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How does alcohol affect testosterone?

Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on December 18, 2023

The relationship between alcohol consumption and testosterone is complex. According to research, an occasional drink may cause a modest temporary uptick in testosterone. With that being said, the more you drink, the more alcohol suppresses its production, which can lead to a wide range of associated health risks. 

Table of Contents

Beyond lowering testosterone, alcohol poses many health risks for men—from stumping fertility and disrupting sleep, to elevating blood pressure and the risk of liver disease and cancer. The healthiest thing to do for your physical and mental health is to avoid drinking.

It may be easier said than done, but Ardu can help you break the cycle of alcohol dependence. Our rehab center in Provo, Utah provides comprehensive treatment for alcohol addiction, including alcohol detox, psychotherapy, group support, and aftercare planning.

What does testosterone do?

Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone. It plays a crucial role in the physical, mental, and sexual health of men. As a main androgen in men, testosterone stimulates the development of male characteristics.+

Here’s a look at some of the most important roles testosterone plays:

  • Sperm production
  • Sexual function
  • Muscle mass and strength
  • Bone density
  • Body and facial hair growth
  • Fat distribution
  • Sex drive and libido
  • Energy levels
  • Mood regulation
  • Cognitive function
  • Metabolism
  • Reproductive organ development
  • Skin health and quality
  • Emotional control and stability

The production of testosterone starts in the brain. The hypothalamus tells the pituitary gland to release hormones that stimulate the testes. Leydig cells in the testes transform cholesterol into testosterone. Testosterone is mainly produced in the testes, where it stimulates sperm production. Adrenal glands can also step in to secrete testosterone when testicular function is impaired. 

The hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761906/

Balanced testosterone is crucial for men’s health. High levels spike blood pressure and mood instability risks, while low levels may lead to reduced energy, muscle mass, and libido. Levels of testosterone naturally decline with aging, but other factors such as unhealthy lifestyle also contribute. 

Alcohol has a significant influence on testosterone levels and function. Research shows that light to moderate alcohol consumption may temporarily increase testosterone in men, while chronic heavy drinking suppresses its production over time. 

Many men prefer gender-focused treatment, finding solace in the company of fellow men who understand their unique journey toward lasting recovery. That’s why our detox for men center can eliminate distractions commonly found in coed environments and allow participants to stay fully engaged in their treatment program. 

The longer you stay in treatment, the higher your chance of avoiding relapse and living that alcohol-free life you truly deserve.

Does moderate alcohol intake increase testosterone?

Acute alcohol consumption can cause a short-term rise in testosterone levels in men. This spike only lasts for a few l hours before testosterone returns to baseline levels. Moderate drinking is generally defined as one to two alcoholic drinks per day. This amount does not increase testosterone levels in the long run. 

Sarkola and Eriksson found that “after intake of alcohol (0.5 g/kg, 10% w/v), an acute increase in plasma testosterone, a decrease in androstenedione, and an increase in the testosterone:androstenedione ratio were observed.” Acute alcohol consumption briefly increases testosterone by altering liver metabolism and delaying hormonal breakdown. This effect is thought to be mediated by the alcohol-induced change in the redox state in the liver.

The liver plays a central role in regulating testosterone levels. It metabolizes hormones and controls binding proteins while also processing alcohol. In moderate drinkers, acute alcohol intake delays testosterone metabolism in the liver, temporarily elevating circulating hormones.

Here’s how that happens:

  • Alcohol inhibits liver enzymes from breaking down testosterone and related androgens into inactive metabolites for excretion. This causes circulating testosterone levels to remain higher until alcohol is sufficiently metabolized.
  • Alcohol also increases luteinizing hormone and lowers sex hormone binding globulin levels, causing a spike in available testosterone.
  • The liver adapts over 2–6 hours by releasing more sex hormone-binding globulins, ending the acute testosterone boost. Changes to liver redox states and suppressed insulin from alcohol underpin these biochemical mechanisms.

Alcohol damages the liver and impairs its cells. Through these complex liver pathways, more frequent alcohol intake can prolong transitory testosterone increases. 

If alcohol is damaging your health, it’s time to seek help. Contact Ardu and start your journey to sobriety today.

How does chronic heavy drinking affect testosterone levels?

Sustained excessive drinking has a direct cytotoxic effect on tissue in the testes. Heavy alcohol use also indirectly lowers testosterone levels through other mechanisms such as impaired endocrine signaling and nutrient deficiencies. The result is significantly depleted testosterone over the long term.

Steiner, et. al. revealed that a single dose of alcohol in healthy male rats significantly reduced testosterone levels and that the reduction lasted for up to 96 hours.

Here are some of the reasons why heavy alcohol use decreases levels of testosterone.

