Testosterone. It’s what puts hair on your chest, gives you those big manly, muscles, and fills you with fiery thumos. But testosterone levels in men living in the West have been on the decline during the past 60 years. Your grandfather and dad likely had more T when when they were the same age as you. To remedy the decline, offices in strip malls have been popping up that provide prescription testosterone replacement therapy.
My guest today argues that while testosterone replacement therapy certainly has a place in treating low testosterone, it’s often used too quickly as a first recourse. He argues that the vast majority of men would be better off increasing their T levels through simple, natural lifestyle changes — a process he’s successfully accomplished himself.
His name is Christopher Walker and he’s the author of the book Master Your T: The Definitive Guide to Raising Your Testosterone. Today on the show, Christopher shares how he raised his own T levels from almost nonexistent to optimal. We then discuss what the symptoms of low testosterone are, the main culprits of low T, and why this vital hormone has been decreasing in modern men. We dig into the benefits of having optimal testosterone (and no, it’s not just about sex and muscles). Christopher then goes deep into how testosterone is produced in the body and where things often go wrong in this process. We also get into brass tacks advice on what you can do to raise your T levels naturally and when you should visit a doctor for testosterone replacement therapy.
- The biology of testosterone — how it works and is created in the body
- How pituitary tumors affect puberty and testosterone
- Why have testosterone levels been decreasing in men for the last couple decades?
- How too much cortisol and stress hurt your T
- Does exposure to unnatural chemicals — xenoestrogens — decrease your T?
- The damaging effects of low testosterone
- The benefits of optimal testosterone levels
- Raising your T levels naturally vs drugs
- What an optimal T level is, and the best way to get tested
- Total T vs Free T
- The importance of micronutrients to T levels
- How important sleep is to your overall health, and T levels
- Sex, masturbation, and testosterone
- Training, exercise, weightlifting, and testosterone
- Herbs and minerals to take to help with stress, fertility, and ultimately your T levels
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
Master Your T does a good job of summarizing and bringing together all the research out there about increasing your testosterone levels naturally. It also does a great job breaking down how testosterone is produced in the body which allows you to understand what you can actually do about low T levels. Pick up a copy on Amazon.
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Listen to the episode on a separate page.
Download this episode.
Subscribe to the podcast in the media player of your choice.
Saxx Underwear. Everything you didn’t know you needed in a pair of underwear. Get 20% off your first purchase by visiting SaxxUnderwear.com/manliness.
HelloFresh. Meal kit delivery, with only the freshest ingredients. For $30 off your first week of deliveries, visit hellofresh.com and enter MANLINESS30 at checkout.
Read the Transcript
If you are looking for a natural supplement to boost your testosterone, I would recommend Testro-X.
It was about time I made a comprehensive guide on how to increase testosterone levels.
After hundreds of specific posts about what affects your natural testosterone production and hormonal health and how to increase testosterone naturally, I had yet to compile it all into one easily accessible article that covered all the basics.
The goal of this article is to get you closer to knowing most of what you need to know in order to optimize your natural testosterone production. It links out to hundreds of other more specific posts about various topics discussed, while it also references hundreds of different studies.
A big resource sort of.
I’m sure you have seen the endless list of the benefits of optimal testosterone levels, which include (but are not limited to):
…Since testosterone is literally the hormone that makes man a man, it’s safe to expect increased manly qualities in nearly every area of your life after increased testosterone levels. Not everything is controlled by testosterone obviously, but if you start looking at the studies, it’s pretty clear that from womb to tomb, this one hormone determines A LOT in a guy.
This guide on learning how to increase testosterone levels is broken into 4 big sections; lifestyle, nutrition, training, and supplementation.
The four sections hide inside multiple topics from sleep, to macronutrient splits, to testicular health, all the way into neuromuscular training, hypoxia, sleep, sex, walking…
…Without further ado, let’s get to the ultimate guide on how to increase testosterone levels:
1. Sleep Deep and Sleep a Lot
Whether you choose to sleep four hours or eight hours, can mean a difference similar to night and day in your T production.
Partial sleep restriction lasting one-week (5h/night) in a laboratory setting has been shown to decrease overall 24-hour testosterone levels in healthy young men by ~15%6.
On a study by Penev et al. the men who slept for ~4 hours had an average of 200-300 ng/dL testosterone levels in serum, whereas the guys who slept for ~8 hours had levels closer to 500-700 ng/dL7.
A study from Gov et al8. showed similar results. On 531 Chinese men, increased sleep time was highly correlated with higher total and -free testosterone levels. The researchers also calculated that each extra hour of sleep led to about 15% more testosterone.
2. Be Lean and Have Some Muscle Mass
You definitely don’t have to be light to increase your testosterone levels naturally, but you should be LEAN.
