Every man wants to boost testosterone, as it is known as the man’s man hormone. THE well-known hormonal difference between men and women is that men have substantially more than women. This is the primary reason we have more muscle mass, squarer jaws and are stronger.
As a result, when levels decrease, we may feel like less of a man. On the other hand it may be a competitive mind set that just makes us want to have higher levels than other men. Interestingly, this competitive mindset actually has an impact on testosterone levels. Many more ways to boost testosterone will be discussed in this article.
The competitive mindset and the decline of testosterone with age has lead many bro-sciencientists to producing supplements and products for the average man to buy and use. It is fair to say that the average man, is not a science nerd who spends hours each day, listening to experts and reading books written by actual scientists on what has an impact on health. My aim is to bring everything to you in a more digestible and accessible manner. Having had hormonal issues in the past personally, I decided to write this article on all the things that I have discovered that can help naturally.
Most products that are said to boost testosterone just do not work, full stop. They are either a total gimmick or may, in the worst cases, contain traces of illegal supplements to boost hormonal numbers. Often, they will contain ingredients which boost libido but do not boost testosterone to make you feel like they are working.
Having said that, there are some people I have actually learned a lot from. Since the day I discovered it, Examine.com has been my go to site for science regarding supplements and what effects they actually have. If you’re ever unsure about a supplement or a particular ingredient, this is it the place to look it up.
The Result Of Good Testosterone Values
When your values are right for you and you’re feeling at your best you can expect to notice the following:
- Good ability to build lean mass
- Improved fat loss
- Improved mood and confidence
- Solid erections
- Good libido
- Good cardiovascular health
Just imagine a manly man, let’s say The Rock or Jason Statham, the way they display themselves is how you should feel. You can skip ‘Understanding Testosterone’ if you don’t wish to know about how it’s produced or what normal blood values are.
Testosterone value are hugely variable between men and are affected by a variety of factors. One of the major players being age. On average, from the age of 30 onwards testosterone levels drop by 1% per year. Then, there are the factors regarding free and bound testosterone. In the bloodstream, testosterone doesn’t simply bounce around. The vast majority of it is bound to a carrier called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).
It all starts with the hypothalamus, which is located in your brain. The hypothalamus produces gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH travels to the pituitary gland, also in the brain, where follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) are released. These make their way to the testes where FSH stimulates sperm production and LH stimulates the Leydig cells to produce testosterone.
As mentioned, testosterone is largely produces in by Leydig cells in the testes in. Women release it from their ovaries in much smaller quantities, male levels are roughly 10 times higher. Cholesterol is the building block from which testosterone is made.
As touched upon previously, testosterone is responsible for body hair, facial hair, body structure, muscle mass gain and retention and fat burning. All this things pick up during puberty when the body significantly boosts testosterone levels. Having said that, if you don’t have much body hair it doesn’t mean you have low levels.
Testosterone can also be seen as an anti-aging hormone as low levels have been linked to a higher likely hood of death as well as the development of a variety of diseases, such as heart disease.
Having said that, higher isn’t always better. There is something to be said for testosterone replacement therapy for men over 40 or in certain medical situations.
Is Your Number Normal
Over the last few decades, average testosterone has been dropping. To the point that the new “normal” has been adjusted to fit this. Personally, I don’t believe this to be the way to go about finding what people should strive for. If we want to feel and look our best, shouldn’t we be going by optimal for our body as opposed to what the average (healthy and unhealthy) man on the street has?
The current normal range is roughly around 270-1070 ng/dl. The average being around 679 ng/dl.
You should also bear in mind that values tend to peak in the early twenties and decline with age. In other words, a 70 year old’s normal will not be the same as a 20 year old’s.
This value represents total testosterone. To work out your free testosterone, the T that isn’t bound to SHBG, you will need to ask your doctor. If you’ve had a blood test and had both SHBG and testosterone tested, which any semi-decent doctor would do, your free value should be visible.
A normal range of free testosterone is around 0.3 to 2 pg/mL, or 0.1 to 0.3 percent of your total testosterone.
On a side note, it appears that athletes and people with high insulin sensitivity have higher than average SHBG levels. Why this, is isn’t currently known. In most cases high SHBG is a result of obesity however not being an athlete. To boost testosterone you want to get this number down into a normal range.
Ways To Boost Testosterone
It’s time to dive into the all the magic around how to naturally boost testosterone. Some of these tools are very straight forward. Others a little more complicated. As a general rule, the things you can do on a daily basis are more important than the ones that only happen occasionally. As a general rule:
Common Habits > Rare Occurrences
This is something you do daily, but unfortunately most people skimp on. If you want your hormone levels to be optimal you cannot afford to sacrifice sleep for an extra 30 min on Youtube.
