Some people assume that males lack of energy because of low testosterone. I would think that lack of energy could be due to esteem levels, emotional abuse, low self-worth, and even genetics to some point.

What is the relative importance of testosterone versus environmental, genetic, and emotional problems in causing lack of energy?

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site wand! I edited your question a little bit because "self help" type questions are not permitted here. I feel your question could benefit from additional edits but do not have time to improve it further at the moment. $\endgroup$
    – Josh
    Aug 20, 2013 at 20:26

1 Answer 1


This question hits home for me quite a bit. But, I'd have to say about half or more of the population has energy problems otherwise people wouldn't be chugging coffee.

I'll simply cite my own anecdotal experience with this as I've tried so, so many things to increase my energy levels - one of them being testosterone.

I tested relatively low (not that low though - I believe 300-500 mg/dl if that's the measurement) for testosterone from a blood test which I had done out of curiosity. So I went to an open minded (later realized VERY open minded) endocrinologist in the area and after some discussion he prescribed me testosterone propionate, which hits you in about 3-4 days time. It was a very strong dose and worked very quickly. It's pretty much the quickest way to artificially get testosterone into your body via intramuscular injection - I believe. I guess we came to the agreement that we may as well see if it helps or not as quick as possible - won't hurt anything....

So I took it. For about 4 weeks. I actually didn't feel any different energy wise, "masculine" wise, feel any angrier, feel any increase in libido, or actually feel anything from it whatsoever. The only things that happened were:

1) I gained a ton of water weight - which went away when I stopped. It was about 30 pounds worth. Probably a mixture of muscle and water actually.
2) I had a puffy face for a few months.
3) My bench went up by about 30 pounds in 2 weeks which was pretty cool. This obviously went away afterwards though. (I wasn't really trying that hard to get ripped...just do an experiment).
4) That's about it.

Now, you may question if you had the real stuff just as I did. Well, my bench obviously went up and I was gaining water weight....but here's the stranger part:

As my finances were horrible at that time I couldn't see the endocrinologist again - and really he had given me the most powerful testosterone treatment possible. I'm not sure how he got away with it. I managed to snag one of those at home saliva tests that you freeze and Fedex next day to a lab though. Just cause I wanted to see what my results would be.

The lab must have made a mistake or something - but the lab literally came back with a report that my testosterone levels were ~"50,000 mg/dl." This would be about a 100 fold increase in my testosterone levels. The funniest part was at the bottom of the report it just had a generic line saying to "seek the advice of an endocrinologist." I think that's like the lethal dose of testosterone, lol.

Regardless, you'd have to admit I did have alot of testosterone in my body, even if it wasn't that much. After that though, if I was presumably "HE MAN" and I didn't have more energy or feel much different I didn't see a point.

I didn't really follow up with it much after that. Nor did I have the money to see that endocrinologist again.

Also there's ALOT more factors than the ones you listed like motivation, nutrition, length of sleep, depth of sleep, dopamine as well as several other chemicals in your brain, etc...

In this example though, keep in mind the n=1, and someone else may respond completely differently.

I think someone wanted studies. I found some interesting ones....

Beyond masculinity: Testosterone, gender/sex, and human social behavior in a comparative context. van Anders SM. Source Departments of Psychology & Women's Studies, Programs in Neuroscience, Reproductive Sciences, and Science, Technology, & Society, University of Michigan, USA. Electronic address: [email protected]. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2013 Aug;34(3):198-210. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2013.07.001. Epub 2013 Jul 16.

Largely based on pre-theory that ties high testosterone (T) to masculinity, and low T to femininity, high T is mainly studied in relation to aggression, mating, sexuality, and challenge, and low T with parenting. Evidence, however, fails to support this, and the social variability in T is better accounted for by a competition-nurturance trade-off as per the Steroid/Peptide Theory of Social Bonds (van Anders et al., 2011). Four key domains are discussed: adult-infant interactions, sexual desire, sexual behavior, and partnering. Empirical engagements with gender/sex are shown to lead to important insights over assumptions about masculinity-femininity. Humans are discussed within a comparative framework that attends to cross-species principles informed by human insights alongside human-specific particularities like social constructions, which are critical to evolutionary understandings of the social role of T. This paper thus integrates seemingly orthogonal perspectives to allow for transformative approaches to an empirically-supported social phenomenology of T.

Now in this one they are trying to make clear that the levels of testosterone are not the REAL dependent variable, but actually the interaction of it with something they call "competition-nurturance trade-off as per the Steroid/Peptide Theory of Social Bonds". T and this variable could be correlated. I'm not sure yet...so lets go find out what this theory is.

I did find many other studies that just simply relate aggression (and yes I know your question is more about energy), but the problem with them is they tend to admit they're able to flip the x's and the y's. They don't know which influences the other. Does an angry type of person usually take steroids more often? There's alot of questions like those. I can discuss them if you guys want me to, but this is way cooler:

.....and BOOOOOOM.....if you ever wanted to know anything about Testosterone I'd ask van Anders here.

