In this piece from our Guide To Gains series we discuss a much raised question: What are normal testosterone levels by age? Learn how your hormone levels fluctuate as you get older – and what you can do about it
It’s a well-known fact that men begin to lose their testosterone pretty rapidly as they age. But what exactly is a “normal” level of the male sex hormone, and what can you do to curb that decline?
In this post, we take a closer look at men’s testosterone levels by age and what it means for you, including:
- How your testosterone levels compare to the “average” man
- Symptoms of low testosterone
- How rapidly your “T” levels drop as you get older
- Ways to boost the hormone by making changes to your lifestyle and diet
- Benefits of increasing your testosterone
There are a wide range of reasons why men want to increase their testosterone—from higher sex drive to better sleep and mental clarity. But without knowing how your hormone levels naturally change by age, it’s difficult to set a base point.
Here’s what you need to know…
Normal Testosterone Levels By Age
Generally speaking, “normal testosterone levels” in adult men range from 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter of blood (ng/dL). So yes, a blood test is required.
What about women’s health? For women, it’s only a fraction of that: roughly 15 to 70 ng/dL.
Why such a wide range? Because every guy is different.
Just as men come in different sizes, shapes, abilities and personalities, their hormone levels can vary wildly too. A level of 450 ng/dL might be perfectly normal for you, while your buddy’s 900 ng/dL might be ideal for him, even though it’s double your level.
Men aren’t born with all that testosterone, though. With the exception of a small spike at birth, guys’ “T” levels don’t climb too much until adolescence. Then, they explode.
Let’s take a closer look at average testosterone levels by age…
Normal Testosterone Levels In Men By Age (men, age 0-30)
What happens to your “T” as you get older? Here’s a breakdown of normal testosterone levels by age, according to Mayo Clinic.
Note that these numbers reflect total testosterone levels (TTST / Testosterone, Total, Serum). This is different from “free testosterone,” which refers to a specific form of testosterone that is not bound to proteins in the blood, such as albumin and sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG). An additional chart for free testosterone levels by ages is below.
|0 to 5 months||75 to 400|
|6 months to 9 years||7 to 20|
|10 to 11 years||7 to 130|
|12 to 13 years||7 to 800|
|14 years||7 to 1,200|
|15 to 16 years||100 to 1,200|
|17 to 18 years||300-1,200|
|19 to 30 years||240-950|
|30+ years||-1% to -2% per year|
(See below for additional ranges in older men)
Normal Testosterone Levels In Women By Age (women)
|0 to 5 months||20 to 80|
|6 months to 9 years||7 to 20|
|10 to 11 years||7 to 44|
|12 to 16 years||7 to 75|
|17 to 19 years||20 to 75|
|20+||15 to 70|
Normal Free Testosterone Levels In Men
Unlike total serum testosterone, “free testosterone” is a specific form of “T” that is not bound to proteins in the blood (such as SHBG). The following chart reflects normal free testosterone levels in men, according to Mayo Clinic:
|Age||Free Testosterone (ng/dL)|
|1 to 8 years||<0.04-0.11|
|20 to 25 years||5.25-20.7|
|25 to 30 years||5.05-19.8|
|30 to 35 years||4.85-19.0|
|35 to 40 years||4.65-18.1|
|40 to 45 years||4.46-17.1|
|45 to 50 years||4.26-16.4|
|50 to 55 years||4.06-15.6|
|55 to 60 years||3.87-14.7|
|60 to 65 years||3.67-13.9|
|65 to 70 years||3.47-13.0|
|70 to 75 years||3.28-12.2|
|75 to 80 years||3.08-11.3|
|80 to 85 years||2.88-10.5|
|85 to 90 years||2.69-9.61|
|90 to 95 years||2.49-8.76|
|95 to 100 years||2.29-7.91|
The Big Drop After Age 30
Did you catch it?
If you looked closely, you probably noticed that men’s testosterone levels begin to decline pretty rapidly at a relatively young age of 30. After an initial dramatic climb during adolescence, men maintain a somewhat stable “T” level of 300 to 1,000 ng/dL for about 10 years.
After that, it’s all downhill, fellas.
When guys turn age 30 (give or take a couple years), their testosterone levels drop by about 1 percent every year thereafter. To make matters worse, a significant portion of the male population (about 5 percent of men between ages 50 and 59) suffer from abnormally low testosterone levels and symptoms like low libido.
