Testosterone is possibly the ultimate feel-good hormone. Higher testosterone levels provide you more physical and mental energy, help burn fat and build muscle, improve your sleep quality, enhance sex drive and fertility, and promote a general sense of well-being. Testosterone isn’t just for men either. Women can experience all the benefits of testosterone with a small, natural increase too.
As an athlete myself, the performance-enhancing qualities of testosterone have led me to research how I can achieve a natural increase in the hormone however I can. The results of this are detailed here in my ultimate natural testosterone guide, so let’s get started!
They say you are what you eat. Diet can make a massive difference in your testosterone levels in a very short period of time. Dietary fat is essential to testosterone production in the body, with cholesterol being the essential building block of all steroid hormones. It is important to remember that not all fats are created equal. There are three groups of fatty acids found in our diets:
- Saturated fatty-acids (SFAs)
- Monounsaturated fatty-acids (MUFAs)
- Polyunsaturated fatty-acids (PUFAs)
SFAs are found in foods like eggs, red meat, palm and coconut oils, and dairy products. These fats are typically hard at room temperature, and only have single bonds between carbon atoms.
MUFAs are found in foods such as olive oil and avocados, are typically liquid at room temperature, and contain one double carbon bond with the rest being single bonds.
PUFAs are found in foods like soybean and sunflower oils, fish, and margarine. These are typically liquid at room temperature.
Studies have shown that increased intake of SFAs and MUFAs result in a higher testosterone production in the body, while increased intake of PUFAs actually decreased testosterone in the body. The Hämäläinen study suggested that the optimal ratio of dietary fats was around 35% of total calories consumed, with a majority of these being SFAs and MUFAs. Therefore, a diet high in eggs, red meat, coconut oil, avocado, and olive oil will be beneficial to your natural testosterone production.
Avoid foods with estrogenic properties like soy products, lentils, flaxseeds, and sesame seeds. Also where possible, try to eat organic and free-range foods. Commercially-raised animal products exposed to growth hormones have higher levels of estrogens. Alcohol should also be minimized in your diet, as it is high in phytoestrogens and prolactin which both increase estrogen and decrease testosterone. While small amounts won’t hurt you too much, a diet heavy in any of the above will counteract the benefits of testosterone.
Another dietary factor is vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. However, it can be difficult to get adequate amounts of these in your diet to really feel the effects. This is where it becomes valuable to supplement. Vitamins B6 and D, Zinc, and Magnesium are all excellent natural testosterone boosters to fortify your diet. A PubMed study observed a significant increase in total, bioactive, and free testosterone levels in males who supplemented 3,332 IU of Vitamin D, compared to a placebo group during a year-long study. Zinc has been shown to correlate significantly with serum testosterone concentrations, and supplementing zinc along with magnesium and vitamin B6 will improve zinc uptake.
There are a lot of gimmicky powders and pills on the market that make outrageous claims about the potency of their testosterone formulas. It is best to avoid these, at least until the claims are backed by good science. A good example of why you should avoid these is D-Aspartic Acid (DAA). Once touted as the Holy Grail of testosterone supplements, recent studies have shown that DAA supplementation has at best a negligible effect on natural testosterone production, and at worst can actually cause a decrease in testosterone!
A robust sleep cycle is critical to not only increasing testosterone, but reducing the stress hormone, cortisol – a hormone which can cause a nosedive in natural testosterone production. A 2015 study observed that restricting sleeping time to 5 hours per night caused a 10-15% drop in testosterone production, compared to participants who slept 8 hours per night. That is insane!
So, how do you sleep better? Supplementing magnesium, which stabilizes the REM cycle, can help you sleep deeper for longer. Take 500mg-1.5g of magnesium about an hour before going to bed, and if you can, aim to get magnesium bisglycinate as it has a better rate of uptake in the body. Hot baths with magnesium salts can also help, and will definitely aid in relaxation. Of course, set a strict bedtime and stay away from all screens in the hour or two leading up to going to bed. Exposure to light from screens inhibits our natural circadian rhythm, and stops the body from producing the sleep hormone melatonin.
The Bottom Line
There are three key areas to work on (and maybe two if you include supplements as part of your diet). By carefully carving out a pro-testosterone diet, sleeping well, and supplementing where needed, you can experience a very beneficial boost in natural testosterone production. Of course, it is helpful to know where you’re starting out so you can measure the size of this boost. Elite Medical Lab offers state-of-the-art hormone testing, covering everything you need to know about your testosterone.