There's a lot of science (and bro-science) out there about testosterone. Brad Borland gets down to basics to explore whether or not your body needs testosterone to build muscle.

All the talk about testosterone may have your head spinning a bit.

Touted as being the key to longevity, vitality, and muscular strength and growth, it has made the news rounds and then some.

But what is it, do you need more of it, and will it help you build muscle? Let’s take a closer look at this wonder hormone and see if all the talk is true or just another subject of bro-science.

What is Testosterone?

Technically speaking, testosterone is a steroid hormone that stimulates development of male secondary sexual characteristics, produced mainly in the testes, but also in the ovaries and adrenal cortex. So yes, women produce testosterone too. It has functions in almost all physical activity. It’s what supports muscle, strength, and energy. Without it, you would not be able to function or work in the gym for any length of time or level of intensity.

Low testosterone levels are associated with low libido, moodiness, loss of muscle mass, and unwanted weight gain. As natural testosterone levels begin to dip in your 30s, many men seek replacement therapy in a variety of forms: pills, patches or injections.

does testosterone build muscle?

Does Your Body Need Testosterone?

Absolutely! When it comes to fitness, muscle growth, and fat loss, normal testosterone levels are essential for you to succeed at your fitness goals – and this includes women. Now, here we are talking about natural testosterone hormones and not the synthetic injectable type normally referred to as anabolic steroids. Since natural testosterone levels should be normalized naturally, you may need other means to increase production.

As stated earlier, low levels will degrade your efforts not only in the gym, but in the bedroom as well. Throughout your teens and 20s, you most-likely will have little concern regarding your testosterone production. As you reach your 30s and beyond is when you need to carefully look at your lifestyle as it pertains to stress levels, fitness efforts and nutrition practices.

Does Testosterone Build Muscle?

That’s the big question here. Does testosterone (naturally occurring in the body) actually build muscle? Yes and no.

Research has run the numbers and stated that if you are below the normal ranges then yes, you will have a harder time building muscle. So with that said, if you sustain normal levels of testosterone then you will realistically not have any advantage of raising those levels in the upper ranges of normal in order to have an advantage of building more muscle mass.

does testosterone build muscle?

When it comes to fat loss the story is a bit different. According to research, as testosterone levels increased, so did fat loss. So, naturally raising your levels in the upper, normal ranges will have an effect on fat loss but not muscle gain.

How To Boost Testosterone Levels Naturally

So what if you’re one of the unlucky ones who has low testosterone levels? With all of the above said, if your levels are naturally low, you would stand to benefit to increase your levels so you can, once again, start building muscle and losing fat. But if you are against hormone replacement therapies then you are in luck and possibly in better shape than your therapy-taking peers.

Here are some ways you can naturally improve your testosterone levels:

  • Evaluate stress levels: Stress can kill testosterone levels. The more stress you have the lower your “T” levels will be. Be sure to manage your stress, find ways to blow off steam (the right ways) and adopt a mantra or find tricks and tools to dissipate it from your life. The less stress, the better.
  • Eat a balanced diet with fat: Of course you need a combination of complex carbohydrates and complete proteins, but you also need hormone-friendly healthy fats as well. Low levels of both unsaturated and saturated fats can lead to low “T.”
  • Get some sleep: Sleep deprivation and stress can easily go hand-in-hand for being “T” killers. Lack of sleep will only drag you down a path of weight gain, less muscle and little motivation. Get 7 to 9 hours per night.
  • Train the right way: Be sure you are performing some form of resistance training. Aerobic classes are great and all, but you will need to lift some iron in order to get your hormones pumping – literally. Go with the big, basic compound, multi-joint lifts.
  • Keep body fat low: Don’t let your body fat creep up on you. Keep it in check and try to maintain a somewhat lean-ish build so you can keep your testosterone burning fat. Think of it as a lean-burning engine only using what you put into it.

Have any questions about testosterone and muscle building? Ask your questions in the comments below!

Jerry Swanson
Posted on: Sun, 07/16/2023 - 10:34

I'm 70, a retired Firefighter, 170 and 5' 10 1/2". I just stopped weights for eye surgery and now need advice from an informed man/group like yourselves. I eat great but are there supplements and certain types of exercises I can do to get bigger, Arms...chest..back? I am on no meds just Vitamins daily. I have the time and motivation just some solid guidance. (my girlfriend just loves me as I

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 07/23/2023 - 09:57

Will you be able to get back into weights at some point, Jerry? Or has your doctor given you any allowance on what you can do? If nothing else, you can do slow isometric holds by flexing each muscle group and use bands. It beats nothing at all.

Supplements - whey protein, creatine, and probiotic for digestion. Those should help you on the supplement front.

Thank you for your service as a firefighter!

Posted on: Tue, 05/29/2018 - 06:23


Loved the article, I used to be very obese and lost the weight a while back, so Im defined with a bit of fat on my stomach area, I have decided to start building muscle and bulking the healthy way, I just have one question still, do you get any form of supplement or pill that you can take to increase testosterone that is NOT steroids?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 05/29/2018 - 10:00

Hi Kevin,

Check out this article on how to boost test naturally:

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 21:42

Hi there,

This is a great article though I do want to share something about low t. Sometimes it is not a lifestyle issue, I am a prime example of this. At first I was incorrectly diagnosed as Bi-Polar, had treatment for 7 years that did not work. Then was changed to ADHD, then a blood test revealed very low t. (102 Total). So my doctor did more comprehensive blood work, an MRI followed and then found I have a Pituitary Tumor that is preventing me from producing enough testosterone. I am only 44.