1%-2% Less ‘T’ Every Year
Let’s take a closer look at what a 1 percent decline looks like for the average man after they reach age 30.
Let’s say a man has peak testosterone level of 800 ng/dL at age 30. By his 31st birthday, his peak testosterone could be roughly 792. That’s 8 ng/dL lower – a loss of 1 percent. That may not seem like much, but remember this decline will continue by another 1 percent every year.
By the time he turns 45, his peak testosterone could be as low as 688 ng/dL. That’s a drop of 112 ng/dL in just 15 years! And unfortunately this trend will continue, year after year. (See below for normal ranges in older men.)
Normal Testosterone Levels By Time Of Day
Remember how we said two men could have completely different “normal” levels of testosterone? Another reason for the wide range is that your hormone levels fluctuate pretty wildly – not just from day to day, but also from hour to hour.
For most men, “T” levels are highest in the morning and lowest in the evening. A 2018 report by The New York Times explains these “peaks and valleys” as follows:
- peak: 8 a.m.
- low: 8 p.m.
After the initial 8 a.m. peak, the hormone begins to decline as the day goes on. It usually bottoms out around 8 p.m., after which it begins its overnight climb, repeating the same cycle the next day.
Age plays a role in this daily cycle. As the Times explains, the “peaks and valleys” are more dramatic for younger men. Fox example, an average 40-year-old man might experience a 200-point swing over the course of a day, whereas a senior-aged man might only fluctuate by about 50 points between morning and night.
Why Your Morning Testosterone Levels Are Higher
Guys: have you ever wondered why your sex drive feels higher during the morning? Or why you wake up with an erection (so-called “morning wood”)? This is probably not the case if you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction.
It’s all about your “T.”
According to Dr. Harry Fisch, M.D., most of your testosterone is produced at night, while you’re asleep. That’s when your endocrine system is most active, and your brain sends signals to your testes: “Hey, we’re going to need more ‘T’ for tomorrow, so get to work!”
The general theory is that your brain is ramping up testosterone for the next day, based on the current day’s depletion. This is also why a good night’s sleep is important for increasing your testosterone . Without it, your body doesn’t get the opportunity to ramp up production to its full potential.
Prenatal Testosterone Levels
Let’s dig a little deeper into the varying hormone levels by age.
In the chart above, you may have noticed that male testosterone levels are actually a bit higher at birth than a few months later. That initial “boost” actually begins in the womb.
A growing male fetus needs that testosterone to help develop the male reproductive system. And studies show that the amount of testosterone in the male fetus has a strong influence on behavior, cognitive ability and language later in life.
Interestingly, during this early development stage, too much “T” is not a good thing.
One study found that high prenatal testosterone levels led to delays in language development in male infants. Another found that the high hormone levels were also a risk for autism (though many researchers debate those findings).
On the flipside, another study found that prenatal exposure to testosterone and other androgens increased “men’s agreeableness with women.”
Teenage Mutant Testosterone
Okay, not mutant. But the most remarkable jump in male testosterone (which happens once and then never again) is during adolescence.
With the onset of puberty, a boy’s “T” levels skyrocket – from a peak of about 130 ng/dL at age 11 to 1,200 ng/dL by age 14. That peak stays virtually unchanged into adulthood, until men’s hormone levels begin to drop around age 30.
Research shows that boys can experience a 30-fold increase during puberty. But this surge is vital to male development in every aspect: psychological, behavioral and physical. After all, puberty is what ultimately transforms young men (and women) into sexually reproductive adults. Testosterone plays a crucial role in the process, which is why production of the hormone increases so dramatically.
Adolescent Hormones And Mood Swings
A commonly held belief is that the surging testosterone in adolescent boys is what causes typical teenage mood swings, aggression and even depression. However, there’s conflicting research on this correlation. One study found that “testosterone and aggression showed little relationship with concurrent changes in aggression,” so experts caution that more studies need to be done.
However, one study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience concluded that teenage boys (and girls) with higher testosterone levels were more prone to risk-taking.
Additional research has also found that rising testosterone levels in adolescents is correlated with “sensation seeking and sensitivity to reward.”
