs
Some surgical procedures
Injury to the testicles or diseases such as testicular cancer
Abuse of performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids
Many diseases and disorders, including hemochromatosis, uncontrolled diabetes, kidney failure and obstructive sleep apnea
The good news is that you and your healthcare provider are likely able to figure out the cause of your low testosterone. Even more good news? Low testosterone is usually treatable.
Below is more information about how to check your testosterone levels and treatment options if your levels are low.
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As mentioned, symptoms of low testosterone are both physical and non-physical. With this in mind, the best way to start the process is by discussing it with your healthcare provider.
Checking your average testosterone level is relatively simple using a blood test known as a testosterone test (try saying that five times fast).
A healthcare professional will take a blood sample to check your testosterone level. Other labs may also be checked, including sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), to help your provider determine the amount of available testosterone in your body.
For the most accurate results, you’ll need to take two tests sometime in the morning when testosterone levels are the highest.
You can arrange for a testosterone level test through your healthcare provider or by contacting a lab testing center in your area.
Once you have the cause of your low testosterone figured out, you can discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider. We’ll outline a few potential remedies below.
One common option is testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which involves taking prescription testosterone in the form of a patch, gel or injection to supplement the natural testosterone produced by your body.
TRT works quickly and can provide relief from many of the symptoms of low testosterone. It can be a safe and effective option for some men. But, as with most medical treatments, there are significant pros and cons associated with TRT.
Men with mild erectile dysfunction who are unresponsive to ED medication may also see benefits from testosterone replacement therapy, as the treatment has been found to improve erectile function.
Or if you’re interested in how to increase testosterone naturally, two tips to try are exercising more and improving your sleep habits.
Research has found that being physically active is linked to higher levels of testosterone and other essential hormones. (Although too much exercise could lead to too much cortisol, which reduces testosterone — a fun catch-22).
Exercise offers several other benefits, from assisting with weight loss (an crucial factor for your hormonal health) to strengthening your bones and muscles, improving your mood and more.
Getting more sleep could also boost your levels, as testosterone production happens at night and decreases throughout the day.
A small study published in 2011 found that young men who only got five hours of sleep per night had daytime testosterone levels 10 to 15 percent below their normal levels. A potential 15 percent reduction just by not getting the right amount of sleep every night is worth trying to avoid.
There’s no specific research on the optimal amount of shut-eye for testosterone. But you can use the CDC’s recommendation of seven or more hours each night as a baseline for healthy sleep.
Certain foods that boost testosterone, such as garlic, oysters, eggs, onions and leafy greens, may also help. But while a balanced diet might not be enough to treat very low testosterone levels on its own, prioritizing the right foods could positively affect your body’s ability to maintain healthy testosterone production.
You can also check out these testosterone boosters for more information on how to improve your testosterone levels and get them back to normal.
Testosterone is a word that gets thrown around a lot. Still, you might not know exactly what the purpose of this male hormone is or what constitutes normal testosterone levels in men (or even that it’s a hormone).
Here’s what to keep in mind:
Testosterone is a critical male sex hormone necessary for various functions. Normal testosterone levels for men range between 300 to 1000 ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter of blood).
Not only do testosterone levels change throughout the day (being highest in the morning and lowest at night), but they steadily decrease as you get older, usually by 1 percent each year after age 30.
Signs of low testosterone levels can vary but typically include low sex drive, decreased muscle mass, weight gain, trouble sleeping, depression and erectile dysfunction.
You can ask your healthcare provider about a testosterone blood test to check your levels. If it turns out you have low T, they may recommend different treatment options like testosterone replacement therapy, more exercise, better sleep or a healthier diet.
Erectile dysfunction can be a symptom of low testosterone, though ED can have many other causes.