I probably don’t have to tell you just how important testosterone is to being a man. Healthy levels make us feel strong, confident, and aggressive. But lifestyle choices can and do affect just how much of the manly hormone we produce. Here are some tips for keeping your T levels high:
1. Forget “Testosterone Boosters”
I’ve been contacted by different supplement companies to see if I will promote a “testosterone booster” on my blog. I always ignore these requests. The reason is simple: I’ve yet to see any real scientific evidence (double-blind, placebo controlled studies) that any supplement actually increases levels of the manly hormone. I’ve seen these pills and powders come and go for over 20 years and none of them actually do anything except drain your wallet. I’ll be happy to change my mind if something hits the market that is backed by solid research, but in the meantime I’d recommend you save your money.
2. Stay Lean
High body fat levels in men are associated with low testosterone and high estrogen (a losing combination). This makes sense—a fat body will produce more estrogen than a lean one. You may rightly argue that causation and correlation are not the same thing, but the evidence suggest being overweight is the cause (not the effect) of low testosterone in most cases. One study measured the body fat and testosterone levels of 821 men over the span of 4.8 years. As expected, fatter subjects tended to have less favorable hormonal profiles. The researchers reached this conclusion:
“Longitudinal analyses showing no influence of baseline hormone levels on change in anthropometric measures imply that body composition affects hormone levels and not the reverse.”1
Is it possible to be too lean? Maybe. The calorie restrictions required to get down to 4-5% body fat may be just as bad for your T levels. One study tracked a drug-free bodybuilder as he dieted from 14% down to 4.5% body fat for a competition. His testosterone levels dropped and incredible 80%.2 This is one of the many reasons anabolic steroids are so popular among competitive bodybuilders.
You will look and feel better if you can maintain a reasonably lean physique (maybe 8-15% body fat).
Consistently getting a good night’s sleep is another way to make sure to keep your T levels high. One study measured the effects of sleep deprivation on the testosterone levels of ten healthy men. Their hormone levels were tested the first three days with ten-hour bedtimes (retiring at 10:00 p.m. and getting up at 8:00 a.m.). The men were then subjected to sleep deprivation, only getting a five-hour bedtime for the next eight nights. Their testosterone levels dropped anywhere from 10-15% as a result of the sleep deprivation. This is especially remarkable when you consider the mean age of the subjects was 24—what should be a peak as far as testosterone production is concerned. In other words, even young men are not immune from the effects of sleep deprivation.3
Here’s another bonus to sleeping well: it will help you stay lean. Losing sleep seems to cause several unfavorable changes as far as hormones that control appetite and fat loss. It makes you feel hungrier, making you more likely to eat too much.
4. Eat Broccoli
Broccoli is great because it is full of fiber and has virtually zero carbohydrates. These properties have made it a staple of bodybuilding diets for decades. But broccoli is also helpful for hormone balance and (indirectly) boosting your testosterone. Broccoli contains a phytochemical that helps to minimize the effect of estrogen in your body. These chemicals basically convert estrogen to “friendlier,” less potent form. The end result is higher levels of free testosterone.4
5. Drink Less Alcohol
Alcohol use has been shown to have a negative impact on testosterone levels in several studies. The negative correlation between alcohol consumption and T levels is not completely understood, but here are a few things to consider:
1. Alcohol itself seems to have a direct (negative) impact on the production and/or synthesis of testosterone.
2. Alcohol abuse damages the sexual organs as well as the liver and other organs.
3. Some types of alcoholic beverages (such as bourbon, beer, and wine) are high in phytoestrogens–chemicals that mimic estrogen when ingested. Even “moderate” drinking levels have been shown to lower testosterone levels in some men.5
Let me give you some final words of advice:
I mentioned not spending your money on “testosterone boosters.” The same goes for most bodybuilding supplements. Stick with the basics: creatine monohydrate, protein powder, a multivitamin, and fish oil (you may want to add vitamin D3 if you don’t get much sun exposure or are dark-skinned). The same is true for “fat burner” supplements: most of them are overpriced caffeine tablets (there are a few exceptions which I have written about on my blog). Be skeptical of the hype when it comes to supplements.
Keep the “90% rule” in mind. I realize most of us can’t follow these tips 100% of the time. I’m not saying having a beer or pulling an all-nighter every once in a while is going to turn you into an effeminate, doughy beta-male. But what you do most of the time matters and will affect you for better or for worse. If you can follow these tips 90% of the time you should have great results.
One more thing: I’d advise you to get your testosterone levels tested while you are still young. This will give you a baseline to compare against as you age. If you need testosterone replacement therapy at some point you will have an idea of what your levels were in your peak.