Flat-lining Testosterone In Early Adulthood
Around the time when guys turn 14 to 17 years old, their testosterone hits a peak of roughly 1,200 ng/dL and remains that way for the next 15 years or so. After that, the levels begin their yearly decline.
Why do men’s average testosterone levels begin to decline at the relatively young age of 30?
The answer to that question is still somewhat of a mystery. In some men, for example, the decline barely happens at all: these lucky fellas maintain roughly the same hormone level at age 70 as they do at age 17.
To complicate things further, one study concluded that declining testosterone is not inevitable or a natural part of aging at all. Instead, these researchers argue that men lose their “T” primarily because of behavioral and health changes. For example, the study found that men with healthy body weights and fewer life stresses hardly experienced a decline in the hormone at all as they aged.
That’s good news for men’s health overall and guys who are serious about increasing their testosterone by making lifestyle and health changes.
Grandpa’s Still Got It
Keep in mind, even senior-age men still have plenty of testosterone, despite the decline that most guys experience as they age.
At age 70, men’s testosterone can be 30 percent less than the peak they experienced decades earlier. But Harvard researchers say that’s plenty for a healthy, reproductive man. 75 percent of older men maintain a normal range of testosterone, “which is why many men can father children in their 80s and beyond.”
Normal Testosterone Levels By Age (men, age 40-79)
So, what’s “normal” for male testosterone after age 40? Research highlighted by Harvard Health Publishing says the following ranges are normal in healthy, older men:
|40 to 49 years||252 to 916|
|50 to 59 years||215 to 878|
|60 to 69 years||196 to 859|
|70 to 79 years||156 to 819|
Testosterone And Prostate Cancer In Middle-Aged Men
Researchers have discovered in several prominent studies over the years that testosterone levels seem to have an impact on men’s risk for prostate cancer.
But is it low “T” or high “T” that increases that risk? Experts aren’t totally sure yet.
For example, a 2017 study found that low levels of testosterone created a higher risk of more aggressive prostate cancer in men aged 45 to 64 years old.
However, an entirely different 2017 study concluded that men, aged between 34 and 76, were less likely to get prostate cancer if they had lower testosterone levels. But even then, researchers cautioned that the higher levels of the hormone might not be the concern: “While low levels of testosterone were associated with decreased risk of developing prostate cancer, high testosterone levels were not associated with increased risk.”
Experts say that while there could be a correlation between low “T” and prostate cancer, the hormone levels alone might not be what’s increasing the risk.
Does Low ‘T’ Cause Early Death?
Research suggests it might.
Over the last two decades, a few studies have found a strong link between low testosterone and early death. In some of the research, men with lower levels of the hormone had as much as a 40 percent increased risk of premature death, due to a wide range of causes, but especially cardiovascular disease.
The research makes it clear that the hormone level alone isn’t what’s causing these deaths. However, all the additional risks that come with low “T,” like obesity, lead to dangerously poor health.
Additionally, several of the studies adjust for factors that might influence a man’s risk of death (such as smoking, alcohol, high blood pressure, diabetes, social class and education). Even with those adjustments, “the link between low testosterone and earlier death remained.”
7 Things That Hasten Your Testosterone Decline
Most men will experience the yearly decline in testosterone after they hit age 40. But how steep that decline is depends on a few factors, some of which are within your control.
According to Harvard Health, the following conditions can hasten your hormonal drop:
- Injury or infection
- Radiation treatment for cancer and/or chemotherapy
- Medications (particularly hormones for the treatment of prostate cancer) and corticosteroid drugs
- Chronic illness
If you’re focused on reversing the effects of aging on your testosterone, small changes can make a pretty big difference. Eliminating stress, alcohol and unhealthy food choices are proven ways to increase your “T,” regardless of age. We provide a more complete list of known testosterone boosters below.
Your Dad Probably Had More “T” Than You
Here’s an alarming fact …
In addition to the declining hormone levels that most men experience, the male species as a whole is experiencing a generational decline. In other words, men from older generations had more testosterone than men do today.
How is that possible?
That’s somewhat of a mystery too – but experts believe it may have something to do with “transgenerational epigenetics.” That’s the study of environmental influences that are passed down from one generation to the next. For example, we know that increased exposure to certain chemicals can cause epigenetic changes, following one generation to the next. Something similar could be happening to our “T,” but if so, it’s not yet known which influences are causing it.