More specifically, your body fat percentage should be relatively low (something between 8-14%), if your goal is to get more T oozing through your veins.
Generally speaking – though there are some rare exceptions – the higher the fat percentage, the lower the testosterone9–12. So in retrospect, the leaner you are, the more likely you are to have more testosterone rushing in your bloodstream. Increased amount of muscle mass also positively correlates with serum testosterone levels13, so if you burn the fat and build the muscle, you’ll not only look shredded, but you can improve your hormonal health too.
The THOR Testosterone Training program does an excellent job at this, since it was designed specifically to boost testosterone and optimize hormones through specific training protocols.
Why does being fat often leads to low testosterone levels? The full answer is likely much more complex than this, but what we do know is that increased fat-mass leads to increased aromatase enzyme activity14, which in turn leads to more testosterone being converted to estrogen. Also, increased oxidative stress, metabolic syndrome, and poor insulin-sensitivity are some other major-players in obesity related low-T.
Good news is that you can easily increase testosterone naturally just by losing weight15, in particular losing the fat-mass, not muscle. Though it’s worth mentioning that there is a limit to your leanness where it start to negatively impact testosterone production; going below ~8% body fat starts to decrease thyroid activity, and because of that you’ll eventually have to start cutting your caloric intake too much, and both of those things will start zapping the life out of your androgens16.The weight-loss industry is chock-full of some major league bullshit. This guide should help you in getting to know everything there is to know about losing fat in a sane muscle-preserving way.
3. Stress Less
More easily said than done huh? Well it doesn’t change the fact that stress more or less kills testosterone levels.
This happens because chronic stress results in chronically elevated cortisol levels – and cortisol being the body’s principal stress hormone – is a catabolic hormone17 that among many other things; suppresses testosterone levels18.
…No don’t get me wrong here, we all need some cortisol. It gets us up in the morning and allows us as a species to walk with 2 feet, and without cortisol any kind of minor trauma would instantly bring you into full shock and kill you…
…However, if you are under physical or physiological stress that constantly “haunts” you, it’s likely that your cortisol levels are constantly high thorough the day.
That’s not good, since cortisol not only breaks down your muscle mass and causes oxidative damage in the body, but it’s also made from the same “raw material” (pregnenolone) as testosterone is19, and high levels of cortisol can literally destroy your free testosterone molecules locally inside testicles and in the bloodstream. I’ve touched this subject before in here and here.
4. Lower your Endocrine Disruptor Exposure
The definition of endocrine disruptor is as follows; “Synthetic chemicals or natural substances that may alter the endocrine system (consisting of glands, hormones, and cellular receptors that control a body’s internal functions) and may cause developmental or reproductive disorders.”
Compounds that act as endocrine disruptors in the body are used generously in modern personal care items, plastics, preservatives, pesticides, and many many other appliances (even in fast foods apparently).
Out of the millions of chemicals used, most are relatively harmless. However there are some compounds that have been proven to disrupt hormone production and utilization in the body.
These include (but are not limited to);
- Bisphenol A (BPA) which is a monomer used heavily in plastics and epoxy resins. Since BPA has a ‘hardening’ effect on plastics, its used generously in many industries,making BPA one of the most produced chemicals in the world. It also has hormone-like properties in the body and has been linked multiple times to low-testosterone and erectile dysfunction20–22.
- Parabens (methyl-, butyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, heptyl-, etc) which are preservatives used in nearly all kinds of cosmetics, such as; sun lotions, moisturizers, personal-lubricants, shampoos, shaving gels, toothpaste, and even as food additives. They’re classified as xenoestrogens, and can have a weak affinity to estrogen receptors in the body23.
- Phthalates which are commonly used to make plastics more flexible, but they are also used as stabilizers and emulsifying agents in many personal care items. Increased urinary phthlate traces have been strongly correlated with decreased testosterone in men, women, and children24.
- Benzophenones (BP-1, BP-2, BP-3…) which are permeability enhancing UV-stabilizers are used in a wide range of personal care items, but most commonly in sunscreens. Concerns have been raised of their effect in reducing the activity of enzymes needed in testosterone production. This has been studied for BP-125, BP-226, and BP-327.
- Triclosan and Triclocarban, both of which are antibacterial agents found in many antibacterial soaps, lotions, hand sanitizers, etc. Not only are they highly ineffective at reducing bacteria, they also have direct mechanism in lowering testicular testosterone production.
5. Spark Up Your Sex Life
Admittedly one of the most satisfying ways on how to increase testosterone levels naturally is; sexual activity.
