You already know that testosterone defines your ability to gain muscle, lose fat, and express your sexuality.
But did you know that testosterone is also a major driving force in your mental health?
Or that it determines your appetite for risk and attitude in how you show up against competition?
...and that's just the beginning.
In this article, you'll discover all the mental, physical, and emotional signs of high testosterone in men.
See which ones affect you and which ones don't.
In one study, 37 men were randomized to receive either a weekly dose of testosterone or placebo.
After 4-weeks, the men receiving testosterone scored significantly better on tests of verbal fluency (3).
Men with optimal T:
Men with sub-optimal T:
How does testosterone improve memory and cognition?
Preclinical observations tell us that testosterone exerts neuroprotective benefits (4).
This is why brain fog, memory loss, and difficulty concentrating are common symptoms of low T.
To ensure that you brain stays in tip-top shape as you age, start developing the habits right now that will allow your body to produce optimal levels of T for years to come.
After analyzing 16 human studies spanning over 944 subjects, Amanatkar and colleagues came to the conclusion that:
Testosterone exerts a significant positive impact on mood (10).
On the flip-side:
Your mood is significantly impacted by your level of testosterone. If you feel like you've lost your zest for life lately, sub-optimal T is likely a contributing cause.
When primed with low positions of power, men with high levels of testosterone are more likely to engage in risk associated with increasing their power and status (16).
In one study, researchers brought in 154 participants (78 men, 76 women) and had them complete a gambling task. Across the board, both the men and women with higher levels of testosterone were more willing to incur a greater amount of risk compared to their lower testosterone counterparts (17).
MBA students with high levels of testosterone are more likely to choose riskier careers in finance (18).
And if that wasn’t enough, a financial trader’s morning level of testosterone accurately predicted his day’s profitability (19). High risk equals high reward and the traders willing to incur the most risk also set themselves up with the highest chance of winning big.
The evidence is pretty clear on this:
Having high testosterone makes you more likely to engage in risk.
Taking risks, of course, always comes with a potential downside - that’s what makes it a risk - but taking risks is what’s allowed men to overcome nature, build nations, and land on the moon.
No feat of greatness was ever achieved without some element of risk being involved.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balance, you must keep moving forward."
To move forward with your health, you have to risk looking stupid in the gym for the first couple of months.
To move forward with your business, you have to risk not having it work out.
To move forward with a relationship, you have to risk rejection.
Men with high levels of T take more risks. Can you think of a man you look up to who didn't risk something to achieve greatness? I didn't think so.
When it comes to facial and body hair, we need to talk about a hormone called DHT.
DHT, aka dihydrotestosterone, is a derivative of testosterone. Anywhere in the body where the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme is present, testosterone gets converted into DHT.
About 10% of your daily testosterone gets converted into DHT, which is why high T usually equals high DHT as well.
Testosterone stimulates the hair follicles on your face while DHT is what actually triggers the hair growth (20).
This explains why woman to male transgenders can grow facial hair - they take testosterone injections to the point where their T-levels rise to that of a man’s. The hair follicles on their face get stimulated and DHT is able to attach to these follicles and trigger hair growth.
Does this mean that increasing testosterone is the key to growing a fuller and thicker beard?
What it comes down to is how sensitive your hair follicles are to the influence of T and DHT.
And the sensitivity of your hair follicles is something that's controlled by your genes.
A man can have high testosterone, but if his hair follicle sensitivity is low, it will be near impossible for him to grow a full beard.
A man can have low levels of T, but if his hair follicle sensitivity is high, then he’ll have no problem growing a beard.
Now let’s say that we have two identical twins. Both have the same genetics for beard growth, and this is when the twin with higher testosterone will have a thicker and fuller beard.
Facial and body hair growth is triggered when testosterone and DHT attach to hair follicles. But the amount of hair growth is dependent on how sensitive your hair follicles are to the influence of androgens.
I’m sure you’ve heard the claim that balding men have high testosterone. Looking at the alpha-male Hollywood stars pictured above, this claim seems reasonable.
The truth, however, is not so simple.
Again, we have to talk about DHT because balding men typically have elevated levels of it in their scalps (21).
This is why finasteride, a drug that reduces the conversion of testosterone to DHT, is a popular prescription for male pattern baldness.
But like is the case with facial hair, what it comes down to is how sensitive your hair follicles are to the influence of DHT (22).
