You’ve been pumping iron, cranking the cardio and cutting those calories but you’ve recently noticed, among other things, an increase in central fat and a decline of your overall muscle mass. You may well be asking “What is going on?” Among other things, your exercise program may need tweaking, which we are always here to help you with. However, if you are male and reached your mid-thirties to late forties, possibly your testosterone levels are lowering, as they naturally do at this age. According to research from the age of thirty years of age, your testosterone levels will naturally decline by about 1% each year (1).
Guys gunning it at the gym to build strong muscles are often keen to find effective ways of boosting testosterone. We all know that testosterone is our hormone which plays a massive part in how we look, feel and behave. Testosterone is usually associated with males, however both men and women produce testosterone, although men produce more of it. For both men and women, testosterone contributes towards our alertness, muscle mass, confidence, sexual drive, energy and physical strength.
Masculine features, increased energy, muscle mass, increased competitiveness, deepening voice and increase sex drive are all the joys of boys reaching their puberty. When you reach your thirties experts aren’t sure what contributes to the natural decline of testosterone. There is a health condition called hypogonadism which is when your body doesn’t produce enough testosterone due to issues with your testicles, hypothalamus and pituitary gland. It is so easy to have a routine check-up with your healthcare professional to determine if you have this condition or to find out if your testosterone levels are actually lowering.
You might also like to do some of your own research according to the signs and symptoms your body is showing as there are some specific symptoms which may indicate that your testosterone levels are dropping.
Signs Of Low Testosterone
Are Your Testosterone Levels Too Low?
Your blood test results from your healthcare professional will tell you if your levels are lower than average for your specific age. As you hit your mid-thirties, we feel it is always a good idea to have a regular checkup anyway with your health care professional, even if you are feeling fit and healthy. From your blood test results find out precisely which of your testosterone levels are lower than average. Most healthcare professionals will only test your total testosterone levels, which is ok, but we are not interested in what is ok, we need to know precisely how all of our testosterone levels are performing. Free T (free testosterone) is your available testosterone active in your body and should be evaluated along with your total testosterone, especially if your body is showing any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above.
So maybe you think that naturally boosting this vital hormone would be a good idea. If you are here reading this article, the chances are that you are conscious of your health, especially your fitness. So really the news of your testosterone lowering at this age shouldn’t be a problem because, hopefully, all we need to do is tweak your fitness routine, upscale your nutrition and alter a few lifestyle habits to help boost your testosterone levels.
A lower than standard testosterone score may be due to several other health conditions including testicular cancer, type 2 diabetes, chronic liver disease, kidney disease or infection. Also be aware that some prescription drugs and a genetic predisposition can also lower your testosterone.
How To Increase Your Testosterone Levels
In Australia, testosterone is administered from your doctor in several ways. You have the choice of absorbing testosterone transdermally through your skin via a gel, via an intramuscular (IM) injection or as a pellet implant. The gel contains free testosterone which forms a temporary pool of testosterone that diffuses into your blood over a few hours. This gel can irritate your skin and rub off on your partner. Testosterone administered orally, in pellet form is a challenging option as testosterone is broken down by your liver and may have a strong toxicity effect on your liver. There are also capsules available which are called Andriol. They may be the most popular ‘safer’ option of taking testosterone orally.
Sounds so easy and straightforward, but there are side effects, some long-term (2). Investigate your options, as we need more clinical studies to ensure the benefits far outway the contraindications of clinical interventions (3).
The bottom line is that you are overriding how your body naturally regulates itself to produce testosterone. After a shot, gel or oral administration your body will have a good dose of testosterone, so that’s a good thing, but this also signals to your brain that no more testosterone is needed to be produced, so your body gets worse at producing testosterone. At this point we are actually trying to make our body naturally produce more testosterone. There are natural ways to help kickstart your body into creating more testosterone which we will discuss.
Testosterone boosters are entirely different from testosterone replacement therapy. Testosterone boosters are supplements which are useful for building muscle mass and strength. You may well have used them before, regardless of whether your testosterone levels are lowering.
Testosterone boosters are also known as an alternative to anabolic steroids. They are famous for effectively achieving better results while working out and training. Still an area of uncertainty due to the lack of evidence of these boosters being able to boost your testosterone levels. These shots may also increase your risk of blood clots, heart and liver problems.