Most of your testosterone is released during sleep, as such it would make sense that adequate sleep correlates with increased testosterone. There have been multiple studies at this point, demonstrating that as sleep duration increases (up to 10 hours) so does testosterone. A week of sleep restriction, as well as chronic sleep restriction, have been shown to decrease testosterone. A study in Norwegian Cadets found that sleep deprivation reduced testosterone by 25%. Other findings included a reduction in testosterone with only mild sleep deprivation and a testosterone boost with more sleep, up to 9.9 hours.
If you want to boost testosterone get sufficient sleep. You should be waking up energised and ready to conquer the day.
Higher body fat levels reduce testosterone. The reason behind this is believed to be increased aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen. Poor insulin sensitivity could also be a contributor to decreased T.
What you can do, is lose weight and aim to be somewhere in the 8-14% range for that optimal level. The leaner you get, the more your values will rise and the better you will feel. Once you’ve been lean for a while, maintaining a lean body will become easier.
You obviously want to be working on maintaining and building muscle during this stage too.
Stress hurts you in more ways than one. One of the effects of high stress is experiencing low levels of that magical hormone. This happens because cortisol, a stress hormone, suppresses testosterone production.
The other thing to bear in mind is that cortisol is catabolic, meaning it’s actually destructive to your muscle gain and anabolic to fat retention. This means you will store more fat and not boost testosterone levels.
Cortisol is a necessity and in fact increases in the morning, it should not constantly be elevated however. So if you’re always rushing or find that your mindset is stressing you for no real reason, then take some time to meditate or do some breath work to boost testosterone levels.
This is easily said, but really requires some work for some people. Work on building the habit of meditation into your life, even for just a couple of minutes in the evening, to get yourself out of ‘red alert’ mode. Downtime is crucial!
This is one of the easiest changes to make so get ready for a little overhaul. Many products contain chemicals that are endocrine disruptors. This means they affect hormonal pathways and production. There are actually plenty of chemicals which can be found, often in personal care items, which have a negative impact our hormonal system.
Common sources in addition to personal care are plastics and preservatives. Certain types of sunscreen also have an impact.
Most chemicals, are generally harmless. There are a few you should know about however. You can avoid these and remove them from your daily routine.
Bisphenol A (BPA) – This is commonly used in plastics, more specifically to harden them. It is widely used and you can assume that it is in most plastics that do not say BPA free. BPA has been linked to lower testosterone and erectile problems.
Bisphenol S (BPS) – Seen and marketed as a safer option to BPA, this is also used to harden plastics. Many products will say BPA free but may in fact use BPS. BPS can also interfere with the production and secretion of hormones by mimicking oestrogen.
Parabens (methyl-, butyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, heptyl-, etc.) – These are preservatives found in personal care items. It allows them to not go off quickly. Parabens are xenoestrogens, meaning they act similarly to oestrogen within the human body and can as a result bind to oestrogen receptors. In addition they have been found to reduce testosterone by a substantial margin.
Pthalates – You may have heard this word uttered on podcasts on in other articles. This, again, is largely found in plastics with the purpose of making it more flexible. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only place pthalates creep into. They can also be found in person care items. Pthalates have been linked to lower testosterone levels as well as reduced fertility.
Benzophenones – Often displayed as BP-followed by a number or benzophenone and a number. This is usually found in sunscreen, more specifically chemical sunscreen. For an idea on safe suncreens have a look at this article. Benzophenes have been found to be detrimental to sex hormone levels.
Triclosan/ Triclocarban – Used in hand washes as an anti-biotic most of the time. The difference is that triclosan is used in liquid soaps, while triclocarban is used mainly in soap bars. Having said that, at this point these have been banned in consumer products but not in areas requiring food safety and hospitals. The rules vary from country to country though. As a result, it’s worth doing a quick google search on the restrictions in your country.
Relationships and Sex
Great news everyone, sex and relationships are linked to increased testosterone. In fact, sex is more likely to increase testosterone instead of testosterone being the reason for increased sex. Go ahead and have as much sex as you like. In fact, men who had sex were found to have up to 72% increased testosterone boost, while men who observed others having sex had an increase of 11%.
Men in relationships were also found to have increases in testosterone on on those days in which sexual activity was undertaken. The boost in testosterone may be temporary but who can complain about a little natural boost. It should also be noted that men over 60, who had regular sex, were found to have significantly higher testosterone levels.
You cannot boost testosterone optimally without considering your training. You should be resistance training and following a program that requires you to lift medium-heavy weights a couple of times a week and stimulates large muscle groups. Resistance training has been associated with a boost in testosterone post training as well as a decrease in stress hormones outside of training sessions.
It’s important that you lift explosively when you lift weights. Maintain good form is equally crucial! This sort of weight lifting can stimulate both short- and long-term testosterone increases. The goal should be to add a little more weight every session, this doesn’t mean kill yourself. Maintain perfect, or close to perfect form, and aim for increases weight over time. Initially, you may even increase weight or repetitions every session. Interestingly, body building type training boosts testosterone by a little more than pure strong man training, although both have a positive impact.