It’s not fully understood why this happens, but many studies have theorized that its an interplay with dominance, feeling of power, feeling of success, pheromones, dopamine, and interpersonal touch. For this reason it’s also likely that sex with an actual human instead of the palm of ones hand,would be a much better way to boost T.
Is there any research on increased sexual activity and testosterone levels? You bet there is.
A study of 44 men visiting a sex club actually showed that the guys who went there only to watch other people have sex, had an average increase of 11% in their testosterone levels, whereas the guys who went and actually had sex there noted an average increase of 72%28. It’s also seen in couples that on the nights that there is “sexual activity”, testosterone levels are significantly higher than on the nights that they don’t have sex29. One of the many findings in the Baltimore Longitudal Study on Aging was that in men over 60-years of age, those with higher level of sexual activity had significantly greater serum testosterone levels30.
Much has been theorized about ejaculations and testosterone, and there seems to be this common misbelief that busting a nut would “drain” the body from testosterone (which fortunately isn’t the case). I recently wrote a more detailed article about the subject which can be found here.
6. Know the Side-Effects of Prescription Drugs
Healthcare is a business. A big business.
Chances are that if you visit a doctor – even without any known health issues – you’ll probably end up leaving with a prescription to some medication.
Therefore its not a coincidence – nor a surprise – to see that the largest pharmaceutical companies are raking in hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
In many cases, prescription drugs can prove to be vitally important to the patient. However, it’s also worth noting that in order for the pharmaceutical companies to make money – people have to be sick – and for some reason we are only treating the symptoms with more and more pills instead of actually focusing on the cause of the illness.
Though at the end of the day, your health is your own personal responsibility. Not the doctors. Not the governments. Yours.
With that being said, here’s some studies about prescription drugs that have side-effect of lowering testosterone levels (what ever you might do with this info is your decision);
- Corticosteroids and opiate-based painkillers.
- Some beta-blockers and tranquilizers31.
- A type-2 diabetes drug called Sylfonylurea32.
- A blood pressure drug called Spironolactone33.
- Acid reducers such as; Tagamet, Cidemetidine, etc34.
- Hair-loss drugs such as Finasteride and Dutasteride35.
- Statins and other drugs that interfere with cholesterol synthesis36.
- Some anti-fungal drugs, such as the commonly used ketoconazole37.
- Many SSRIs (anti-depressants) are notorious for causing low sex-drive and also low-T38.
7. TestShock Program
Writing about natural testosterone optimization has been my job now for the past few years. Reading, learning, and researching info on hormones has been something I’ve done for ever since I was 15…
…As you can imagine, I have seen, read, bought, or sometimes straight up ignored hundreds of ‘T-boosting’ e-books, physical books, supplements, courses & programs, and even coaching. I get pitched some testosterone related products on a daily basis, since this site is currently the most visited ‘natural testosterone resource’, everyone wants their piece of the pie and their product to shine on the sidebar.
The problem is that I don’t want to promote bullshit in here, and that is exactly what 95% of the natural testosterone optimization programs and supplements are.
Not TestShock though. The moment I had read the first few pages of the book I knew that this was something different, something that aligns with the actual scientific evidence, and something that might truly be the ‘complete A-Z guide for how to increase testosterone naturally’.Now I don’t want to over-hype the program, but if you like to read articles like the one you’re reading now, and you’re interested in natural T-enhancement, then you’re going to love all the 262-pages of Christopher Walker’s TestShock course.
8. Take a Look at Your Posture
According to an interesting study done by Cuddy et al. in Harvard University, your body language as well as postural changes can almost immediately impact your stress and steroid hormones.
In their research, the scientists wanted to know what happens to the bodily hormones when the subjects do either a set of ‘high-power poses’ (taking up more space, standing tall, hands on hips, dominant alpha stuff, etc) or ‘low-power poses’ (contractive behavior, closed limbs, taking less space, general insecure positions, etc).
Surprisingly, only in 2-minutes power-posing led to 20% increase in salivary testosterone levels, and -25% decrease in the stress hormone; cortisol. On the contrary, low-power posing led to a drop in T with accompanied rise in cortisol.
Here’s Cuddy herself talking about the topic and the study:
9. Money, Success, and Competition
I’m a big believer in the fact that making lots of honest money equals – at least in some form – happiness.
Not necessarily the fact that you can see the numbers in your bank account, but the fact that money (at least if you make it in your own terms) often equals total freedom.
Money also equals success in many fields, and can be a form of competition, or at least if not competitive, it generates the feeling that you’re “winning in life”.
Simply put, money is testosterone.
This study of young future-traders is a great example. In it, the traders noted higher testosterone levels on the days that they made above average profits. One young gun in the study ended up on a 6-day money streak and had 78% higher T-levels in serum as a result39.
