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Today's question is, Should the average male with no health conditions take supplemental testosterone? The answer is clearly no. 

Why is it, then, that everywhere I turn these days guys are telling me they are thinking about "getting on some 'test'"? 

First my dad emails me saying he's looking into some bioidentical testosterone. And my neighbor says he's having trouble losing the belly flab so he wants to get on some T. Another friend loves how taking testosterone lets him have sex with his woman all night, and ejaculate several times in as many hours. Something I haven't done with a girl since I was 17, and that's the night I lost my virginity. But this friend's woman is now pregnant with twins, so she'll be placing fewer demands on his manhood (presumably). My advice: ditch the script and save your mane. 

As a gym rat in college I had several friends who took steroids. A couple baseball players did it to bulk up in the preseason. Another guy fancied himself an amateur bodybuilder. I had a few roommates who took an oral version just to see how big and strong they could get one summer. I declined to take any. Instead I ate red meat and everybody swore I was on "the juice" myself. Which in a way I was, since beef is full of testosterone. But I never wanted to take "Dbol" out of fear over what it would do to my insides, and my complexion, and my hair. I was too vain to walk around pock-marked and prematurely bald, even with bulbous pecs and a 315-lb bench press. I made it to 295 lbs the natural way, I'm proud to say. 

Back then testosterone was a thing only the freaks at Gold's Gym did - and a handful of baseball players who started crushing pitches out of the park. Mr. Olympia doesn't drug test. It is assumed that all the competitors 'roid up because there is no way in hell they could get so big and strong otherwise. But ballplayers were persecuted for taking performance enhancing drugs in a sport in which they are banned because it provides an unfair advantage. Lance Armstrong was raked over the coals and publicly humiliated for blood doping, losing his fortune, his reputation and his numerous titles. Yet many of the guys who are against the use of performance enhancing drugs in athletics are the very ones tempted to use them in the game of life. More than ever men are turning to testosterone replacement therapy in the belief that the drug will combat aging and serve as a substitute for good old-fashioned attention and effort, be it in the gym or at the dinner table. Weren't you paying attention when Bonds got busted, boys? Don't you know cheaters never prosper?

On the surface, it is easy to understand why record numbers of males want the quick fix testosterone offers. Exogenous testosterone provides fast and effective relief for many of the issues that keep guys up at night, because they all have to do with virility: erections, sex drive, body fat and muscle tone. Yes, taking testosterone will increase the firmness and frequency of erections, it will make you extra horny, while decreasing body fat and increasing musculature. These all seem to be good things, but they are not without a price. There are many side effects to taking testosterone, which are even seen in men whose levels are chronically low. Things like heart attacks, strokes and blood clots are known to occur with greater frequency in a "test" taker. 

It's the same with women. There was a time in the not-too-distant past that HRT (hormone replacement therapy) was all the rage. If you were living in the late 20th century and you were premenopausal, your doctor would likely prescribe some estrogen to counteract some of the side effects of going through the change of life, things like hot flashes and irritability. This was standard procedure, until it came out that estrogen increases a woman's risk for certain cancers. You'd think the threat of cancer would be enough to deter guys from taking test, but men are notoriously brave (read: foolhardy). Reckless bravado, anyone? If this is not you, read on 'cause I ain't done.

Testosterone is converted to the metabolite 5-DHT. Dihydrotestosterone causes male pattern baldness and prostate enlargement, a condition that not infrequently progresses to cancer. Taking testosterone can reduce the ability of the testicles to make viable sperm, so it can adversely affect fertility. Of course too little testosterone can reduce fertility as well. Which is why the only men who should take testosterone are those whose levels are low. And these individuals are few. Yes, testosterone goes down as you age. It is nature's way of saying chill out on the sex, because sex leads to babies, and there are too many people around already. I'm kidding. Nature doesn't say this. But I do. Anyway why does a middle age guy want to artificially elevate levels on par with a teenager or twenty something? Remember how it felt to be a teen? How oversexed you were at all times? For nearly a decade sex was practically the only thing on my mind. It amazes me how I managed to graduate college. I for one am glad to have left that stage behind. 

If you have trouble getting aroused around your wife, you probably get a lot of flack. But tell her this is normal. Sex with the same partner is just not as exciting once the novelty wears off (see the Coolidge effect). It's okay to have less sex. Tell her that higher levels of test will just make you more likely to have an affair. Testosterone levels are related to risk-taking behaviors. Besides, there are other ways to say I love you than sticking it in. Tongues can be erect regardless of how old you are. But nobody likes to be jabbed in the gums. Don't you know how to kiss by now?

And even if you have low T or find your levels plummeting with each passing decade, drugs are not necessarily the answer. There are natural ways to keep the male hormone normal or closer to normal. Lift weights. Lean up. Fat cells make estrogen from testosterone, which causes levels of the latter to drop markedly. Of course a lot of endurance running can deplete "test," which explains why when you come home from a long run the last thing you're rearing to do is get nasty. And since animal products, red meat especially, provide testosterone, abstaining in favor of plant foods is another way to keep your levels from reaching the sky, which you don't want. Wait, you say. I thought this was about avoiding low testosterone, or increasing levels that are too low? Forget about that. Let nature take its course. Just eat clean and be lean. The upside of doing this is maintaining a full head of hair and keeping PSA levels super low. And not being a slave to anything. Taking testosterone is a life-long thing, once you start. Your body shuts down production, so if you get off the stuff your levels will be next to nothing, and you'll really have a problem. It's called iatrogenic. Look it up.

I for one prefer not to be a slave to my nether regions. Which is why I don't mind that endurance training and munching on vegetables lower my testosterone which softens erections and reduces my libido. It's not like I'm out to stud, or anything. A boner can be a real distraction, and I have enough of these in my life. As it is I can't bring myself to stop gazing at Katy Perry's butt crack! Damn girl, you as fine from behind as you is from the front. Skin like porcelain, haunches like a stallion. A porcelain stallion, who's a girl. A mare. A white mare, with no hair. An alabaster, bare-backed beauty with a ponytail, who I'd like to ride... See what I mean? Distractions!!!


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