If you’re genetically prone to going bald, then higher DHT levels can play a part in accelerating your hair loss.
If the hair follicles on your head are insensitive to DHT, i.e. you are not genetically prone to going bald, then you’re likely to sport a full head of hair even with high T and DHT.
How can it be that DHT causes an increase of facial and body hair but decreases head hair?
This is a paradox about which the research is still currently unclear.
But the bottom line is this:
The influence that testosterone and DHT have on your hair - be it on your body, facial, or head - is dependent on your genetics more than anything else. Fluctuating levels of T and DHT only play a part in the expression of that gene.
If you're genetically prone to going bald, then elevated levels of testosterone can contribute to accelerating your hair loss.
I remember a time from my prepubescent days:
I was ordering pizza for home delivery and the operator kept referring to me as ‘ma’am’.
I then tried to talk in a deeper voice to clarify that I was, in fact, not a ‘ma’am’.
I don’t think he got the point, but either way:
Your larynx, aka your sound box, is the organ that houses your vocal chords and determines the pitch and volume of your voice.
During puberty, your testosterone levels were surging and this is what caused the enlarging and thickening of the cartilages in your larynx.
But what about after puberty, can increasing testosterone still make your voice deeper?
I believe so.
Woman to male transgenders taking exogenous testosterone experience significantly deeper voices after 6-9 months of treatment (25).
In a single case study on a professional male singer, testosterone treatment significantly altered his vocal register and voice quality (26).
Focus on increasing your testosterone levels and it can play a part in thickening your vocal chords and making your voice deeper.
Also know that there are certain steps you can take to change your voice and reach your natural depth.
Here's a video that will show you how to do so:
Testosterone is what enlarged and thickened your vocal chords during puberty. Even after puberty, increasing your testosterone can affect your voice.
Chiseled cheeks and a square jawline are features that define the quintessential masculine face.
In one study, researchers constructed digital composites from the faces of men with high and low testosterone. These images were then presented to a bunch participants who were assigned the forced task to judge the masculinity of the faces. Across the board, the composites from high testosterone men were judged to be more masculine (28).
Can higher testosterone actually change your facial structure?
There are 43 muscles in your face and increasing your testosterone can play a part in tightening up these muscles. Plus, testosterone’s fat burning effects (more in #9) can further chisel out your features.
Defined cheekbones and a strong jawline are two facial features associated with high testosterone levels. Increasing your testosterone can play a part in tightening up your face and increasing the appearance of a chiseled jawline.
Extend your right hand in front of you and compare the length of your index finger to the length of your ring finger.
Scientists have come to call this the Digit Ratio or the 2D:4D ratio - 2D (second digit) being the length of your index finger and 4D (fourth digit) being the length of your ring finger.
A low 2D:4D ratio implies high androgen sensitivity (31), i.e. your body is more responsive to the influence of T.
To date, there are a multitude of studies that have observed the 2D:4D ratio:
The studies on the Digit Ratio are conclusive in that it is a solid indicator of testosterone exposure in the womb.
All of the studies also point to the fact that a lower 2D:4D ratio is associated with all the benefits you would associate with having higher testosterone.
The comparison of your ring finger to your index finger is a signal to how much testosterone you got in the womb. The ratio of these two fingers correlate with your testosterone level even into adulthood.
The relationship between testosterone and fat-loss is a two-way street:
Not only does testosterone speed up fat-loss, but being lean allows your body to synthesize more testosterone.
Testosterone speeds up fat-loss by:
Excess body fat produces an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone into estrogen.
Being lean reduces the activity of aromatase and allows more testosterone to remain unconverted.
Being lean allows your body to produce more testosterone, and more testosterone allows you to burn even more fat - aka a positive feedback loop.
Like is the case with fat-loss, the relationship between testosterone and muscle growth is also a positive feedback loop:
The higher your testosterone, the more muscle you'll be able to build, and the more muscle mass you have on your body, the higher your T-levels.
In one study, subjects given testosterone injections for 20-weeks gained a significant amount of strength, power, and lean mass...
...without even exercising (43).
Testosterone speeds up muscle growth by increasing muscle protein synthesis (44).
In other words:
Testosterone increases protein uptake in muscle tissue, allowing your muscles to speed up recovery and grow back bigger and stronger...faster.
As a man, you have the majority of your androgen receptors spread through your upper-body (45).