The results were likely caused by the fact that winning and success in almost any form of competition are both heavily correlated with increased testosterone levels40–43, and what does a big pay day make you feel like? Winning of course. It doesn’t necessarily have to be money that generates the feeling of success. It can be sports, even watching sports, simply getting a list of tasks done, etc. Whatever makes you get the “genuine” feeling of being the boss and dominating your pursuits.
10. Testicular Health
Roughly 95% of the testosterone in your body is produced inside the leydig cells of the testicles…
…Because of this, it’s quite obvious that optimal testicular health and circulation would need to be one of the top priorities for all men.
For optimal testicular function, your balls actually need to be a tad bit cooler than the rest of the body, hence why they hang in a pouch outside of it. Because of this, sleeping naked, wearing loose boxers, and taking frequent cold showers can have a positive impact on your testosterone production.
Roughly 15-20% of men also develop a condition called “varicocele“, which is a thrombosis or “blockage” of some of the veins that lead to the gonads. Since varicoceles inhibit the normal blood flow to the leydig cells, they also inhibit the transportation of LH to its target, which causes your body to produce inadequate amounts of T. This is seen in many studies; men with varicoceles have significantly lower testosterone levels than control subjects44, and when the blockage(s) are surgically removed, testosterone levels tend to increase significantly45.
I guess some sort of testicular massage might also help in T production, though there isn’t (understandably) any research on that.
If you are looking for a natural supplement to boost your testosterone, I would recommend Testro-X.
11. Check What you Smoke
Two of the most common things that people smoke are; tobacco and marijuana.
The question is, how do they affect testosterone levels? Or do they even?
Looking at the scientific evidence behind tobacco and testosterone, it’s actually something that increases natural testosterone and DHT levels46,47.
This effect is likely caused by nicotine, which acts as aromatase enzyme inhibitor48 (turning less testosterone into estrogen) and also blocks the conversion from dihydrotestosterone into a weaker metabolite 3-alpha-diol49.
…Then there’s also the metals and minerals in tobacco which can have androgenic effects, bottom line being that smokers tend to have bit higher T levels than non-smokers, even though smoking itself is not too healthy thing to do.
When it comes to cannabis, some studies say that the active ingredient (THC) can inhibit testicular enzymes needed in testosterone production and reduce T-levels, though the effects are reversible and not as significant as some people claim. In fact there have been few studies where smoking pot has not negatively impacted any hormones50,51.
12. Alcohol in Excess is Not your T-Boosting Pal
Let’s just start of by saying that no, you don’t have to completely cut off alcohol from your life in order to naturally raise testosterone levels.
Is it beneficial for T? Not in the slightest, in fact it has multiple mechanisms for lowering androgens, but in all honesty its effects on T-levels have been wildly exaggerated.
Sure if you’re an alcoholic who slams booze to the point of passing out on nearly all days of the Week, you can be damn sure that it crushes your test production, but few drinks here and there do not have that significant of an effect…
…Though, the mechanisms of action are bit scary;
- The metabolization process of alcohol tends to reduce the amount of coenzyme NAD+, which is an essential part of the electron donoring process necessary for steroidogenesis52.
- Alcohol can also increase the release of beta-opioid-endorphins from the brain and stimulate prolactin release53, both of which can negatively affect testosterone production.
- Oxidative damage increases thorough the body in response to alcohol consumption54, this leading to localized reduction of testosterone in the gonads and also indirect reduction via increased cortisol levels.
- Chronically high intake of alcohol is notorious for its effects in increasing the aromatase enzyme55, which converts testosterone into estrogen, causing a “feminized” effect in the male body.
How much do you have to drink to actually suppress test levels though?
The most damaging effects come from few rodent studies56–58. One rat study in particular showed a staggering 50% reduction in testicular size after they were fed with a diet containing 5% of the calories from alcohol59.
Rodents ain’t the only ones who see suppressed T-levels after alcohol ingestion. Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to lowered testosterone levels in humans too60–62. It’s also known that chronic alcoholics tend to have significantly lower levels of testosterone accompanied with significantly higher estrogen levels than their non-alcoholic peers63–65.
…Luckily enough, few studies have shown that low-moderate alcohol consumption isn’t that bad for male hormone production. Here an equivalent of ~2 glasses of red wine was associated with a mere 7% reduction in testosterone66. In another one, 0,5g/kg of alcohol actually slightly increased testosterone levels67.
In the case of alcohol, the dose really does make the poison. Enjoying a few old fashioned’s or beers once in a while isn’t enough to chemically castrate you.
13. Caloric Intake Matters
In order to make your body produce adequate amounts of testosterone, you need to give it enough calories to fuel the processes necessary in hormone production.
