When you spend time where lifting is discussed, such as a gym or an internet forum, you’re likely to come across someone boasting about the latest and greatest way to boost testosterone. Testosterone is often referred to as the king of all hormones because of its powerful effects on the body. Most people are familiar with the most common positive effects which occur with higher testosterone levels including an anabolic environment that supports muscle mass and strength and desirable body composition. On the other end of the spectrum, lower testosterone levels are associated with a decline in muscle and bone mass, and a negative impact on physical functioning. So how should we best support our testosterone levels within the normal, healthy range?
As we hit our 30s and 40s, our bioavailable testosterone levels start to decline, while our Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) levels continue to rise. This decline in testosterone progressively continues to occur as we age. An alarming factor is how evidence is showing that testosterone levels of men of various age groups have been progressively declining each decade. Even when accounting for age-related declines, the testosterone levels of men across populations has been in a steep decline.
A cohort study was conducted on 1,532 American men between the ages of 45-79. Data collection among the men was done in three waves from 1987-2004. The results showed an age-independent decline in testosterone levels (serum total and calculated bioavailable). The declines in testosterone levels were in greater magnitude than cross-sectional declines in testosterone typically associated with age. Similarly, a Danish study looked at 5,350 male serum samples from four large Danish population surveys between 1982-2001. The researchers observed significant secular trends in testosterone and SHBG serum levels in age-matched men with lower levels in the more recently born men. Researchers in both studies speculated on various possible causes for these declines. One suggestion which emerged from both studies was that poor health could potentially accelerate the effects of age-related declines in hormone levels.
It’s no secret that while modern society has yielded many advances which have made our lives more convenient, they’ve been accompanied with negative effects like overweight, poor sleep quality, and exposure to harmful chemicals. These are some age-independent factors that could potentially be influencing your testosterone levels. Let’s explore them each in further detail.
Being overweight is linked to a host of unwanted effects, one of which can be lower testosterone levels In general, population and intervention data suggest a negative relationship between testosterone and overweight in men, whereby testosterone levels are lower in overweight men than non-overweight men.
While some people brag about how they’re able to function on limited sleep, cutting sleep short isn’t ideal if you’re interested in maintaining a healthy level of testosterone. Research shows that most of the testosterone release in men occurs during sleep. A cross-sectional study conducted on 531 men between the ages of 29-72 years examined the associations of age, sleep, and sex hormones. The researchers found that sleep duration, independent of age, aerobic exercise, and body fat, was positively associated with testosterone and bioavailable testosterone levels. A different study on seven males that looked at sleep and testosterone levels among men found that nighttime sleep was an independent predictor of total and free testosterone levels.
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are substances found in our food, consumer products, and the environment. EDCs can alter our normal endocrine function by interacting with the synthesis and metabolism of hormones. A cross-sectional study examining phthalate exposure and testosterone levels was conducted on 2,208 people that participated in the US NHANES study in 2011-2012. Researchers found an inverse relationship between phthalate exposure and testosterone levels in both sexes at various life stages. A study was conducted comparing 74 male factory workers who are exposed to EDCs, against 63 male construction workers. The groups were matched for age and smoking status. The researchers observed a reduction in serum free testosterone levels in men with higher levels of urinary EDCs compared to those unexposed workers.
In addition to supporting your healthy lifestyle and taking defensive measures against factors in modern society which may be harming your t-levels, you can also be proactive by including the following testosterone boosting habits as part of your daily routine.
Individuals that participate in intense training have seen their testosterone levels elevated in numerous studies. A study on men from two different age groups (30 and 62-year old’s) examined their endocrine system’s response to a 10-week strength-focused program. Following the training, men from both groups responded with enhanced hormone profiles. A different study was conducted on nine elite weightlifters to see the effects of hormonal adaptations to prolonged strength training. The study had a two-year follow up period, which led researchers to suggest that prolonged strength training could yield increased serum testosterone levels.
However, it’s not just hitting the weights that has been shown to boost testosterone—high intensity interval training can also give your hormone profile a boost. A four-week study had trained wrestlers perform sprint intervals along with their usual routine of wrestling drills and weight training protocols. At the end of the study, the wrestlers who added sprints to their programs had improved total testosterone levels and testosterone-to-cortisol ratios. It’s important to note that when it comes to training, more isn’t necessarily better, as endurance training tends to lower testosterone levels.
Some of the most popular diets involve the reduction or elimination of specific foods. While these diets can be effective for creating a caloric deficit for weight loss, a balanced approach is the best bet if you’re trying to maintain healthy testosterone levels. A study compared the effects of carbohydrate intake (low and moderate intakes) on the free testosterone-to-cortisol ratio during an intensive exercise micro-cycle. The results showed that those following the low carbohydrate diet had a reduced free testosterone-to-cortisol ratio whereas the moderate carbohydrate intake group remained unchanged. Another study conducted on 30 healthy males observed the effects of dietary fat intake on serum sex hormones. The men were placed on a six-week isocaloric diet, but their dietary fat intake was reduced by 15% compared to their normal diets. The researchers observed that the serum concentrations of testosterone, free testosterone, and androstenedione were all reduced.
The list of ingredients which claim to boost testosterone grows by the day. If you’re shopping for products to support testosterone levels within the normal healthy range, be sure to look for the following factors: ingredients that have been tested in scientific studies, ingredients tested on humans and shown to be effective, patented versions of ingredients, and the serving size of the ingredient compared to the amount used in studies. Here are a few ingredients that pass our quality test.
KSM-66 (Ashwagandha): Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen and has been a staple ingredient of the Indian herbal traditional. In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, young untrained male subjects gained more size and strength from training and experienced a greater increase in testosterone level than those using a placebo. Another study which evaluated the effects of ashwagandha supplementation on serum cortisol levels, saw a significant reduction in serum cortisol following supplementation.[14,15]
LJ100 (Tongkat Ali): Tongkat Ali is an ingredient that has a long history of traditional use. LJ100 is the version that was co-patented with MIT and the Malaysian government, and has undergone several clinical trials. In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, subjects with moderate stress supplemented with 200mg of LJ100. After four weeks, researchers measured stress hormones in the body and found that cortisol levels decreased while testosterone levels increased.
Zinc: The average male requires roughly 15mg of zinc per day to support crucial endocrine functions. Zinc plays an important role in supporting your body’s natural production of testosterone.. L-OptiZinc is a 1:1 complex of zinc and the amino acid methionine which helps increase the absorption and retention of zinc.
DIM (3,3'-Diindolymethane): DIM, is a powerful phytochemical derived from cruciferous vegetables. Preliminary research shows that DIM can help maintain estrogen levels within the normal healthy range, which in turn could help maintain testosterone levels within the normal healthy range.