What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone that is produced in both men and women, and even in some animals. It is most present in men and is produced in the testicles. Women produce a lower quantity and is produced in the ovaries.
Many people associate testosterone with male sex drive, because that is what it is most talked about when it comes to the hormone in men. However, it actually plays a role in a lot of other health benefits as well.
In this article we will focus primarily on testosterone in men as it is more prominent in males.
Testosterone in Health
A healthy level of testosterone can promote muscle growth and increase strength, help to maintain a healthy heart, control body fat, strengthen bones and improve brain functionality including verbal memory, spatial abilities and reasoning. It also helps with hair growth, voice deepening in men, and the production of sperm. When the body produces optimum levels of testosterone, it can also increase energy and give an overall sense of well-being.
So, in short, it plays a significant role in many chemical process in our body!
Testosterone levels peak in teenage years then typically begin to decline from around the age of 30.
What Low Testosterone Can Mean
If a man has low testosterone levels, he could experience any or all of the following:
- Thinning hair
- Lower sex drive
- Weight gain
- Reduced bone mass
- Problems sleeping
- Reduced energy levels
- Mood swings.
As stated in the previous section, a lower amount of testosterone production is natural as a man ages, typically after the age of 30, however if a man is younger than 30 and is still experiencing low testosterone levels it could be due to underlying health reasons, such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Liver problems
- Lung or kidney disease
- Chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer.
Additionally, those who have previously used anabolic steroids may also experience lower-than-normal natural testosterone levels.
There are medical treatments available for men of all ages who have a deficiency in testosterone levels, including testosterone replacement therapy and other supplements, which will be discussed in more detail later on.
Testosterone in Fitness
In all forms of fitness, testosterone plays a huge role. Exercise, and fitness in general, helps to increase testosterone levels in men of all ages. Now that’s not to say that if a 64 year old man exercises once that he will reap all the benefits right away. Instead, it has to be a more consistent form of exercise in order to help build the levels of testosterone up. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the lower the level of fitness, the more the testosterone levels will increase in the short term. Once that person has gotten used to exercise, and has built up their fitness levels, the rate of increase in testosterone will reduce. Think of it in a similar way to weight loss – a more overweight person will lose fat quicker in the beginning.
It’s important to keep time of day in mind too. This is because testosterone levels are generally at their highest in the morning and are lowest in the evening. Therefore, if a man exercises in the evening, the boost of testosterone could be greater.
Testosterone in Bodybuilding
Testosterone is the single most important hormone for bodybuilders. Alongside testosterone, bodybuilders also rely on growth hormones and insulin growth factor. We already know that testosterone helps to build muscle mass and increase strength so it’s no wonder it’s used so widely in bodybuilding. But it also boosts endurance levels, meaning you can train for longer and therefore gain more muscle faster.
In order aid them in their quest for increased muscle mass, many bodybuilders use testosterone boosters which are safer alternatives to anabolic steroids as they typically contain natural ingredients, such as fenugreek, magnesium and zinc.
Many professional (and aspiring) bodybuilders use anabolic androgenic steroids (referred to as AAS, or simply steroids, or ‘roids’) in order to attain maximum size and strength.
Whilst we do not advocate the use of AAS it is clear that, alongside appropriate training and nutrition, they do work, however anyone considering using AAS MUST do their research beforehand to limit their exposure to the dangers that AAS can bring.
What is Elevated Testosterone?
Elevated testosterone simply means ‘higher’ levels of testosterone than normal are being produced. In men, elevated testosterone levels can have the following symptoms :
- excessive body hair growth
- high or low blood pressure
- mood swings
- anxiety and depression (similar to having low levels too)
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing
This is why it is important to be very aware of taking any additional testosterone boosters as mentioned earlier.
In women, elevated testosterone levels can lead to an increase in body hair, more muscle mass, irregular periods, acne, infertility, weight gain and mood swings.
Elevated testosterone can be triggered by a number of things. These include, using anabolic steroids, tumors or growths close to hormonal glands, taking testosterone boosters or T replacement supplements, using or touching testosterone gel.