If you’re constantly feeding your body with a big calorie deficit, your body actually starts shutting down the reproductive system and conserves energy for more vital processes needed for your survival.
It doesn’t even have to be a massive calorie deficit, a 7-year study compared men who restricted their calories (1350–2415 kcal/day) and ate very “clean” against sedentary subjects who ate a normal Western diet with higher caloric intake (2145-3537 kcal/day). Due to their restrictive caloric intake, the group of men that ate lower amounts of calories had 31% lower testosterone levels, despite the fact that they maintained a “clean diet” and practiced running on a regular basis68.
For optimal T production, consider eating a slight calorie surplus or maintenance calories.
The catch-22 here is that if you’re fat (which lowers testosterone11), you MUST be on a caloric deficit to lose the weight, and the deficit itself can end up reducing your T-levels68. So should you remain fat and make sure that you’re not getting too few calories? Or should you consider losing the weight by eating a calorie deficit and then bumping your calories up to maintenance level after you’re lean?
The answer is the latter option obviously.
When you start eating more after your weight loss success, your hormone production quickly shoots up, and as you lean down, it’s going to jump up to much higher numbers than what it was on a caloric surplus when you were still fat. If you want to lose weight slowly without really hurting your T-levels in the process, consider a really small deficit of only -15%, which has been shown to have no significant negative impact on testosterone production69.
14. Protein is Necessary but not in Huge Quantities
Protein is vitally important for muscle growth as well as testosterone production.
We know that chronic protein malnutrition causes low testosterone levels13, while it’s also scientifically proven that roughly 0.8g/lb of lean mass is somewhat the point of diminished returns when it comes to the optimal amount of protein for muscle gains.
The problem is that the bodybuilding sites and magazines preach everyone to eat super-high amounts of protein (remember that they also sell you the protein), and protein IN EXCESS is not only useless for your muscle building goals, but it can also significantly reduce testosterone levels.
A study by Anderson et al. shows that when the male subjects undergo 10-days on a high-protein low-carb diet, their free-testosterone levels will be 36% lower than what they would be on a high-carbohydrate low-protein diet. High-protein diets also caused significantly higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels and – as to be expected from lowered bioavailable T – increased SHBG levels. Caloric intake and the amount of dietary fat was kept the same during both diets.
Another study, this time on resistance trained men, showed that dose-dependent reductions in testosterone were caused by increased percentages of energy from protein as well as increased protein to carbohydrate ratio70.
The bottom line is that yes, you do need protein for both testosterone and muscle gains, but no, you don’t need as much as the fitness industry claims. For the optimal amount in terms of T-production, a good starting point would be ~20-25% daily calories from protein. As well as getting the majority from animal sources since plant-based protein is inferior to animal sourced when it comes to big T71.
15. Carbs and then More Carbs
There’s some unfair demonization going on against carbohydrates now. Or actually it has been going on for quite some time…
…The low-carb people say things like;
“Carbs raise insulin, insulin makes you fat, which is simply why carbs make you fat”, or the classic “Humans don’t need carbohydrates brah”.
The fact of the matter is that it has been scientifically proven that weight-loss has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of carbohydrates or other macronutrient trickery. Heck, you can eat the shittiest sugary snacks for all of your meals and still lose weight as long as you’re in a state of caloric deficit.
Guess why? Because that’s how the human body works.
In the past few years as the “paleo diet” has become a thing, their so called “experts” have been telling people that since the cavemen didn’t eat a lot of carbs, we shouldn’t either. The thing is that they had absolutely no evidence to back up their claims about paleolithic humans not eating carbs. Recent evidence actually suggests that cavemen ate plenty of them.
The biggest reason why no man should go on a low-carb diet, is the fact that they’re notorious for lowering testosterone levels, increasing the stress hormone cortisol, and messing up with your sleep.
As explained in the above subheading, Andersson et al. found out that when caloric intake and fat intake are kept the same, diet high in carbs and low in protein leads to 36% higher free-testosterone level and lower cortisol production when compared to one with high-protein low-carbs72. The study by Volek et al. Found similar results, go low on carbs and testosterone takes a hit70.
When two groups of men undergoing intensive cycling 3x/week eat a diet of either 30% energy from carbs or 60% energy from carbs, the group which eats less carbs will have significantly lower free-testosterone levels73. Similar results have been seen in another trial with both men and women as subjects74.
When exercising men who are put on a low-carb diet, they notice significant increases in the stress hormone cortisol75. The pulastion rate of GnRH (master hormone that starts the testosterone production process) also seems to be heavily dependent on glucose availibity76.
