Right now there are thousands of men out there suffering from, or who will suffer from, low testosterone.
The media will come at you with the classic scenario – a guy who can’t get a hard on. That’s because they know how you think and because they know that hitting you where it hurts will make you more likely to buy pharmaceuticals, herbs, and magic potions that promise to bring Mr. Stiffy back to attention.
But there’s a far more important issue at play here, and one that the media doesn’t often associate with testosterone: depression and mental wellness. Your hormones are an important factor in what makes you feel like you. Some would say that they are THE factor. There is good evidence to suggest that low testosterone in men beyond their adolescent years is associated with suicide and suicidal ideation, and according to Dr. Mark Gordon, hormonal shut down due to low level traumatic brain injury may be one of the drivers of the very high veteran suicide rates we’ve seen since the beginning of modern warfare.
The point is this: testosterone helps you to have sex, it helps you build muscle, and it helps you to burn fat, which are all good things. But keeping it optimized and in balance is also essential for you to live a healthy, happy, and productive life. So let’s get rid of the “I don’t have any problems in the bedroom and I’m not fat mentality,” and let’s talk about things you can start doing right now to keep your testosterone optimized for the rest of your life.
Take a 15 Minute Walk After Lunch and Dinner
One of the worse possible things that’s ever happened to male testosterone levels is the increasing tendency toward less physical activity while eating more calories. This isn’t because moving less causes us to produce less testosterone. Rather, it’s because more of the testosterone we produce actually gets converted into estrogen, the female sex hormone. As we eat more energy than we spend, insulin concentrations in our blood increase to bring our blood sugar back to baseline. Higher levels of insulin in the blood up regulate an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone into estrogen (1).
I don’t want to get too scientific for you here, but there’s one thing you should understand: the more you eat and the less you move, the higher your average levels of insulin product will be. Over the long term, this means that more and more of your testosterone will be aromatized into estrogen.
But there is a simple solution to this: walking or exercising for 15-20 minutes after your meals can help to bring your insulin levels down by allowing you to burn off some of the glycogen in your muscles and creating more storage space for the glucose and protein you just ingested. So rather than heading to your desk or your couch directly after a meal, go for a quick walk or do a few sets of squats and this will go a long way in increasing your testosterone levels and in helping you to keep the inches from adding up on your waistline!
This one follows from the first piece of advice. Lifting weights helps to increase your insulin sensitivity by increasing insulin receptor sites on the walls of your muscle cells (2). When you’re insulin sensitive, your muscle cells respond better to the hormone, which means that less insulin needs to be produced. Again, less insulin means less aromatase and more testosterone that your body can use.
Eat More Zinc Rich Foods
Zinc is responsible for many things related to hormonal health. It is responsible for helping to covert the precursor androstenedione to testosterone. It also helps the prostate to function correctly and protects the prostate from cancer. A 1996 study also found that men who lacked zinc in their diet for a period of five months suffered a nearly 50% decrease in their total testosterone levels.
You can get zinc from consuming oysters, grass fed beef, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, and nuts. If you choose to supplement with zinc, make sure you’ve had a blood test that shows that you have low zinc. This is because over consuming concentrated zinc over long periods of time can be toxic to the body.
Get More Magnesium
Magnesium is responsible for hundreds of your bodily functions. It helps to reduce inflammation, increases blood sugar regulation (making you more insulin sensitive), and it helps to inhibit aromatase.
You can get magnesium from spinach, chard, almonds, avocados, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate. Magnesium is fairly safe to supplement with as well, but keep it to 400-500 mg. I personally take 500mg prior to bed each night as magnesium has many benefits to ensuring that you get a sound sleep.
Get more sun and take vitamin D
We’ve long known about the benefits of vitamin D, but a 2011 study really sent home the message that vitamin D is important for Testosterone production. This randomized control trial separated men into two groups. One group took 3,332 iu of vitamin D daily for one year, while the other group took a placebo. The vitamin D group increased their free testosterone levels by 20%, while the placebo group showed no change (3) .
If you live in an area of the country that doesn’t get a lot of sun in the winter time, or if you rarely get sun regardless of the time of year, you should definitely consider getting yourself tested for a deficiency,
If you find that you need to supplement with vitamin D, I definitely suggest also taking a vitamin K supplement. This is because vitamin D has been known to cause vascular calcification, which can lead to heart disease.
When it is warm enough, get yourself outside and expose your skin to the sun when you can for reasonable periods.
Get more sleep
I am a very poor sleeper and I feel like a hypocrite for telling you this, but you need to get more sleep if you want to optimize your testosterone levels. Less sleep causes more stress on the body and more stress means more stress hormone.
This is a problem for testosterone production because cortisol and testosterone share the same mother hormone: pregnenolone. When cortisol is produced in abundance, something called a pregnenolone steal occurs. This happens when there is not enough pregnenolone left to produce adequate testosterone. This can become a serious condition and you can end up in the hospital or cutting your life short because of it.
Stop looking at your cell phone or other electronic screens at least two hour prior to bed. These screens emit blue light, which can trick your brain into thinking it’s daylight. If you absolutely must look at a screen, consider buying a pair of blue blocking sun glasses. Amazon sells a pair for just over $10 and you can find it here.
Have more sex
As I wrote before, stress can absolutely kill your testosterone levels. You can fight stress by exercising and getting more sleep, but the most enjoyable way is by having more sex.
In one study, sex was shown to increase testosterone in males on an average of 36% (4).
We live in the instant gratification age, and I would be amiss if I did not talk about the latest rage in taking hormone replacement therapy (steroids), I have nothing against HRT, and I think that, for many men, it can be an option. Nevertheless, we have to understand that there is a cost. Injecting exogenous testosterone will cause your body to stop producing its own, and the risk is that you will become dependent on these drugs for the rest of your life. The other downside is that it’s expensive.
What I’ve laid out here is either free or inexpensive, and none of these options will produce a negative hormone feedback loop. So my suggestion is try to go the natural route first and seek HRT only as a very last resort to solving your deficiencies.
Also, I run free workshops on male hormonal health regularly. All participants also get free access to the Warrior Soul Fitness academy, where I give out free workout programming every single day. If you’re interested in learning more, click here.