Potential concerns regarding the effects of testosterone on prostate health issues, aggression and polycythaemia need to be addressed. Symptoms of polycythaemia include headaches, dizzy spells, itchy skin, breathlessness, vision problems, skin rashes, fatigue, gout, kidney stones and an enlarged spleen. Latest studies are suggesting that there are many natural ways to give your testosterone a boost.
Natural Ways Of Boosting Testosterone
Alternative methods are often safer for increasing your testosterone levels, but some aren’t backed up with evidence-based studies. Most natural methods support your body to make testosterone. Be aware that some herbal tonics and natural supplements may also have contraindications with your health condition and medication.
There are many options available. Among our favourite for boosting testosterone are the following.
Widely regarded as a testosterone and energy booster. Also used to improve general wellbeing and help manage stress better (4).
Helps boost libido, increase sperm production and improves low testosterone.
Excellent for stress release, vitality and for increasing serum testosterone levels.
Your body requires B vitamins for adrenal support, energy, healthy nerves and testosterone production. Although specific B vitamins are required for boosting testosterone, it is always best to take your B’s as a complex.
No studies on this excellent root vegetable are claiming it will boost your testosterone levels, but there so many promising reviews that this superfood may benefit your sexual health and fertility (5).
This amino acid may help treat symptoms of low T, such as erectile dysfunction but it doesn’t boost a person’s level of testosterone directly. It may help increase your bodies blood flow, and may also help your body make muscle rather than fat. Red meat, dairy, poultry and fish all contain amino acid L-arginine.
Low levels of this all-important mineral may be associated with low testosterone levels. You need enough zinc to convert testosterone to its active form, dihydrotestosterone. Red meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, nuts, seeds and legumes all contain reasonable levels of zinc.
Most people in our society today need more of this “sunshine” vitamin because currently, a vitamin D deficiency is affecting almost 50% of our society today (6). We need vitamin D for optimal wellbeing and among other things vitamin D helps increase your testosterone levels. The Cancer Council recommends that some time in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun should be sufficient to maintain adequate Vitamin D (7).
May increase your testosterone levels according to a study done on animals. Human trials are still yet to be done on garlic increasing testosterone levels, but eating garlic or taking garlic as a herbal tonic seem to help many people with boosting their testosterone.
Creatine supplementation may help with increasing the rate of conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (8).
Regular exercise is such an effective way of preventing many health conditions we see in our society today. Studies are stating that exercise can also boost your testosterone (9). Exercise which has shown to specifically help with boosting your testosterone include HIIT (10). Resistant training including bench press, bent-over row, chin-ups, deadlifts, push-ups and shoulder press also showed effective results for boosting testosterone levels (11).
The Importance Of A Nutritious Diet
Eating a nutritious and well balanced diet is essential for optimal health and especially for happy hormones. Your body needs an optimal balance of macronutrients - quality carbohydrates (oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, brown rice), healthy fats and protein. Pack every plate full of vegetables, especially your green leafy vegetables. Include a few pieces of low fructose fruit, nuts and seeds into your daily menu.
Micronutrients such as zinc, magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, iodine, selenium, vitamin K2, vitamin A, vitamin E, manganese and boron are as equally as essential for testosterone production.
Intermittent fasting is a popular method of improving weight loss and indirectly helps boost your testosterone by increasing your luteinising hormone which is required to produce testosterone.
Regardless of whether you are trying to boost your testosterone levels or not, your health and training performance will benefit from removing bad carbohydrates from your diet including sugary drinks, fruit juices white bread, pastries, cookies, cakes, ice cream, chips and chocolates. Although, in saying that, we are a fan of small amounts of good quality dark chocolate. You will find out why later in the article.
Don’t be afraid of the good fats as they fuel your brain, lower inflammation, boost your metabolism, promote weight loss and help create all of your hormones including testosterone. Eat heaps of healthy unsaturated fats such as nuts and seeds, avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, organic dairy, sardines, mackerel, wild salmon and other fatty fish.
Protein assists with weight loss, improves your body composition, boosts your metabolic health and helps your body build muscle and strength, which as we mentioned earlier might decline as your testosterone levels lower (12). Too much protein, specifically animal protein, may have an adverse effect on your kidney function and increase inflammatory levels. Good sources of protein include eggs, dairy (especially Greek yoghurt as it contains twice as much protein than other yoghurts), fish, chicken, nuts and seeds, and meat.