As a general rule of thumb, I’ve always recommended ~40-60% of daily calories from carbohydrates. Mainly from low-fiber low-gluten sources, since gluten may increase prolactin levels77,78 and there’s some – although not very conclusive – evidence against high-fiber diets. To make it simple, eat the bulk of your carbs from potatoes, rice, fruit, and sugar (yes, that “white death”).
16. Dietary Fat Does the Trick
I’d say that fat and carbs are the boss macronutrients for testosterone production.
There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that increased amount of energy from dietary fat, leads to increased serum testosterone levels70,79–81.
However, the type of fat matters A LOT. Saturated fatty-acids (SFAs) and monounsaturated fatty-acids (MUFAs) correlate very positively with testosterone levels, whereas polyunsaturated fatty-acids (PUFAs) and trans-fats effectively suppress androgen production.
A crucial part that is often left out in many articles is the part of different types fats having different effects on your hormones.
Bottom line: Ideally you’d want to keep your dietary fat intake at somewhere close to ~20-35% of daily calories, while most of them coming from SFAs and MUFAs with limited – even completely removed – amounts of PUFAs and trans fats. In case you’re scared about the effects this would have on your cardiovascular system, there’s very little to be afraid of, recent research has showed that the link between saturated fat & dietary cholesterol with heart problems was never really strong82, and the older studies have been debunked multiple times in more recent trials.
17. About that Sugar
Much has been said about simple forms of sugar (table sugar, honey, etc) reducing testosterone levels, and previously I used to believe that consuming sugar would be really bad for testosterone levels…
…now I’m not so sure anymore. Of course yes, there’s the research which shows that right after ingesting sugar, testosterone levels will drop acutely, but it’s crucial to understand that the act of eating pretty much anything is able to lower testosterone levels ACUTELY.
There’s no research that I know of which would of have linked sugar intake to long-term reductions in testosterone. In fact, the studies on carbs being pro-testosterone and GnRH increasing its pulsation rate in high-glucose environments speak towards the fact that sugar, which is basically what all carbohydrates eventually convert into, is not that bad for testosterone levels. It might actually be relatively good to consume some sugar (at least in form of fruit and fruit juice) on a daily basis.
In my opinion, sugar has been unfairly demonized. It doesn’t make you fat as everyone and their dog claims, overeating anything does. Sure it’s not that filling, and it might be more addictive than many other foods, but it’s not some toxic poison that destroys you from the inside out as is often boldly stated in click-bait headlines. Dr Ray Peat’s info on sugar is something I highly recommend to everyone who still lives in sugarophobia.
“The liver provides about 70% of our active thyroid hormone, by converting thyroxine to T3, but it can provide this active hormone only when it has adequate glucose.”Dr. Ray Peat
18. Plant-Based Diets are Not the Way to Go
Sure, you can learn how to increase testosterone levels on vegan/vegetarian diets if you know what you’re doing, but is it the optimal type of diet for T-production? No.
When you ditch all animal protein and animal fat, you’re in a situation where it’s really hard to get a balanced intake of amino-acid’s, enough cholesterol, and enough saturated fat to fuel your body’s testosterone producing needs. On plant-based diets men tend to also eat too much PUFAs in comparision to SFAs and MUFAs, which can further mess up testosterone production…
…Not to mention that it’s increasingly harder to consume your daily caloric needs from plant-based foods alone (not to say that this isn’t possible, it’s just much harder).
Factoring those in, its no surprise that many studies have linked plant-based diets to lower testosterone levels. For instance, in this 1989 study changing from meat-based diet to plant-based one resulted in a 26% reduction in free-testosterone levels79. Another study did the same thing with 30 male subjects and saw a 36% reduction in total testosterone levels on plant-based diet83. Multiple other studies have noted that plant-based diets can lead to higher SHBG levels resulting in lower free-T and thus lower bio-availibity of testosterone for the androgen receptors80,84,85.
Though this isn’t always the case, in one study it was noted that after adjusting BMI, vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters don’t really differ much in terms of testosterone levels. In fact in that singular study the vegan group had 6% higher total testosterone levels than meat-eaters86.Which brings me to the point. You don’t necessarily have to crush your testosterone levels with vegan/vegetarian diets. If you can get in a good amount of calories, accompanied with some SFAs and MUFAs (coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, Macadamia nuts…), it’s likely that you can maintain high testosterone levels despite not eating any animal-products.
19. Organic Produce for More T?
In the case of eating organic foods for better testosterone production, it’s not about what you’re getting from the organically grown produce, but rather what you’re NOT getting from the conventional kind.
Specifically, I’m talking about pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and growth/fat-promoting hormone traces.
