Adrenaline & Testosterone

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A buff man is standing by a punching bag. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Adrenaline and testosterone are both human hormones. Adrenaline, the common name for epinephrine, is a stress hormone produced in similar quantities in both men and women. Testosterone is classically considered a "male" hormone, although it's produced in small amounts in women as well. In men, testosterone is responsible for physical male development and sexual capability and performance.

Function of Adrenaline

Adrenaline is produced by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of either kidney. The hormone, more commonly called epinephrine in the scientific and medical communities, is also often called the "fight or flight" hormone, since it's released in response to severe stress or threat. Explains Dr. Lauralee Sherwood in her book "Human Physiology," adrenaline increases heart rate, respiration rate, availability of glucose to fuel muscles, and blood flow to the muscles, helping to prepare the body to fight or flee an attack.

Function of Testosterone

In both males and females, testosterone is the hormone responsible for the sex drive. It's produced in the Leydig cells of the testes in men, explains Dr. Gary Thibodeau in his book "Anatomy and Physiology." In women, the thecal cells of the ovaries produce very limited amounts of testosterone. The hormone causes embryonic boys to develop male sex organs, and then during puberty, causes sex organs to enlarge and become functional.

Misconceptions

Because both testosterone and adrenaline are associated with strength and vigor in some regard--testosterone because it leads to increased musculature and adrenaline because it increases the contractile strength of muscles temporarily--it's common to assume that the hormones work together. In reality, notes Dr. Thibodeau, testosterone is a steroid hormone that exerts long-term effects over development and physiological function. Adrenaline, on the other hand, has short-term effects, and does not show cooperation with testosterone.

Considerations

While in many ways the functions of testosterone and adrenaline don't overlap significantly, research published in 1983 in the scientific journal "Experimental Clinical Endocrinology" suggests that high levels of adrenaline in the body can negatively impact testosterone levels in men. The mechanism is through reducing levels of LH, which subsequently reduces levels of testosterone. While short-term exposures to adrenaline are unlikely to cause effects, long-term stress and routine adrenaline exposure may downregulate testosterone production.

Expert Insight

Both testosterone and adrenaline levels can increase during or shortly after exercise. Adrenaline release occurs during significant physical efforts, and helps increase muscular strength and firing of muscular units on a temporary basis, notes Dr. Thibodeau. This effect typically lasts for only a short period of time during and after a workout. Regular exercise can also boost testosterone levels, and since testosterone is a slower-acting hormone than adrenaline, this effect is a bit longer-lasting than that of adrenaline release.

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