What is testosterone? It is one of the most important hormones produced by human body, both male and female, however men have on average 7-8 times than women. In men it is primarily manufactured in testes and it promotes the characteristics associated with manhood. It’s an anabolic hormone, i.e. it supports tissue growth. It’s proper levels are essential to our health.
What is Low T?
What happens it you suffer from low testosterone levels? The symptoms of “low t” can be pretty unpleasant, especially if you happen to be a man. With low testosterone you would experience low energy levels and decreased libido. The ability to maintain erection would diminish. Your muscle growth capacity and strength would be reduced. Your body would easily accumulate fat, and you would suffer from irritability and mood changes. Pretty unpleasant, huh?
Why can testosterone level drop? There are many factors which can cause low t. It could be e.g. obesity, relationships, medical condition and of course aging. On average between the ages of 30 and 80 testosterone drops to one third of it’s previous levels.
Can the missing testosterone be simply injected? Not really. Your body would react to the excessive “surplus” testosterone by producing even less of it to keep the total amount unchanged. The same is valid for illegal steroids. This kind of tampering with the body mechanics can damage your health and cause impotency.
What about increasing testosterone naturally? Increasing testosterone production is possible by means of training, proper nutrition, supplements and lifestyle choices.
There are some types of food which support testosterone production because of the micro-nutrients they contain. If you’re reading carefully you’ll find most of the micro-nutrients in the “Supplements” section. Some examples of test boosting foods (there are more!):
- Brazil nuts containing a high dose of magnesium support testosterone production. In numerous controlled lab studies the link between magnesium and testosterone levels has been proven, e.g. in a lab test on male athletes supplementing magnesium (link here) or in a study about anabolic hormones in older males (link). Tim Ferriss in his best selling “4 Hour Body” also advised brazil nuts along with almonds to increase testosterone levels.
- Eggs are an excellent source of vitamin D. A scientific lab research has shown that supplementation of vitamin D increases testosterone (link). Vitamin D3 is also believed to impede aromatization, the process in which testosterone is converted to estrogen (link).
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage contain a chemical called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) . I3C has been found to remove excess estrogen from both male and female body via urine, thus effectively increasing testosterone levels (link to research).
- Health benefits of Garlic are known for centuries, garlic is antiseptic and helps to lose weight. Animal studies found that garlic also increases testosterone and decreases corticosterone when combined with a high-proteine diet. The chemical responsible for this welcome effects is called diallyldisulfide (link).
Nutrition or supplements alone can help, but exercise is an essential factor in raising testosterone levels, especially resistance training. In a previously quoted study (link) the increases of testosterone were higher in those test subjects who exercised than in the sedentary ones.
Physical activity also helps to prevent obesity. En excessive amount of visceral (belly) fat increases the production of enzyme aromatase which in turn converts testosterone to estrogen. The less exercise, the more belly fat, the less testosterone.
However, be careful and avoid overtraining. Too long endurance training (more than an hour) would trigger your body to release more cortisol, which is catabolic and would lower the testosterone levels.
There are many supplements on the market increasing testosterone levels. Don’t experiment and choose only those supplements for which there is a sufficient body of research. Don’t risk your health, don’t overdose supplements. Now, after the word of warning, the list:
- Vitamin D3
- Muira Puama
- Nettle root
- Norway spruce lignan
Getting enough sleep is essential for your testosterone levels. Your body synthesizes testosterone when you sleep, just before the REM phases (REM stands for rapid eye movements which takes place in this very phase). REM phases occur only in the morning, a short nap in the afternoon won’t help to bring your testosterone levels in balance. Elevated levels of testosterone after the sleep are responsible for morning erections. More about the sleep-testosterone correlation here.
Prolonged stress is not only unhealthy in general, but it will also cause your testosterone to plunge. Stress hormone cortisol helped our ancestors to escape from imminent danger, with its short-term catabolic effects being a rather low price for not being eaten by a sabertooth. Unfortunately nowadays stress can last for months (e.g. if you’re unlucky enough at your workplace) with cortisol playing havoc with your body, including suppressing your testosterone.