Sure, organic foods are more expensive, and surely you don’t HAVE to switch everything organic in order to maintain high-T, and yes not all pesticides are harmful…
…But some can be. One study show how the researchers screened 37 commonly used pesticides for their hormonal actions in-vitro, as many as 30 of them were antiandrogens87. Another study tested multiple pesticides for their effects on the 5-alpha reductase enzyme and saw that many of them had a mechanism for blocking DHT synthesis88.
In a large-scale American study, it was noted that 91% of the US test subjects had notable amounts of the insecticide; chlorpyrifos in their bodies89. This is alarming, since TCPY (3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol) which is a metabolite of chlorpyrifos, was noted of having a dose-dependent testosterone lowering effect in multiple linear regression models in one paper90. Several animal studies have also shown that chlorpyrifos has a significant testosterone lowering effect91,92.
In isolated testicular leydig cells, one of the most widely used herbicides in the World; Glyphosate, had a direct testosterone lowering effect at normally occurring environmental dosages93.
Research from Denmark has showed that farmers who spray their crops with conventional pesticides experience lower sperm production and lowered sex hormones when compared to farmes who produce organic foods whom have higher sperm quality and higher sex hormone levels94.
Many other pesticides such as organophosphates95, Vinclozolin96, PCBs97, and Atrazine98 have been also linked to suppressed testosterone production.
NOTE:I’m not a fan of fear-mongering (think FoodBabe, Mercola, David Wolfe, NaturalNews), which is why I refrain from making any wacky tin-foil hat accusations about pesticide use. Indeed GMOs have saved thousands of lives in Africa, and in many cases there’s a legit reason to use crop-sprays, preservatives, and so forth. It’s always your personal decision whether you eat organic or conventional produce, or maybe you mix them up. The most important thing is that you read the evidence about them yourself instead of blindly following one expert with one specific stance, because in this subject, you’ll hear a bunch of bullshit from all-camps.
20. The Milk Controversy
In terms of its macronutrient composition (high quality micellar casein, fats from mainly SFAs and MUFAs, and some carbs) and micronutrient composition (A, B1, B2, B12, D, choline, calcium, magnesium, and potassium) one could easily assume that milk is a pro-testosterone drink.
However, if we look bit deeper, there’s a problem with milk, especially the full-fat kind.
It’s the amount of hormones, in particular the naturally occurring mammalian estrogens, and especially in countries like US where the cows are kept pregnant (this increasing estrone content by up to 33-times99) for over 300-days of the year.
As a big-fan of milk, I was not happy to find Japanese research where drinking cows milk resulted in increased serum estrogen and progesterone levels, which suppressed GnRH secretion from the brain and thus lowered testosterone secretion in men and prepubertal boys during a 21-day study period100.
Since the conjugated hormones are mostly in the fat portion of the milk, it seems that skimmed and low-fat milk would be a hormonally better option…
…And indeed there are two studies which support this theory;
- When physically active men drank full-fat milk and their overall sperm quality significantly decreased101.
- Consumption of low-fat and skimmed milk reliably increased sperm volume and mobility102.
21. Cholesterol is the Building Block
There seems to be a correlation with the total amount of blood cholesterol and testosterone levels – even though studies have also shown that the intake of cholesterol through nutrition doesn’t really do much to blood cholesterol levels in long-term103.
An average sized male naturally synthesizes about 1-1,5g/day of cholesterol, while his body holds an additional amount of ~35 grams within cell membranes…
…It’s also known that the more cholesterol you consume through your diet, the less of it your body has to synthesize in liver, intestines, adrenal glands, and reproductive organs104.
Bottom line is that all the steroid hormones are made from cholesterol105, and even though your body naturally synthesis it on a daily basis – and controls the production accordingly to your dietary intake106 – increased dietary intake of cholesterol70, as well as blood levels of HDL cholesterol107, are still positively linked to increased serum testosterone levels. So eat some egg yolks and make sure to keep your blood HDL (the “good” cholesterol) high.
22. Choose Coffee Over Tea
Tea, especially the green kind, has been hailed as the supreme health drink for years…
…And surely enough there’s evidence that regular tea consumption can reduce your risk of certain cancers108, offer slight protection from type-2 diabtes109, and improve cardiovascular health110. Some research even suggests that green tea consumption can aid in weight loss111 (although these effects are marginal at best and the green tea extracts sold as fat-burners are really not as effective as the producers claim).
Looking at tea from the hormonal point of view, it’s not so “supreme” after all;
- Tea is one of the foods with highest known fluoride content112 and fluoride in excess can significantly lower T-levels.
- When isolated leydig cells are exposed to green tea catechins (EGCG and EC), stimulated testosterone production drops significantly.
- Injecting rodents with green tea antioxidants ended up crushing testosterone levels by a whopping 70%113.