The androgen receptors in your traps, shoulders, and upper-chest are most responsive to the influence of testosterone.
Does this mean that naturally increasing your testosterone will have you develop huge traps and 3D delts?
Exaggerated trap and shoulder development are prominent signs of anabolic steroid use - lending credence to the sensitivity of these areas to the influence of testosterone.
Don't let supplement companies and online fitness gurus fool you into thinking that you can naturally achieve the type of muscular development pictured above
That being said:
Getting stronger on exercises such as the shoulder press, incline press, shrugs, and pull-ups will activate the androgen receptors in your upper body and enhance the appearance of a broader more masculine physique.
The muscle fibers in your shoulders, traps, and upper chest are very sensitive to the influence of testosterone.
On the flip-side:
Men with low levels of T can significantly improve their sexual function by increasing their testosterone (50).
But it’s important to note that pushing your testosterone levels beyond the optimal range (+600ng/dL) will not push your libido through the roof.
Past a particular point, higher T does not lead to higher libido (51).
Maintaining testosterone levels in the optimal range will ensure that your sex drive remains active and healthy - even into older age.
Men with high levels of testosterone tend to engage in behavior intended to dominate and enhance one’s status over another (52).
Sometimes this behavior can be expressed aggressively.
For example, prisoners who frequently exhibit aggressive behavior have higher levels of T compared to prisoners who don’t (53).
But a study on adolescent boys reveals interesting results:
The boys perceived as socially dominant by their peers had higher testosterone compared to the boys who were perceived as less socially dominant. But the boys with a history of physical aggression actually had lower levels of T compared to the boys who had no history of physical aggression (54).
Researchers concluded that testosterone levels are positively correlated with social success rather than with physical aggression.
Testosterone is what drives dominant behavior, but what's important is that you address the following questions:
How do you see yourself in the world?
Am you a leader or a follower?
Do you act with purpose or are you just going with the motions?
These are important questions to consider because, remember, that the signs of high testosterone are all rooted in a positive feedback loop:
Testosterone affects behavior and behavior affects testosterone.
In primate social hierarchies, when a lesser male rises in status, his testosterone levels rise as well (55). He’s the exact same animal, but his role has changed and his hormones have risen as a result.
Researchers have that the same thing occurs in humans:
When a man achieves a rise in status through his own efforts...then he is likely to have a rise in testosterone (56).
Where am I going with this?
I’m saying that if you start taking the steps to change the stuff that you're not happy with in your life, i.e. elevate your status, then higher testosterone levels will follow.
Testosterone drives the expression of dominant behavior, and a rise in status can elevate T-levels as well.
When brought into a rigged one-on-one competition, the men who experienced a spike in testosterone after a loss were more likely to choose to compete against the same opponent compared to the men who experienced a dip in T - who were less likely to choose to compete again (57).
Similar results were found in a study of university tennis players during a competitive season (58):
Right off the bat, a small mouse is unable to overcome a larger mouse in an aggressive encounter.
But, if the smaller mouse has previously been allowed to win a rigged competition against a similarly sized but drugged mouse, then his T-levels rise and his probability of winning against a larger opponent is higher - despite having no improvement in fighting ability.
The ‘winner-effect’ occurs in humans as well (60).
Overcoming obstacles, crossing barriers, and setting personal records causes a spike in testosterone which makes you more focused and aggressive towards overcoming the next challenge.
Testosterone is what fuels your competitive drive and the winner-effect is a feedback loop where each successful encounter makes you more likely to win the next encounter.
This feedback loop, though, also has a potential drawback.
If taken too far, it can cause an exaggerated belief in your abilities and impair your decision making.
This is why speculations abound as to testosterone's role in financial market crashes.
As men, it is in our nature to be competitive and testosterone is a major driver of this trait.
A masculine man is dominant, assertive, and confident - all signs of high testosterone.
But it's not only masculinity that testosterone plays a part in.
Your mental, physical, and emotional health are all factors that depend on the amount of testosterone that's running through your veins.
Taking the steps to naturally optimize your testosterone levels is a proven way to help you build more muscle, lose more fat, and live a longer and more virile life.
There is no secret.
There is no magic supplement.
There is no magic herb or formula.
Do you experience any of the high testosterone symptoms listed above?
How will increasing your testosterone levels improve the quality of your life?
Let me know in the comments below.
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