A sufficient level of testosterone is important not only for building muscle and fueling your sex drive, but is crucial to maintaining bone mass and creating red blood cells. It’s understandable why you would want to increase levels of this important hormone, but how do you raise testosterone naturally?
Using Exercise to Naturally Boost Testosterone
Studies have shown that it’s not just the duration or frequency of working out that can impact testosterone levels, but also the type of exercise. We’ve all heard that high intensity interval training can help to burn more fat than steady state exercise, but it appears that HIIT workouts can actually boost your testosterone as well.
Strength training is another way to boost testosterone production through exercise. As you damage muscle tissue during a workout, your body releases testosterone in order to repair and create new muscles.
It should be noted that without adequate sleep your body won’t be able to repair muscle tissue properly. Sleep is also an important player in your body’s production of testosterone. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted a 10-15% decrease in testosterone levels of young, healthy men whose sleep was limited to just 5 hours per night over the course of a week.
Testosterone Boosting Foods
A key factor in testosterone production is maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, as cholesterol is a precursor to testosterone. This can be accomplished by eating fats from whole foods sources, like pastured meats and dairy products, as well as wild caught, cold water fish, like salmon and sardines. Fat from plant sources like nuts and seeds, olives, avocados, coconuts (as well as coconut, avocado and olive oils) can also provide the necessary healthy fats.
Plenty of fruits and vegetables can also support your body in balancing hormones and increasing testosterone. Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage and other vegetables in the cruciferous family contain compounds which support the liver in clearing out excess estrogen, while pomegranate and mushrooms contain compounds which block estrogen receptors.
Vitamins and Minerals
While you should aim to eat a balanced diet containing a variety of vitamins and minerals, there are a few in particular that are especially helpful in increasing testosterone levels. These nutrients can be obtained either through diet or supplementation.
- Zinc—This mineral, in which most people are actually deficient, is not only crucial for immune health and cell growth, but also supports the endocrine system and can increase serum levels of testosterone in hypogonadal men. Pumpkin seeds and oysters are both food sources of zinc, though supplementation may still be necessary.
- Selenium—This antioxidant works synergistically with zinc to regulate hormone levels. Selenium deficiency is commonly found in infertile men, and those with low testosterone. Studies suggest that supplementing selenium can help to increase testosterone levels. Brazil nuts are an incredibly rich source of selenium, with one serving of nuts containing far more than the recommended daily intake.
- Vitamin D—This vitamin is actually a hormone, and maintaining proper levels is important for immunity and endocrine system functioning. Vitamin D has also demonstrated the ability to raise levels of testosterone when supplemented. Though vitamin D can be synthesized in the body with sun exposure, supplementation can often help, especially during winter months when the sun’s rays don’t penetrate the atmosphere strongly enough to produce enough of this crucial vitamin.
Foods to Avoid When Increasing Testosterone
Just as important as what you put into your body is what you omit from your diet. Consuming an excess of sugar or other carbohydrates, soy products (proteins in particular), heavily processed foods, and alcohol will all decrease testosterone production while increasing levels of estrogen. Studies have indicated that soy consumption can reduce testosterone production, but the implications about sugar are even stronger.
A 2013 study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital noted that consumption of glucose reduced free testosterone levels by 25%, and even suppressed testosterone for several hours. During this study, which involved a group of 74 men with varying metabolic and hormonal profiles, around 15% of the 66 participants with normal testosterone levels pre-study actually became hypogonadal during the study. While this study focused primarily on glucose, the findings pointed to the insulin-raising effects of sugar and carbohydrates in general having an impact as well.
If this seems like a lot to keep track of, don’t fret! Tailoring your diet to naturally increase testosterone can be made easier with the help of a meal planning program. Programs like Meal Plan Magic can help you create a meal plan designed to balance testosterone, as well as to generate shopping lists and food prep outlines that are customized to your specific goals. This can ensure that you’re consuming enough of the right nutrients, in the correct proportions, every day.
JAMA - http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1029127
Glucose study http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2265.2012.04486.x/abstract
HIIT study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23310924
Zinc test http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875519
Vitamin D http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21154195