As a society, we tend to place a lot of significance on certain words. The word “normal” is one of them. With that in mind, one of the most often asked questions in the field of men’s health is “what are normal testosterone levels in men?”
Both the media and health professionals are capitalizing on this question by talking about “low T” and urging men to turn to hormone replacement therapy to boost their testosterone levels. But before men should even consider taking steps to raise their testosterone levels (which can be done in a number of natural ways), we return to the basic question:
What are normal testosterone levels in men? Here is the not-so-simple answer.
What are the forms of testosterone?
Overall there is more than one form of testosterone:
First is bonded with sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which is the most common type and makes up about 65 percent of total testosterone. The testosterone attached to SHBG typically cannot be separated from the hormone, so this T is not considered to be bioavailable. Testosterone that is bioavailable is the form that is used by the body.
Second is bonded to the protein albumin, making up about 35 percent of your total testosterone. This testosterone is considered to be potentially bioavailable because it can be “coaxed” away from the protein.
Third is free, which means it is not attached to any protein. Free testosterone makes up about 2 percent of total T and is the form that is completely bioavailable to be used by the body. Free testosterone travels throughout the bloodstream and can bind to receptors in the muscles, brain, and other organs.
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Getting your testosterone levels checked
After you undergo the simple blood test that measures your testosterone levels, your doctor will give you the results represented by three different numbers:
- Total testosterone. This represents the total amount of testosterone that is circulating throughout your body, so it includes both types of bonded T plus free T
- Bioavailable T, which consists of testosterone attached to albumin plus free T
- Free T
Now comes the complicated part. The definition of “normal” testosterone varies, depending on the expert and the testing lab used. Bottom line on normal testosterone levels in men when it comes to answering the question, what are normal testosterone levels in men.
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The range of “normal” is wide, which accommodates the fact that every man’s needs are different. While a man’s total testosterone level can be within the normal range, free T levels can be low, which can result in symptoms of low T. The testosterone level men should be most interested is in the bioavailable number. If men can boost their bioavailable testosterone level, they should expect an increase in energy, sex drive and muscle strength as well as better mood and well-being.
To further expand on the idea of the improving the testosterone level, we can turn to research on Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia). Thirteen physically active male and twelve physically active female seniors (57-72 years) were supplemented with 400-mg TA extract daily for 5 weeks. Standard hematological parameters were taken. In addition, the concentrations of total and free testosterone, dihydroepiandrosterone, cortisol, insulin-like growth factor-1 and sex hormone-binding globulin were analyzed. Treatment resulted in significant increases in total and free testosterone concentrations and muscular force in men and women.
- Henkel RR1, Wang R, Bassett SH, Chen T, Liu N, Zhu Y, Tambi MI. (PubMed.gov)