Testosterone is a steroid hormone primarily secreted by a man’s testicles. Women have testosterone, too, but in very small amounts.
This hormone is responsible for the development of male sexual characteristics. Testosterone is also important for maintaining muscle bulk, adequate levels of red blood cells, a sense of well-being, and sexual function.
With age, usually after the age of 30, the amount of testosterone in the body declines.
Other causes of low testosterone levels include an injury or infection, diabetes, chronic liver or kidney disease, chemotherapy or radiation treatments, genetic abnormalities, hemochromatosis (iron overload), pituitary gland dysfunction, inflammatory diseases that impact the pituitary gland, stress, alcoholism and obesity and certain medications. It is also associated with certain nutritional deficiencies.
A low testosterone level can affect both your quality of life and your health. It can cause fatigue, erectile dysfunction, depression and other emotional issues, insomnia, poor concentration, decreased bone density, and increase in body fat.
To find out their testosterone levels, men can opt for a blood test. In case the test shows low testosterone level and you experience the signs and symptoms for the same, don’t worry. Some simple lifestyle and dietary changes can help boost your testosterone level naturally.
Here are the top 10 ways to boost your testosterone level naturally.
1. Lose Weight
There is a strong connection between weight gain and hormonal imbalance. Low testosterone levels tend to increase body fat which in turn creates further hormone imbalance by increasing the conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
According to a 2010 study published in the journal Diabetes Care, 40 percent of obese non-diabetic men and 50 percent of obese diabetic men age 45 or older have lower than normal free testosterone concentrations.
Moreover, a 2012 study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Switzerland found that losing excess weight can help middle-aged men with prediabetes reduce their prevalence of low testosterone levels by almost 50%.
Shedding excess pounds will help increase your testosterone level. The best approach is to work toward losing 1 to 3 pounds of fat per week. Try not to diet or cut back on your calorie intake abruptly when trying to lose body fat. If your body goes into starvation or survival mode, it will stop making testosterone.
The healthiest way to maintain a healthy weight is through well-balanced diet and regular exercise.
Regular exercise helps raise testosterone in men with low levels. It also boosts energy and endurance and will help you sleep better. Plus, it decreases your chances of being overweight, which contributes to low testosterone.
- Weight lifting is the most effective form of exercise for boosting testosterone levels. For best results, lift heavier weights with fewer repetitions. Stick with weight-lifting exercises like bench presses, squats, dead lifts and shoulder presses. Do weight-lifting exercises for 30 minutes, 4 or 5 times a week.
- High-intensity interval training is another form of exercise that can actively increase testosterone levels. This involves exercising in short, intense bursts, followed by easier, recovery exercises. You can do this type of exercise on the treadmill, the elliptical trainer or in the swimming pool, for example.
- Incorporate cardio workouts into your exercise routine a few times each week. Running, swimming, spinning or other aerobic exercises are helpful in losing weight. Do not overtrain as it may cause a drop in your testosterone level.
To reap the benefits of exercise, give your body the time it needs to recover between workouts. Otherwise, your exercise regime could have a negative effect on your testosterone level. It is best to work with a trainer to learn proper forms of exercises and develop a plan that suits your lifestyle and body type.
3. Get Adequate Sleep
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011, cutting back on sleep drastically reduces a healthy young man’s testosterone level.
The study found that the testosterone levels in young men who slept less than 5 hours a night for a week had a 10 to 15% decrease in their testosterone levels as compared to those who had a full night’s sleep.
In addition to decreased testosterone production, lack of sleep increases the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone), and high levels of cortisol also impact testosterone levels.
So, get quality sleep every night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adult males generally need between 7 and 9 hours per night.
To improve the quality of your sleep, turn off all computers and electronics 1 hour before bed, avoid caffeinated drinks late in the evening, do some meditation before going to bed, take a hot shower before bed and maintain a regular bedtime. If you are having trouble getting good sleep on a regular basis, talk to your doctor.
4. Reduce Stress
High stress is also associated with low testosterone levels. It also affects your sleep which in turn affects your testosterone levels. Plus, the stress hormone cortisol makes you gain belly fat and excess weight means less testosterone.
If stress is the reason behind your low testosterone level, the only solution is to stop stress before it stops you. There are many ways to tame your stress and keep it at bay.
- Perform deep-breathing exercises.
- Do meditation and yoga for 20 minutes daily.
- Make time for music, art or other hobbies that you like.
- Learn to identify stressors and avoid them.
- Organize your daily activities in a systematic and realistic manner to manage your time wisely.
- Keep a positive, realistic attitude.
- Spend time with people you love.
If you cannot manage your stress, talk with a counselor or take a stress management class.
5. Eat Healthy Fats
Just like vitamins and other minerals, your body requires healthy fats for optimal functioning. A study published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry found that a diet with less than 40 percent of energy as fat led to a decrease in testosterone.
Omega-3 fats are healthy fats that can help boost your testosterone level. You can find omega-3 fats in nuts, avocados, unheated nut oil, fish, egg yolks, olives and olive oil. Monounsaturated fat has a direct effect on your testosterone level. Peanuts, peanut butter, palm oil and canola oil contain this kind of fat.
6. Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels
People with low testosterone often have vitamin D deficiency. A 2011 study from Hormone and Metabolic Research found that healthy, overweight men involved in a weight-reduction program experienced a boost in their testosterone levels after receiving vitamin D every day for a year.
Regular sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D levels. Soak yourself in early morning sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes daily. This will facilitate the process of vitamin D production.
In addition, eat foods that are rich in vitamin D like fatty fish, fortified milk, fortified cereal, cheese, liver and eggs. You can also take a vitamin D supplement to increase your testosterone level. Before starting a supplement, consult your doctor.
7. Consume Plenty of Zinc
The mineral zinc is important for testosterone production, and zinc deficiency can lead to a drop in testosterone levels. Eating a healthy diet is the best way to increase your zinc intake. Eat foods like red meat, fish, oysters, crab, milk, cheese, beans, nuts and yogurt or kefir.
If you decide to use a zinc supplement, stick to a dosage of less than 40 mg a day, which is the recommended adult upper limit.
As per the dietary guidelines of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements, an adult man should get 11 mg of zinc each day. Always consult a doctor before taking a supplement. Too much zinc intake can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb other minerals, especially copper.
8. Cut Back on the Booze
An article published by the NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reviews research on the effect of alcohol use on the part of the endocrine system involved in male reproduction.
This review concluded that alcohol’s damaging effects on reproduction are mediated at all three levels of the male reproductive unit: the hypothalamus, pituitary and testes. At the same time, excessive alcohol intake has a direct impact on key hormones, including testosterone.
To maintain a healthy testosterone count, keep a close eye on how much you drink. Men should not drink more than 3 to 4 units a day. One unit of alcohol is about a small pub measure of spirits, ½ pint of weak beer or ½ standard glass of wine. Moreover, men should try to have at least 2 alcohol-free days each week.