Testosterone which is usually associated with men is also found in women, although it is the predominant hormone in men, testosterone plays a huge role in male sexuality and fertility equally importantly effecting muscle mass, hair growth, bone density, mental health and red blood cell concentrations. Sadly for us men when we hit 28-33 our natural testosterone starts to fall and continues to do so as we age further.
Another major concern is that the medication we take as we age can also affect our testosterone production, one of the major drugs this apples to are statins which are used to help control cholesterol, and medications is not the only factor that we have to deal with, oestrogen tends to increase as well usually due to a combination of both diet and environment. If you are a male that is suffering from repressed mood, difficulties with focus, lack of drive, loss of sexual drive and erectile dysfunction, and you believe that your problems are caused by falling testosterone level then you can get your hormone profile tested at your GP surgery. The only problem with tests is that testosterone changes at many times throughout the day, therefore three tests are normally taken to get an accurate reading. It is possible that if these readings are very low that your GP may prescribe medication to help lift the hormones, however this is usually not the case, and natural products will be discussed.
We will discuss lifestyle changes that help us improve our testosterone naturally and that we can all benefit from, this applies to both sexes and everyone:
Being overweight has been shown to have a high correlation with low testosterone levels, this was decided at the Endocrine Society’s 2012 meeting. This being the case it is obviously very important that if you are overweight and suffering from these symptoms that you start shedding the weight. Those wanting to lose weight need to limit the amount of fructose and processed sugar in the diet both of which have been linked to be major contributors to the current obesity epidemic facing the U.K. at the moment, whilst sweeteners have been shown to be effective we would recommend going for natural ones such as stevia if you have a sweet tooth, the main offenders in this category are fizzy drinks and fruit juices.
If you have diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension as well as being overweight we recommend that you limit fructose intake to 20g or less a day and whilst fruits contain a good variety of vitamins they are also high in fructose. Lactose is another sugar that should be avoided when trying to limit cut the weight, lactose as you know is found mainly dairy and milk products. Refined carbs are notorious for weight gain, these include:
These types of foods negatively affect insulin resistance which is linked to many chronic disorders as well as being a contributing factor in obesity. Cutting these foods from the diet means they will need to be replaced with other foods, high fibre, vegetables and lean meats should be on your table, our bodies much prefer the carbohydrates we get from vegetables rather the from refined sources as this helps prevent insulin spikes within the body, vegetables are also high in vitamins and minerals which will come in handy especially if you are cutting down on fruit juices. Food is really one the main ways in which we can alter testosterone levels, healthy nutrition is the driving force behind a healthy lifestyle.
High-Intensity Exercise (HIIT) and Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Boosting testosterone doesn’t have to be complicated, with HIIT and IF showing significant boosting properties to the important hormone, and can help slow or even stop the aging decline, HIIT especially has been found to be excellent at helping testosterone levels, unlike aerobics and moderate exercise which has been shown to have little impact at all on hormone levels.
10 minute warm up:
6 minutes – Steadily Raise heart rate to 60% of maximum heart rate, best to work full body of possible the rowing machine is great for this.
3 minutes – Stretch Static major muscle groups, hamstrings, calves, quads, chest, back, bi’s, tris.
HIIT in the basic sense is utilising maximal effort for short bursts of up to 30 seconds, the idea is that you could not do any more than a few seconds after this burst of the same level. This burst is followed by slower paced exercise for 60-240seconds before the burst is repeated.
Walking pace (40s)
Jogging pace (60s)
Sprint pace max (20s)
Jogging pace (30s)
This workout should be followed by a cool down which is similar to a warm up but in reverse, and many stretch on the floor.
This is only a small example, you need to stay aware that any form of exercise and all forms of equipment can be utilised during HIIT other usual ones are swimming, treadmill, rowing and step machines. HIIT can be dangerous due to the nature of how hard you push yourself when training therefore it is recommended that you get yourself a trainer to help you when doing HIIT as motivation to get through the full session can be tough and to make sure you are safe.
