Testosterone is an important sex hormone primarily found in males, (although females produce smaller amounts as well). It’s produced in the testicles in men and plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues and secondary sexual characteristics. Beyond its impact on a man’s physical attributes, testosterone influences various bodily functions, including building muscle mass, increasing strength, improving bone density, helping to boost energy levels, and assisting in regulating mood and libido. It's essential for maintaining overall health and well-being in both men and women. But will watching the Kansas City Chiefs play the San Francisco 49ers in the Superbowl actually increase your testosterone levels? Surprisingly the answer is possibly YES. Let’s explain…
In case you’ve been living in a jungle your whole life, you probably know what the Superbowl is, regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of football or even sports in general. The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL) and is a colossal sporting and cultural phenomenon in not just the United States but across the world. It's a spectacular showcase of athleticism and entertainment, captivating millions of people worldwide. Beyond the thrilling gridiron action, the Super Bowl is a cultural extravaganza with iconic halftime shows and memorable commercials, making it a must-watch event.
As it turns out, there is a connection between watching sporting events and an increase in testosterone levels in men. The boost in male hormones is actually significant depending on whether your favorite team is playing and how well they do. If you’re a die-hard Chiefs fan and you watch Patrick Mahomes or Travis Kelce score a Touchdown, you may see a significant spike in testosterone however if you just watched Nick Bosa miss a tackle or Brock Purdy fumble the ball, you can actually see a decrease in testosterone! I know it sounds odd so let’s see what the scientific literature has to say about this.
In a study conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia, it stated that Male testosterone levels increase when victorious in competition against rivals, but not friends. Mark Flinn, who is a professor of anthropology at MU was quoted "Our hormonal reactions while competing are part of how we evolved as a cooperative species. What we found in our study is that although male testosterone levels increase when men are victorious against strangers or rivals, levels of the hormone tend to stay the same when competing against friends."
Conducting research on males across various age brackets in Dominica, Flinn, and his research team observed games like dominoes or cricket. The results showed that competing against an external group elevated the competitor's testosterone levels upon victory, but decreased after defeat.
What was interesting is that when competing with friends, testosterone levels remained unaffected by outcomes. Notably, merely being part of a sports team or group of fans cheering for a favorite team in a sports bar or at a Superbowl party, can similarly boost testosterone levels, according to Flinn, highlighting the broader impact of communal experiences on hormonal responses.
As it turns out, there is a causal effect of testosterone on men's competitive behavior, and is moderated by basal cortisol levels and cues to an opponent's status. Compared to a placebo group, male test subjects given exogenous testosterone who were low in basal cortisol showed an increased tendency to compete against men and high-status opponents, as compared to female and low-status opponents. It turns out that testosterone will also cause men to become more competitive, making the hormone an important element of what an athlete needs to be successful in their sport both physiologically and psychologically. Testosterone will influence motivation in men, which is one of the many reasons why so many men are deciding to seek treatment with TRT.
That may be all well and good for the athlete, but what about the fans? Published in PHYSIOL BEHAV in 1998, a study was conducted exploring the testosterone fluctuations of fans during sporting events. Fans were tested in both victory and defeat. While basking in reflected glory is commonly viewed as a cognitive process affecting behavior, the research suggests physiological involvement. Two studies involving male fans watching basketball and World Cup soccer games revealed increased testosterone levels in fans of winning teams and decreased levels in fans of losing teams, highlighting the physiological impact of witnessing one's favorite team's outcomes. These findings extend beyond mood and self-esteem changes, shedding light on the broader physiological consequences of sports fandom.
In both investigations, fans of winning teams experienced a surge in testosterone levels, while those who were rooting for the losing teams witnessed a decline. Notably, the impact on winning fans was robust enough to overturn the usual daily decline in testosterone levels. Given that the game's outcome remained uncertain until the last moments, this effect likely occurred abruptly rather than accumulating gradually throughout the match.
When you factor another issue, such as gambling, into the equation it can complicate things even more. There is an association with winning/losing in gambling that also can affect the body producing more testosterone. The "winner–loser effect" delineates a noteworthy occurrence in testosterone research, wherein the results of a social competition trigger fluctuations in testosterone levels, marked by elevations following victories and reductions following defeats. So, for gamblers, the excitement of winning is also bolstered with an increase in testosterone, yet the losers will, unfortunately, get smacked with a decrease in not only the money that they lost but their hormone levels as well. This makes having the Superbowl in Las Vegas particularly interesting!
In conclusion, the relationship between watching the Super Bowl and testosterone levels is not merely a matter of fandom; it extends into the realm of physiological responses, adding a fascinating layer to the excitement of the game. The connection between sports and testosterone levels in men, as highlighted by scientific research and studies, underscores the intricate interplay between competition, victory, and hormonal fluctuations.
The findings from the University of Missouri-Columbia emphasize the nuanced nature of testosterone responses, showing that victories against rivals, but not friends, trigger significant increases in testosterone levels. This insight into the hormonal dynamics of competition offers a unique perspective on how men's bodies react to different social scenarios, showcasing the evolutionary aspects of our cooperative nature.
Furthermore, the impact of testosterone on competitive behavior, as revealed in studies on basal cortisol levels and opponent status, not only sheds light on the athlete's perspective but also emphasizes the broader significance of testosterone in shaping both the physiological and psychological aspects of sports performance.
For fans, the physiological involvement in sports outcomes, demonstrated by testosterone fluctuations in response to victories and defeats, suggests that the thrill of being associated with a winning team goes beyond psychological effects. This physiological connection, as observed in studies on basketball and World Cup soccer fans, brings a new dimension to the understanding of sports fandom.
Introducing gambling into the equation adds another layer of complexity, with the "winner–loser effect" in testosterone research elucidating the hormonal consequences of social competition, extending beyond sports outcomes to the realm of financial gains and losses. The excitement of winning in gambling is accompanied by an increase in testosterone, while the unfortunate losers not only experience a monetary setback but also a decline in hormone levels.
In essence, the Super Bowl, with its amalgamation of athleticism, entertainment, and cultural spectacle, appears to be more than just a sporting event—it serves as a physiological stimulant, influencing testosterone levels in both players and fans alike. As we look deeper into the intricate connections between sports, competition, and hormones, the Super Bowl emerges not only as a platform for athletic prowess but also as a fascinating arena for exploring the physiological dimensions of human behavior…. plus we’ll most likely see Taylor Swift.
May 14, 2013
University of Missouri-Columbia
A study has found that testosterone levels during group competition are modulated depending on the relationships among the competitors and may be related to the formation of alliances in warfare.
Author links open overlay panelPaul C Bernhardt ∗, James M Dabbs Jr †, Julie A Fielden †, Candice D Lutter †
4. Slot machine gambling and testosterone: Evidence for a “winner–loser” effect?
Ferrari, M. A., Chan, M., Brown, P. N., & Clark, L. (2018). Slot machine gambling and testosterone: Evidence for a “winner–loser” effect? Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 32(8), 961–971. https://doi.org/10.1037/adb0000425
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