You’re not the man your father was: testosterone levels in men are lower than ever and have been declining for decades. A study on a large sample of American men — published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2007 — found that the average testosterone level has been dropping by as much as one percent per year.
A 65-year-old man in 1987 had about 17% more testosterone than a 65-year-old man in 2004.
While the exact cause behind the worrying drop isn’t clear, researchers believe that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
How does low testosterone affect me?
Testosterone is an androgen — a male sex hormone — which is also essential for women. Low libido and health issues, such as that of metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that occur concurrently and lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes — has been associated with low testosterone levels in men. There also seems to be a link between low testosterone levels and depression in both men and women.
Oh, shoot — time for Testosterone Boosters?
Stay with me for a minute. Before you charge your card with several statements of “Testosterone Boosters” from numerous dubious-looking sites, bear in mind the vast majority of advertised products don’t work — they only trick you into thinking they do because they enhance your libido without affecting your testosterone levels. Maca is a good example.
Now that we’ve saved you your hard-earned money, how do we go about increasing testosterone levels?
#1 — Sleep
We all know how essential sleep is: it helps you with recovery, vital metabolic processes, and memory. It, therefore, is no surprise that a lack of it causes many health issues, with a decrease in testosterone production and facilitation of fat gain (which itself impairs testosterone production) being the two most relevant to this article.
It is therefore of paramount importance to get quality sleep if you want to keep your testosterone levels as high as naturally possible. Read this article if you’re currently having issues getting to the island of zzzs.
#2 — Physical Activity
A session of resistance training can raise testosterone levels for 15–30 minutes in the post-exercise period. In addition to the temporary effects, all the grunting work you do in the gym also benefits testosterone production in the long-term through an improvement in body composition and reduction of insulin resistance.
Don’t be too enthusiastic and start hitting the pavements for daily marathons though: your testosterone levels can drop from prolonged endurance exercise. Frequent scheduling of adequate recovery time in your workout plan will help you obtain the full benefits of having an active lifestyle.
#3 — Weight Management
If you gain weight (and fat), the production of your testosterone drops. Luckily, weight loss usually brings production levels back up. Observational studies of obese and overweight people have consistently shown that the higher the amount of weight loss, the greater the testosterone increase.
A massive amount of weight loss is not necessary to see significant improvements in testosterone levels: just 5 percent loss in weight can bump up total testosterone quite a fair bit.
#4 — Vitamin D
Vitamin D aids with the regulation of testosterone levels. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D falls between 400 and 800 IU. Of course, you should be able to produce all the vitamin D you need through sunlight exposure, but if you live in a gloomy country or prefer to spend much of your day indoors, supplementation is advised.
Vitamin D is rarely found in natural foods; explaining why it has become a sought-after supplement.
#5 — Zinc
Zinc deficiency hinders testosterone production. Similar to magnesium, zinc is lost through sweat. Athletes or physically active people are therefore more at risk for zinc deficiency. Zinc-rich foods include animal products — such as red meat and poultry — and grains, and nuts.
As usual, too much of a good thing can be harmful: high doses of zinc can lead to nausea and vomiting. Prolonged, excessive consumption of zinc-rich foods can lead to copper deficiency.
#6 — Magnesium
An increase in magnesium intake can lead to an increase in testosterone production in males with low magnesium and testosterone levels. Of noteworthy mention is magnesium’s role in helping the body convert vitamin D into its active form.
Magnesium is widely found in animal and plant foods — it shouldn’t be challenging to hit the RDA amounts.
Do bear in mind that while supplements can help, nothing beats an active and healthy lifestyle. Optimize testosterone production by getting enough quality sleep, resistance training, and proper weight management. Do not buy into the hype of testosterone boosters — most of them don’t work. It is more likely than not that these supplements will only boost their manufacturers’ bottom lines, not your testosterone levels.
Thank you for reading! If you want an evidence-based approach to optimizing your nutrition, I’ve written an article on workout supplements that actually work. Be sure to check that out!