‘What’s My T?’ How To Check Your Testosterone Levels
Curious how your average testosterone levels compare to the charts above? Wondering how to test testosterone levels?
The most accurate way is to get a testosterone test kit. Some kits are available to consumers that involve a simple saliva test, which is mailed to a lab. Those results are typically provided in 1-3 weeks. More accurate testosterone tests, which analyze a small blood sample, are available through qualified physicians.
Are Testosterone Tests Worth It?
Our advice: the home kits generally aren’t worth the expense. If you’re concerned that your testosterone may be abnormally low, then we recommend speaking to your doctor first.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration advises, “Home use tests are intended to help you with your health care, but they should not replace periodic visits to your doctor.”
If you’re merely curious about hormone levels, or maybe you’re taking testosterone boosters and want to check your progress from year to year, then buying a test can’t hurt (except for maybe your wallet). But remember: your hormone levels are constantly changing. So even if your test shows a drop in “T” from month to month, your actual peak testosterone level could actually be higher – you’re just not testing at the right time. Monitoring the fluctuations is virtually impossible unless you have a way to check your levels constantly.
Symptoms Of Low Testosterone
There are several signs that your testosterone might be a bit low. When we’re talking about abnormally low hormone levels, men will typically experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Fatigue and sluggishness
- Loss of sex drive or sexual dysfunction
- Negative mood changes and depression
- Reduced muscle mass
- Less energy
- Weight gain
- Hot flashes
It’s important to note that some men with low “T” may not notice symptoms at all. And those who do notice some of these signs might not actually have low testosterone. Instead, the symptoms could be the sign of another medical issue altogether.
When To Call Your Doctor
The symptoms of low testosterone are nearly identical to the symptoms of numerous other medical conditions. Some, such as heart disease, can be quite serious. This is why it’s vital to speak to your physician if you are experiencing any of the signs above.
Rely on your doctor to properly diagnose your symptoms to determine if they are from low “T” or something else. Additionally, your doctor may be able to identify the likely source of your hormonal decline, such as weight gain, which will make it easy to prescribe the right course of action. In this particular example, a physician will typically recommend exercise and healthy eating to achieve weight loss before prescribing a more drastic approach like testosterone replacement therapy.
How To Increase Your Testosterone Levels Naturally
By now, you already know that certain bad habits and environmental factors, like stress and smoking, can decrease the male sex hormone. But what can you do to increase it?
There are actually several effective ways to boost your “T” naturally, as proven by medical science. Here are the big ones:
- Exercise and lift weights: High-resistance training, like weight-lifting and HIIT (high intensity interval training) have shown to be extremely effective at boosting “T” levels. The key is to do short bursts of physical activity (20 to 90 seconds) that push your muscles to the max, followed by equal periods of rest.
- Get more sleep: Most of your testosterone is produced while you sleep. Accordingly, studies show that men who get 7 to 8 hours of deep, restful sleep every night have higher levels of the hormone than those who are sleep-deprived.
- Have more sex: Sex and ejaculation are surefire ways to naturally boost the male sex hormone. And in turn, by increasing the hormone you’ll increase your sex drive.
- Eat well: Unhealthy eating significantly increases your risk for low “T,” so be sure to pay attention to your diet. Research shows that a balanced diet that combines healthy fats, carbs, proteins and vegetables can help to boost your testosterone.
- Supplement with the right nutrients: If you’re not getting enough of the nutrients that are proven to boost your “T,” consider taking testosterone boosters or supplements that include those ingredients. Examples include zinc, boron and magnesium, which have each been shown in medical studies to have a positive impact on the hormone.
Remember: You Have Control Over Your ‘T’
When you look at normal testosterone levels in men by age, it’s easy to become discouraged. As you get older, there’s a strong change your “T” will begin to decline.
As we’ve established, there are several things you can do to prevent that decline and even reverse it.
In a 2017 article in Huffington Post, writer Craig Cooper discussed the research showing that men lose their testosterone with age, and he offered proof that reversing it is possible. By simply making changes to his lifestyle (including diet, exercise, sleep and stress relief), “I managed to raise my T levels 36 percent, from 517 five years ago to 816 today (at age 54).”
If you’re serious about increasing your own hormone levels, start by following the recommendations above, and speak to your doctor if you suffer from severe symptoms that could be signs of low testosterone or other medical conditions.