Question following blood work
June 8, 2016 6:00 AM   Subscribe

I (30, male) just got the results from routine blood work. My testosterone is pretty low (377 ng/dL on a reference range of 348-1197). I also had lab work done 6 months ago that showed a similar result. My vitamin d levels also seem lower than I'd expect given that I supplement daily. I'd like to naturally raise my testosterone levels--but also am unsure whether this is something I should even be considering.

One website[1] has the following suggestions for how to naturally increase testosterone:

Lose Weight.
High-Intensity Exercise like Peak Fitness (Especially Combined with Intermittent Fasting)
Consume Plenty of Zinc.
Strength Training.
Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels.
Reduce Stress.
Limit or Eliminate Sugar from Your Diet.
Eat Healthy Fats.


I'm not carrying much excess fat--my body weight is ~176 lb and I'm a shade under 6'. I exercise 3 times a week at the local rock climbing gym. I eat a relatively high fat, low carb diet. I supplement 5,000 IU of vitamin d3 / day, with a blood level of 54.1 ng/dL on a reference range of 30.0 - 100.0.

Incidentally, I also am surprised given how much I supplement vitamin d that I'm still in the lower half of the reference range. I don't know what to make of that.

Anyway, I feel that, given my lifestyle, age, and health, that my testosterone levels should be higher than they are. I also feel like I experience the negative sexual side effects of low testosterone. I'm wondering what other natural options remain, and also whether this is something I should care about.

posted by prunes to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
Depends if you want the other side-effects of increased testosterone — hair loss and increased aggression. ‘Low-T’ is being oversold as a thing, mainly so folks can pay for expensive shots they likely don't need.
posted by scruss at 6:09 AM on June 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

377 is not dangerously low or itself a problem, and T levels are not an exact science. If you feel OK now, just live healthily (eat as well as you can, make an effort to exercise, minimize stress) and keep doing what you're doing. Check your levels again in six months, since it'll flux naturally. If it's still low, talk to your doctor. Absent any symptoms I would just leave it be.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:12 AM on June 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Another factor not on your list: sleep. Are you getting enough? Do you feel rested when you wake?
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:38 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I say go for it, because those recommendations might make you feel better no matter what's wrong with you (which I doubt is related to a testosterone level within the normal range. The symptoms of low testosterone are vague and nonspecific and can occur for many reasons).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:10 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Low-T" is marketing term that has wormed it's way into medicine. There is no medical reason to worry about 377 ng/dL by itself. I'm usually in the "take the drug and feel better" even if that's just placebo effect, but testosterone has a lot of side effects and potential serious risks just for a placebo boost.

I also feel like I experience the negative sexual side effects of low testosterone.

Document these symptoms and talk to your doctor about them specifically.
posted by French Fry at 7:16 AM on June 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I can't address the testosterone question, but your vitamin D levels are actually quite high (assuming you meant 54ng/mL, not dL). Vitamin D: Don’t Overdo a Good Thing discusses the current thinking regarding blood levels and supplementation. The author is president of, a subscription-based supplement-review and research-roundup site which is worth every penny. Their vitamin D page has lots of useful information, even for non-members.

TL;DR: vitamin D supplements are useful for people with insufficient blood levels (less than 20ng/mL) but have either no benefits or have negative effects at higher levels.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:35 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just noticed you linked to Although that particular page has valid information (the Broken Clock Principle at work), Mercola is a self-serving quack. There are better places to get health info, such as the National Institutes of Health.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:11 AM on June 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

This doesn't answer your question but I feel like its so important! Testosterone replacement will send your sperm count to zero and it can be very difficult to kick start your sperm making down the road... My husband was prescribed testosterone replacement and nowhere was this explained to us, we found out this info doing our own research.
posted by flink at 8:18 AM on June 8, 2016

You’re just under 6' & weigh 80kg? That gives you a BMI on the borderline between healthy and overweight (25 or so). How strong are you right now in reality? If you can rip off a run of pull-ups with all that rock-climbing, great: Your BMI is high because you’re already pretty muscular. If not, maybe you’re carrying more fat than you think you are?
posted by pharm at 8:45 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you snore? Sleep apnea has a relationship to low testosterone, although it's a little unclear what exactly the relationship is.

Do you take any narcotic medications? How much alcohol do you drink? Those can both cause "apparent" low testosterone via levels of sex hormone binding globulin.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 10:58 AM on June 8, 2016

Serum testosterone levels vary throughout the day (highest during the early morning, generally). As a rule of thumb, if you're still waking up with morning wood most days, you're good!

"Low T" is a scam perpetuated by scammers who want to create insecure men whom they can then scam. Scammers gonna scam.

As for Vitamin D, that's a perfectly normal value for most North Americans who aren't outdoor lifeguards or farmers. It'd be better to have it up in the 70's-100, but lots of people are 20's or under. 5000IU seems high (although not unsafe). Have you checked the expiry date on the supplements? The actual active ingredient will degrade over time (especially at elevated temperatures).
posted by porpoise at 11:04 AM on June 8, 2016

The Vitamin D Fact Sheet at NIH has a table with the range of levels. Note that there are two units of measure: nmol/L and ng/mL. Be sure to use the column with the same units as your test. You're adequate in nmol/L and too high in ng/mL.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:47 PM on June 8, 2016

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