Men and women both suffer from low testosterone, a hormone that regulates the sex organs, metabolism, bone loss and other bodily functions. Studies have shown that our lifestyle choices play the biggest part in testosterone levels. Exercise, stress, sleep, and obesity have all been shown to affect hormone levels. Read on to learn how to increase testosterone levels naturally.
What Causes Low Testosterone
Low levels of testosterone are linked with aging. Diseases of the glands that produce and control testosterone also cause low levels. As a men ages, his body makes less testosterone. However, it is abnormal for a man to have absolutely no interest in sex. This could be caused by significantly low levels of testosterone. Common causes of low testosterone include:
- Injury to the testicles: Injured testes are sometimes unable to produce the amount of testosterone a man needs. Interestingly, amounts can remain stable if only one testicle is injured. The healthy one can still produce enough testosterone on its own.
- Normal aging. Older men generally have lower testosterone levels than younger men do. As men age, there’s a slow and continuous decrease in testosterone production.
- Obesity. Some of a man’s testosterone is naturally converted to estrogen, a hormone usually associated with women. But men need estrogen, too, especially to maintain healthy bone density. The problem with obesity is that the conversion from testosterone to estrogen mainly happens in fat cells. The more fat cells you have, the more testosterone is being converted to estrogen, leading to lower testosterone levels.
- Hemochromatosis. Too much iron in the blood can cause testicular failure or pituitary gland dysfunction affecting testosterone production.
- Medications. Opiates, taken for pain, and certain hormones can cause problems with testosterone production.
- Infection. Mumps, meningitis, and syphilis are known to lower testosterone levels.
- Concurrent illness. The reproductive system can temporarily shut down due to the physical stress of an illness or surgery, as well as during significant emotional stress.
- Inflammation. Certain conditions and diseases, such as sarcoidosis, histiocytosis, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS can affect the pituitary gland and/or the hypothalamus because of inflammation.
- Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer can interfere with testosterone and sperm production.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
When you look at each of the signs and symptoms individually, you may not think they point to low testosterone. That’s because they may be difficult to tell, and may in fact be caused by other medical conditions. Low testosterone can sneak up on you over time, with symptoms you might attribute to stress on the job, for example, or an over-demanding schedule. Some of the common signs and symptoms of low testosterone are:
Physical Symptoms of Low Testosterone
- No or poor erection of the penis (erectile dysfunction).
- Decreased energy.
- Infertility (lowered sperm count).
- Breast growth.
- Increase in body fat.
- Decreased muscle and bone mass.
- Loss of body hair, reduced shaving.
- Changes in sleep habits: insomnia or sleep disturbances.
- Worsening of congestive heart failure.
- Worsening of sleep apnea.
Mental and Emotional Symptoms of Low Testosterone
- Decreased sex drive (libido).
- Decreased motivations.
- Mental fogginess.
Managing Your Diet to Increase Testosterone Levels
Start the day with oatmeal. The health benefits of oatmeal are well-known – it is high in fiber and low in fat – but now there is one more reason to start your day with a bowl of oats: a 2012 study has shown that oatmeal is linked with increased levels of testosterone.
- The study found evidence that compounds in oats called avenacosides can limit the level of sex-hormone-binding globulins in the system, thus increasing testosterone levels.
- Oatmeal has also been shown to improve sexual performance. It loaded with L-arginine, an amino acid that reacts with nitric oxide to relax blood vessels. When those blood vessels expand, blood flow is increased mightily.
Manage a testosterone-healthy diet.
- Reduce your sugar levels. This should be the place where you cut the most significant amount of calories to ensure healthy weight loss.
- Increase your healthy fats. These include those found in nuts, avocados, unheated nut oil, fish, egg yolks, olives and olive oil. Healthy fats actually help to build a healthier body. Make sure they are approximately 50 percent of the calories you consume.
- Increase the zinc in your diet. Naturally-occurring zinc has been found to aid in testosterone increases. You can find zinc in dairy products, like raw milk, kefir and yogurt. It can also be found in beans, grass-fed meats and fish.
- Eat following a workout. Whey protein, high-protein yogurt and some vegetables can help build muscle. Increasing muscle will help burn fat and increase testosterone.
