You probably know that testosterone is important for men. After all, it’s responsible for things like sex drive, sperm count, fat distribution, red blood cell count, and muscle strength.
When you have low levels of testosterone, there are significant negative side effects, including:
- Diminished sex drive
- Muscle loss
- Increased breast size
- Erectile dysfunction or impotence
- Depression, irritability, and the inability to concentrate
- Loss of hair
- Shrunken testes
- Low energy
- Decreased physical endurance
- Increased chance of bone fractures
It’s absolutely essential for you to maintain healthy levels of testosterone in order to function effectively.
This raises an important question: how can you increase testosterone levels?
After all, it’s one thing to know that you have low testosterone levels; it’s something else altogether to increase them.
Consider this article a primer on increasing your testosterone levels. We’re going to break down the what, why, and how so that you are able to make informed decisions about your health.
What Is Testosterone?Before we discuss how to increase your testosterone levels, it’s essential to understand what exactly what testosterone is.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone that’s essential for both reproductive development and sexual health. It’s part of a class of hormones called androgens (also known as “steroids” or “anabolic steroids”). While women do have testosterone in their bodies, their levels are around one-tenth to one-twentieth what’s found in men.
Testosterone is primarily created in the testes, although a small amount is also produced from the adrenal glands. The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland work together to control a man’s testosterone production, with the hypothalamus instructing the pituitary gland and those instructions being passed on to the testes.
The hormone is also responsible for the initial development of male sex organs before birth, as well as the changes that happen at puberty like increased penis and testes size, increased facial and body hair, and a deeper voice.
Causes Of Low Testosterone
Normal levels of testosterone fall anywhere between 300-1000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl), with free testosterone levels usually being between 3-9 ng/dl.
There are a number of causes of low testosterone levels, including:
- Pituitary gland problems
- Toxin or heavy metal exposure
- Anabolic steroid use
- And many others…
Most commonly, I find some history of neurologic insult as the cause — a traumatic brain injury with or without loss of consciousness, stroke, surgery, medical imaging with iodinated contrast, medication, illegal drug use, excessive alcohol [consumption], toxin or heavy metal exposure, prior anabolic steroid use, penetrating or blunt trauma, radiation, chemotherapy, [arrhythmia], motorcycle accident, rollercoaster rides, boxing, martial arts, football, and the list goes on.The point is that while there are numerous reasons for low testosterone, the cause may not be immediately apparent. And while identifying the underlying cause is crucial, it’s even more important to know how to bring testosterone levels back to normal levels.
If you think you have low testosterone levels, the easiest way to confirm your suspicion is to have your doctor perform a simple blood test.
If your levels fall below the “normal” range, then you have a problem that, thankfully, can be corrected.
How To Raise Testosterone Levels
If testing reveals that you have low testosterone levels, there are some relatively simple, yet powerful ways to increase them.
Improved DietThe simplest, most natural place to start is with your diet. Saturated and monounsaturated fats have both been to shown to increase testosterone levels. As a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology notes:
Individuals consuming a diet containing ∼20% fat compared with a diet containing ∼40% fat have significantly lower concentrations of T. Also, replacement of dietary carbohydrate with protein has been shown to decrease T concentrations. These studies indicate that the energy supplied by the different macronutrients has a significant influence on T concentrations.In other words, if your diet is high in healthy fat, there’s a greater chance that your overall testosterone levels will be higher.
Some outstanding, high-fat foods to incorporate into your diet are:
- Red meat
- Olive and coconut oil
- Peanut butter
SupplementsIn addition to improving your diet, taking supplements can also be an effective, natural way to maintain your overall testosterone levels. One thing to note: there are many supplements that seems to have a connection with raising or maintaining healthy testosterone levels. A couple of the staples for most everyone are vitamin D3 and omega-3 fish oil.
So what other supplements should you be taking?
Zinc gluconate - low levels of zinc can lead to
lower testosterone levels. It's important not to overdo it on zinc
though, especially if you're not deficient. It can lead to blood sugar
issues (ignore the broscience guys who tell you to take a ton of this
- Magnesium - magnesium is essential for muscle health, sleep, and energy. When you’re low on magnesium you may have lower testosterone levels as well. The western diet tends to create magnesium deficiencies in many.
- There are select herbs that can really help out for some users.
- This study shows that ashwagandha can create smaller boosts in already healthy men.
- There have been several studies showing that special extracts of fenugreek can mimic testosterone, leading to many of the same benefits as higher test levels.
- A few breakthrough studies showing that Eurycoma Longifolia is being used as a replacement for TRT.
ExerciseThere are numerous studies that have demonstrated the testosterone boosting power of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). As William Kraemer notes:
Resistance exercise has been shown to elicit a significant acute hormonal response. It appears that this acute response is more critical to tissue growth and remodelling than chronic changes in resting hormonal concentrations, as many studies have not shown a significant change during resistance training despite increases in muscle strength and hypertrophy. Anabolic hormones such as testosterone and the superfamily of growth hormones (GH) have been shown to be elevated during 15-30 minutes of post-resistance exercise providing an adequate stimulus is present. [emphasis added]HIIT involves doing exercises at a high intensity for short periods interspersed with periods of rest.
The best type of HIIT exercises are those which involve and stimulate as many muscles as possible. Some outstanding exercises include:
Kettlebell exercises. Doing kettlebell swings, deadlifts, curls, snatches, and squats can get your body into a prime testosterone producing state.
- Flying down the track at top speed pushes your body to the max and encourages it to produce more testosterone.
Don’t Cut Calories Too OftenThere’s a fine line between trying to lose weight and keeping your testosterone levels high. When you diet for long periods of time, your body reduces testosterone levels. Returning to normal calories level will bring your levels back up to normal.
If you’re going to diet, don’t overdo it. Balance your calorie cuts with your standard diet.
Go To Sleep
Most production of testosterone happens when you sleep. In fact, if you don’t wake up with a morning erection, you might have low testosterone levels.
If you sleep fewer than five hours per night, it can reduce your testosterone levels by up to 15%. Additionally, low sleep typically increases cortisol levels, which also diminishes the amount of testosterone in your body.
To keep your testosterone levels high, be sure to get a solid night’s sleep.
ConclusionTestosterone is one of things you take for granted while it’s there. But low testosterone can be seriously problematic and dramatically reduce the quality of your life. A decreased sex life can hurt your relationships, reduced energy can lower the quality of your work, and extra weight can take a strain on your body. Testosterone is essential for a good life.
Thankfully, if you have low levels, you can take steps to repair your body. Most of these steps are simple, like exercising, sleeping well, and eating a healthy diet. These natural solutions are much better than medical alternatives like hormone therapy or testosterone patches.
If you think your deficient in testosterone, take action. It doesn’t usually fix itself. Take steps in the right direction today.