The Steroid/Peptide Theory of Social Bonds: integrating testosterone and peptide responses for classifying social behavioral contexts. van Anders SM, Goldey KL, Kuo PX. Source Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA. [email protected]

Hormones, and hormone responses to social contexts, are the proximate mechanisms of evolutionary pathways to pair bonds and other social bonds. Testosterone (T) is implicated in tradeoffs relevant to pair bonding, and oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) are positively tied to social bonding in a variety of species. Here, we present the Steroid/Peptide Theory of Social Bonds (S/P Theory), which integrates T and peptides to provide a model, set of predictions, and classification system for social behavioral contexts related to social bonds. The S/P Theory also resolves several paradoxes apparent in the literature on social bonds and hormones: the Offspring Defense Paradox, Aggression Paradox, and Intimacy Paradox. In the S/P Theory, we partition aggression into antagonistic and protective aggression, which both increase T but exert distinct effects on AVP and thus social bonds. Similarly, we partition intimacy into sexual and nurturant intimacy, both of which increase OT and facilitate social bonds, but exert distinct effects on T. We describe the utility of the S/P Theory for classifying 'tricky' behavioral contexts on the basis of their hormonal responses using partner cuddling, a behavior which is assumed to be nurturant but increases T, as a test case of the S/P Theory. The S/P Theory provides a comparative basis for conceptualizing and testing evolved hormonal pathways to pair bonds with attention to species, context, and gender/sex specificities and convergences.

So it looks like this guy may have even made a formula or algorithm for determining the social outcome - he also mentions several paradoxes that occur with T - ones you'd see in the literature. He also granularly separates things - for instance we he "partitions antagonistic and protective aggression" and also notes the hormonal responses to each situation. Unlike many others, I enjoy how he factors in the other obvious dependent variables instead of just drawing a line that represents, linearly, testosterone = angry. Or, y(whatever it may be) = testosterone*x

If you go along with this theory then you'd realize that it's not just the testosterone that would make someone angry or even irritable (in fact it may only be an indirect cause) - it's the relationship between testosterone and other things that cause that or someone to feel a certain way.

Now I know you are more interested in energy, and that could be applied here, but it also fits right into your question because it essentially says that it is the relationship between those variables that may account for it.

Sometimes in statistics your "independent" variables don't mean much of anything (if say you're trying to find the best model for a regression) until you realize that the relationship between them (if you can figure it out) has a huge affect on the Y.

Let me get straight to your question:

What is the relative importance of testosterone versus environmental, genetic, and emotional problems in causing lack of energy?

-So I obviously have an anecdotal opinion in that it didn't do much for me.

-But, as I stated earlier in the post, I think you are missing a ton of other variables like nutrition, workout habits, relationships, willpower (interesting question - do you choose your own willpower?), how much you like your job, etc. - unless you are lumping those together in environmental, which I feel would cause one's view of their influence to be quite skewed.

-Even though T obviously plays a role in advanced physiological processes in your body just like van Anders talks about, I believe and the research seems to suggest (as well as just general fact) it's importance increases as the amount you have below the mean for your age/gender/genetics decreases. Here's a case study for instance: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11675582

In essence, probably what happened to me was I didn't actually have low T and that's why I didn't feel much different. Even bodybuilders who take that stuff say it's only 10% of the process. I'd imagine the curve to look generally logarithmic in as far as I suppose it making you feel different - and everyone's initial y intercept (if we say there is one) is going to be at a different place. If someone genuinely thinks they're really low, they might be. If so, I recommend asking one's doctor about a "Taal Test." It could do nothing for that person or they could feel alot different - see the link I provided.

It's the same thing with almost any disorder or disease though...the doctors usually just make their best guess and try out a bunch of stuff on you until something sticks. Except, unfortunately, they don't do much research first and are either

a) persuaded by the patient that is persuaded by big pharma
b) persuaded directly by big pharma
c) won't listen to you until you do crazy stuff like bring in research papers like I do sometimes.
d) have huge egos
e) even then, when do they have time to do any real updated research?

Finding a good doctor, in my opinion, is about learning how to heal yourself first.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would have said the exact same thing. Although if you go and actually do research on the bodybuilding boards, you'll find my anecdote to generally resonate. I feel all the side affects have just been pumped up due to purposeful marketing or stories on the news. $\endgroup$
    – user3433
    Aug 21, 2013 at 5:11
  • $\begingroup$ Lucky you! I used this same handle over at mindandmuscle.net where we drew out how to reverse/prevent tolerance to amphetamines. This was like 3 years ago. My buddy there, Ex Dubio, started posting over at stack exchange I saw. Been meaning to track him down. I'll grab you a link to the crazy thread. $\endgroup$
    – user3433
    Aug 21, 2013 at 5:17
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    $\begingroup$ Great answer. My emphasis on the question would be motivation. People lack energy because they don't care for the drudgery that they have to face each day. Very simple actually. $\endgroup$
    – user3116
    Aug 21, 2013 at 7:34
  • $\begingroup$ No, I understand how that feels. Finding that motivation isn't easy. $\endgroup$
    – user3433
    Aug 21, 2013 at 7:42
  • $\begingroup$ I'd say before trying testosterone therapy someone should just try buying some L-tyrosine and taking that in the morning along some NADH which is usually sold in blister packets at vitamin shoppe (expensive though). Also, see my post here cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/931/… $\endgroup$
    – user3433
    Aug 21, 2013 at 7:44

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