  • Alcohol triggers inflammation and oxidative stress in testes tissue by increasing the amount of harmful free radicals. This damages the function of Leydig cells in the testes. Leydig cells are responsible for producing testosterone. Impaired Leydig cells struggle to synthesize the hormone, leading to testosterone deficiencies. 
  • Chronic alcohol abuse can shrink testicular size and mass. With fewer viable Leydig cells, less testosterone can be created.
  • Heavy drinking leads to reduced luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion from the pituitary gland. One of the main responsibilities of LH is to signal Leydig cells to stimulate testosterone synthesis. Lower LH equals lower T.
  • According to a 1998 study, alcohol can increase the metabolic clearance rate of testosterone, meaning it is broken down and removed from the blood quickly. 
  • Alcoholism and cirrhosis reduce the production of binding proteins and enzymes needed for testosterone transport and cell signaling.
  • Priory Men’s Medical Center suggests that chronic heavy alcohol consumption can fragment natural sleep cycles, suppressing nightly testosterone production which typically peaks during deep sleep.

Lloyd and Williams (1948) revealed that 72% of men with advanced alcoholic cirrhosis exhibited decreased libido and sexual potency. They also found that testicular atrophy is common among alcoholics. This atrophy is likely caused by:

  1. Alcohol’s harmful effects on Leydig and Sertoli cells in the testes, which are essential for sperm and testosterone generation.
  2. Disruption of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) secreted by the pituitary gland. They prompt testosterone production and regulate testicular size.
  3. Nutrient deficiencies in heavy drinkers, particularly in zinc, vitamin D, protein, and antioxidants vital for testicular function.
  4. Low availability of binding proteins and enzymes necessary for testosterone transport and testes cell signaling.

Your body can recover when you ditch booze. It’s important to recognize signs of alcohol addiction so you seek help promptly.

How much alcohol lowers testosterone?

Alcohol’s impact on testosterone is quite individualized. The alcohol content it takes to suppress those manly hormones depends on the person’s unique physiology, drinking frequency habits, and even the choice of beverages. 

One study found that around 200 grams of alcohol per day considerably lowers testosterone. It linked lowered testosterone levels to both decreased production by the testes as well as accelerated elimination from the bloodstream.

…a 15-percent alcohol solution was administered every 3 hours, around the clock, together with a diet replete with protein, vitamins, folic acid, and minerals. The total daily alcohol dose was 220 grams, or approximately 3 grams per kilogram body weight. With this level of alcohol consumption, testosterone levels in the men’s blood declined as early as 5 days into the study and continued to fall over the entire study period. 

Another study found that heavy drinkers who exhibit an alcohol-flushing response had an increased risk of low testosterone after drinking more than eight standard drinks per week.

Did you know alcohol has all kinds of deleterious effects on your skin? Booze triggers inflammatory processes in your skin that cause redness, and vasodilation, and accelerate aging-related changes such as wrinkles or plumpness. Heavy drinking can also dehydrate your skin and other organs.

Our detox center offers multiple forms of therapy and counseling that teach you how to maintain sobriety and take better care of your body. Learn more about our holistic detox and cognitive-behavioral therapy programs where you can uncover the roots of addiction and chart a new, healthier path.

How long does it take for testosterone levels to return to normal after alcohol?

As chronic heavy drinking is associated with lower testosterone levels, when alcohol consumption ceases, testosterone levels can recover. 

A longitudinal study of 29 male alcoholics undergoing detoxification revealed that levels of testosterone were low during detox, but there was an increase after three weeks of sobriety. The results also suggested that, even without developing alcoholic liver disease, alcohol has a direct toxic effect on testosterone production among male alcoholics. 

While sobriety following detoxification enables testosterone recovery, research indicates the endocrine system requires an extended duration of three weeks without drinking for full hormonal normalization.

The relationship between alcohol and testosterone is complex and depends on many individual factors. The consensus among studies is that testosterone levels can recover once you abstain from alcohol. 

And it’s not just testosterone—your whole body can recover from alcohol once you ditch the habit. The initial stages of recovery can be challenging, but we’re here to help. We specialize in creating detox and rehab programs that suit your unique needs and make recovery as comfortable and successful as possible.

Does alcohol increase testosterone in women?

Women also produce testosterone, but their levels are around 10 times lower than men. In females, testosterone influences muscle mass, bone density, mood, libido, and metabolic health just as in males—except that estrogen dominates their reproductive regulation. 

Research indicates that acute alcohol consumption temporarily spikes testosterone in females as well. A 2000 study found that acute alcohol intake (0.5 g/kg) increased testosterone levels significantly at 45 minutes and 90 minutes from the first drink. Alcohol’s increase in testosterone levels in females has a lot to do with the way ethanol is metabolized in the liver. 

While seemingly harmless, this temporary alcohol-related boost in testosterone could contribute to reproductive disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or loss of feminine traits in females. In general, chronic heavy drinking is bad for women too.

