We have heard of a lot of talk lately about the big “T” – testosterone, and more specifically, testosterone replacement therapy. (TRT, which is a nice way to say “injecting yourself with a highly volatile anabolic steroid, possibly for the rest of your life.”) If you decide to start TRT, after a while, you may not be able to stop, in part because the mechanism that creates testosterone naturally in your body is on a negative feedback loop – meaning the more your body senses that it has, the less it makes. And while hypogonadism (the condition that causes low testosterone) is a serious issue and is not to be discounted, it is much more rare than the numbers of men being diagnosed as having low testosterone. If you think you might have hypogonadism, you should get yourself tested. It is much more likely that many men (and women) have low testosterone for many different reasons, and we wanted to point out some alarming facts in the big T conundrum. We also then give you five real ways to naturally boost (in some cases quite high ) your free testosterone. Maybe you or someone you know has been diagnosed, or you suspect you might have low testosterone – or are just curious about it all – read on…
* Drug company lobbying playing a part?
Testosterone is actually a fairly small and easy to make molecule so we are concerned that drug companies are pushing a high profit margin substance and selling an easy-to-make drug off of worry and panic about what is quite dear to you – a source of masculinity the identity that is tied to that. As we said, TRT is a lifelong commitment, and in some cases complex methods must be taken to kick-start testosterone production back up again in men that were taking it – including taking human chorionic gonadotrophin, a hormone produced in women during pregnancy.
* Testosterone must be “free” to be important
Most doctors measure total testosterone to make a diagnosis of low testosterone, despite the American Association for Clinical Chemistry and many other world-wide organizations asking for standardized testing and a type of testing for what is known as “Free Testosterone”, which is the amount of testosterone in your body that is available (“free”) for use and not bound to a larger molecule that makes it essentially inert. Free testosterone is less than two percent of your total testosterone, and because it exists in such small amounts, the testing gets less accurate and therefore more expensive to do correctly. What makes this even worse is that total testosterone varies a great deal among men, and it does not accurately predict free testosterone, which varies much less. If your doctor only tests total testosterone, you can have low total, but high free testosterone and be put on a lifelong treatment plan incorrectly.
* Testosterone levels vary significantly depending on when you are tested.
Your levels significantly vary day-to-day, and even hour-by-hour, and no single test should be used to say definitively that you do or not not have low testosterone.
A tremendous amount can be done before you take drugs!
We have listed five scientifically proven – and in some cases very simple – ways to dramatically increase your testosterone. Some might even be counter-intuitive to what you may imagine. Here’s our top five list of things to do to naturally boost testosterone (for both men and women.)
- Diet. As you might have imagined, diet plays a huge part. You might have heard soy and soy products simulate estrogen in the body, and while this may not have an effect on your testosterone levels, it does have an effect on your estrogen levels – in other words, if you’re trying to dye your hair black, you don’t want to put white dye in the mix. But more important is your fat-to-carb-to-protein ratio (30%-50%-20% is ideal, respectively.) It has actually been proven that too much protein will tell your body to slow down testosterone production (it is unknown as to why – perhaps a biological throwback to your body’s response to a time of plenty, when you’ve got protein and can therefor settle down a bit.) You want about 20% of your calories coming from protein to be ideal, or about 500 calories on a 2500 calorie daily diet. Eating nuts and peanuts is also great – monounsaturated fats are good for production of free testosterone.
- Work out – but work out correctly! Imagine if we told you that you need to go to the gym and go as hard as you can with a high-stress workout that included weightlifting reps of 8 to 12 in order to raise testosterone. You might believe it, but in fact, high-stress workouts LOWER your testosterone levels. Many studies done on athletes have shown that the higher the stress is on your body during a workout, the lower your testosterone, and testosterone production, is later – up to two weeks later. So what’s the best workout? Weightlifting. But, similar studies have also shown that lifting lots of reps with less than 85% of your one-rep max (what you can at your maximum effort once) has NO EFFECT on testosterone production. The ideal workout is 3 to 5 reps of near your maximum, with tons of rest between sets. Keep the overall stress low, but the wight (and the sounds you make when lifting) high. We recently asked an elite strength athlete that works at one of our gyms how he got such huge biceps – his answer? What weightlifters and other strength athletes have known since the studies were done in the 70s and 80s – don’t lift biceps – lift big muscle groups. In fact, this guy had enormous biceps and NEVER did a bicep curl in his life. He pointed us to studies that even showed that men who only lifted with their big leg and core muscles got LARGER pecs and biceps than men that exclusively lifted biceps and pecs/ Why? – Entirely due to the overall benefit of added testosterone.
- REST. Rest is the singular most important item on this list and perhaps the most overlooked. We mentioned rest in your workout as key, and stress as bad for testosterone production, so the more you sleep, the more your body recovers and the more testosterone it makes. It’s that simple – but few people take the time to sleep more.
- Body Fat. The leaner you are, the more testosterone you produce. (Sadly, it’s not vice-versa.) But no crash diets! Greatly reducing your calorie intake is a huge source of stress to your body, and your testosterone will plummet. If you need to lose weight, do it slowly.
- Sex! (And masturbation! Yay!) For men, simply having an erection raises testosterone production. So the more the merrier! For women, having sex raises testosterone (and it does not need to be intercourse, although some studies show intercourse with a man significantly raises a woman’s testosterone.) If you’d like help getting more in touch with your sexual self and learning how to create the sex life that you want out in the world, we’d love to help you with this.
We really hope this helps in your quest for “T” knowledge. While we are not physicians, we really care about your health, and ultimately, your sex lives. Low testosterone can be a very serious issue, but it can also be a symptom – not necessarily the cause – of a lager emotional or psychological issue. Stress, rest, sex – they are all interconnected, and taking a drug to balance out what your body really needs (as opposed to when there is an actual illness) is never a good idea.
“I just read your timely blog on testosterone – you did this very professionally. I am a member of the American Association of Clinical Chemistry and they recognize this issue as a dilemma. Testosterone measurement is definitely not straightforward. For example, if a physician wants to measure total testosterone, they need to measure 3 morning fasting levels – in other words, it has to be done properly. Indeed, many feel that (as you point out) the free testosterone is an essential determination to complete the picture. You were very astute in pointing out the role of exercise – lack of exercise, insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity are linked to low testosterone in men & no one really understands which comes first. Also, your points on rest are well taken.”