Testosterone is the most significant of hormones, being vital for physical fitness and wellness. For both men and women, low testosterone can lead to fat gain, low muscle mass, and physical weakness.
Fortunately, there are a number of simple ways to improve testosterone for a better looking physique and peak health. There’s no need to take testosterone or other drugs.
The tips provided in this article are all completely doable by the average person and they can help you rise above your peers in ways you’d never have guessed.
Check it out:
- Your pre-workout testosterone (T) levels predict how much weight you’ll be able to lift in the big lifts such as the squat and the bench press.
- Athletes with higher testosterone levels before a competition or race are more likely to win.
- A woman who is closer to the upper limit of her testosterone threshold may have an advantage over other women in developing strength. Same goes for men.
- After age 30 is the vital time to attend to testosterone levels for men because it begins to drop off precipitously. Women should also shore up hormone balance to avoid body fat gain and muscle loss down the road.
Whether you need to optimize T to win a championship or just want to be lose body fat and get fit, here are ten rules for making it happen.
#1. Lift Weights, Do Sprints
Exercise will increase baseline T if you are deficient. Strength training and sprinting are well known for producing an acute, post-workout elevation in T and other hormones involved in tissue repair. This is beneficial because these hormones improve training motivation so you naturally lift heavier loads and challenge your limits to a greater degree.
The best type of exercise for improving testosterone is strength training. Use the “big” multi-joint lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, chin-ups, etc. Focus on building muscle by generally pushing volume.
Try sprints or high-intensity training (strongman workouts are good) a few times a week. Focus on exercise above the lactate threshold because this correlates with a big T response. It also increases the activity of enzymes and proteins involved in the use of energy by the body.
#2. Eat A Lower Carb, Higher Fat, Whole Food Diet
Fixing what you put in your mouth is your second line of defense against low T.
First, shunning dietary fat, or eating the wrong fats, can compromise hormone balance because the cholesterol that fat contains is used to make hormones in the body. For example, very low-fat diets have been found to reduce testosterone levels in men.
Second, focus on eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruits EVERYDAY because they provide plant nutrients that are used in healthy enzyme production for a robust immune system.
By boosting the immune system naturally, you reduce inflammation in the body, particularly in organs that produce hormones. This upregulates the body’s ability to synthesize T.
Third, eliminate ALL added sugar and avoid high-glycemic foods like bread and grains. Any time you eat sugar or starch, the hormone insulin is released, which triggers aromatase so that two things happen:
T gets turned into estrogen, and a related hormone called SHBG binds to testosterone and makes it inactive.
For example, in one study, men who had normal insulin sensitivity (they weren’t diabetic) experienced a 25 percent decrease in T after drinking a sugary beverage. T remained low for two hours, and nearly 80 percent of the men had their T drop to a level of clinical deficiency.
Eliminate all processed foods and plan your diet around whole meat, dairy, eggs, nuts, and plants.
Get your fat from olives, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, animal products, seafood, and fish. Focus on balance between your omega-3 fat intake from fish and omega-6 fat intake from vegetable oils.
#3. Eat a Wide Variety of Animal Proteins, Favoring Those from the Sea
Animal protein supports T production because it provides vitamins and nutrients in the form that is most absorbable to the body.
For example, zinc, which is the most well known nutrient to influence testosterone, is highest in seafood. Vegetable sources of zinc contain phytic acid, which can inhibit the body from absorbing the zinc and other minerals like iron. Vegetarians tend to have lower levels of minerals like zinc and iron due to the phytic acid they consume.
Besides providing the most useful source of zinc, animal and fish proteins provide other anti-inflammatory nutrients like selenium, copper, and vitamin D.
Focus on eating a variety of protein sources: fish, shellfish, eggs, and beef. Slip some organ meets into your diet (liver) and you should be in good shape.
If you take a post-workout shake, opt for whey over soy, casein, or carbs because whey enhances the immune system and produces the greatest increase in protein synthesis for greater muscle development.
#4. Meditate or Perform a DAILY Stress Reduction Practice
Meditation may seem like it’s becoming cliché, but do it anyway.
People who meditate regularly have higher testosterone and lower cortisol (the stress hormone that degrades muscle tissue and counters many of the benefits of T). In addition, when people who meditate experience extreme stress, they have a more robust hormone release so as to better respond to the threat.
Meditation also improves sleep, reduces post-workout soreness, and accelerates recovery from intense exercise due to its radical effect on hormone regulation.
Use It: To start a meditation practice, join a meditation group, or take a class. Two online resources that may be helpful include the following:
How To Meditate for Beginners
Breathe and Be Still
#5. Optimize Circadian Rhythms
Your circadian rhythm is your biological clock and it is influenced by many factors including your genes, light exposure, hormone balance, physical activity, and meal frequency, among others.
Studies show that people whose circadian rhythms are functioning optimally have better reproductive health and higher T. For instance, men who sleep according to their chronotype (natural tendency to be a “morning” or “evening” person) have higher T than those who don’t.
Women who sleep against their chronotype, or are classified as “in-between” morningness and eveningness, have more trouble getting pregnant than women who are synched to their natural tendency because their hormones are slightly out of whack.
