When we think of the female biological experience of hormones, at worst it can be a really difficult, draining thing to go through every month as your hormones go through their cycle. Mood swings, lack of energy, you name it. It’s rough.
Just to add to the original “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” theory (or, let’s face it, gospel), we have news for you regarding the male hormonal cycle. Spoiler: it’s totally different to the female cycle.
An extremely savvy (female-identifying) TikTok user has gone viral by taking on a male-identifying user’s very casual (and arguably glib) criticism of his girlfriend’s lack of energy, despite the fact that she had been sleeping a lot.
“Congratulations, you have figured out that the world is quite literally built for men,” she replies, “so men and women both have hormonal cycles but a man’s cycle is over a 24-hour period and a woman’s cycle is over a 28-day period. So the clock will literally work with a man’s cycle everyday”
Wow. We asked a hormone expert if this was really the case.
What you need to know about the difference between male and female hormone cycles
“Males and females have, relatively speaking, the same basic hormones in their body – but the levels differ, often enormously and the way that the levels change is also very different,” Dr Rebecca Poet, founder of The Women’s Hormone Clinic, says.
“The male sex have a regular daily variation in their levels of the most important hormone, testosterone,” she adds. “Where females experience dramatic fluctuations in their reproductive hormone levels on a monthly cycle. This cycle is governed by the interaction between their pituitary gland in their brain and their ovaries.”
So how does a male daily hormone cycle work?
Rebecca has broken down how the male hormone cycle works each day, and it’s so different to a female experience.
“Testosterone peaks during the morning,” she says. “This means they’re likely to be at their most energetic, confident, impulsive, and temperamental and this also correlates with sex drive.
Certain stimulants can affect testosterone levels, as well. “Both alcohol and caffeine can cause testosterone spikes,” Rebecca says. “So someone who drinks often in the evenings may not exhibit the same signs of the ‘regular’ cycle as their sober friend, who would be experiencing the symptoms of testosterone at its lowest ebb.”
As the day goes on men’s testosterone levels vary, as do their mood levels and libido. “In the afternoons, with testosterone levels lower, a male’s mood can be more level and yet they still have enough testosterone to keep them motivated and focussed. The afternoon is a really good time for getting work done.
“And in the evenings, testosterone hits its lowest point and it’s common for energy to dip and for men to feel calmer. They’re also less likely to be in the mood for sex or intimacy and may experience trouble keeping an erection due to the low levels of testosterone.”
Let’s get specific: how does the female hormone cycle differ from a man’s in terms of symptoms and the experience of it?
First of all, it’s officially scientific fact that a female hormonal cycle is more likely to affect you physically. “Because of the normal patterns of fluctuation during the menstrual cycle, females often experience physical symptoms – these occur much less frequently with males, such as mood swings, breast tenderness, migraines and fluid retention,” Rebecca says.
The process is much more complex, she adds, meaning that week from week a woman is likely to feel differently depending on where they’re at in the cycle, in comparison to males feeling differently at various points in the day.
“During a single cycle, there are three hormones – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone – that rise and fall in a specific pattern,” she says.
“In the first two weeks, the levels of oestrogens go up, boosting your mood and your energy. In the second week, testosterone levels begin to rise. This combination of high oestrogen and testosterone levels can lead to good mood and an active libido.
“During the third week, progesterone rises (while oestrogen drops) and may lead to a sluggish mood; some women may also feel emotionally low during this period. During the fourth week, the levels of oestrogen drop; this can lead to irritability, body pain and moodiness. Meanwhile, progesterone levels are dropping too, so some women feel energetic.”
This is A LOT for female bodies to go through during a hormonal cycle, and a stark contrast to the experience of the male body.
What can be done to combat fatigue from hormonal cycles?
“Mood swings associated with the hormonal cycle can also be triggered or intensified by other lifestyle factors and habits,” Rebecca says. “Stressful circumstances or activities can precipitate mood swings as can an unstable blood sugar, alcohol or caffeine.” So, for both sexes, it’s important to take your lifestyle choices into account if your hormones are really getting to you.
Rebecca also recommends Increasing our “feel-good hormone” levels through exercise, eating to maintain a stable blood sugar, taking B vitamins and Omega 3 and 6 supplements, which can all help to maintain good hormonal balance and alleviate PMS symptoms for female bodies.