ARTICLE AT A GLANCE
Men today have lower testosterone levels than their fathers and grandfathers did at the same age. This is a scary thought, considering that higher testosterone levels are necessary for optimizing athletic performance, maximizing results from hard work in the gym, and maintaining long-term health.
Mountains of research link environmental pollutants, sleep deprivation, nutrient deficiency, insulin regulation, and sedentary lifestyles to lower levels of testosterone. With all the information out there, it can be difficult to know how to correct low testosterone levels, but the first place to start is to ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I lethargic?
- Am I mentally drained?
- Am I lacking results in the gym?
- Is my sex drive lower than it used to be?
If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” it’s time to evaluate your lifestyle and start taking steps to correct it.
Testosterone’s Important Roles
The research is clear: When testosterone levels increase, so do other important aspects of life. Most notable among these are improvements in body composition, mood, energy, and cognitive function, as well as increases in sexual desire, function, and performance.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, researchers have observed a direct link between low testosterone and metabolic syndrome. This means that when body composition begins to decline, subsequent further decreases in testosterone level will lead to compounding health problems, in turn leading to even more decreased testosterone levels. Essentially, low testosterone and metabolic syndrome are a vicious cycle of declining health attributes that feed off each other.
Fortunately, there are measures you can take to get your testosterone levels back on track. Follow these 10 steps to enjoy the benefits of higher energy levels, better mood and cognitive function, greater results in the gym, and increased libido:
Sleep is the quickest and best way to drive up testosterone levels. Your body’s testosterone production is directly correlated to the amount of sleep you get each night. Research has shown that men who slept just five hours per night had 10 percent to 15 percent lower testosterone production than when they slept for about 10 hours. Simply put, the more you sleep, the more testosterone you’ll produce.
2. Eliminate drugs and alcohol.
If improving sleep is the quickest way to increase testosterone production, using drugs and alcohol is the quickest way to decrease testosterone production. All political debates aside, drugs and alcohol wreak havoc on the endocrine system and have no place in the body if optimizing health and human performance is your No. 1 goal. If you find yourself in a social setting that calls for drinking, try to limit yourself to red wines such as pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon.
3. Squat deep, heavy, and often.
When it comes to exercise and testosterone production, the more muscles you involve, the better. Exercises like the squat require action at multiple joints, which leads to the recruitment of more muscle fibers. While a dumbbell curl might look good in the mirror, a heavy back squat looks good in your blood panel.
When it comes to sprinting, 30 minutes of intense interval training will produce significant increases in testosterone levels. Don’t overdo it, though: Spending too much time with elevated cortisol levels will actually lead to a decrease in testosterone.
Cortisol levels are directly related to blood testosterone levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone and is absolutely necessary for normal and healthy body function. But chronically elevated cortisol levels from high stress will create the perfect conditions for lower testosterone. Having a daily ritual to unwind — through exercise, meditation, or reading, for example — will lead to lower cortisol levels and better sleep, both of which will improve testosterone production.
6. Eat “good” fat.
Good fats are generally characterized as those higher in omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fatty fish and grass-fed proteins. Dietary fat intake is essential for healthy hormonal balance. Research is clear that a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates results in the lowering of circulating androgen levels.
Grilled Grass-Fed Top Steak and Scrambled Free-Range Eggs
7. Eat zinc-rich foods.
Zinc deficiency is directly correlated with lower testosterone levels, lower DHT levels, low sperm count, and impotence. The best way to avoid zinc deficiency is to consume a diet rich in zinc. Foods such as beef, shrimp, beans, seeds, and leafy green vegetables are all rich in zinc.
Bacon, Grass-Fed Bison and Gluten-Free Beer Chili
8. Eat magnesium-rich foods.
Magnesium deficiency is also correlated with lower testosterone. The best way to avoid magnesium deficiency is to consume a diet rich in the nutrient. Leafy green vegetables, seeds, nuts, figs, and dark chocolate are all good sources of magnesium. For those who participate in daily rigorous exercise, additional magnesium supplementation might be necessary.
Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Breast with Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Turkey Bacon
9. Get enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D levels are directly related to testosterone levels. In fact, a yearlong study during which participants consumed 3,333 IUs of vitamin D daily showed a roughly 20 percent increase in testosterone levels. When it comes to vitamin D, remember that more is not more, and vitamin D toxicity from excessive supplementation is a real possibility. A daily dosage of 4,000 to 6,000 IUs of vitamin D is adequate.
10. Avoid BPA.
Chemical BPA has been directly linked to obesity. Increases in obesity are directly correlated with decreases in testosterone. Products such as canned foods, water bottles, plastic bottles, and cash register receipts might be hidden sources of BPA. Make sure that products you purchase from these common offenders have clearly identified BPA-free labeling.
Our meal containers are always BPA-free and use 50% less plastic.
Low testosterone levels can lead to some serious side effects, such as weaker physical performance, lower libido, and other health problems. However, following these strategies will help you boost your testosterone and reap the benefits of sufficient levels of the hormone in your body.
About the author: Alan Bishop is the Director of Sports Performance for Men’s Basketball at the University of Houston. Alan has a master’s degree in Sports Conditioning and Performance and holds certifications through the NSCA, CSCCA, and USAW.