Men Want to Know – Free Testosterone versus Total Testosterone

Posted by Professor Anna Gray, Updated on January 2nd, 2023
Reading Time: 3 minutes

When you come in for your testosterone test at our clinic, many of you will get two numbers for your testosterone levels, not just one. The first is total testosterone, and the second is free testosterone. What’s the difference? And what does it all mean for my overall physical and mental health and sexual function?

Not all testosterone in your body is bioavailable – that is, able to enter cells when needed. The most bioavailable testosterone is called “free” testosterone because it is not bound to any proteins in the bloodstream. Testosterone that is tightly bound – not free – cannot enter most cells. Testosterone that is loosely bound can enter at certain times. (It is still considered to be bioavailable.) So the total testosterone is a good indicator of how much of the hormone your body actually produces – but the free testosterone number is more significant when it comes to the needed benefits and effects caused by this, the primary male hormone. Having both numbers is important, because their ratio can give your physician insight into why you may be experiencing the distressing symptoms of low-T – which may include weakness, decreased mental acuity, poor muscle tone and mass, erectile dysfunction, and lack of interest in the opposite sex and sexual intercourse: There are times when a man’s total T is a good number – but he’s still experiencing some of these symptoms. Before ruling out low-T as a cause, the physician should check free testosterone levels to see if poor free-T levels could be a possible culprit.

Most Testosterone is not Free in the Bloodstream at any Given Time

Almost 55% of testosterone in the average man’s body is loosely bound in some way – bound to albumin or to a protein called SHBG, or sex hormone binding globulin. Another portion is tightly bound and considered not to be bioavailable. It may seem astounding, but only about 2% of the average man’s testosterone is considered to be free testosterone.

Generally testing for total testosterone is done through a blood test, and testing for free testosterone is done using a saliva test. Both tests are simple and easy.

It’s important for every man suffering from these systems to know his real testosterone profile if total T looks good but symptoms persist, and there’s only one way to do that: Get tested. We partner with major labs all over the United States to get you your results fast and accurately.

Getting a Blood Test is the Only Real Way to Know Your Testosterone Levels

In most cases, you’ll get tested for total testosterone first. Then, if it’s needed, you’ll get tested for free testosterone. In some cases, the second test isn’t needed as the first gives the doctor a clear picture of what is needed.

Not knowing your true situation prevents you from solving your problems, and could endanger your health. Pushing your body to make too much testosterone – when the real problem is too little free testosterone, caused by other factors besides low production – can be bad for your health and lead at the very least to wasted months or years before discovering the true cause of your low-T symptoms and getting back to vibrant health, energy, and sexual function.

Don’t guess, or use questionable, uncertified supplements based on hype on the Internet. Go the legal way, the safe way, and the sure way. Use science to know where you stand, and use the services of a certified physician to guide you through the process.

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