The male hormone cycle - Can low testosterone kill men's productivity?

It's widely known that those assigned female at birth (AFAB) are dealt a crappy hand with month-long hormonal cycles.

But, most don't know that those assigned male at birth (AMAB) experience a hormonal cycle every 24-hours with a fluctuation in testosterone. Also jokingly referred to as 'manstruation' or 'manopause.'

Sally, from Women With Sparkle, has an excellent analogy for this, "Think of AMAB as the sun, cycling through the same rhythm every 24-hours and think of those with a menstrual cycle as the moon, cycling through a 28-day cycle."

Naturally, when people think of testosterone, they consider sex, "macho-men" or arrogance.

Testosterone gets a bad wrap, but, what people don't consider is testosterone is the foundation of your existence. It helps build muscle, affects sex drive, bone strength, your heart and memory. It plays a vital role in overall physical and mental processes like your productivity. So, it's worth paying attention to your T-levels.

Because it is November, and in Australia 'Movember', a month to raise awareness and funds for men's health, we're diving into the specifics of the male hormonal cycle to help you understand the times of day you can enhance your work output.

movemeber grow a mo save a bro campaign
Credit: Image by Harvard Medical School

The male 24-hour hormone cycle

On average, AMAB have ten times as much testosterone than AFAB, significantly influencing their hormonal cycle.

AMAB bodies also produce oestrogen and progesterone, like AFAB, but in much lower quantities.

Testosterone peaks in the morning and mellows out in the afternoon and declines in the evening.

While testosterone fluctuates in a daily pattern, it's also heavily influenced by situational factors. Anything from cheering on your favourite basketball team to seeing someone you're attracted to can cause testosterone to spike.

Similarly, alcohol and caffeine can cause spikes too. So, suppose you're someone who regularly enjoys a nightcap; who doesn't? Over time, you may not exhibit the same signs of a 'regular' cycle as your sober mates. You can experience symptoms of low testosterone like, regularly waking up feeling sluggish.

Testosterone levels range from about 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter of blood. This number starts to decline from age 30 at about 1% a year on average.

But, even in your 20's testosterone decline can be influenced by things like poor diet, lack of sleep, unhealthy BMI, or common illnesses like the seasonal flu.

Isn't attempting to understand our bodies much like trying to make sense of the 2020 US election? Ugh!

Nonetheless, let's start diving into the three phases of the cycle...

The best time for solo work

8:00 am - Noon: Testosterone peaks

What is happening:

  • Testosterone peaks around 8:00 AM after you've shaken off post-sleep-grogginess.
  • You'll feel your most energetic, impulsive, confident and even aggressive or temperamental. During this testosterone peak, stubbing your toe or losing your car keys could set you off.
  • Your sex drive is high and corresponds with your testosterone levels so, you're likely to feel up for morning sex. However, it's dependent on factors like cortisol (the stress hormone), which can significantly impact testosterone production. So, if you're feeling anxious about a stressful day ahead, you could deplete your sex drive.

Work performance during the morning

Testosterone surges overnight and you wake up feeling vibrant with a get-up-and-go attitude.

According to Professor Malcolm Carruthers, this morning surge has an evolutionary basis. "Men were designed to recharge overnight, then get up and hunt to provide for their families, so this surge was necessary for survival."

Testosterone is known to reduce anxiety, work as an anti-depressant and even improve memory. So, this morning surge can supply you with enhanced productivity and the ability to make bold work decisions.

But, this can also make you more argumentative. So, suppose you're producing a high volume of testosterone and have a short temper. In that case, you might get angry and aggressive towards a partner, colleague or client. Think of hormones like mind-altering drugs; they have receptors on the brain, which can directly impact your mood.

In the case of feeling argumentative yet productive during the morning, aim to schedule some solo-work tasks. Like, planning out your tasks for the day or, if you're apart of a group project, work solely on the tasks that don't require input from others just yet.

Eat foods high in omega-3

Testosterone plays a pivotal role in building muscle. It's produced in the body by cholesterol, which is derived from fat. With healthy testosterone levels, this can improve your body's ability to repair muscle tissue broken down during exercise, strengthening your ability to increase and support muscle mass.

As levels decline, a hormone called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) increases. Raised LPL levels result in more body fat storage, with less used for energy. So, it's a double-edged sword, lower testosterone levels mean more fat storage, resulting in lower levels of testosterone.

A study published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism said, 5% of all men experience low testosterone.

The solution? It's located in your local supermarket. Breakfast and dinner have the biggest impact on your body's production of testosterone.

Since testosterone is synthesised from cholesterol, some good fat sources are nuts and eggs. Nuts are high in testosterone-elevating omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs are a fantastic breakfast option too for a good source of protein, vitamin D, cholesterol, and omega-3s; all of which aid in the production of testosterone.

Get a workout under your belt

Exercise in the morning to take advantage of testosterone peaking early in the day.

What follows a morning workout? For most, it's work. The advantage of morning exercise is, your body is in a state of arousal. You'll feel more alert in the afternoon because exercise increases your focus on the next activity.

