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Testosterone and Coffee

Can you drink your way to good health? Well, I don't know about that. but there are a lot of natural drinks that have tremendous benefits for guys. (No, they don't usually come in kegs.) Black tea boosts nitric oxide; green tea helps with anti-aging; and coffee has so many great properties that I created a whole page on the subject:  The Benefits of Drinking Coffee.

Some people accuse me of being biased, since I love the flavor of just straight coffee.  They say that coffee is just a "socially acceptable amphetamine" and will tax the adrenals.  I always counter with the fact that coffee is simply the typical turbocharged plant food that just happens to have caffeine in it as well.  The superpowers of coffee include diabetes / prediabetes prevention, reduced cardiovascular disease, improved mortality, lowered cancer risk and less chance of contracting Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.    While I don't agree that one has to drink coffee to avoid these chronic diseases, it is difficult to argue that coffee is an 'evil drink,' when it clearly can provide so much benefit to the typical man on the street. The only downside that I know of is that it might lower endothelial function in some guys, which could potentially effect erections. (Dr. Greger posted a study on this, but I do not know if this holds true for long term drinkers. Often the negative effects of coffee are only short term and disappear after a few weeks.)

The benefit that you are really going to love is this one:  coffee is a testosterone booster!  Well, kind of.  As you 'll see below, there's a little more to the story.  Let's look at some of the details:

Study On Healthy, Overweight Coffee-Drinking Men.  A 2012 study put men into three groups that drank caffeinated coffes, decaffeinated coffee or no coffee (a control group).  And the significance of this study is the fact that is was on men:  previous study work had been women only.  Here is what the authors concluded:

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"Our finding that caffeinated coffee, but not decaffeinated coffee, signifcantly increased total testosterone and decreased both total and free estradiol after four weeks suggest that caffeine may act as an aromatase (or CYP19) inhibitor. One intervention trail found that consumption of two cups of instant coffee had no acute effect on testosterone or estradiol concentrations after 30 minutes." [1]

Okay, it is definitely true that coffee raised testosterone at the four week point.  However, the study downplays in my opinion the fact that at 8 weeks, there was no real significant different in either testosterone, estradiol or testosterone-to-estradiol ratio.  The reason for this is that the participants, who were all coffee drinkers before the study, had a two week washout period with no coffee or caffeine.  So, when they added coffee back into their routine, they were starting essentially as brand new coffee drinkers.  This gave a turbocharged testosterone output that then stabilized back to their old baseline by week 8.

Now the results at the four week point though were impressive in the caffeinated coffee group, where average testosterone climbed to 546 ng/dl in the caffeinated group versus 327 in the control group.  Remember that the testosterone is pretty low, because these men were quite overweight.  Also, the testosterone-to-estradiol ratio was 24.2 in the caffeinated group versus 8.4 in the control.  So clearly coffee can give you some pretty impressive in initial changes that then fade.  Again, at eight weeks, it was a different story:  total testosterone in the caffeinated coffee group was just a little higher than the control group and the testosterone-to-estradiol ratio was actually even a bit lower. 

Pomegranate Juice Drinkers:  Many guys drinking pomegranate juice notice a nice change for a few weeks.  Men have had morning erections return, etc. and then suddenly the benefit fades.  This sounds similar to what we are seeing here.  Pomegranate juice also has a big effect on some of the liver's cypochrome enzymes and so, perhaps, it's hard to keep those liver enyzmes ramped up indefinitely.

Therefore, one could actually cycle coffee I suppose, but, other than that, I am not sure it can really be termed a testosterone booster. 

MILD DHEA BOOSTER?  One thing that it did look it bumped a little bit is DHEA, although the study did not note statistical significance.  However, DHEA was higher in the caffeinated coffee group at four weeks and higher still at eight weeks.  In fact, it was 19% higher at that point than the control group's DHEA. 

Does Caffeine Raise Testosterone?

One question that may cross your mind is if it could the caffeine in coffee that boosted testosterone?  The answer is 'probably not' based on a study of rugby players that did resistance training (weight lifting) and were given 200, 400, 600 or 800 mg of caffeine beforehand. Only the 800 mg dose significantly raised peak testosterone levels above the control dose (0 mg).  The authors noted that "caffeine doses of >=400 mg tended to cause a small decrease in testosterone after ingestion, followed by a rapid increase after the commencement of resistance exercise. The 800-mg caffeine dose produced a 61% (± 33%) increase in testosterone after 60 min of resistance exercise." [2]

Of course, this is a massive dose of caffeine for a relatively small effect on testosterone. Even worse, the higher dose signficantly raised cortsiol as well, which is why you don't see this being used by every athletic program in the country.  In any event, based on this study, it does not seem that the caffeine could be responsible, since reasonable dosages of caffeine appeared to have little effect. 

 

REFERENCES::

1)  Nutrition Journal , Oct 19 2012, Volume 11, "The effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee on sex hormone-binding globulin and endogenous sex hormone levels: a randomized controlled trial"

2) Intl J of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2008, 18:131-141, "Dose Effect of Caffeine on Testosterone and Cortisol Responses to Resistance Exercise"

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