So I was first put on Androgel, made my total even lower than when I started, now I am on 100mg testosterone cypionate per week and feel fantastic, NO mood disorders (Depression, Anxiety etc ...), losing bodyfat, building a little extra muscle, feel much happier and I am absolutely getting stronger. I feel like my old self again after only 3 months on injections.

My point is this, sometimes people do need to go the TRT route because of underlying medical conditions - I wouldn't have started it if I hadn't weighed up the pros and cons and i'm glad I did as I feel normal again.

Posted on: Sat, 11/25/2017 - 10:04

Hi Brad Am Surya I want to lose fat and shredded My can I use any testosterone to lose fat shredded fat of my body and look ripped !!
I workout 5-6 times a week

Posted on: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 11:35

Hi I can't seem to build muscle will taking testosterone tablets help? I want to try but a bit unsure. HELP!!

Posted on: Sun, 06/21/2015 - 21:15

Hi Brad, great articles. I read them all as I need to as I am 67. I train at least 4 days a week with weights plus some cardio, my body looks good(for my age )but can't lose the love handles. My diet is fine with no over the top extravagances. Is it just the age or does my diet need to go to the next level maybe?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/22/2015 - 11:22

Hi Paul. I won't lie, age is a factor especially when it comes to T levels. But, I say, you can always eat a bit better but at the same time don't kill yourself over every mundane detail - neglecting a life lived well isn't worth a shredded six pack. How does your diet look?

Posted on: Mon, 06/22/2015 - 23:03

Thanks Brad, while I don't count calories etc I do watch what I eat - lean meat with visible fat cut off, fish, veggies, fruit, no processed meats, very little little pastries,one or two alcoholic drinks a week, no sweet drinks and portion sizes are not over the top. So I guess I'll just keep going as I am and enjoy life as you suggest. Thanks again.

Phillip Schlueter
Posted on: Mon, 06/22/2015 - 13:29

Paul, if it gives you any hope, I'm just short of 67 (in Sept) and while I have some love handle fat, still have a pretty respectable 6 pack. A single pinch test says I'm under 10% body fat. It's all about diet and just the right amount of exercise (I believe). Anything is possible if you put a goal in place and go for it. Here is a link to my 66th birthday selfie and I'll say I look good for just about any age :).

Posted on: Tue, 06/16/2015 - 10:42

Then why pro bodybuilder uses them?and if it is possible to build muscle without T then how long it takes to build? Plz give some suggestions

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 06/17/2015 - 21:37

Hi Brar. Well, the bodybuilders you speak of use synthetic derivatives of testosterone as this will cut off their natural supply. They are driving their T to insane levels. Natural guys like us don't have that ability so we need to keep our T levels in the healthy ranges.

Posted on: Thu, 07/09/2015 - 05:45

Thanks Brad...will u help me in making a diet chat to build muscles with Indian food?

Posted on: Sun, 06/14/2015 - 23:38

So if my natural testosterone levels are in the normal to upper normal regions, is there any advantage taking a test booster to gain more muscle than not taking a booster?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/15/2015 - 15:28

Sure, you may increase testosterone levels a little (really depends on how your body responds) but taking some of the other points such as sleeping better, balanced diet will do more than a supplement.

Posted on: Tue, 06/16/2015 - 12:34

Cool. I don't wanna leave any Gainz on the table, but I'm a little sick of swallowing so many different supplement pills! Thanks

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 06/12/2015 - 23:09

Hi, I'm here to answer any questions you may have...

Posted on: Sun, 06/14/2015 - 12:45

Hi Brad
Thanks for this great article but I have question that is always bother me. And it's about the best macro ratio to build lean muscles and how possible to build that big muscles without bulking?


Phillip Schlueter
Posted on: Sun, 06/14/2015 - 13:26

Phew! I can get lean by eating right. Just finished a 545 mile bike ride so the heart is not in bad shape. At almost 67 my T levels have got to be low but I don't suffer from the maladies you mention (except for the low libido). If testosterone doesn't build muscle (which I find almost impossible to do) what does?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/15/2015 - 15:30

Many facets of muscle building are still unknown but increased (normalized) growth hormone may. T won't singularly build muscle but instead will facilitate an ideal environment for the act of muscle breakdown (so it can rebuild bigger and stronger).

Posted on: Sun, 06/14/2015 - 18:53

Hey Brad, thanks for the article! Do you have any specific suggestions on vitamins/minerals/other supps that are known to boost T? Thoughts on Test Boosters......? I want to stick with being a natty.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/15/2015 - 15:33

Hi Nikov. First, I applaud your efforts to remain natural. Suplements such as vitamin D3, magnesium and zinc are excellent supps to add to your program. They hormone regulation, recovery and tissue repair, respectively.

Posted on: Sun, 06/14/2015 - 20:53

Do certain foods boost natural testosterone levels?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/15/2015 - 15:33

A balanced diet including healthy fats and supps such as vitamin D3.

Christopher R C...
Posted on: Sun, 06/14/2015 - 23:00

Is there any benefit to using so-called Testosterone Boosters like tribulus?
Thanks for all the great articles.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/15/2015 - 15:35

The research on tribulus is still inconclusive for the average Joe's needs. However, experiment and see how it works on you.

Rod Diaz
Posted on: Mon, 06/15/2015 - 05:49

Hi Brad.
What about t-booster supplements like aspartic acid, tribulus, etc? I've heard it can be a need for men over forty.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/15/2015 - 15:36

Well, are all of the other factors in check? Nutrition, rest, stress management, proper exercise? If not, you may need to look at your lifestyle practices before reaching for a supp. If there is something else going on, see your doctor. Thanks!