Eat cabbage. Cabbage (along with other leafy green veg such as spinach and kale) can do wonders for your testosterone levels. It contains a phytochemical called indole-3-carbinol (IC3) which has the dual effect of increasing male hormones while decreasing female ones.
- Specifically, a study conducted at Rockefeller University Hospital showed that estrogen levels were reduced by up to 50% in men who took 500 mg of IC3 a week, thus making existing testosterone levels much more effective.
- The most effective way to increase your IC3 levels at home is to eat plenty of cabbage, so try making cabbage soup, cabbage rolls, cabbage juice, or good old cabbage and potatoes.
Gobble eggs. Eggs are basically a testosterone-producing superfood. Their yolks contain high levels of HDL (a.k.a. the “good” type of cholesterol) which forms the building blocks of testosterone production.
- In addition, eggs are high in protein and loaded with zinc – two more testosterone producing essentials.
- Don’t worry about your arteries – eating “good” cholesterol will not raise your blood cholesterol levels (unlike “bad” cholesterol such as triglycerides) so you can eat up to three whole eggs a day without compromising your health.
Get some nuts. Incorporating a handful or two of walnuts or almonds into your daily diet is a great, easy way to increase testosterone levels.
- Also try branching out to brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts and other nuts high in monounsaturated fats, as men who regularly consume these fats have higher testosterone levels than men who don’t.
- Seeds, such as sunflower and sesame seeds, also provide high levels of monunsaturated fats, in addition to protein, vitamin E and zinc, all of which boost testosterone.
- For the healthiest option, go for the unflavored, unsalted versions of nuts and seeds.
Reduce your sugar intake. Scientists have found that obese men are 2.4 times likelier to have low testosterone than their counterparts, so it’s important that you attempt to shed any extra pounds in order to increase testosterone. The fastest way to do this is to cut as much processed sugar from your diet as possible.
- If you are an avid soda drinker, that should be the first thing to go. Sodas are filled with processed sugars and empty calories, which lead to insulin resistance and weight gain. Just by cutting your daily can of soda from your diet, you could by eliminating a ton of calories.
- Fructose is a type of sugar found in processed foods and fruit juices. It is believed to be one of the major factors behind modern-day obesity. To decrease your fructose intake, cut out processed food and drinks, along with refined carbohydrates found in breakfast cereals, bagels, pretzels, waffles etc.
Don’t go on crash diets. Restricting calories significantly may send the wrong signals to your body, which will not increase testosterone. Instead, cut your calories by approximately 15 percent the first week.
- All weight loss goals should be reasonable. Aim to lose a lb. per week by improving diet and increasing activity levels.
Consult your doctor for a yearly physical. Ask for a detailed analysis of your weight. If you are overweight or obese, this could be the cause of a drop in testosterone.
- Obese people secrete more aromitase, an enzyme that works to convert testosterone to estrogen. Your metabolism will continue to decrease as more aromitase is produced, making the problem worse. Create a weight loss plan with your doctor.
Exercising Regularly to Increase Testosterone Levels
Do cardio interval training. Begin doing cardio exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times per week.
- Interval training requires you to warm up, sprint or workout intensely for 90 seconds and then workout at a more moderate “resting” pace for 2 to 4 minutes. Repeat these sets for approximately 30 minutes, including warm up and cool down.
- Cardiovascular machines, like stair machines, bikes, ellipticals and treadmills can be programmed to do interval training, if you do not want to jog or swim while providing your own interval timing.
Start a strength-training routine. If you have never lifted weights, used resistance bands or used weight machines, hire a personal trainer or physical therapist to teach you the proper form and procedure.
- If you are very weak, start with resistance bands. This gentle form of strength-training allows you to use a rubber strap to train weak muscles before lifting actual weights. Do this 2 to 3 times per week for the first 3 to 4 weeks. If you have a joint or back problem, you may want to graduate to stronger bands and stick to this form of strength training.
- You can increase your testosterone levels by up to 20 percent by lifting weights 3 times per week for 11 weeks.