Ardu offers specialized women’s detox programs tailored to the needs of women struggling with substance abuse. Our gender-specific care recognizes and addresses the unique risks and challenges that women face during detox.

We help women and men achieve sobriety by restoring their health, relationships, and sense of purpose without substance abuse holding them back.

Why is alcohol bad for men?

Beyond the damaging effects on testosterone levels, alcohol takes a tremendous toll on men’s physical and mental health. When drinking becomes heavy or habitual, nearly every biological system suffers.

Here’s how:

  1. Because of its ability to lower testosterone, chronic alcohol misuse is linked to erectile dysfunction and reduced libido. Booze also negatively impacts the blood flow necessary for erections. Erectile dysfunction impairs sexual function and satisfaction.
  2. Alcohol can also interfere with the function of the hypothalamus, anterior pituitary gland, and the testes. This leads to impotence, infertility, and reduced male secondary sexual characteristics. 
  3. Alcohol irritates the prostate gland and increases the urge to urinate frequently at night.
  4. Binge drinking suppresses the immune system, slowing injury healing, curbing strength gains, and weakening immunity in general. 
  5. Alcohol shrinks brain matter and damages cognitive abilities over time.
  6. Alcohol increases the risk of cancer such as colon cancer and prostate cancer.
  7. Men who drink excessively are more likely to engage in risky behaviors: driving under the influence or aggressive tendencies. This is part of the reason why they have higher rates of alcohol-related hospitalizations.
  8. Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to higher rates of depression and suicide in men. According to the CDC, men are more than three times as likely to commit suicide after drinking than women. Read about how alcohol damages mental health in both men and women.

Alcohol is a drug and poses significant risks specific to men that span beyond the oft-cited brain fog and beer belly. Get help if you can’t put down the bottle. There are plenty of ways to loosen up without interfering with testosterone and masculinity. 

Do you want help getting sober?

Recovery is a deeply personal journey. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, we at Ardu Recovery Center develop customized treatment plans tailored to your specific needs and goals. 

Inpatient treatment at our residential facilities surrounds you with 24/7 support. Outpatient treatment programs, such as partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, offer flexible solutions to maintain your home and work routines or receive treatment while in a sober living facility.

With psychotherapy and other modalities, you learn healthy coping skills so you aren’t compelled to rely on alcohol. A variety of therapeutic approaches allow you to find the modality that resonates with you.

If you have a co-occurring mental health disorder—such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder—our dual diagnosis treatment program can help you heal from alcohol addiction as well as other mental health issues.

Alcohol and testosterone FAQ

Does alcohol reduce muscle growth?

Heavy consumption of alcohol impairs muscle growth. Both acute and chronic alcohol ingestion can have a detrimental effect on protein synthesis in skeletal muscle. Research shows that even a couple of drinks can spike protein breakdown while lowering testosterone and hormone production which are essential for building mass. 

Alcohol causes this reduction in muscle growth in part by suppressing mTOR pathways, consequently reducing the protein synthesis needed to rebuild muscle post-workout. The inflammation and nutrient depletion of alcohol cause further muscle catabolism. Moderation limits, but may not eliminate, the detrimental impact booze has on muscle hypertrophy over time, so serious gym-goers should monitor drinking patterns for ideal results.

Is wine bad for testosterone?

All types of alcohol negatively influence testosterone and wine is no exception. While an occasional glass may not move the needle, habitual consumption is associated with negative effects on testosterone levels in men. 

Polyphenols in wine, such as resveratrol, may offer some antioxidant protection, but the alcohol itself reduces testosterone production via multiple mechanisms involving liver function, Leydig cell health, and the HPG axis. 

What does 20 years of drinking do to your body?

Two decades of heavy drinking has adverse effects on nearly every bodily system: from brain shrinkage to liver damage to increased cancer risks. Specifically, studies link 20 years of excessive alcohol intake with up to 8 times higher odds of liver cirrhosis and liver failure compared to light drinkers. Heart disease, stroke, pancreatitis, and nerve damage risks also grow exponentially. Cognition, memory, mental health, and sleep quality all progressively deteriorate over 20 years of drinking. DNA experiences the effects of accelerated aging, fueling a faster decline in health. 

What amount of alcohol lowers testosterone?

Just 2–3 alcoholic drinks every day start decreasing testosterone production in most men. Levels can drop by 6-12% from that moderate alcohol intake over months and years. Binge drinking of five or more drinks even once can suppress testosterone for up to 24 hours after intoxication. 

The occasional drink likely won’t tank testosterone alone. However, evidence firmly indicates that routinely drinking more than 1-2 beverages per day will steadily reduce testosterone levels.

Will 2 beers lower testosterone?

