“Testosterone” is a word often heard tossed around by men during bouts of physical-strength challenges. As many know, testosterone is the male hormone produced in the testes that plays a part in fat distribution, muscle strength and mass maintenance, and sex drive.
But did you know testosterone levels decrease with age? It is said testosterone typically decreases 1-3% a year after aging beyond 35-40 years.
That being said, there are several ways to naturally boost testosterone levels.
Testosterone has a cause-effect relationship in strength training. Testosterone levels increase during intense training and metabolic demanding workouts.
In a 12-week clinical study, growth hormone and testosterone levels were measured in young (23 years) and elderly (63 years) patients before and after undergoing resistance training. Although testosterone increase in the older group was not as high as the younger group post-workout, each group experienced elevated testosterone levels, and scientists concluded the results “indicate that strength training can induce growth hormone and testosterone release, regardless of age.”
Testosterone production also, in turn, affects muscle size. In one study, hypogonadal men (men whose testes produce little or no hormones) were given testosterone injections for 10 weeks (100mg/week), which resulted in an increase in fat-free mass, muscle size, and strength.
Working stimulates testosterone production, and testosterone potentiates muscle growth and strength increases.
Some tips to maximize your workout are:
Lift heavier weights at lower reps.
Occasionally, slow down your lifting movements. By lifting in slow motions, force is placed on muscles for a longer period of time.
Do compound exercises which include numerous muscle fibers and different muscle groups (dead lifts, bench press, squats).
Give your muscles adequate rests in between workout sessions.
Get Enough Zinc
Zinc is important for boosting testosterone because it inhibits aromatase, a synthase that converts testosterone to estrogen.
People at risk for zinc deficiency are vegetarians, people with gastrointestinal diseases, and alcoholics. Healthy levels of zinc in those 19 years and older are anywhere between 8 mg-40 mg. Though people may consume more zinc than that in a day, medical authorities warn of long-term excessive zinc intake side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
Don’t go overboard on zinc consumption, but make sure you are getting your daily recommended value to avoid lower testosterone levels. Foods high in zinc include:
- Beans, ½ cup (2.9 mg)
- Beef patty, 3 ounces (5.3 mg)
- Chicken, 3 ounces (2.4)
- Swiss cheese, 1 ounce (1.2 mg)
Consume Healthy Amounts of Vitamin D
Researchers revealed the male reproductive tract is a target tissue for vitamin D. In one clinical study, 165 overweight, healthy men deficient in vitamin D undergoing weight loss programs were given either 83 mcg vitamin D a day or a placebo for a year. Research shows those in the vitamin D group experienced increases in total testosterone levels compared to the placebo.
The best sources of vitamin D come from the sun, though, optimal amounts are influenced by where you live, age, skin color, cloud coverage, and even pollution. Vitamin D3 supplements can also be taken as well, and there are several foods which are higher in vitamin D. These foods are:
- Salmon, 3.5 ounces (360 IU)
- Tuna, 3.5 ounces (200 IU)
- Orange juice, 8 ounces (100 IU)
- Milk, 8 ounces. (98 IU)
Consume Healthy Fats
Monounsaturated fat is important in moving LDL cholesterol (bad) through the liver and out of the body easier. In a Penn State study, researchers found 22 patients who ate diets higher in monounsaturated fats and lower in saturated fat experienced drops in LDL cholesterol in 3 weeks.
Why is this all important? Research has also shown men who eat more monounsaturated fat have higher testosterone levels. Though, how monounsaturated fats increase testosterone is still being studied.
Healthy fats, like that in eggs (check out this boiled egg diet), also increase testosterone by increasing cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is an important steroid compound from which testosterone is synthesized in the Leydig cells located in the testes. Foods that contain higher amounts of monounsaturated fats include:
- Avocados 1 cup, 14.7 g
- Pecans 1 ounce, 12.3 g
- Halibut ½ fillet, 9g
- Egg, 2 g
Watch Sugar Intake
Recent studies show post-meal blood sugar decreases circulating testosterone levels.
Sugar drinks (75 g glucose) were ingested post-workout by 74 men, some with normal blood sugar, and some with type 2 diabetes. Researchers determined, regardless of diabetes, blood testosterone levels dropped by as much as 25%.
When snacking, look for low-sugar foods. Here are some snacks that contain less than 5 g carbohydrates per serving:
- 1 Hard-boiled egg white
- 5 Baby carrots
- 3 Celery sticks + 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 1 cup light popcorn
- 1 cup cucumber slices + 1 tablespoon ranch dressing