Men: How a Fat Belly Can Mess Up Your Sex Life

 

For most men, their sexuality is central to their sense of who they are. It’s part of their identity.

Sorry, ladies, it’s just they way we’re wired.

My wife likes to say, “I swear, you’ll always be twelve.”

That’s the plan.

But, nearly 52% of all men between the age of 40 and 70 suffer from erectile dysfunction.

And big pharma came galloping in on a white horse to save the day with drugs like Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra.

And wham. Sales went through the roof.

The result for big pharma was a huge payday with annual sales near $5 billion.

But the result for men, well, not so good.

About 50% of men never refill the prescription for reasons including side effects of blurred vision, headaches, back pain, and heartburn as well the cost at up to $15 per pill. And, the drugs work as advertised in only about 40% of men.

So, what’s a brother to do?

The Fat Connection

The hormone that makes the male engine run is testosterone (and yes, women need testosterone too – but that’s another post) . And as you age, the level in your body tends to decrease.

As your testosterone levels fall, so does your libido.

But, it’s not just aging that can cause a decrease in testosterone.

Too much abdominal fat (the kind called visceral adipose tissue and not subcutaneous fat) appears to interfere with testosterone production and low testosterone levels create more abdominal fat.1

So,

As your belly fat increases, your testosterone levels drop and as your testosterone levels drop, your belly fat increases.

And then there’s this.

Excess abdominal fat not only reduces testosterone production but is also associated with a rise in the female hormone estradiol in men.2

Or another way of saying it is belly fat brings out your feminine side.

The more estradiol you have coursing through your blood stream, the less “manly” you feel.

How Do You Know If Your Testosterone Is Too Low?

The best method is to get a blood test that can measure total testosterone and free testosterone. The free testosterone is what is available to be used by your body.

“Normal”  is a wide range from 300 ng/dl to 1200 ng/dl for total testosterone and 35 to 155 pg/ml for free testosterone and because of that wide range some doctors will argue that if you’re at the low end of normal, well, you’re still normal even if you feel like crap and have an erection the firmness of a ripe banana.

In addition to the lab result, you can use this symptom checklist. Answer YES or NO to the following questions:

  1. Do you have a decrease in libido (sex drive)?
  2. Do you have a lack of energy?
  3. Do you have a decrease in strength and/or endurance?
  4. Have you lost height?
  5. Have you noticed a decreased “enjoyment of life”
  6. Are you sad and/or grumpy?
  7. Are your erections less strong?
  8. Have you noticed a recent deterioration in your ability to
    play sports?
  9. Are you falling asleep after dinner?
  10. Has there been a recent deterioration in your work
    performance?

If you Answer Yes to number 1 or 7 or if you answer Yes to more than 3 questions, and your lab result is either below normal or in the low end of normal, you most likely have low testosterone (There are a number of reasons for low testosterone beyond belly fat so talk with your doctor about your situation.)3

And one more point – aging is often associated with many of the above symptoms, it’s best to get the blood test to know for sure if your symptoms could be from low testosterone.

What You Can DO

There are some things you can do to reverse this trend.

If your testosterone is low enough (and that’s the 64 million dollar question – what is low enough?), you may need to supplement it with medication. Talk to your doctor about your options.

From a natural perspective, the options are simple but not easy.

The simplest way to boost your testosterone level is to start working on a flatter belly.

The reason this is hard is because, well, it requires you to change. And for many men, change is not something they embrace.

You have to change what you eat and drink and you have to dial in your training routine (also, a topic that is an article unto itself because of it’s connection with belly fat is dealing with emotional stress).

What You Eat

In a nutshell, dump the sugar, refined carbohydrates, and grains (you may be able to add back in some grains, if you must, but it depends on how sensitive your body is to carbohydrate and even then, you have to be careful). Eat protein, colorful “natural carbs” (vegetables and fruits), drink water, go easy on alcohol, and make sure you have plenty of fat too.

And eat breakfast. I know a lot of guys skip it. That’s a mistake. Getting fueled up for the day helps you keep your energy levels up, carb binging down, and is an important step toward the flatter belly you need.

How You Train

Ditch the slow, steady jogs, walks, and all things “cardio” as the mainstay of your fitness plan (assuming you have one). What you need is some ass-kicking, joint-friendly intensity to boost testosterone and growth hormone. But, remember, the intensity is relative to YOU not anyone else. So don’t just jump into Crossfit for example.

Most fitness or health sites, at this point, start throwing a bunch of ill-conceived, poorly designed “exercise” routines at you leaving it up to you to figure out if it’s right for you.

And, because science has shown that intense, short duration, exercises seem to be the best at elevating testosterone, you’ll get advice like “Sprint 8-10 times once a week” or even better, “Just lift heavy stuff”.

So here’s the picture. Your belly is too big, you’re out of shape, probably haven’t trained in a long time, may have some creaky joints or a cranky back, and your first move is to sprint or flip tractor tires.

Does that sound even remotely smart?

If you want to make a change, revitalize your sex life, boost your testosterone, but putting together a training routine seems daunting to you, I have some good news.

The Bottom Line

A big belly is not just a body fat problem. It’s not just that you shouldn’t wear a speedo. It’s linked with a number of other health problems (Type II Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Heart Disease) and is also associated with low testosterone and elevated estradiol and a less than optimal sex life.

If you’re satisfied with how you feel, what you can do, well, good. Because it won’t improve a lick over the next ten years if you just keep doing what you are doing.

  1. Mammi, C., M. Calanchini, et al. (2012). “Androgens and adipose tissue in males: a complex and reciprocal interplay.” Int J Endocrinol 2012: 789653. []
  2. Gautier, A., F. Bonnet, et al. (2012). “Associations between visceral adipose tissue, inflammation and sex steroid concentrations in men.” Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). []
  3. Morley, J. E., E. Charlton, et al. (2000). “Validation of a screening questionnaire for androgen deficiency in aging males.” Metabolism 49(9): 1239-1242. []
DD Kelsey says

Josh –

Good question. There was a study about a year ago that showed nearly a 50% increase in testosterone levels in men who followed a diet and exercise plan. The improvements came over a 12 month period and the men lost on average about 17lbs.

Thanks for reading and your question.

josh says

Interesting article. What I’ve been trying to find is any real numbers on much belly fat affects t levels. I’m 37 and have the same t levels as a 90 year old man, I’m 220 lbs, if I lose 40 labs, how much would my levels realistically raise etc..

Lacey says

Belly fat can also encroach on the base of the penis, making it looks smaller… For perpetual 12 year olds, I’d think that would be a good motivator to change. 🙂
Weight loss work the other way for women: weight drops, bra size decreases. Sometimes that’s a welcome change, sometimes not so welcome 🙂
Either way, I say healthy is beautiful.
I’d love to read what you have to say about women and testosterone. One of my sisters has always been crazy-strong. I work REALLY hard to build muscle, and she does NOTHING and is a lot stronger than me. Low T?

    DD Kelsey says

    Good points Lacey – thanks!
    And I’ll put your suggestion about an article on Low T in women on my list!

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