The Role of Sex Hormones in Your Metabolism - dummies

The Role of Sex Hormones in Your Metabolism

By Rachel Berman

Whether you’re a man or woman, the hormones testosterone and estrogen play a leading role in your metabolism. Most notably, your sex hormones impact your body composition, which may be seen with a glance at the male and female physiques.

Males tend to have more muscle mass and burn more calories at rest, which is why men can typically eat more and not gain weight. For women, it may seem like whatever you eat goes straight to your thighs and hips, and it’s more difficult to lose fat.


Estrogen is the hormone that’s integral for reproduction as well as development of sex characteristics like breast tissue. The hormone, which is produced in your ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat tissue also protects cognitive functioning, promotes healthy bones, and helps control your cholesterol levels.

During menopause, estrogen levels rapidly decline, resulting in the following:

  • Increased conversion of calories to fat: Because fat cells also make estrogen, your body favors being in fat storage mode to increase those cells and promote estrogen production.

  • Hot flashes that can interrupt your sleep: Not getting a good night’s sleep contributes to alterations in your hunger hormones with negative metabolism effect.

  • Mood swings that can impact what you eat: You may crave more fatty foods or sweets.


Testosterone, on the other hand, is produced by both males and females but is more prominent in males. It’s produced primarily in the testes in men, and in the ovaries in women. Testosterone

  • Promotes protein synthesis and increases muscle mass function

  • Promotes endurance, which helps with activity and exercise.

  • Helps prevent heart disease by keeping cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check.

As with estrogen, your testosterone levels decrease after age 40, resulting in less muscle mass, more fat mass, and a more sluggish metabolic rate. Stress hormones also interfere with both estrogen and testosterone, reducing their metabolism-boosting effects even further at any age.

As you age, losing weight becomes more and more difficult in large part because of these sex hormones. But through diet and exercise, you can work to balance out your hormones so that they’re working for you rather than against you.