By Dr. Christopher Lepisto

a 5-min read

Recently I was listening to a podcast in which host Joe Rogan was talking to his guests, dietician/nutritionist Diana Rodgers and research biochemist/author Robb Wolf about the currently raging controversy of the superiority of plant-based vs animal-based diets. Specifically, they were talking about the loss of muscle mass and how to maintain it as adults age. I perked up immediately as this is one of the questions I get with regular frequency, especially from my male patients. There was discussion of pea protein as the plant source with the broadest and most complete amino acid profile needed for daily human musculoskeletal function (slightly better than hemp protein). But what was most notable was their statement of what protein source was far superior to even these greatest-of-the-plant-world sources. What was it?

Red meat.

Not impossible foods meat made from heavily processed plants, as much meat as the water-based extraction process leftovers called oat milk is real milk. It is not. Not the inedible banana-peels-disguised-as-pulled-pork recipe being touted as a superior vegan product. Yuck.

Nope, it’s good old cholesterol-rich, animal fat laden meat. It increases muscle massslow-twitch muscle fibers, increases overall body weight as fat stores are liberated and replaced by the density of muscle and results in greater strength.

I imagine you are thinking that more is needed than simple nutrition. After all, if you are already challenged with maintaining muscle mass either as an athlete, weekend warrior or overworked middle-aged fellow with a stressful job, it’s going to take more than meat to keep you healthy and strong with great erectile function and superior libido. Right? And so inevitably men find themselves wondering, what about testosterone?

The thought is, understandably, alluring. It is touted under the “Sexual Health” heading on Mayo Clinic’s website. And claims you will experience the benefits of “Bigger, Faster and Stronger.”

But what about the risks?

Unfortunately, these risks are all too real and well documented. Men and women (yes, they use it as well) undergoing testosterone therapy may experience depression, memory loss, loss of brain mass, paranoia, cardiac damage, hypogonadism (loss of testes or ovary size) and liver/kidney/brain/heart damage. These effects are all dose-dependent and sometimes are lasting or permanent.

I get it. You are probably noticing real changes in your mood, motivation, and stamina. Even if you’ve got great “morning wood” as an excellent indicator of peaking am testosterone levels, you know that something is wrong. You have genuine concerns with real causes. To this end, I had a discussion with the therapist who runs my men’s group about the most common causes of low sex drive and poor erections. Our agreement? That by far, and I mean most of the time, the cause of low libido and erectile dysfunction is relationship issues. In other words, the cause is much less so, low testosterone, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or physical illness.

Remember that right now, the sun is at its very lowest of the year during the dark days of Winter Solstice. Mood changes are more seasonal than hormonal. Our food choices are typically lousy and we usually have increased end-of-year stress with holidays and work. Knowing this means these are places where our attention is better put right now, rather than the often-false promise of potency that is testosterone therapy.

This is the time of year to reach out for expert help. If you are looking to get to the bottom of your fatigue or mood changes, give me a call. I’ll help you get back on a road to wellness in the new year.

Dr. Lepisto