Reduce inflammatory foods such as foods containing gluten, refined white products, hydrogenated oils, trans fat, sugar and any foods you have an allergy. Also increase your daily amount of dietary fibre and probiotic foods.
Low testosterone may affect overall sleep quality, and lack of sleep can lower your testosterone. Slight case of which comes first with the ‘chicken and egg’ story really but researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Centre found that when deprived of sleep men’s testosterone levels dropped by a massive 0-15%. To ensure you recharge your batteries with a good quality sleep try these tips to optimise your sleep.
Remove all electronic devices from your bedroom.
Stop snoozing during the day or in front of the TV before bedtime.
Don’t drink caffeine after 1 pm.
Remove or reduce your alcohol consumption.
Eat cherries as they are an excellent source of melatonin - your hormone which induces good quality sleep.
Increase foods high in tryptophan. Tryptophan works as a precursor to melatonin, so eat foods such as bananas, greek yoghurt, turkey, chicken, soy products, warm milk and legumes.
Soak your body with magnesium from an Epsom salts bath which helps relax your muscles.
Increase foods rich in calcium such as nuts and seeds, hard cheese, yoghurt, sardines, legumes, almonds, leafy greens, whey protein, tofu, amaranth and milk. Calcium helps calm your mind and body.
Sweating has been used for years as an effective method of removing unwanted toxins for those unable to exercise or for those wanting to relax and enjoy the heat of a sauna. Infrared saunas help your body to not only release harmful environmental chemicals but it also helps you with weight loss, pain relief, increases your circulation and enhances a glowing complexion. An infrared sauna is fantastic for improving your neuromuscular system to recover from maximal endurance performance. A study done in Finland on ten healthy males who took a sauna twice a day for seven days showed results of elevated prolactin levels at the end of the trial (13).
High prolactin levels have, in some cases, been found to lower testosterone levels, but the beneficial effects of the infrared sauna as a form of stress relief and ability to increase your happiness and reduce your cortisol levels far out ways the adverse effects of elevated prolactin levels may have. The end take home note is yes infrared saunas may be indirectly beneficial for increasing your testosterone levels.
Stress has a negative impact on all areas of our health. When stressed your body releases the hormone cortisol, which elevates cholesterol levels and tells our body to store fat, especially abdominal fat. Stress can also lower testosterone levels and in turn decreased testosterone can cause stress, and so the vicious cycle continues. Don’t underestimate the importance of stress management. Ideally, start integrating a yoga practice into your daily routine, or if cracking into a downward facing dog on a yoga mat is not your thing try breathing techniques. Deep breathing, aka breathwork, can instantly lower your stress levels (14).
If you have poor digestion reduce or avoid foods such as caffeine (coffee, teas, chocolate, sports drinks) and any foods you have an intolerance to, as they usually amplify your stress response and exacerbate your symptoms of poor digestion and stress.
Nutrients your body requires during periods of stress and while recovering from a stressful event or period of stress include B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium. Eliminating caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and processed food will help balance your hormones, but the good news is that small amounts of good quality dark chocolate can help reduce stress. Dark chocolate appears to decrease the stress hormone (15). That’s why we love dark chocolate.
According to a peer-reviewed study total testosterone falls on average to 13.0 (6.6–25.3) nmol/L by age 40 years (16). When you have a blood test to check where your testosterone levels sit to ask for your precursor hormones to testosterone to also be tested, including prolactin, luteinising hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and thyroid hormones.
Assistant Head Coach
Testosterone for the aging male; current evidence and recommended practice
Adverse effects of testosterone replacement therapy: an update on the evidence and controversy
A Harvard expert shares his thoughts on testosterone-replacement therapy
Ginseng and male reproductive function
Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men.
Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin
How much sun is enough?
Three weeks of creatine monohydrate supplementation affects dihydrotestosterone to testosterone ratio in college-aged rugby players.
Physically active men show better semen parameters and hormone values than sedentary men.
Responses of sex steroid hormones to different intensities of exercise in endurance athletes.
Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise.
Dietary protein to maximize resistance training: a review and examination of protein spread and change theories.
Endocrine effects of repeated sauna bathing.
Breathing Techniques for Stress Relief
Effects of chocolate intake on Perceived Stress; a Controlled Clinical Study
A Validated Age-Related Normative Model for Male Total Testosterone Shows Increasing Variance but No Decline after Age 40 Years