Certain parts of the body have a large amount of what are known as androgen receptors. These are sites at which androgens e.g. testosterone bind to convey a message to the cell. Training these particular parts of the body will helps increase muscle mass and bone density. These areas include the chest, shoulders and trapezius. This is one of the reasons that people who take testosterone have extremely well developed shoulders and upper chests.
Sprinting is another great exercise. It stimulates large muscle groups, is explosive and has been associated with an increase in testosterone, especially when combined with some caffein beforehand.
Training too much is not a good idea, as this will increase stress levels and not give your body the chance to recover appropriately. In addition you won’t be able to boost testosterone using the outline mentioned above.
I recently designed such a program and will be posting the structure in a different post.
Eat The Right Amount
This is when things get even more interesting, as someone who has had a tendency to under eat accidentally, causing a whole bunch of issues. I will layout the hows and whys of eating for optimal levels. This tends to be less of an issue, but can be a problem in extremely active individuals.
In short, if you’re a very active person or an athlete and you’re struggling in the T department, increase calorie intake. The source of calories is just as important as you will need to meet your micronutrient requirements for your body to respond effectively, this means whole foods!
This is important for you to obtain adequate levels of zinc, magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, iodine, vitamin K, manganese, boron and vitamin A. You can always use a quality to multivitamin to top up levels but it shouldn’t be your go-to source.
So overall, you should be eating for maintenance or at a slight surplus if you’re already lean and looking to gain muscle. If you’re overweight you’ll need to be at a deficit to get lean in the first place. This drop will likely already result in a testosterone boost, so don’t worry about being at a necessary deficit in that situation.
Your protein requirements are probably not as high as you think they should be. A good average to aim for for health, muscle gain and a testosterone boost is 1.2-1.8 g/kg of body weight. This is already adjusted for weight training. If you cannot weight train then the required value is even lower than this. A study found that replacing carbohydrates with protein has a negative impact on testosterone.
For example, I weigh 82 kg - this means that my requirements are around 100-150g on training days, less than that on non-training days. Anything beyond that will not grant any additional benefits.
Protein source is also important for testosterone production. Studies have found that when meat was replaced with soy beans, the ratio between testosterone and oestrogen significantly reduced.
Insufficient carbohydrate intake has been associated with decreased testosterone. When a low carb high protein diet was followed for 10 days, as opposed to a high carb low protein diet, testosterone levels dropped by 21%. In addition high protein increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
A great way to make sure stress hormones levels are lower and sleep is on point, is by having a carb focused meal in the evening. This is especially useful on training days.
Fat is absolutely crucial for adequate testosterone production, as is the type of fat. Monounstaurated (e.g. avocadoes) and saturated fat were found to boost testosterone more than polyunsaturated fast (PUFAs) such as vegetable oils. In fact PUFAs and trans-fats appear to reduce testosterone.
In a study it was found that men who consumed 40% of their calories from fat as opposed to 20% had higher testosterone levels with equal calories. Ideally you would aim for somewhere in the 20-40% range depending on makes you feel best.
My favourite food sources to cover the above criteria are foods higher in mono-unsaturated fats, high in minerals and vitamins and of high quality.
- Olive Oil
- Quality Meat
- Sea food, especially oysters and cold water fish (not tuna)
- Green Leafy Veg
Drinking enough water is crucial for everything from skin health to boosting testosterone. The reason for this is that dehydration, even mild dehydration, increases cortisol levels. This in turn lowers testosterone, which you definitely do not want. Never mind the impact dehydration has on mental and physical performance.
Obviously, for those that tend to take things too far, drinking too much is also detrimental to health. So don’t go overboard and aim for 2-3 litres a day. Add more if you’re training or it’s hot. Personally, I like to have a large percentage of my water earlier in the day as drinking a lot in the evening just results in endless toilet expeditions. This, of course, interrupts sleep.
You can estimate your level of hydration by the colour of your urine. If it’s close to the same colour as water then you may have had too much. It should be a pale yellow.
As mentioned previously, plastics are a no-no so don’t pick plastics bottles unless absolutely necessary. Plastics are even worse when they are heated, as more of the chemicals leak into the water.
Bear in mind that if you're taking a multivitamin it may make your urine a dark yellow, this does not mean you're dehydrated.
How To Protect Yourself
I’ll be honest with you, avoiding all the above is close to impossible, unless you live in a tribe in the middle of nowhere. So what steps can you follow to get as many benefits as possible and boost testosterone as a result?
Start by checking your personal care items, this means toothpaste to skincare. Deodorants often contain a variety of problematic ingredients. The big plus in all of this, is that more and more companies are releasing great natural products which you can use instead.
If you prepare your meals, make sure that your tupperware is glass or at least BPA free. These are also great for storing foods in the fridge without the chemicals leaking into your food and affecting your manhood.
The next step would be to buy unpackaged food, such as from from farmers markets. Not only will this boost testosterone, you will also have less waste.