A couple of beers likely won’t slash testosterone levels extensively, but evidence links even light to moderate alcohol intake with declines in testosterone over time. Consuming just 2 beers regularly can lower T by 6% or more over several months. The temporary liver impairment from alcohol consumption delays hormone clearance, which results in brief elevation followed by suppression of testosterone.

Will quitting alcohol increase testosterone?

Absolutely. Studies demonstrate that just 2-4 weeks of sobriety enables men’s testosterone production to start rebounding from alcohol’s suppressive effects. Testosterone continues to increase with extended periods of abstinence. For mild drinkers, bouncing back to baseline T levels may occur faster than chronic alcoholics. Evidence indicates that quitting supports healthier testosterone balance regardless of past consumption level—reversing deficiencies and low T symptoms in the post-drinking recovery process.

Does alcohol lower testosterone permanently?

Alcohol’s effects on lowering testosterone are not necessarily permanent. If caught early and drinking ceases, testosterone levels can recover fully in 1-3 months. When it comes to excessive consumption of alcohol for a decade or two, the testicular Leydig cells that produce testosterone can be permanently damaged. In those severe cases, testosterone may remain permanently lower, even with sobriety. So while alcohol doesn’t always irreversibly suppress testosterone, length and level of abuse can cause permanent repercussions on reproductive health and other aspects of wellness.

Are testosterone replacements safe?

When administered correctly under medical supervision, testosterone replacement therapy is generally quite safe for treating clinically low testosterone (hypogonadism) in men. Potential side effects from testosterone injections or gels include acne, swelling, breast enlargement, prostate issues, testicular atrophy, and polycythemia from increased red blood cell production. 

Oral testosterone supplements stress the liver. For these reasons, doctors monitor blood cell counts, prostate markers, heart health, and hormone levels during treatment. Used conservatively and for short periods, testosterone therapy risks remain low. Improper use or abuse for muscle building carries significant health dangers, from heart strain to mood instability. 

Can you be ripped and drink alcohol?

It requires moderating if not eliminating alcohol consumption to achieve and maintain the very low body fat ratio needed for a ripped physique. While an occasional drink likely won’t drastically impact fat burning, alcohol use disorder (AUD) promotes fat storage through elevated cortisol, lowered testosterone, and impaired nutrient partitioning. Plus, booze’s inflammatory effects hinder exercise recovery. 

Those who strategically limit drinking, emphasize nutrient-dense low-calorie mixers, prevent binges, hydrate sufficiently, and account for liquor’s calories can still successfully get ripped. Strict dieting phases may require total sobriety, but it is possible to craft sensible alcohol integration plans that sustain leanness and get you ripped. 


Smith, S. J., Lopresti, A. L., & Fairchild, T. J. (2023, March 4). The effects of alcohol on testosterone synthesis in men: a review. Expert Review of Endocrinology & Metabolism. https://doi.org/10.1080/17446651.2023.2184797

Sarkola, T., & Eriksson C J. P. (2003, April 1). Testosterone Increases in Men After a Low Dose of Alcohol. Alcohol: Clinical & Experimental Research. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.alc.0000060526.43976.68

Steiner, J., Halloran, M. M., Jabamoni, K., Emanuele N V., & Ernanuele, M. A. (1996, November 1). Sustained Effects of a Single Injection of Ethanol on the Hypothalamic‐Pituitary‐Gonadal Axis in the Male Rat. Alcohol: Clinical & Experimental Research. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1530-0277.1996.tb01136.x

Emanuele et al., & Emanuele, N. V. (1998). Alcohol’s Effects on Male Reproduction. Alcohol Health and Research World, 22(3), 195-201. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761906/

Koh, K., Kim, S. S., Kim, S., Jung, G., Yoon, J., Suh, W. Y., Kim, H. G., & Kim, N. (2022). Relationship between Alcohol Consumption and Testosterone Deficiency according to Facial Flushes among Middle-Aged and Older Korean Men. Korean Journal of Family Medicine, 43(6), 381-387. https://doi.org/10.4082/kjfm.21.0173

Lloyd, C. W., & Williams, R. H. (1948, March 1). Endocrine changes associated with Laennec’s cirrhosis of the liver. The American Journal of Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/0002-9343(48)90248-4

Ruusa, J., Bergman, B., & Sundell, M. L. (1997, September 1). SEX HORMONES DURING ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL: A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF 29 MALE ALCOHOLICS DURING DETOXIFICATION. Alcohol and Alcoholism. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.alcalc.a008300

Sarkola, T., Fukunaga, T., Mäkisalo, H., & Eriksson, C. J. P. (2000, January 1). Acute Effect Of Alcohol On Androgens In Postmenopausal Women. Alcohol and Alcoholism. https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/35.1.84

Further reading

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Is alcoholism an economic burden?

What is the alcoholic personality?

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