Chances are that you’re familiar with the sense of heaviness that sits in your mind and your body after a long day of work. Sometimes, you even might catch yourself waking up in the morning with the same feelings. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep. Or maybe you overdid it the day before. Most of the time, you can pull yourself out of bed and shake it off. But what if … you can’t? What if it persists?
Most of the time when we feel fatigued, we can point to a cause and set aside some extra time to rest or to address whatever is making us tired. On the other hand, when we can’t figure out why our energy is low, it can be a sign that the fatigue is a part of something larger. Often, common causes of fatigue in men can sneak up on you and leave you feeling exhausted without warning. If you are struggling with fatigue, you should pay close attention to these potential causes and ensure that you have the knowledge you need to get back to feeling healthy and energetic once again.
What Causes Fatigue In Men?
The reason it can be hard to get over fatigue is that fatigue is a feature of countless normal activities like strenuous exercise as well as a plethora of health problems, including everything from seasonal allergies to cancer. This means that if you’re frequently fatigued, your best course of action is to see a practitioner who can investigate the source of your symptoms and create a plan for how to address them.
But while many factors can strip you of your energy, there are a few culprits that are especially common. These include your lifestyle, depression or anxiety, low testosterone, and hypothyroidism. If these explain your fatigue, there are ways to get you back on track—but you’ll need to understand what you’re experiencing first.
Your lifestyle is an important place of vulnerability when it comes to your risk of experiencing fatigue. Whereas a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and frequent exercise can offer significant protection, the following lifestyle factors can contribute to your feeling of fatigue:
- Low sleep quality
- Low sleep duration
- Poor diet
- Poor work-life balance
- Habitually low physical activity
- Moderate to high alcohol consumption
- Use of certain recreational or prescription drugs
While these factors can have a significant impact on your energy levels, you can typically address them with relatively simple changes in behavior. Cutting back on work, alcohol, and unhealthy food can often help you recover from fatigue relatively quickly. Of course, some changes are harder than others, and you may need help in both understanding what steps to take and in taking them. Depending on your situation, this may mean working with a practitioner, nutritionist, psychologist, or support group that can offer the kind of support you need as you begin your recovery journey.
Anxiety, Depression, and Other Mental Health Disorders
When your mind is constantly scrambling, your body is often just as restless. As a result of the mental load of worrying and the physical load of tense muscles and a rapid heartbeat, anxiety frequently leaves you feeling drained and fatigued. In fact, for many men, anxiety is the primary cause of fatigue.
Depression is also well-known to significantly diminish energy levels. For some, the fatigue makes everyday tasks more difficult and unpleasant, but still doable. For others, simply getting out of bed or taking a shower becomes difficult. Even in mild cases, people with depression often lose the motivation to be physically active. It’s important to understand that inactivity stemming from depression isn’t the same as rest—and fatigue which doesn’t go away after resting is a major feature of depression. In fact, inactivity can further reinforce fatigue.
While physical symptoms of depression such as fatigue can happen to anyone, evidence suggests that men may be particularly vulnerable while simultaneously being less prone to symptoms that are more typically associated with depression, such as deep sadness. Because men often experience depression differently than women do and are not encouraged to explore and express difficult emotions in the same way, many men fail to recognize their symptoms as depression and are significantly less likely to seek treatment. However, depression is not something to be ashamed of and getting the right treatment can help you restore the emotion and physical harmony you need to thrive.
Anxiety and depression are not the only psychiatric conditions associated with fatigue. If you are experiencing any symptoms of a mental health disorder, visiting a psychiatrist for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis is critical to understanding what you are going through and getting the help you need to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
Low testosterone levels often lead to fatigue in men and can impact you even if you have no other symptoms of hormonal imbalance. In your body, testosterone is partially responsible for regulating the rate at which you gain muscle, expend energy, and maintain your lean body mass. When you don’t have enough testosterone, your body can’t unlock the power and energy to which you are accustomed, which leaves you feeling fatigued. In fact, fatigue is so closely associated with low testosterone that it is one of the hallmark features that practitioners use to diagnose low-T.
There is plentiful evidence of the impact of low testosterone on energy levels. A 2016 study, for example, found only 4.9% of men with normal testosterone levels reported that they frequently felt fatigued in comparison to 9.2% of men with low testosterone levels. When controlled for the age, lifestyle, and weight of the men, this difference meant that men with low-T were around 40% more likely to report being fatigued. Furthermore, the men with low testosterone scored significantly worse on a depression scoring scale (Black Depression Inventory) than those with normal testosterone levels, indicating that low-T may affect energy levels via multiple mechanisms.
If you suspect that low testosterone levels are causing your fatigue, you should also be aware of the other symptoms of low-T, which include difficulty gaining muscle, low mood, and low sex drive. Men start to experience dropping testosterone levels as they age, meaning that many men may start to notice symptoms of low T in their 40s—which is exactly when their lifestyle may also be changing. If you think that low testosterone is contributing to your fatigue, it’s important to know that low-T is typically easy to treat when you work with the right practitioner.
Hypothyroidism is a powerful driver of fatigue in men because it means your body is not getting enough of the thyroid hormones it needs to keep your energy at a normal level. Of these thyroid hormones, two of them, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), are especially important in terms of their ability to prevent fatigue. The reason for this is that T3 and T4 are partially responsible for regulating your heart rate, metabolism, breathing rate, and breakdown of fat molecules. When your body doesn’t have the tools it needs to upregulate these functions, it means that you’re likely to become exhausted far more quickly than you would otherwise—even if you’re not exerting yourself.
In one recent study, the process of internalizing oxygen and exhausting carbon dioxide was 23% slower in people with hypothyroidism than in healthy people. As the researchers note, this slower speed causes “greater metabolic cost to perform repeated tasks and significant impairment of daily living tasks.” In other words, fatigue that you experience as a result of hypothyroidism can disrupt your ability to participate in even everyday activities and self-care.
Fatigue isn’t the only symptom of hypothyroidism, of course. People with hypothyroidism also often experience weight gain, inability to concentrate, depression, and dry skin. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should consider the possibility of hypothyroidism very seriously. The only way to definitively diagnose hypothyroidism is with blood testing administered by a practitioner skilled in treating hormonal health conditions. They will also provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan to help you restore balance.
Finding Relief From Fatigue
After looking at these common causes of fatigue in men, you may have a few ideas about where your low energy is coming from—and how to fix it. But you shouldn’t start this journey alone. Your best course of action is to consult a practitioner who understands you and your body’s needs and will offer the tests you need to achieve an accurate diagnosis. With all the facts in hand, you can work together to develop a strategy for getting back on track and feeling like yourself again. This may include medications as well as lifestyle changes designed to reinvigorate your mind and body.
Many men assume that fatigue is simply a fact of life as they get older, busier, and take on more responsibilities. But whether it’s lifestyle-related or the sign of a serious medical issue, you should never ignore persistent fatigue. By getting to the root of what is happening, you can ensure that you protect your physical and emotional health and live life to its fullest.
If you’re experiencing fatigue, BodyLogicMD can help you. Our network of highly-trained practitioners specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and integrative medicine, making them uniquely qualified to identify and treat a wide range of health issues. If your fatigue is hormone-related, they will use the most cutting-edge therapies and lifestyle supports available to help you restore your energy levels and experience the life you deserve. Get started on a customized treatment plan designed to fit your needs and help you reach optimal wellness—contact a local practitioner to schedule your first appointment or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz today.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.