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Science Reveals How To Boost Your “Testosterone Level” Naturally To Help You Stay Energized And Healthy

Testosterone is the primary sex hormone and anabolic steroid in males.[3] In male humans, testosterone plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues such as the testes and prostate, as well as promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle and bone mass, and the growth of body hair.[4] In addition, testosterone in both sexes is involved in health and well-being, including moods, behaviour, and in the prevention of osteoporosis.[5][6][7][8][9][10] Insufficient levels of testosterone in men may lead to abnormalities including frailty and bone loss.

Testosterone is a steroid from the androstane class containing a keto and a hydroxyl group at positions three and seventeen respectively. It is biosynthesized in several steps from cholesterol and is converted in the liver to inactive metabolites.[11] It exerts its action through binding to and activation of the androgen receptor.[11] In humans and most other vertebrates, testosterone is secreted primarily by the testicles of males and, to a lesser extent, the ovaries of females. “On average, in adult males, levels of testosterone are about seven to eight times as great as in adult females.[12] As the metabolism of testosterone in males is more pronounced, the daily production is about 20 times greater in men.[13][14] Females are also more sensitive to the hormone”.[15]

In addition to its role as a natural hormone, testosterone is used as a medication in the treatment of hypogonadism in men and breast cancer in women.[16] Since testosterone levels decrease as men age, testosterone is sometimes used in older men to counteract this deficiency. It is also used illicitly to enhance physique and performance, for instance in athletes.[17] The World Anti-Doping Agency is listing it as an S1 Anabolic agent substance “prohibited at all times”.[18]

When most people think testosterone, they think huge muscles, better workouts, and an enhanced sex drive, and look: that’s all true. Testosterone plays a significant role in muscle mass, bone strength, and libido, as well as mood and cognition. And it’s not just for men — testosterone is just as important for women (though not as much). (1)

So it makes sense that “boosting testosterone” is an extremely lucrative market and an irresistible angle for supplement producers. The thing is, while a testosterone booster can help, it’s possible to boost your T with food and lifestyle changes.

That doesn’t mean you’ll be eating testosterone — you’ll actually be focusing on taking in nutrients that have been proven to be natural test boosters in addition to picking up some healthy habits. And trust us, these work much better than the turbo-charged horny goat weed pill packets that have been collecting dust at your local deli counter.

Testosterone is important, not just for muscle growth, but for health. Here are natural testosterone boosters to help you keep your T intact.

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Testosterone and Your Health

There are many reasons why you should be cognizant of your testosterone levels — especially if you’re a regular lifter. Low testosterone has been linked to several conditions, including excess body fat, fragile bones and muscles, thinning hair, increased fatigue, and a slower metabolism. (2)

And while low testosterone is certainly important, it may not be necessarily true that a decrease in these hormones may cause these conditions. Instead, it’s likely another condition is causing you to lose some T, which then causes even more — and sometimes worse — side effects.

For example, sleep apnea (a condition where your breathing stops and starts during your sleep) has been found to decrease testosterone levels. So yes, low testosterone levels could cause fatigue, but your levels may be low because of a pre-existing condition that doesn’t necessarily have to do with your hormones. (3)

And certain systematic conditions — ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes — have also been linked to lower testosterone levels. That’s all to say, testosterone levels are important, and left unchecked, they could cause some unwanted side effects. But it’s only one part of your overall health that you should be looking out for at all times. (4)

Nutrients to Eat to Boost Your Testosterone 

Generally speaking, three main nutrients can help the body increase testosterone production — magnesiumzinc, and Vitamin D. It should be noted that ingesting these nutrients will only help increase your T only if your levels are low. If they’re within the normal range, which for most men should be between 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL), eating these nutrients will ensure you stay there, but you probably won’t see that much of an increase. (5)(6)

We’ll go a little more in-depth on how these nutrients work in the body to help you increase your T count.

Magnesium

Magnesium plays a huge role in hundreds of bodily functions, from supporting your muscles and nerves to regulating your blood pressure. It’s also usually touted as the “relaxation nutrient,” as it’s strongly linked to sleep quality, lower stress, better blood pressure, and improved intra-workout recovery. It’s less well known for its effect on testicular health. (7)

“Among its numerous roles include one in the testicles where it helps protect tissue from free radicals,” says Kurtis Frank, the research director for the independent nutrition research organization Examine.com. “If you’re deficient, then the testicles get damaged to a degree, and testosterone may be lowered. Supplementing magnesium simply prevents the test from being abnormally low while it doesn’t ‘boost’ it beyond normal levels.”