- The catechins and tannins in various teas have a mechanism of blocking DHT synthesis via reducing 5-a enzyme114,115
- Adding increasingly bigger dosages of green tea to male rodents feed (human equivalents of 5 to 20 cups) caused dose-dependent reductions in testosterone between 25-78%116.
I recommend choosing coffee instead, since not only does coffee taste better, it’s also pro-testosterone;
- 4mg/kg of caffeine taken 1-hour prior to exercise can increase T-levels by 12% in elite athletes.
- When infused into a chewing gum 240mg’s of caffeine was able to increase the exercise-induced testosterone boost by 14%117.
- In one study, pre-workout caffeine dosed at 200, 400, 600, and 800mg’s led to dose-dependent increases in testosterone118.
- Caffeine is known to be a non-selective PDE-inhibitor119, reducing the breakdown rate of cAMP (a compound needed in T-synthesis)
23. Intermittent Fasting for Androgen Sensitivity
Did you know that you don’t have to stuff your face with food for every few hours in order to boost T and maintain optimal rates of muscle growth?
Despite the fact that the fitness industry tries to sell you the idea of multiple small meals being “optimal”, science has actually shown that meal frequency does nothing to metabolic rate, eating fewer meals does not burn away your muscle or make it harder to build that, and for a fact, short-term fasting does not lower your testosterone levels.
In fact there are few interesting studies which have shown that after a short-term fast, your androgen receptors become more sensitive towards testosterone than what they would be if you’d eat on a constant basis. Even after 10-days of water fasting, re-feeding shoots testosterone levels higher than what the baseline was in the beginning120,121.
Intermittent fasting is a complex topic at first, and many so called “experts” are often making it even more complex by not fully understanding the research behind its benefits and how you should really fast in order to get the most out of the fasted/fed state “manipulation”. If you’re even slightly interested in IF, I highly recommend reading Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat, which is nothing short of the COMPLETE guide to all things fasting.
I personally don’t recommend long fasts, although they can be useful in dropping weight. Instead I fast intermittently until every evening and eat all my calories post-workout, therefore theoretically taking advantage of that post-fasting anabolism and increased androgen sensitivity right after tearing the muscles in the gym.
24. Eat these T-Boosting Foods
Lets face it, some foods are just better than others when it comes to boosting testosterone levels.
Much of this comes down to things like; high micronutrient density, high amount of protective antioxidants, high SFA or MUFA with low PUFA/trans-fats, quality animal based muscle-meat and collagen protein, low-gluten starchy carb sources etc. In fact I do have an article with 30 testosterone boosting foods over here…
…But in case you’re looking for a condensed version with no additional ramblings, you can see one below:
Fats & OilsMeats & ProteinFruits & VegetablesNuts & SnacksSpices & Other
- extra virgin olive oil
- virgin argan oil
- grass-fed butter
- extra virgin coconut oil
- avocado oil
- epic bars
- beef gelatin
- grass-fed beef jerky
- minced meat
- organic bacon
- macadamia nuts
- brazil nuts
- raw cacao nibs
- dark berries
- real salt
- white button mushrooms
- baking soda
- blue cheese
25. Limit your Intake of These T-lowering Foodstuffs
There are of course also some testosterone lowering foods, and as much as I hate avoiding something or creating diets that are too restrictive, aka. prone to failure, certrain foodstuffs in high amounts just don’t fit the manly nutrition plant at all.
There’s definitely more than these, but this list is just for the ones with good amount of research to prove that. You can find a more detailed article with studies here.
Here’s the list in no particular order;
Testosterone Lowering Foods
- Flaxseed products
- High-PUFA Vegetable Oils
- Mint, Peppermint, Spearmint…
- Soy Products
- Green tea
- High-PUFA nuts
26. The Endless Soy Debate
Your body produces it when the hypothalamus in your brain sends out bursts of something called GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone), which then travels to the other brain gland called pituitary gland, where the GnRH stimulates the release of two hormones called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), these are the gonadotropins.
The gonadotropins (LH and FSH) then make their way down to the testicles via your spine, and once they reach their destination FSH stimulates sperm production, whereas LH stimulates the testicular leydig cells to produce testosterone from a well known precursor; cholesterol.
After the testosterone is made and done, it travels around in your bloodstream. Some of it remains bio-available in circulation as free-testosterone, some of it make its way into its target receptors around the body (androgen receptors), while some of it gets bound and rendered partially inactive by two carrier proteins called albumin and SHBG.
Small parts of your available testosterone will also metabolize to estrogen (the principal female hormone) via an enzyme called aromatase and dihydrotestosterone or DHT (more potent male hormone) via an enzyme called 5-a reductase.
All of the moving pieces that affect this synthesis, can be affected naturally by training, nutrition, lifestyle, and supplementation.