How does testosterone increase energy?
October 18, 2013 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Testosterone helps my fatigue, but I have difficulty with the side effects. Explain to me the mechanism by which testosterone increases energy levels so that I can think sensibly about options and understand what this tells me about the cause of my problem.

I've struggled with fatigue for most of my life. About two years ago (age 39), while taking Rieshi mushrooms, I began to feel even more tired than usual. My brain was foggy. Blood tests showed that I was low on vitamin D, folate, and testosterone. The first two have been corrected with supplements. The third was corrected with Androgel (testosterone gel applied to the shoulders). It helped my fatigue quite a bit and oh the joy it brought my naughty bits, but after a few weeks, my tension/dystonia headaches increased dramatically in frequency and intensity, so I stopped taking it. My fatigue returned. I've tried lowering the dose, but I haven't yet found a good balance.

I've experienced some benefits from the ubiquinol variety of CoEnzyme Q10, but I'm still nowhere near my baseline.

I have a number of other health issues as well; In addition to the cervical dystonia and tension headaches, there's high ferritin, depression, anxiety, restlessness, involuntary movements, some kind of carbohydrate intolerance or blood sugar problem, and fatty liver disease. Many doctors have ruled out many disorders. A mefite recently suggested that I might have a mitochondrial disease. I’m still looking into this possibility.

Because of my health history and lack of diagnoses, I've had to do a lot of legwork for myself, so I'm used to knowing a fair amount about what I'm taking and how it works. Except that I've hit a bit of an information wall when it comes to testosterone. All the sources agree that it increases energy levels. Forty five year old guy feels tired and run down; his doc gives him some Androgel and next thing you know, he feels like he's thirty again. But how does the testosterone accomplish this? The internets tell me that it increases protein synthesis, resulting in increased muscle mass. Great. But the synthesis itself probably consumes energy and the more muscle you have, the more energy you're going to need to power it. If that's all the testosterone does, then you should see a net *decrease* in energy. Unless the protein synthesis somehow leads to increased production of ATP or something like that. But I can't find any sources which state clearly that this is the case. The internet is clogged with simple minded articles and adverts about testosterone; they're of no help. Pubmed has yet to yield anything that really seems to answer my question. I asked my doctor but he didn't give a helpful response.

So how does testosterone increase my energy levels? Does it affect the mitochondria somehow? If so, how? Is insulin somehow involved in this process? Is protein synthesis the key or is something else going on? Is this simply a change in mood and nothing else? If so, does that mean that testosterone is affecting the levels of one or more neurotransmitters?

Please tell me what you can. If you can provide me with links to material on this subject, that would be a big plus.

My goal here is to find out whether there might be other ways to combat fatigue without relying entirely on the testosterone. If that's not possible, I'd at least feel better knowing what the heck is going on when I take it. If the testosterone is a complete and total dead end, I can accept that, but I need to answer this question before deciding what to try next.
posted by Clay201 to Health & Fitness (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Presumably you've tested for celiac and other intolerances. What about MTHFR testing?

this book
Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life

Reading up on ketosis may help illuminate the issue

You could try using Google Scholar to restrict the amount of low quality info.

Good luck with your research.
posted by egk at 5:21 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

What we call "energy" is not really that closely related to ATP levels. Feeling awake or energized is more of a result of brain signaling than anything else, which is why something like modafinil or amphetamine can make you feel awake and energized (amphetamine does promote weight loss but that's mostly because it's an appetite suppressant).

Testosterone achieves its effects on the brain through signaling as well - I'm not sure we know a ton about this signaling, but I'm also not a neuroscientist so this is where I get off. You might get some useful info looking at "androgen receptors" and how they're distributed in the brain.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:59 PM on October 19, 2013

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