Now, the daily circadian rhythm is fairly detailed but a few things you should know related to T, physical performance, and body composition are as follows:
- Testosterone peaks around 9 a.m., making this the ideal time to do the activity that is most commonly associated with T, but it’s not the best time to train.
- The peak time for strength, power, and athleticism is in the afternoon between 2:30 and 6 p.m. when the body is warmest.
- Protein synthesis peaks at 5 p.m., which means that if you can train right before that, you’ll experience greater muscle growth and faster recovery.
- Eating at night can throw the whole rhythm off and lead to suppressed morning T.
Sleep according to your natural tendency whenever possible. Train in the afternoon. Avoid eating right before bed because this can lead to suppressed T.
For more detailed tips to optimize circadian rhythms, read this article.
#6. Optimize Zinc Levels
Zinc is a powerful mineral for the human body that enables the production of testosterone and other growth hormones such as insulin-like growth factor-1.
In men, the prostate cells require a high concentration of zinc to work optimally and zinc supports antioxidant processes for healthier cells throughout the body.
For women, low zinc levels also alter hormone balance, increasing breast cancer risk. Low zinc may lead to the aromatization of T to estrogen and can cause an increase in estrogen receptors on cells.
There is also some evidence that taking zinc to achieve optimal levels will lead to a more robust hormone release with intense exercise, which could allow for better performance and enhanced tissue remodeling.
If you are deficient in zinc, 15-50 mg of elemental zinc can raise levels quickly. Zinc is often paired with a copper in supplements. Together, these minerals are used in the production of superoxide dismutase, an important antioxidant for cells and mitochondria.
#7. Take Magnesium
Magnesium is the darling of the athletic performance world because it decreases inflammation and allows for optimal T release after exercise.
For example, a recent study found that giving tae kwon do athletes roughly 750 mg of magnesium for 4 weeks raised T by 26 percent at baseline and 18 percent after a workout.
In addition, an Italian study found that low magnesium was associated with testosterone deficiency and higher body fat levels in men. Low magnesium also correlates with higher body fat in women, possibly due to its role in overall hormone balance.
Although magnesium is present in a lot of foods that you should be eating if you want a lean physique (seeds, leafy greens, avocados, nuts, fish, beans, and other veggies), many people, especially athletes or individuals under high stress, find it helpful to take a magnesium supplement.
Avoid magnesium oxide because it is a cheap form that is poorly absorbed. Opt for a blended magnesium bound with taurate, ororate, glycinate, or fumarate for the greatest absorption.
#8. Optimize Your Vitamin D
Vitamin D is actually considered a pro-hormone (a substance that acts like a hormone in the body but isn’t technically considered one) and it plays multiple roles in regulating T.
First, vitamin D inhibits the process of aromatization in which testosterone is changed into estrogen. Second, vitamin D enhances the sensitivity of receptors on the cells in the androgen glands that release testosterone.
The benefit of getting adequate vitamin D is seen with a study that gave men with low T a supplement of 3,332 IUs of vitamin D daily. After a year, they experienced an impressive 20 percent increase in testosterone.
Possibly because of its role in balancing hormones, vitamin D blood levels allow for greater muscle strength and they consistently correlate with leanness in all populations.
You probably know that the body makes vitamin D in response to sunlight, and levels tend to be lowest in May.
A daily dose of 1,000 to 5,000 IUs, depending on individual factors, or a single weekly large dose of up to 35,000 IUs, has been effective at maintaining vitamin D above the optimal 40 ng/ml range.
#9. Ruthlessly Avoid BPA & Similar Endocrine Disruptors
Chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, and parabens will alter hormones, negatively affecting testosterone.
These chemicals are known as xenoestrogens. Simply, they are chemicals that mimic the action of estrogen in the body. It’s unclear what exactly they do to blood testosterone levels, but we are certain that it’s not good.
Exposure to these chemicals does not just send your testosterone out of whack. BPA exposure is well known in the scientific community for making people fat. It increases diabetes risk, hurts your heart, and causes cancer in animal studies.
This is a big one if you have any interest whatsoever in reducing body fat and achieving optimal T levels. Start by identifying how you are exposed to endocrine disruptors.
BPA is primarily in plastics, paper products, and receipts. Phthalates are chemical scents in everything from air fresheners to lotion to perfume. Parabens are in all commercial personal care products such as shampoo and lotion.
For greater detail on reducing your chemical estrogen exposure, read this article.
#10. Eliminate Alcohol & Protect Your Liver
Alcohol, and beer in particular, is extremely estrogenic because it increases that enzyme that turns testosterone into estrogen.
Other ill effects of alcohol on T include the fact that it hinders sleep. When you drink regularly, you’re likely to have more belly fat, which appears to decrease T levels more than having fat in other places.
Alcohol also causes oxidative stress in the liver, reducing the body’s ability to metabolize estrogen, which is dangerous for overall hormone balance.
Use It: Never drink beer and avoid most other forms of alcohol. The one possible exception is red wine.
Certain red wines (such as pinot noir) have been found to inhibit aromatase action due to the phytochemicals they contain. Obviously, you need a high-quality wine to get the benefit since what you’re going for is a high antioxidant concentration.