Scientific studies back up Frank’s claim, including one that found supplementation could benefit testicular cancer patients. And other studies show magnesium can increase testosterone counts in both athletes and sedentary people. It’s unclear why the two are connected, though. (8)(9)

While magnesium is vital for everyone, it’s crucial for active people as strenuous exercise can decrease your magnesium levels. And again, decreased magnesium levels could lead to lower testosterone. (10)

Foods high in magnesium

Here are some foods that are high in magnesium, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Aim for 400 milligrams of magnesium per day.

Zinc

Zinc has been linked to a better immune system, improved metabolic function, faster wound healing, and helps keep your sense of taste and smell strong. For the purposes of this article, its most important function is to facilitate gene expression — which is a fancy way of saying “allowing your genes to do their job.” (11)

Let’s take you back to elementary school science class for a second. Genes are part of our DNA that contain certain instructions for your cells so they can do…well, everything. And that includes utilizing and producing testosterone. One study found testosterone and estrogen can have an impact on gene expression. Lower testosterone equals impaired gene expression. (12)

So how does zinc come into play? Well, zinc is a metal and, in certain cases, it acts as an ignition spark to help genes do their job. So think of zinc as a starter plug for your car — without it, your engines (aka your genes) aren’t going to work, which means functions such as producing and utilizing testosterone will slow down until you get more zinc into your system. (13)

Foods High in Zinc

Here are some foods high in zinc, according to WebMD. Aim for 40mg on most days and upwards of 50mg on intense training days.

Vitamin D

Among its benefits, Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, your immune system, and bone, muscle, and heart health. The easiest way to get some Vitamin D is through the sun, but it’s also present in many foods we eat.

This is another case where it’s unclear why Vitamin D helps the body produce more testosterone — but it does. There’s an important caveat, though: increased Vitamin D intake, specifically through a supplement, only helped men who had low T counts. Men with normal testosterone levels saw no benefit from Vitamin D supplementation. (14)

Foods High in Vitamin D

Here are some foods high in Vitamin D, according to the National Institutes for Health. Aim for around 15 micrograms (mcg) per day and more if you have a particularly intense training session. If you’re 70 and up, shoot for 20mcg.

Lifestyle Habits to Increase Your Testosterone  

You know health and wellness aren’t just about what you eat or how you train. The same is true for your testosterone levels. You could be eating all the aforementioned foods, but if you just sit and play video games all day, it’s going to do nothing for your testosterone levels.

Below, we’ll go over a few lifestyle choices you can make to improve your testosterone.

Exercise 

It’s been long proven that training/exercising regularly can help boost testosterone levels, even if you’re already in the normal range. This is more prominent in people who engage in resistance training rather than endurance training. (15)

Along the same lines, it’s also been proven that being obese or underweight can decrease testosterone levels. Bodybuilders and other athletes who cut weight for prolonged periods of time are especially at risk for this, which is why some use steroids to replace the testosterone they’ve lost while training and in competition. (16)

Sleep

We don’t have to tell you that sleep is important. You know that. But if you’ve been burning the candle at both ends, it might be working against your T count. A study found that even one week of poor sleep resulted in a 10-15% decrease in testosterone in young, healthy men. (17)

Aim for seven to nine hours of sound, quality sleep every night.

Reduce Stress

Juggling training, meal prep, relationships, and more can be stressful. That stress, though, maybe doing more than giving you a little anxiety. When we’re stressed, our bodies emit a hormone called cortisol or the “stress hormone.” Cortisol has been linked to decreased testosterone levels. The body can also emit cortisol if you overtrain or underfeed yourself.  (18)

Here are some ways you can decrease stress on your body and reduce the amount of cortisol in your system:

Final Word

Healthy testosterone levels are vital, but you should be caring for all aspects of your health — training, nutrition, sleep, and mental health. All of these factors can impact your T levels, which can further impact your overall health.

