Fasting is an ancient cultural and religious tradition that has gained popularity in recent years due to its potential health benefits. Intermittent fasting (IF) is a buzzword these days, and since we’re focusing on men’s health this month, this article will talk about IF specifically as it relates to men’s health. 

First, let’s define IF. There are a few popular types of IF, including time-restricted eating, which involves fasting for at least 12 hours per 24-hour period, the 5:2 diet, which is five days of eating followed by two days of severe caloric restriction, eat stop eat, which involves a 24 hour fast 1-2 days per week, and alternate day fasting, which means fasting every other day. 

Now that we’re clear on what it is let’s talk about what it does. Many positive health outcomes have been documented as a result of intermittent fasting, such as improved blood sugar regulation, lipid profile, blood pressure, and more. But what about men, specifically? And what impact does it have on testosterone levels? There has been a lot of anecdotal commentary about men’s testosterone levels and fasting, indicating that fasting somehow elevates or improves testosterone levels, but what does the research tell us? Let’s find out. 

When men practice IF, studies have shown improved insulin sensitivity and better blood glucose control. This is important for weight management, energy levels, and more. There also have been noted benefits in the cardiovascular realm, such as reduced blood pressure, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. This might lead to reduced risk for heart disease and stroke, both major concerns for men’s health. 

At certain points in IF, an individual might experience a shift towards using ketones for energy. This means burning fat for fuel. This metabolic shift has been linked with improved mental performance and clarity. 

When it comes to testosterone, the anecdotal and researched based evidence seem to be at odds. Several anecdotal accounts have reported increased testosterone with intermittent fasting. 

However, when diving into the scientific literature, we found the exact opposite to be true. In these studies, while muscle mass and strength were not affected and other positive health outcomes were noted, study participants actually saw a decline in total testosterone. This could perhaps be due to the stress brought about by fasting. 

To sum things up, fasting has proven health benefits. However, what is perhaps more important than when we’re eating is what we’re eating while we are eating, including a balance of nutrients and a variety of whole nutrient-dense foods. With any dietary intervention, it is essential to approach intermittent fasting with caution, and it is advised to seek professional guidance from a registered dietitian if you are considering this approach. 

Erin Dragutsky is the co-founder of 901 Nutrition, LLC and a licensed, registered dietitian in Memphis. Erin specializes in helping clients with eating disorders and disordered eating habits. She is passionate about helping clients ditch their diets for good, find food freedom, and develop a positive relationship with food., 901.800.9526.