Testosterone is the male hormone that makes it possible to develop the muscle mass of the male physique.

It’s a simple equation: Testosterone builds muscle mass and low testosterone turns muscle to fat.  In the absence of testosterone, the hormone estrogen takes over. Estrogen puts fat where you least want it: on your chest and around your belly.

Why Low Testosterone Causes Muscle Loss

Loss of muscle is called muscle wasting, and it’s a late sign of low testosterone. But even before you notice muscle wasting, you may feel weaker and less energetic, according to experts. Muscle cells have receptors for testosterone called androgen receptors.

When testosterone binds to the receptors, muscle fibers are maintained. Without testosterone, maintenance stops, and muscle is degraded.

What’s more, according to a 2012 review of low testosterone in obese men published in the journal Current Diabetes Reviews, low testosterone increases fat deposits, specifically in the belly.

Fat cells, especially in the belly, cause the production of an enzyme called aromatase. This enzyme converts testosterone to estrogen. Estrogen then causes more fat to be deposited in your chest, hips, and thighs.

Experts report that increased body fat eats away at testosterone, and it can be a vicious cycle. “Low testosterone cause depression, lethargy, and fatigue that can keep you from exercising to lose fat and build muscle.”

4 Tips to Build Muscle Mass With Low Testosterone

Increasing testosterone levels may help reverse fat accumulation and increase lean body mass. If your testosterone is borderline low, you may be able to get it back up and prevent muscle wasting by losing weight and doing aerobic and strength-building exercises, according to experts. Here’s how to get started:

Lose weight if you are overweight. Weight loss is the best way to increase testosterone and prevent muscle loss. Having a “beer belly” isn’t good.

Start an exercise program that includes aerobic exercise and strength training. Aerobic activity is any exercise that gets your heart beating faster, like biking or walking at a brisk pace.

Strength training builds muscle through resistance. Examples are lifting weights and using weight-training machines. The current recommendation is to get 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week plus strength training two days a week.

Make sure you get enough sleep. Poor sleep has been linked to low testosterone. If you’re overtired, you’re less likely to exercise your muscles.

Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. You don’t want too many or too few calories. You need an amount that gets you to and keeps you at a healthy weight. Avoid fats and get lean protein from healthy sources plus plenty of multicolored fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Limit alcohol and caffeine.

Keep in mind that you may need a plan that’s wider in scope. Exercise and diet alone aren’t enough for many men with low testosterone, according to the 2012 review.

Adding testosterone replacement therapy as a treatment for low testosterone allowed men to lose more weight, exercise more frequently, and get back their lean body mass. Part of this improvement was because of improved mood and energy.

To find out what your testosterone level is and what course of action might be needed to help restore muscle mass, see a doctor and get a blood test. You can start with a free consultation with one of our experts.