Testosterone has a reputation for being responsible for many things such as sex, violence, sports performance and more. While testosterone is a crucial hormone for both men and women, and is often known as the sex hormone, and low testosterone still being a bit of a taboo, experts are starting to question whether it’s as clear cut as originally thought.
Myth 1: Higher testosterone = more sexual activity
It is true that a certain level of T is necessary for sexual functioning. However, above this level, it’s not a case of the more testosterone the better the sexual functioning. In fact, some experts are now saying that it’s the other way around: that an increase in sexual activity increases T levels.
There have been several studies conducted that examine the testosterone and sexual activity relationship. Scientists concluded that increased physical activity increases testosterone levels. They also noted that men who are sexually active may have other healthy habits such as frequent exercising and better eating. Their advice is to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to have a better quality sex life.
Myth 2: Testosterone is responsible for a man’s ego, aggression and violence
It makes for a great story, but is it true? Many are quick to assert that high levels of T cause aggression and violence in men. There are even studies that have concluded that aggressive individuals have higher testosterone levels.
Yet there are other placebo-controlled trials which have been conducted showing that very high doses of T did not lead to an increase in aggression or anger. The classic studies linking T to aggression are flawed due to poor statistical practice and imprecise measures.
Additionally, many of these studies have been carried out on a very small number of people.
Many commentators, after the financial crisis in 2008, were quick to blame the young, male traders who supposedly took irrational risks, blaming their testosterone. However, studies attempting to link T to financial recklessness are weak at best. A study by Cambridge University in 2008 set out to prove that higher T in the morning would mean riskier bets, which in turn would raise testosterone again. The study showed that those who had high T in the morning had higher earnings that day. But it didn’t show an associated between the high earnings and T levels in the afternoon – something that would be required in order to prove the spiral hypothesis. In which case, the findings were likely due to chance, especially considering the number of variables to consider.
Myth 3: The more T, the better the athlete
Research has been quick to assert that males have a performance advantage over females due largely to testosterone. T does affect muscle size and oxygen intake, but this doesn’t mean better sports performance. Also, there isn’t a study that has predicted the outcome of strength or speed by knowing testosterone levels.
Experts are not convinced that supplementing with hormones can improve performance. It does not provide an instant result. Rather, it’s something that builds up over time to fortify muscles. We do not know if supplementing has a short-term effect, but it does have a long-term effect. Steroids have been popular for many years now, especially among bodybuilders. But stronger doesn’t necessarily lead to better performance. And for many athletes, larger muscles could be detrimental.