Another great way to boost testosterone utilising training is to take part in strength training, this only seems to occur when doing strength training consistently and at a high intensity. It has been found that compound type movements are better at boosting testosterone than isolation and heavier weights with lower reps are the way to go, examples of compound exercise are:
- Dead lifts
- Bench press
- Shoulder press
Tempo has been found to also be key in unlocking our body’s testosterone boosting power, it has been found to be effective that training with a slower tempo and concentrating on the eccentric movement helps us to improve testosterone.
Zinc is a well-known and essential mineral when it comes to hormones, this is especially true for testosterone production. There is evidence that suggests that males who are deficient or slightly deficient in Zinc should supplement the mineral as it can boost testosterone back to normal levels in those with low levels. Males who restrict their diets (vegetarian & vegan) may not be getting adequate amounts of zinc from their diet and should consider supplementing, those who exercise hard should also consider supplementing zinc even if the diet is not restricted as very intense consistent exercise can lower testosterone levels within the body and zinc has been shown to negate these effects. In the UK it has been shown that 38% of males over 55 have significantly low dietary zinc intake which will have a significant impact on testosterone levels, therefore supplementation is required to help increase zinc level and lead to better health. Whilst supplementation is an efficient method to help with low zinc levels, dietary intake is still the best way to get your minerals and certain foods are great to improve levels:
- Red Meats
- Raw milk/cheese
We recommend going organic for meats and veg if you can afford to as many chemicals and pesticides can strip nutrients from the foods. The cooking of foods can cause zinc levels to drop within it, we recommend trying to keep your veg as raw as possible and when cooking foods trying your best to prevent burning or overcooking the foods. Supplementing zinc in dosages above 50mg can be well tolerated for up to 2 months but we do not recommend long term supplementation due to zincs ability to negate the absorption of other important minerals such as copper.
Sunlight, something we see very little of in the UK, well we need sunlight so our skin can make the very important vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for the development of sperm and therefore is highly important for fertility in men. Another important aspect of vitamin D and why it is important to this article is its effect on testosterone. One study found that overweight males who consumed vitamin D supplementation improved concentrations of serum testosterone over a one year period. It may be wise that due to the lack of sunlight we have to endure in the UK and the more and more time we spend in doors at work, on computers and socialising on social networks that we supplement the vitamin. It is vital you check what level of vitamin D you currently have by doing a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test, with the optimal levels for vitamin D being 60-70 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Whilst supplementation is a great way to get vitamin D into your body, current research shows that 7,000-8,000 IU’s of vitamin D is required to raise levels to beyond 40 ng/ml, the best way to improve your levels is to get adequate amounts of sun exposure, remember that sun bathing can lead to cancer so 15minutes stints in strong sunlight is recommended.
Get that stress down
Stress, something that occurs in all our lives is something that really does affect all aspects of our wellbeing, stress causes the catabolic hormone cortisol to be released into the body which suppresses testosterone production. The main reason why this occurs is evolutionary, cortisol is released when we are stressed and is the main fight or flight hormone however testosterone promotes competition, sex and lust all of which would not have been appropriate feelings in a meeting with a pack of tigers. Since the dawn of civilisation, capitalism and the modern world our fight or flight moments haven’t been so fleeting, we are in constant stress mode with finances, relationships, fashion etc. this leads to constant high cortisol levels which may lead to consistently suppressed testosterone levels. Try these tips to help reduce stress:
- Keep a journal
- Listen to relaxing music
- Hit the gym
- Use Imagery
- Use breathing exercises
Most people have been told to shun saturated fats, however these fats are important in boosting testosterone along with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Testosterone can drop if your dietary fat intake drops below 30% of total energy intake. Failing to utilise fat in the diet will lead to poor testosterone levels, and if you are not including these fats into your diet there is a good chance they are being replaced with refined carbohydrates, examples of fats that can lead to a boost in testosterone levels are:
- Olives and Olive oil
- Coconuts and coconut oil
- Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
- Raw nuts, such as, almonds or pecans
- Organic pastured egg yolks
- Palm oil
- Organic nut oils
- Grass-fed meats
So in conclusion there are many natural methods to help boost testosterone all of which are better than going down a medication route. I recommend going for check-ups at your GP if you think your testosterone levels are dropping.