Testosterone plays many roles in the human body. It is an important hormone in both men and women. There are lots of modern factors working against us these days that lower our bodies’ natural ability to produce the “T”, like BPA in plastics, carcinogens and toxins in the air, stress, lack of movement and exercise, and even lack of sunshine.
Why is “T” so important? Testosterone is the principal anabolic and sex hormone in humans, responsible for sexual desire and function, muscular hypertrophy, densification of bones, and hair growth. Compared to females, males famously produce about ten times the amount of testosterone, but females are far more sensitive to its effects. Though testosterone is largely responsible for those traits and characteristics that are considered “masculine” – physical strength, body hair, dominance, and virility – both sexes require it for proper sexual and physical development. In mammals, males secrete it primarily from the testicles (about 95% of the total amount, in fact) and women secrete it from the ovaries. Some is produced in the adrenal glands in both sexes.
So it’s our duty to ourselves, for longevity, health, and sexual happiness, to maximize natural “T” stimulators, and try to minimize “T” antagonists.
The first thing you should do is try to minimize those things which hinder natural “T” production. Since cholesterol is the mother of all hormones, and is a direct precurser for “T” production, we should make sure our bodies can produce plenty of it. That means avoiding statins and other cholesterol lowerig drugs (not only for “T” reasons, but for overall health reasons as well).
Stress causes us to increase our cortisol levels. Cortisol is a direct antagonist and “T” reducer. The easiest way to minimize stress is to get lots of sleep, avoid overtraining and excess cardio, and do lots of stress-releiving activities, like massage, camping, walking, or chillin’ with your significant other 😉
Foods that regularly spike blood glucose levels also have been shown to lower our natural “T”. Researchers found that 75 grams of pure glucose, and the resultant spike in blood sugar, was enough to drop testosterone levels by as much as 25% in a random grouping of 3 groups: healthy, prediabetic, and diabetic men. Now keep in mind how rapidly many SAD carb choices (pasta, cereal, bread, etc) convert to glucose upon digestion… Time to get stoneage! Eat paleo!
After diet and stress have been reigned in, our next step is to make little tweaks to our diet and lifestyle in order to maximize our natural “T” production.
A proper functioning body requires plenty of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, so we should make sure to consume a wide range of animal products and many colors of veggies. There is some great info [here] about high levels of vitamin A actually raising “T” production. Zinc is also directly related to “T” production. Therefore, make sure you eat plenty of seafood and grass-fed beef liver at least once per week! You can also make sure you eat plenty of saturated and monounsaturated fats. A study looking at male athletes found that both saturated and monounsaturated fats, as well as high cholesterol foods, were positively correlated with resting “T” levels. Comparatively, a low-fat high-fiber diet actually reduced serum and free “T” levels in middle aged men! Good thing the paleo diet is focused on plenty of nutrient-dense foods!
Vitamin D, already associated with bone and muscular strength, also positively correlates with testosterone levels in men. So make sure you get plenty of sun every day (don’t get burned and don’t use poisonous sunscreens). If you can’t get sun, you can supplement with about 5,000 IU of D3. I’ve even seen some people experiment with upwards of 10,000 IU per day.
If you’ve already been lifting heavy things, and sprinting, both of which have been shown to increase “T” levels, the next step would bo to maximize recovery. Since testosterone and growth hormone both correlate with deep sleep cycles, getting better quality sleep should help us maximize our usage of “T”. Zinc, Magnesium, vitamin D, and melatonin all promote deep, restful sleep, and have been shown to increase “T” levels and improve recovery time.
Utilizing rest periods between weight lifting sets, between 90 and 120 seconds, has been shown to increse “T” levels after intense training.
Also, avoiding other stressors, like large caloric deficits or very high activity levels, will both increase our ability to recover, increase the amount of fat burned, and reduce total cortisol levels, all of which may result in a bit higher “T” levels. Cutting calories too much just makes us hungry and stressed out. And running all the time just increases inflammation, which hinders our ability to recover and increases cortisol. Cortisol also results in strange things like abdominal fat accumulation.
If you want to try a few other things, here are some neat little tricks that may help you on workout days.
Like always, get stoneage!