If you think you are experiencing elevated testosterone (or low testosterone levels), it would definitely be worth checking in with your doctor to see what options you have for getting your levels back to a normal and healthy place.
How to increase testosterone naturally
Foods that increase testosterone naturally
Eating foods that help to boost testosterone levels can be a great natural remedy for people who suffer with low levels of the hormone. When paired with exercise, this should really help to give these people the boost they need to feel better.
Foods that are known to help increase testosterone levels include:
- egg yolks
- green vegetables including spinach and kale
- fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, herring, trout and mackerel)
- extra virgin olive oil
On the other hand, a lot of processed foods can actually hinder your testosterone levels. For example, it is known that the consumption of trans fats are associated with low testosterone levels. Foods to avoid would include ready meals, fast food and alcohol. But of course, balance is key and you can still enjoy most things in moderation.
In addition, we would recommend that you avoid food that comes wrapped in plastic. Why? Because you will be exposed to certain environmental chemicals including BPA and BPS, both of which are known to be associated with low testosterone levels. And bear in mind, that’s the chemicals from the plastic covering that affecting your testosterone – that’s before even get to the food inside!
Small changes like this can play a big part in your overall well-being too.
Supplements that can increase testosterone
As mentioned earlier, you need to be very careful when choosing to take testosterone boosters. We strongly recommend you do your research because this is not a one size fits all type thing!
However, if you want to be 100% safe and natural then here are some of the safest and most effective natural supplements you can take to increase testosterone levels naturally:
Lifestyle changes that can increase testosterone
In addition to diet and supplementation, there are lifestyle changes you can make which may increase natural testosterone levels further.
Increase your sun exposure (or take a vitamin D supplement)
A huge part of the US population has a vitamin D deficiency. In addition to numerous other health benefits, research has shown that increased vitamin D intake can increase testosterone levels by around 25%!
Get plenty of sleep
8 hours is typically the number that’s thrown around when advising how much sleep is required however everyone is different and research has shown that generally anywhere between 7 and 10 hours is optimum.
Sounds simple enough but many of us aren’t able to get that amount of sleep, whether it be due to work, family life or something else, however we should try to prioritize sleep because a study revealed that men who slept for only five hours per night had up to 15% lower than optimum testosterone levels and those who slept for only four hours per night were basically classed as testosterone-deficient.
A fairly obvious one but exercise, specifically resistance training, has been shown to dramatically increase testosterone levels.
Research has shown there is an inverse relationship between cortisol and testosterone levels. This means that when cortisol levels are high, testosterone levels are low. Equally, when cortisol levels are low, testosterone levels are expected to be higher.
Stress is known to elevate cortisol levels which may therefore, in turn, decrease testosterone levels. As such, avoiding stress will help to increase and maintain healthy testosterone levels.
Avoid estrogen-promoting foods
The chemical make-up of phytoestrogens are similar to that of estrogen and phytoestrogen is therefore known as dietary estrogen. Phytoestrogen is a plant compound found in many foods, the consumption of which is known to increase estrogen levels.
Foods which are known to be rich in phytoestrogen are:
- Dried fruit
- Flax and sesame seeds
- Peaches and berries
- Some vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage
What is Testosterone Replacement Therapy?
Testosterone replacement therapy is when patients are prescribed testosterone (by a doctor or physician, not the big guy down the gym!) in order to increase their testosterone levels.
In essence, the testosterone prescribed by ‘Dave’ down at the gym is likely to be very similar to the one prescribed legally by the doctor. It could even be exactly the same if he has been able to ‘acquire’ pharma-grade testosterone.
That being said, the goal of Testosterone Replacement Therapy (or TRT as it’s more commonly known) is to restore testosterone levels to ‘normal’ levels, and not to elevate testosterone beyond that.
TRT can be administered via self-injection or a gel can be applied. Whilst the opportunity to restore testosterone levels is a no-brainer for many men, the risks should always be considered carefully. There are short-term side effects that are less hazardous, such as an increase in acne and high blood pressure and more severe long-term risks include cardiovascular issues such as heart attacks and strokes.
If you are considering TRT then you should speak to your doctor or physician, and definitely consider trying to increase your testosterone levels naturally or by using a testosterone booster,