Testosterone (T) has always been aligned with manhood and affects how a man is perceived as masculine. The hormone has a role to play in a man’s development, for instance, the growth of male organs, having a deeper voice, chest hair, and beards are all influenced by the hormone Testosterone. Even muscle mass and how muscles keep their size is affected by the hormone. Testosterone can be found in both sexes, although most of its prominent effects are with males. It is produced primarily in the testicles. Hormone levels do not stay the same throughout life, however. An adolescent male is in his reproductive prime has more elevated testosterone levels compared to an older man. These changes are normal however, as levels decline with age but problems do arise when levels remain low despite a young age.
There are several health problems linked to low measures of circulating testosterone, especially for men. Substantial research shows that low total T levels is associated with a high risk for diseases, like obesity. T levels start to decrease when a man gets older, so these problems are an area of concern for them. The risks are aggravated when old age is coupled with physical inactivity and high fat to muscle ratio.
While pharmaceutical companies promote drugs that replace natural testosterone to remedy low testosterone levels, and there are plenty of options on the market effective in increasing low levels, immediate reliance on those medications are not advisable. First of all, upping testosterone levels would be a band-aid solution. It does not address the root cause, but it is a result of various controllable factors (aside from the uncontrollable ones like old age), mostly neglect of healthy practices. Second, there are natural ways to remedy the problem even without getting on pills. Unlike medication, natural solutions do not come with attendant side effects from long term use. These solutions also result in your own body producing testosterone for itself, unlike medication, which does the opposite by hindering the natural production of the hormone.
Below are ways on how to increase testosterone levels naturally without resorting to medication or therapy.
1. Maintaining Body Weight
An unfit, overweight body is a factor that is clinically proven to cause low testosterone.1 Obesity is such a significant factor in hormonal imbalances that it probably trumps old age. Even an older man would have little issue with dropping testosterone levels as long as he maintains a healthy weight. This is especially true when coupled with healthy lifestyle practices like the consumption of good, nutrient-dense foods, and avoiding vices like smoking and drinking alcohol. Naturally, for an old man, the levels decrease with age; not being overweight, however, can significantly help lessen any abnormal decrease in levels. Tackling excess weight is probably the most crucial step in addressing a decline in testosterone.
When there is a high concentration of belly fat, systemic aromatase levels start converting testosterone in the fat cells to estrogen.2 This increase in estrogen, in turn, causes fat to be deposited in the thighs, hips, and breasts. As these areas become more prominent, the risk of prostate enlargement also goes up, which can lead to prostate cancer for men.3
As dreary as that sounds, the good news is that testosterone levels can be brought back up by merely bringing the weight down coupled by other lifestyle changes, of course.
2. Avoid Developing Diabetes
Diabetes elevates the probability of having lower than normal testosterone levels.4 Studies show that in diabetic patients, the risk of having abnormally low testosterone levels more than doubles within ten years. Apparently, the relationship is two-way because the reverse is true. Research has found that higher testosterone levels correspond directly to a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes in men. This presents a positive feedback loop wherein maintaining healthy levels of T hormone in the body can prevent type 2 diabetes, and the prevention of type 2 diabetes also leads to higher T levels.
3. Cardio and Resistance Exercise
Exercise, when done correctly, is always a good thing. It can help decrease the probability of many common fatal illnesses among men, such as cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. What’s more, a mix of aerobic exercise and resistance training may also boost testosterone production. In particular, research has found that weight lifting causes the release of testosterone and growth hormones across all age groups.5
T levels usually increase after exercise and gradually normalizes afterward. There are many factors though dictate exactly how well exercise can boost T levels. For instance, your overall weight, age, and intensity of exercise, even the time of the day, all have a bearing on how much of a boost in testosterone you would get from working out.
Bear in mind that an exercise is a form of stress, albeit the right kind, and when done in a manner that is not too strenuous to the body. This will be discussed later.
4. Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep has a very close relationship with testosterone. It is actually during a deep sleep state — in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase — that the hormone is mainly produced. Disrupting the sleep cycle, especially during the crucial REM phase, lowers testosterone levels.
The effect of sleep deprivation on hormone levels has been tested. The study’s subjects were all healthy young males, and their sleep was restricted to a mere 5 hours every night for a whole week. As a result, male hormone levels dropped by 10-15%.6 This finding is alarming because a sleep of 5 hours every week is not uncommon among the working population in America. In fact, it has become the norm.
You might just find that an 8-hour high-quality sleep every night is all you need to bring your T-levels back up.
5. Manage Your Stress
Stress is part of our daily lives, and it is no surprise that too much of it and in a sustained manner, can affect hormone levels, not just testosterone. Nobody is exempted. Chronic stress increases cortisol levels, a steroidal hormone in the blood. In turn, high cortisol levels escalate fat deposits.7 And when fat is increased, testosterone turns into estrogen, causing additional problems, especially if you are a man.
Even when the body is at rest, research shows that cortisol injected into the bloodstream directly leads to a drop in cholesterol levels.8
Stress also increases the risk of many diseases like diabetes and obesity.