Use weight machines or free weights 2 to 3 times per week. For men, you will want to choose weights that tire your muscles after only 5 repetitions. Do 3 sets. You should feel muscle fatigue after a weight training workout. Allow your muscles 24 to 48 hours to rest.
- Women or people with joint problems may choose to do endurance training. For example, they may choose a slightly lower weight and complete 3 sets of 10 to 15.
- Work half sets in between full sets. This means, you should complete half the range of motion, from the bottom up or top down, to work the fast twitch muscle fibers as well as the slow twitch fibers.
- Lift weights slowly. Breathe slowly and never drop the weight. Control the weight until it is in its original position.
Make sure you are sweating during your 30 minute workout. While general activity is good, you will need to work your heart more intensely to reach weight loss and testosterone improvement goals. This is true for both strength-training and cardio.
- Do not over train. If you are already fit, too much cardio exercise is likely to lower testosterone levels. Your goal is to keep your metabolism high, but give the body plenty of time to rest and recover.
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Dehydrated people produce less testosterone after a workout.
Allow your body to recover between workouts. Despite the importance of exercise, it is imperative that you give your body the time it needs to recover between workouts. Otherwise, your exercise regime may be having a negative effect on your testosterone levels.
- On days when you’re not exercising intensely, just try to be more more active than usual. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk or bike to work, use a standing desk instead of sitting down all day. These small changes help to keep your body moving, which is good news for testosterone levels.
Changing Your Lifestyle to Increase Testosterone Levels
Cut back on the booze. Alcohol can have a negative impact on your testosterone production. Binge drinking can negatively affect the endocrine system, which, in turn, prevents the testes from producing testosterone.
- In addition, alcohol raises cortisol levels and inhibits growth hormones – bad news for testosterone.
- Unfortunately, beer is the worst type of alcohol when it comes to healthy testosterone. This is because the hops used to make beer are full of estrogen (the female hormone). So you should switch to drinking vodka instead.
- When drinking, it’s best to cut yourself off after two/three drinks, as this will limit the damage to your testosterone levels.
Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine needs to be taken in moderation, otherwise it can produce cortisol, which negatively impacts testosterone levels.
- However, recent studies have shown that consuming caffeine before a workout can actually boost your performance – so if you’re really craving a cup of coffee, have one before you pump iron.
Be generally more active. Moving around more and sitting less will balance your hormones, decrease stress and result in weight loss.
- Buy a pedometer. Make sure you hit at least 10,000 steps per day during the course of your daily routine.
Get a full night’s sleep. Doctors recommend 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Less sleep can result in 10 percent lower testosterone levels.
Get some sun. Getting vitamin D requires you to spend some time (15 to 30 minutes) with a good amount of your skin in direct sunlight. Keeping vitamin D levels high can produce up to 20 percent more testosterone.
Have more sex. You probably know that testosterone is what fuels men’s sex drive, but did you know that it also works the other way around? That’s right; having sex can actually increase your testosterone levels. And not only that – just the fact of having an erection, or getting turned on by an attractive woman is enough to boost testosterone.
Enjoy the great outdoors. Getting outside and enjoying the sunshine can be hugely beneficial to testosterone. In fact, exposing yourself to those vitamin D filled rays for just 15 to 20 minutes a day can increase T levels by a whopping 120%. If you can sunbathe naked, the results are even higher. Just don’t get caught.
Reduce your stress levels. Stress produces the hormone cortisol and interrupts the production of hormones like testosterone.
- Focus on creating a work/life balance. Make sure you do leisure activities you enjoy every day. Reduce long work hours if possible.
- Start meditation, deep breathing and/or yoga. These activities can reduce stress and help you sleep better.
See your doctor. If you believe you may be suffering from a condition called low-T, consult with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to prescribe medicine that will help your body produce more of its super-hormone.
- If you plan on taking supplements, make sure you do some research and consult your doctor first.
- Before puberty, testosterone levels are very low. The level of testosterone continues to rise during adulthood until it peaks around age 40, then gradually decreases.
- Avoid being wrong. Discussing topics you are unfamiliar with and acting like you know them forces you to admit to being wrong, which in turn lowers testosterone. If you are discussing something you’re not familiar with, it’s better to just listen and learn.