Plus, you'll feel great with a workout under your belt in the morning, especially if you're prone to blowing them off at night.

four men sitting on top of a mountain laughing
Credit: Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

The best time for teamwork

Noon - 6:00 pm: Testosterone mellows

What is happening:

  • Testosterone levels decrease as the day progresses, mellowing in your mood.
  • Yet, enough testosterone remains to keep you upbeat and driven.
  • You are more focused and pleasant to work with.

Work performance during the afternoon

After a morning of feeling driven by the surge of testosterone, you can expect this surge to decrease naturally, but, you're not running on empty just yet. That morning short-fuse lessens as you continue to experience productivity, drive and are more focused to collaborate on projects with colleagues or have a discussion with your clients.

Vitamins for sexual health

Despite the male genitalia being known as temperamental, it doesn't ask for much other than support, protection and a healthy diet.

The foods you eat are crucial for sexual health. Research indicates that particular vitamins have demonstrated positive effects on testosterone's performance.

Zinc promotes healthy sperm count and can raise testosterone levels by stopping estrogen from working. Some foods known to improve zinc levels include legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans, dairy foods like cheese and milk, whole grains and vegetables.

Vitamin D is another great one. While you can source this from the sun, we also live in a world where humans are so commonly confined to the indoors. So, look for alternative sources in your foods. High quantities of vitamin D are present in oily fish like salmon, and certain types of mushrooms.

If you consider all of these food options, there's more than enough ingredients for a good, high volume and wholesome meal for lunch.

Lunch break weight's session

Resistance training like weightlifting is an excellent workout for boosting testosterone, both short and long term. Perfect for an afternoon "pick-me-up" or, to blow off some steam.

Research shows that those who weight train three days a week for four weeks were linked to increases in testosterone levels right after a workout. Over time, they had overall higher levels than those who are sedentary.

Best time for hobbies and chill

6pm - Sleep: Testosterone lowers

What is happening:

  • As knock-off time rolls around, your testosterone begins to knock-off too.
  • Your energy starts to drop, and you'll start feeling a little more passive and agreeable towards others.
  • At this point, your libido hits its lowest point due to the low levels of testosterone.

Work performance and activities during the evening

Knock off time rolls around, and you feel satisfied with today's achievements.

Now, your testosterone begins to bottom out. These low levels leave you feeling passive and maybe even tired, especially if you haven't had the chance to recharge after work by hitting the gym or eating dinner.

At this point, your libido is also at its lowest but, for some, this low point might still be enough to muster up some love-making with your partner.

During the time of drowsiness is an excellent opportunity to rejuvenate your energy by playing an instrument, hitting the gym or relaxing! You deserve it.

Grass-fed, organic meat for dinner

Everyone loves a good, hearty meal at dinner. So, if you're a meat-eater, aim for grass-fed, organic meats to avoid chemical estrogens that exist in cheaper meats today.

Higher levels of estrogen have been known to increase the chances of blood clots, prostate cancer, and can decrease sex drive. High estrogen levels also correlate to low testosterone levels.

You can even ramp up the volume of your meal with broccoli, which is high in indole-3-carbinol; a food compound that can halve men's estrogen levels.

Strength building exercises

Not everybody has the time, let alone energy to exercise in the evenings. Giving the low percentage of testosterone circling through your body, after work is a great time to pay attention to how your body and mind are feeling.

That said, when consistent with exercise, studies show that strength can improve with increased muscle mass by up to 84% when training in the evening between 4:30 pm and 8:00 pm instead of the morning.

So, depending on your current fitness goals and how you feel once you knock off from work, an evening weight session could do wonders for muscle strength.

movember grow a mo save a bro campaign
Credit: Photo by Movember 2018 campaign

An everlasting impact on men's health

The male hormone cycle is pretty ideal for a standard workday.

Western society was constructed on this 24-hour cycle, particularly when it comes to the average 9-5 workweek.

All that energy to propel you in the morning, ready to attack your day. Followed by an afternoon of productivity and hyper-focus. Then, tiredness settles in just as you clock off from work to spend time pumping iron, on hobbies or with loved ones.

But, not everyone regularly experiences a productive day like this, it could be because of several factors, one being, low testosterone levels. Testosterone affects so many functions; a decrease can bring on significant physical and emotional changes.

Hormonal cycles affect everyone in some way. And with this in mind, maybe we can respond a little more graciously to others who are periodically grumpy, lethargic or sad. Aren’t we all like that some times?

That's why, this month, our article is dedicated to Movember.

An annual event during November to raise awareness for men's health issues like prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men's suicide.

By 2030, the Movember team aim to reduce the number of premature deaths in men by 25% and help them live happier, healthier, longer lives through their 1,250 men's health projects.

So, this month, no matter your gender, you can take part in several ways like growing out your moustache, run or walk 60 miles over the monthrally the troops and host your own mo-ment or, donate.

If you found this article interesting, you can check out a previous post on how AFAB can hack their menstrual cycles for improved health and productivity.