You can manage your stress through mindful practices like meditation. Exercise also helps lower stress, although exercising too much may affect testosterone. Regular exercise and managing stress levels can help and should go hand in hand in maintaining healthy testosterone levels.
6. Eat Healthily
Most illnesses begin with poor nutrition. Plenty of research supports that unhealthy eating habits affect hormone levels and is particularly severe for growing children.9 It has been discussed how fat deposits convert testosterone into estrogen. However, a diet rich in healthy fats actually does the opposite — it has a positive correlation with testosterone formation.
On the other hand, both overeating and undereating lead to a dip in T-levels. A balanced diet with proper distribution of carb, protein, vitamins, good fats, nutrients, and minerals is essential for healthy testosterone production. These testosterone foods give you the benefit of average hormone production without all the side effects of artificial treatment.10
How To Increase Testosterone Levels Quickly By Foods
Foods to include in the diet:
- Green tea
- Various fruits and vegetables
- Nuts – in particular, brazil nuts which have plenty of selenium
- Fiber-rich foods
- Soy products
Foods To Avoid:
- Red meat and animal fat
- Meals using too much food color and dyes
- Processed foods
- Excessive amounts of caffeine
- Excessive dairy products
- Excessive sugars and sugary products
7. Avoid Smoking Tobacco Products
In 2016, more men smoked various tobacco products more than females. However, today, it is believed that the gap is narrowing fast, with many women opting to smoke to deal with stress just like most men.11 With men, tobacco and its chemicals actually affect a male’s manhood by lowering the production of testosterone. Although many men think that smoking is quite the macho activity, it has been found to affect testosterone levels, quite the paradox, really.
At first, tobacco acutely heightens levels of testosterone, but regular exposure to the substance from prolonged smoking lowers t- levels.12
While smoking cigarettes does not affect biologically active testosterone directly, it influences the amount of free testosterone due to the fluctuating levels of production.
Do your manhood a favor and ditch the smoking.
8. Avoid the Alcohol
Alcohol has a very adverse effect on testosterone because it attacks all components responsible for the production and maintenance of the hormone. Because of this effect, alcoholics are more likely to experience infertility, premature ejaculation, impotence, and libido, or decreased sexual drive.13
Leydig cells located in the testes are responsible for producing and secreting the male hormone. Alcohol negatively affects Leydig cells, so T hormone production is disrupted. Other research suggests that alcohol can, in fact, cause testicular injury, which may suggest far more severe consequences.14 Alcohol also hinders the function of the Sertoli cells in the testicles. These cells bring about sperm maturation, so it is possible that alcohol intake beyond recreational levels can lead to infertility.
Alcohol also hinders the formation and activity of two other hormones that work in conjunction with testosterone — luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. These are crucial in reproductive functions.15
9. Avoid Opioid Pain Medications
Testosterone goes down as swiftly as a couple of hours when morphine and other opiates are taken for pain.16 Imagine what happens, then, when opioid medications are regularly taken for months or even years. The problem is even more grave with severe pain because a higher dose of opioids equates to more reduced T-levels.17
The good news, though, is that the adverse effects of opioids are reversible once the medication is stopped. Take note that ceasing pain medication requires prior consultation with the prescribing physician.
10. Boxers Not Briefs
The natural environment for your testicles has to be fresh and dry, which is why the testicles tend to hang away from the body. Heat lowers sperm count and the formation of testosterone. It is preferable to wear loose clothing then and nothing tight like briefs.18
All the above-mentioned healthy practices can be incorporated into your lifestyle easily and should help address problems with testosterone levels. Everything above is a holistic approach to doing things, but in case they are not enough if you find that your male hormone levels are still hovering below baseline, and you are interested in increasing levels quickly, dietary supplements is a great option to start.
These nutrients, minerals, and organic compounds may help:
- Zinc – mostly found in meat, seeds, nuts, dairy, and eggs
- Quercetin – a plant pigment found in foods like red wine, tea, apples, berries as well as in St. John’s worth, Elder and buckwheat tea
- Grape Seed extract
- DHEA – a hormone precursor
Herbal Supplements For Boosting Testosterone
Declining sexual drive is a problem that has plagued men since the dawn of civilization and finding a solution or cure was given much thought by healers then and now. Modern science has given us many remedies but back then, healers resorted to herbs and spices for boosting T levels. Tribulus Terrestris, Ashwagandha and Ginger were used heavily to improve libido in various forms of traditional health teachings.19 There are many more including Fenugreek, Longjack root and Shilajit. Shilajit, an Ayurvedic rayasana was used for various ailments of the body and anecdotal evidence points to its use for promoting optimal sexual drive and as an aid for healthy fertility.20
However, no large scale evidence supports that any of the above mentioned, improves libido but it may promote healthy testosterone levels when used by healthy men.
Large scale human trials need to be done to fully understand if these Herbal remedies can really impact T hormone levels. Further research behind herbs is needed, ideally with human subjects and specifying the dosage required. It is ideal to stay away from medications if something can still be done regarding low T levels. The above holistic approaches can significantly help improve low T levels and hopefully, ultimately maintain healthy levels.