The key to keeping your testosterone levels within range is to eat a wide array of foods, get seven to nine hours of sleep, and train three to five times per week.

References

  1. Davis SR, Wahlin-Jacobsen S. Testosterone in women–the clinical significance. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2015 Dec;3(12):980-92. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(15)00284-3. Epub 2015 Sep 7. PMID: 26358173.
  2. Jia H, Sullivan CT, McCoy SC, Yarrow JF, Morrow M, Borst SE. Review of health risks of low testosterone and testosterone administration. World J Clin Cases. 2015;3(4):338-344. doi:10.12998/wjcc.v3.i4.338
  3. Wittert G. The relationship between sleep disorders and testosterone in men. Asian J Androl. 2014 Mar-Apr;16(2):262-5. doi: 10.4103/1008-682X.122586. PMID: 24435056; PMCID: PMC3955336.
  4. Yeap BB. Testosterone and ill-health in aging men. Nat Clin Pract Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Feb;5(2):113-21. doi: 10.1038/ncpendmet1050. PMID: 19165223.
  5. Hu TY, Chen YC, Lin P, et al. Testosterone-Associated Dietary Pattern Predicts Low Testosterone Levels and Hypogonadism. Nutrients. 2018;10(11):1786. Published 2018 Nov 16. doi:10.3390/nu10111786
  6. Travison TG, Vesper HW, Orwoll E, et al. Harmonized Reference Ranges for Circulating Testosterone Levels in Men of Four Cohort Studies in the United States and Europe. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017;102(4):1161-1173. doi:10.1210/jc.2016-2935
  7. Maggio M, De Vita F, Lauretani F, et al. The Interplay between Magnesium and Testosterone in Modulating Physical Function in Men. Int J Endocrinol. 2014;2014:525249. doi:10.1155/2014/525249
  8. Willox JC, McAllister EJ, Sangster G, Kaye SB. Effects of magnesium supplementation in testicular cancer patients receiving cis-platin: a randomised trial. Br J Cancer. 1986 Jul;54(1):19-23. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1986.147. PMID: 3524645; PMCID: PMC2001660.
  9. Cinar V, Polat Y, Baltaci AK, Mogulkoc R. Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Apr;140(1):18-23. doi: 10.1007/s12011-010-8676-3. Epub 2010 Mar 30. PMID: 20352370.
  10. Cinar V, Polat Y, Baltaci AK, Mogulkoc R. Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Apr;140(1):18-23. doi: 10.1007/s12011-010-8676-3. Epub 2010 Mar 30. PMID: 20352370.
  11. Saper RB, Rash R. Zinc: an essential micronutrient. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(9):768-772.
  12. Eyster KM, Mark CJ, Gayle R, Martin DS. The effects of estrogen and testosterone on gene expression in the rat mesenteric arteries. Vascul Pharmacol. 2007;47(4):238-247. doi:10.1016/j.vph.2007.06.007
  13. Robert J. Cousins. Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, University of Florida, 201 FSHN, Gainesville, FL 3261 1-0370, USA
  14. Elisabeth Lerchbaum, Stefan Pilz, Christian Trummer, Verena Schwetz, Oliver Pachernegg, Annemieke C Heijboer, Barbara Obermayer-Pietsch, Vitamin D and Testosterone in Healthy Men: A Randomized Controlled Trial, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 102, Issue 11, 1 November 2017, Pages 4292–4302, https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2017-01428
  15. Devi S, Saxena J, Rastogi D, Goel A, Saha S. Effect of short-term physical exercise on serum total testosterone levels in young adults. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2014 Apr-Jun;58(2):178-81. PMID: 25509972.
  16. Fui MN, Dupuis P, Grossmann M. Lowered testosterone in male obesity: mechanisms, morbidity and management. Asian J Androl. 2014 Mar-Apr;16(2):223-31. doi: 10.4103/1008-682X.122365. PMID: 24407187; PMCID: PMC3955331.
  17. Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Effect of 1 week of sleep restriction on testosterone levels in young healthy men. JAMA. 2011;305(21):2173-2174. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.710
  18. Brownlee KK, Moore AW, Hackney AC. Relationship between circulating cortisol and testosterone: influence of physical exercise. J Sports Sci Med. 2005;4(1):76-83. Published 2005 Mar 1.

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